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The Old Bag This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   It was a dark and stormy night and all that. My tires sliced through puddles, my wipers disrupted the patterns of water on the windshield. I was driving alone, thinking it was a perfect night for someone to be bludgeoned with a candlestick and for Jessica Fletcher to piece the clues together. My denim skirt was wet through, both from the rain and the overflowed sink. (I sometimes got a little overzealous washing dishes.) I could smell my hands on the steering wheel - onions. I had been working in the kitchen at my uncle's restaurant for six months and the annoyances outweighed the perks. One could only eat so many servings of free mashed potatoes.

I pressed my foot against the brake as a disoriented squirrel jogged across the road. It was past my bedtime. My eyes felt as if they were moisted not with tears but glue. I watched the squirrel find his way into the woods and replaced my foot on the accelerator. My house was small and sad - a shack rented from a nearly dead woman in a nursing home. I visited her sometimes, out of guilt. She charged me much less a month than she could have, so I felt I owed her at least a weekly game of dominoes.

My driveway was in want of some cement; the car ducked and dipped in the crevices several times on my way out and in. The four rooms accommodated my parakeet and me sufficiently, but the home's most redeeming benefit was the dramatic view from the kitchen window, available to me each morning as I dipped into my bowl of cereal. The thick, wild grass extended 15 feet past my back door and suddenly gave way to a steep and muddy cliff. The trees had long ago fallen from the edge into the pit below; there was a crevice 100 feet deep. Brilliant wildflowers grew out of the rich, exposed soil, safe from lawnmowers and children collecting bouquets. Descending the cliff was possible only a few months of the year, for it required a sled and three feet of snow. I was living on the edge of the world.

My headlights caught a raccoon running from the rusted mailbox to the bird feeder as I pulled into the perforated driveway. I yawned and promised myself only five more minutes of consciousness. I turned the key, flicked off the lights and stepped out into the mud. My pumps sank into the ground. I untied my apron as I walked to the screen door. I paused to unclip the barrette that held my hair in a slick bun. Thunder crept up out of the woods - quietly at first, getting a feel for the situation, and finally proceeding with a deafening, cracking conclusion. I counted the seconds (three Mississippi) - veiny lightning illuminated the sky and the muddy gorge beneath it. I peered out into the hole, holding the doorknob in my hand.

The light was reflected on something in the pit, something metallic which had fallen off the end of the earth. Its shape was unfamiliar. The rain dripped from my scalp to my eyes, my mascara running into my tear ducts. I waited for the next clap of thunder. The sky lit up for a fraction of a second and I peered out at what looked like a shiny buffalo, caught in the roots of a dead pine. I fumbled and forced my key in the lock, got inside and dropped my purse on the stove. I needed to know what had found its way into my pit. Promising myself only another two minutes, I pulled on my hooded parka and grabbed my flashlight. I unclasped the back door clumsily, my onion fingers too much in need of rest for such tasks as pulling and turning.

The rain outside had worsened. It forcefully pelted my plastic hood as I stepped to the edge. I shone my light into the abyss, stopping once I located the foreign body. I walked the edge of the rim until I stood directly above it. It was not metal, but plastic. I picked up a rock and threw it at the shape. It made a dent and then rolled off to the bottom. Not satisfied, I picked up a fallen branch, and, steadying myself with my leg behind a trunk, I jabbed the object. It resisted. A hard, unyielding lump lay inside the plastic covering. It couldn't be punctured.

My curiosity made me forget my fatigue and I gingerly stepped on rocks and roots until I was at eye level with the thing, ten feet below ground level. I reached out my arms to see if I could turn it. As I pulled, the plastic fell away and I suddenly became very awake. It had arms. It was wearing a sweatshirt. It was a man with a beard in a bag on my cliff. I was immediately very disgusted with him for lying on my cliff - how intrusive. Then I realized he was wrapped in plastic - obviously the handiwork of another person. This was not a suicide or accidental death. My cliff seemed a good place to get rid of unwanted, dead friends. The legs had caught in some old roots, leaving the bag in plain sight.

The man's face was contorted in a pathetic manner, his teeth forced through his lower lip, his nose wrinkled, as if he, too, had noticed the awful stench of the decomposition process. He struck me as very silly, caught in the tree with that look on his face. I regretted that I had not changed into my boots, and placed my left foot upon the shoulders in the bag. Digging a stick into the mud for support, I gave a strong push and budged the bag six inches. After several successive pushes, the man finally cooperated and slipped down the hill. I dug my way back up to the grass, slapping my hands against my now filthy skirt to relieve them of some of the mud.

Inside, I eagerly stripped and got under my blankets, too tired for the shower I most desperately needed. I set the alarm 15 minutes early so I would have time to take a long, luxurious shower, digging the mud out of my fingernails and the mascara out of my eyes. The best time to call my landlady at her nursing home was early morning, before bath time, and this was on my agenda. I decided, as I clawed up the edge of the earth, to quit that moldy shack for good.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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Penelope This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 20, 2010 at 8:48 pm
oooh that was cool! I liked all the details and it's almost funny, in a sick way, that she just pushed him down the cliff just because she was too tired to deal with it!  You'd think seeing a dead person on your property would wake you up, but it's still awesome!
 
JacobC said...
Apr. 20, 2010 at 7:46 pm
Amazing.  That is the only word that can describe it.
 
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