Muddy Creek This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Yesterday we cleaned up the beach. With the rest of Students For Environmental Action, I was expecting a day of picking up cans and talking with friends. The bus left our school bright and early Saturday morning, our club organizer explaining that low tide was approaching which was the best time to pick up trash. As our bus made its way to Rye Harbor, a mini bus culture sprung up around the R.E.M. being played and voices chattering about people behind their backs. The rumors and the newly released "Monster" emanated from the barely opened windows as that first glimpse of the coast came into view. We pulled into the parking lot and got a look at what appeared to be a perfectly clean beach. But I was wrong, very wrong.

"OK guys, everybody off," said Mr. Bartlett, reminding us to record what we found on sheets given to us by the fine people of Coastweeks. "And don't forget to pick up your trash bags and rubber gloves."

I grabbed my latex disease protection and a handful of trash bags. The autumn wind began re-distributing them as I disembarked from the bus, and I was forced to make a run for it. I finally caught up to the last bag, full of wind and floating briskly along the rocky promontory. I captured the wind and held it high in the air for all to see. At my foot was my first piece of trash, a pepper packet from a local seafood joint. I added it to my windy day bag and proceeded to comb the beach for other people's symbols of carelessness. As I picked up and recorded each piece of trash, I began to conjure up stories on how each was lost at sea. The tangled rope was easy - a fisherman had probably discarded it. Next I found a kite. Some poor kid probably ran out of string and cried as his wind harness became hopelessly engulfed in the northwesterlies.

The next item was a difficult one to put a story to - a dog collar and license. Muddy Creek was the dog's name, and he was now in the nude considering his collar was wedged between a rock and a root beer can. "Better show this puppy to Mr. Bartlett," I said to myself, pocketing the find. My bag was nearly full, and most of my wind had crept out, co I decided to make it back to trash headquarters.

When I arrived, I was astonished at the tremendous stack of bulging trash bags, rope, and lobster traps. Each piece has been consciously discarded by one of the ignorant who still believes that the Earth's dire problems will never hurt them. On a brighter note, Mr. Bartlett had bagged a nice vintage wooden lobster buoy, but I still thought my find was worthy of announcement.

Before I could utter a word, Mr. Bartlett asked me, "Hey, Virr, you seen the dead dog yet?"

"What dead dog?" I asked, remembering the collar I had found.

"There's a dead dog over there," Mr. Bartlett said, pointing over a dune toward the sandy part of the beach. "Pretty bad shape," he continued, petting his own dog and feeding her a potato chip. I was feeling sorry for the dead dog and tossed a bag of Smartfood to the hungry dog.

Walking over the dune, I got a gut-wrenching feeling as my creative mind applied a story to the body and the collar of the dog. It had suddenly sunk in that my collar and the dead golden lab were probably connected.

Muddy Creek lay there, silent except for the flies buzzing around the remains of its earthly existence. I had gone that day to pick up a few cans and other non-biodegradable material from the shore. I never thought that poor Muddy Creek would receive the same treatment as the pepper packet, the rope, and the root beer can. Was the dog the victim of an unfortunate accident in the undertow or was he murdered by a master who did not want him anymore? Nobody will ever know, as the collar was somehow misplaced before the owners could be questioned as to why their pet was decaying on a public beach. That day was supposed to remind us of the imminent death of planet Earth, and Muddy Creek showed me that the numbers in the books do not compare to personally witnessing such a lack of respect for a living, breathing inhabitant of our world, ^


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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