An Old Story About Trash
When I was in high school, my mother dragged me down to Cushing, Maine for a party at the home of my sister-in-law’s family. I remember not wanting to go. They were a family of lobsterman with whom I had little in common and I probably thought I had better things to do. This party coincided with an upcoming due date for a creative writing assignment at school. I left that evening with the material necessary to complete my assignment.
While much of my writing from when I was young has been lost to defunct hard drives and discarded notepads, my mother saved the story I wrote based on that evening. It was always one of her favorites. A few years back, she scanned it into the computer and shared it with me. Today, she told me I should put it up on this blog.
I read it again and I agreed. While some of the details were changed and embellished, it’s a good account of that evening and what it’s like to sit around the kitchen table in a small lobstering community.
While I cringe at some of the wording, descriptions, and run-on sentences, here it is, exactly as completed some 18 years ago:
In a small kitchen, in a small house, in a small town, which is located in mid-coast Maine, there is a family of not so small men, who gather in this particular kitchen after a hard day’s work to discuss the various issues of the day. On one particular evening I had the privilege of being present to hear and recount this experience. First I think it is necessary to give a brief description of these men. There was a father, his father, and two sons, who have both reached the stage of adulthood.
The father figure is sitting in his chair at the table with his beer in one hand and with his other hand free to roam and scratch any part of his body that needs scratching. His hair is messed up and seems to be going in every possible direction. His face is full of uneven stubble. He wears a pair of red suspenders and a belt, both of which are unable to keep his pants up. He wears a flannel shirt, which is open at the top revealing yet another flannel shirt underneath. His blue trousers and shirt contain many marks of achievement in the form of grease and dirt marks. He holds his chin unevenly with the rest of his face, which is probably to keep the cigarette from falling out of his mouth. In the corner of the kitchen, in front of the wood stove, sits the grandfather, who shares many of the same traits as his son. He wears a red flannel hunting hat which he takes off frequently to scratch his near bald head. The two sons are also the spitting image of their father. One of the sons is leaning against the kitchen counter sipping on his beer. The other sits at the table leafing through a truck magazine.
The four men make conversation on various topics including the day’s catch, the best way to plow a driveway, and a lively debate on which truck company makes the best 3-quarter ton truck with the most pull. Each man seems to have his own opinion which he expresses with the use of a thick Maine accent and any expletives he feels are necessary. I found myself sitting in silence, not because I did not wish to talk to these men, but because I must admit that my knowledge on their areas of discussion is quite limited, but that made it no less entertaining. In fact, the father told a quite entertaining story which I will try and recount the best I can without making it inappropriate for general audiences.
“You boys remember Skip McPearson who used to live down the road and ’round the corner?” said the father to his to sons. They both nod barely looking up. “Well, he use to burn all his trash, outside in a huge bonfire ’bout once a week. Well, one week he was out there burnin’ up all kinds crap, you know, old lobster traps, trash, anything he wanted to get rid of. Now, I don’t know what he had in there, but damn, did it smell some wicked. The whole damn town had a cloud of stench on top of it and someone called up the town office that next day and complained about Skip burnin’ his trash. So that day the fire chief came up to Skip’s house and said he couldn’t burn no more trash. Jesus, did that piss off Skip, he went a ravin’ and yellin’ at the chief. Their argument got so heated that the chief said if Skip ever burned any more trash, he would throw Skip right into jail. Skip didn’t like to admit it, but he knew he was beat. So, he stopped burnin’ his trash. Instead he started throwin’ it into piles on his back lawn between his house and his barn. This went on for ’bout a half a year and, I tell ya, his lawn was not pretty sight to see. Then, that fall, one night ’bout eleven, Skip’s barn caught on fire. We never found out how it started, but damn, it got some hot in there. Skip knew there was no way in hell he was going to save the barn. Well, Skip saw it as the opportunity he had been waiting for. Right then and there, he started throwing the trash into the barn door and directly into the fire. I went up there to check and see if he was OK, and there he was throwin’ wood and trash bags into that fire and hoopin’ and hollerin’ as he did it. He told me he wasn’t going to call the fire department till he got every piece of trash off his lawn and into the fire. He even went into the house and got the trash in the kitchen. I stayed with him for a while then I went back home since there was nothin’ I could do. The next day I went back and there was nothin’ left, but the charcoaled remains of the barn and a clear back lawn.”