• Flux Magazine

"Junk" by Tyler Baker

My dad is 60. He goes to the dump at least once every month. His garage is brimming with stuff from his late mother and father-in-law. He hates stuff. Going to the dump might be his greatest joy in life. When he’s on his way he sometimes drops by my place and asks me if I have any junk to throw out. I always scrounge up something or another that can be tossed – just so I can spend some time with him. It’s good to see his face light up when he hurls furniture into the garbage heaps.

Gary is the owner of the dump. He’s a longtime family friend on the in-law’s side. “More than family” is how one cousin put it. He has a round gut like a sagging water balloon, wavy grey hair, black eyes, brown skin. He’s nice. Almost too nice. He’s never charged my dad the $40 flat fee at the booth. Their interactions at the booth are awkward ever since Gary said to him, offhand and off topic: “you – you’re good people. Your whole family – good people. If you ever need to make a body disappear, you let me know. Nobody’l ever find em’, I guarantee that.” Dad casually pretended like it was a funny joke and laughed like I expect a mortician laughs. What else could he do? “Joking aside, I’ll help you if you ever need it.” His half-smile was well practiced. It was a knowing look as obvious as a wink.  

My dad entertained the notion of going to the Sonoma dump from that point on but his wife (my stepmother) told him it would look bad. The Sonoma dump is an extra half hour drive and she said Gary was acquainted with the owner and a few workers there. So Dad's routine went on as normal. Since then, the guilt has gotten to him. Lately, he’s started putting $40 in the Plexi Children’s Benioff Hospital donation box at the grocery store. My dad needs the dump. The dump is one of the few things that makes him feel free. So he goes there, throws rugs, wallpaper, old toilets, pictures in frames – memories – it all crashes onto the concrete floor, into growing heaps. The heaps get swept away by monstrous tractors. 

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