The Ricky Huening Stories
Paul R. Wonning
Hauling Out the Trash
Ricky hurried to get the last of his tasks finished. He swore that old lady Barnald hid around a corner by the milk cooler, just waiting for him to clean the slicer. She always came to the counter after he finished it, and then sprang on him, wanting him to slice one of those messy, gooey canned hams. He then had to dissemble it and clean it again. As he finished cleaning it the second time, the last job for the night was waiting for him by the back door of the grocery store he worked in.
He glanced at the two twenty gallon galvanized trash cans which stood side by side near the door. Loaded with meat scraps, the cans were heavy. Ricky didn’t care. He was a big boy and he enjoyed the challenge of carrying the heavy cans out and dumping them. He paused and looked around before hefting the cans. The machinery gleamed in the dim light of the workroom. The sterile, pungent smell of the disinfectant he used to mop the floors permeated the air.
His job of cleaning the meat department was satisfying. When he started things a mess after the meat cutters finished for the day. He enjoyed bantering with the customers as he sliced lunch meat for them as he completed his cleaning chores. The lunchmeat slicer he always saved for last, but still the Barnald woman always managed to make him clean it twice.
He glanced down at himself. His mother hadn’t done the laundry yet this week and he needed his snow white uniform for tomorrow morning when he came in at seven. He had been careful all night to avoid getting the uniform dirty by wearing one apron across his front and another across his back. He had wrapped towels about his knees to avoid soiling the, and had worn a meat cutters jacket to cover his shirt.
He was pleased that the uniform was spotless. He was also pleased that he managed to complete his Friday night cleaning a bit early. He would be able to go to the second half of the basketball game at the high school gym. His other clothes were waiting for him in the car. All he had to do was dump these cans, get his stuff from his car and change. Then off to spend the rest of the night partying with his friends.
Ricky picked up the cans, one in each hand. His body swayed slightly from the weight. He walked through the open door, kicked it closed with his heel and plodded along the sidewalk.
As he rounded the parking lot he could see his destination. He needed to dump the meat scraps in one of two fifty five gallon drums which sat in the lawn behind the store. It was a dark, rainy night and the lawn leading to the scrap barrels was wet and laced with mud puddles. Carrying the cans, Ricky threaded his way through the puddles until he reached the cans. He put the cans down. One of the cans tilted precipitously as it perched on the edge of a large, deep puddle which curved around behind Ricky.
Ricky’s mind was far away, hearing the crowd at the basketball game and thinking about the fun he would have afterward at the bowling alley, the standard meeting place of the teenage crowd after the game.
He lifted the lid of one of the cans.
Some prankster had thought it funny to catch a cat and imprison it in one of the drums. When Ricky lifted the lid of the can, the cat shot out of the can like a black, hairy meteor streaking across the night sky.
With a loud “Hhissssss,” the cat, its tail fluffed out and its eyes desperate for freedom, jumped three feet in the air, somersaulted and hit the ground running into some shrubbery which lined the store’s lawn.
The hissing cat brought Ricky down from the clouds. Startled, he jumped back, tripping over the leaning garbage can. He fell flat on his back in the deep mud puddle, the thick, oozy water splashing in all directions from the force of his fall.
The can he kicked teetered, then fell, spreading bloody, greasy meat scraps across his legs. Ricky lay in the mud puddle, his face dripping from the water which ran down from his mud soaked hair. His snow white uniform was now soaked, dripping and filthy. His legs were stained red from the bloody meat scraps. His shoes were soaked. As he looked down at himself, he was sure of one thing. Contemplating life from the bottom of a mud hole was not the way to spend a Friday night.
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