The Grave Bins
A Short Story by Alice Clark
Written using the suggestion "Crepuscular"
Originally featured on 10-01-2009
As part of our series "Falling Into the Abyss of Wordiness"

When I throw the old gifts people have given me and the things I bought for myself that I don’t actually like into garbage bags and take them to Goodwill, I imagine nice people buying them. Single moms looking for something nice to wear to work and Grandmas looking for cute things to fill their houses with. I imagine someone with a criminal record sorting through my clothes, putting small colored tags on them. A person with a developmental disability hangs them up, his presence at Goodwill giving his aged mother a break. Then whatever is not bought, gets shipped to underdeveloped countries where impoverished Mexican women get to wear my clothes for free, which replace their current dirty rags.

The smell meets me in the parking lot and it is the exact smell of children’s pajamas soaked in urine and the unshowered elderly. The smell is exactly my childhood, and I remember Saturday mornings. I walk in the door and am confused by the security guard near the door, because there is nothing of obvious value here and items are sold for $1.49 a pound, not an item, but a pound. Everything the same value. Even what I’m looking for. It’s the same. I smile at him and regret my shoe choice; somehow I’m wearing new ones. There are signs on the walls warning of possible sharp objects in the piles of things. There are 100’s of feet of giant blue bins and I see middle aged women pulling school clothes from the piles of things. There are old men hovering over the books. They are proud. They are protective of their positions. What I see most is the way they put their whole arms into the unsorted piles of things, quickly and without hesitation, rummaging for something different. Something to meet their needs. I put on my gloves, which I bought at a Rite Aid, and look. Trying to find it. I think it was tucked in the first jewelry box that my husband gave me, the one made of pressed wood. I need to find the box. I see the layer of dust near the bottom of the bin as my arms sink into the pile and I know its bits of things that other people needed.

I stand in the new bin line with the others, waiting facing each other, with ten feet between us leaving room for the new bins that will be coming. A worker with a face mask pushes one in and it’s arms of every color reaching chest deep and the smell covers me and I wonder what I need.

Read More By Alice Clark

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Portland Fiction Project

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