Back
Stuck Man
Ben Robinson

I take out the trash and walk in on my neighbour

shouting, You are a garbage man! You are a dirty, filthy

garbage man!  as she tries to stuff her husband into

the building’s garbage chute. When I enter

she removes her hands from his waist, quietly leaves

the two of us alone.


The superintendent comes by with a pry bar but the man

is stuck. We slip notes under the doors

of everyone on the fifth floor and above explaining

the situation, asking them not to use the chute.


People forget though. Pretty soon shopping bags

full of styrofoam and plastic coffee lids

rain down on his head. The worst are the people

who don’t compost. They hit him with eggshells

and coffee grounds.


The stuck man tries to educate the other tenants about

proper trash disposal but they

are gone by the time their trash hits him. All his yelling

makes the aluminum walls echo, which hurts his ears.

The stuck man tells himself to stay positive, thinks,

At least you are stuck facedown!


Once a day, the superintendent fetches a two-litre bottle

of pop and a really long straw. The super holds the bottle

down on the fourth floor. The stuck man draws the pop

up through the straw to his mouth on the fifth floor. When

the man has had enough, the super lets the bottle fall down

four floors and one basement. It lands softly

in the dumpster below.


The superintendent feels bad about the man’s situation,

but not so bad because who gets themselves stuck

in a garbage chute? The plan is to starve the stuck man a little

so he will eventually just slide out.


Some neighbours he has never met come by

to wish the stuck man well. They line up outside

the door of the fourth-floor trash room with their grandchildren.

The kids stick their heads in, wave up at the man before

their grandparents pull them back out.


One elderly lady brings her iPad, holds it for the stuck man

while she plays episodes of Friends. He does not like Friends

and can’t even see it very well, but he cannot tell her this. He has asked

the superintendent to limit his visiting hours to between

1 and 3 pm. He is happy to smile at the children and chat with

his neighbours but it gets tiring.


Nighttime is the worst. He tries to sleep but his snoring

reverberates through the chute and wakes him.

And when it doesn’t wake him, he has horrible dreams of being

swallowed by tin snakes with digestive tracts a kilometre long

where his cries ring on and on and on.

Ben Robinson's recent poems include the tale of a man who finds himself lodged in his condominium's garbage chute, as well as an account of the Christian God’s foray into Spanish lessons. In 2019, The Blasted Tree and Simulacrum Press will each publish a chapbook of his computer-generated poetry. He has only ever lived in Hamilton, ON, on the traditional territories of the Mississauga and the Haudenosaunee.