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.