Waste Management

NOTE: Be forewarned, this short story is a bit “darker” than what I usually write…

I opened my eyes, unable to move my hands or my feet. Unable to touch what had trickled down one side of my face.

My last stop of the night. Some old lady had ordered twenty pizzas, each one a different combination of toppings. I should have known better than to come down to this neighbourhood. No one paid their electric bills here, not even for the city's own street lights.

Something soft brushed against my captive leg.

"Salmonella," an old woman said. "You flirty kitty. Leave the pizza man alone." Her voice tickled my ear. Dry and raspy, with a slight whistle. I imagined her standing right behind me, hunched over my shoulder.

"Look,” I said, “if you don't have the money to pay for the pizza, no harm done.” I pulled on the ropes around my wrists and ankles. The wooden chair creaked. My bony hips throbbed from sitting too long on the most uncomfortable chair ever made. "I'll just take them back with me."

"Freddie, please give the man his money."

Something fell onto my lap.

"Why did you tie me up? Do you want my truck? I'll be honest with you, it's no prize. It's burning oil. I don't think it would pass the next emissions test."

I listened as someone left the room and came back, repeating the action four times, all the while dragging their feet across the floor. It sounded like it wore Sasquatch-sized boots.

"Can you put a light on?" I asked. "I'm afraid of the dark."

“No. That wouldn't be prudent."

“What did you do with all those pizzas? Do I smell peppermint?"

"Perhaps. Among other things."

"I can't count my money in the dark."

"You can't count your money with your hands tied up."

“Please. Can you put a light on?"

Someone struck a match, lighting a candle on a stool beside me.

"You can let me go. I won't say a word to the cops."

The woman moved forward from the shadows, holding the candle between us.

"You look just like my Great Aunt Rhonda,” I said, “except she has a huge wart on the end of her nose and last I heard, she was locked up in a psyche ward.”

"Desmond," she said, clicking with her tongue. "I am your Aunt Rhonda. Warts can be removed. Modern science is wonderful. Haven't you heard? As for my unfortunate incarceration, my doctor cleared me of all that nastiness everyone accused me of.”

"Okay. Fun's over. Glad to see your’e out of the funny farm. You can let me go now."

"I'm afraid I can't do that," she said, wagging her ring-covered finger in front of me. "My sister died yesterday. You were her number one heir. I was number two. She always filed things away in the wrong order."

"Grandma's dead?" I stared at the woman standing in front of me. Not a speck of sadness showed in her face, at least not that I could see in the low-light of the candle.

"Untie me,” I demanded.

"That's not going to happen, my dear Desmond," she said, walking a few feet to my right. "I would like to introduce you to someone."

Something wearing dirty overalls and armed with fists belonging to a giant, moved into the halo of candlelight.

"I just promoted Freddie to Director of Waste Management. You are his first piece of waste to manage."