The day the trash ate my keys
It was a flawless summer evening, an unimaginable context for an impending disaster. We sat at a picnic table eating dinner at Jimmie’s, a local take-out restaurant. Our grandsons were with us and they gobbled burgers and fries chanting ‘ice cream’ when they finished. We didn’t worry about dripping cones. We were outside.
But before heading home, I retrieved wet wipes from the car to clean sticky faces and hands. When I threw away the wipes, they were in the same hand as my car keys. I planned to release them and hang onto the keys. But this action required more manual dexterity than I possessed. And the wipes and keys tumbled into the trash.
If I had the temperament of my husband, Patrick, I would have taken a calm, unhurried approach. As steady and precise as a surgeon, I would have plucked the keys from their precarious perch. We would have chuckled about my blunder, wiped a dab of mustard from the key fob, and lived happily ever after.
You may have guessed by now that’s not what happened.
“I threw my keys in the trash!” I screamed to the capacity crowd, distracting them from their fried clams and hot fudge sundaes. I stabbed at the keys and heard an unmistakable belch as the industrial sized bin swallowed them.
“You what?” said Patrick.
“They were right on top, but now they’ve disappeared!”
The color drained from his face, and he adopted an expression of severity I’ve seen only a few times during our twenty-seven-year union. Like the time I caught the toaster on fire in the middle of the night.
He leaped into action, unseating the lid of the trashcan. Fellow patrons stared at the gruesome scene, unable to look away. We picked through leaking soda cups, oozing Styrofoam containers, and ketchup-stained napkins. At least we hoped it was ketchup.
After we plowed through half the contents, Patrick declared we needed to remove everything. I ran to the window, wild-eyed and breathless, and asked an ice cream scooping teenager for a large garbage bag.
“I did a dumb thing and threw my keys in the trash.” Young people have no respect these days. She didn’t even pretend to hide her disdain when she gave me the bag.
We commenced the painstaking process of extracting each revolting item. Once we reached the bottom of the barrel, we surveyed the situation. The soppy remains contained enough mystery floaties to horrify the most seasoned dumpster diver. We took a deep breath, glanced at each other for courage, and took the plunge.
After an eternity of fishing, Patrick arose with the keys. The boys and I erupted in a boisterous cheer. “Winner, winner, chicken dinner!”
The onlookers didn’t find our adventure appetizing or amusing, and we sailed to the car propelled by their collective sigh of relief.
We used our remaining four wet wipes to cleanse the keys and our hands. Patrick drove home, turning the steering wheel with the tips of his index fingers.
I broke the icy silence with this question, “I wonder if that surly teenager would have given us rubber gloves if I’d asked for them?”
Molly Stevens believes humor is the emollient that soothes life’s rough patches and promotes these convictions in her blog: Shallow Reflections. She is the author of an adult picture book, Boomer on the Ledge, and the creator of Boomer on the Ledge Dolls. You can also follow Molly on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, and Instagram.