Growing up in a house of six kids made mornings before school…interesting.
There were regular fights over who got the showers, who got the curling iron (I had no dog in THAT fight) and a myriad of other issues. Oftentimes these disputes caused us to be late for the bus.
It was one such morning when I was in high school that our story takes place. There was some crisis, some catastrophe, and my sister Kate and I were late getting to the bus stop half a block away.
Our bus driver, Dennis, was aware of my family’s tardiness and so he would often let the bus idle for a second or two to give us a chance to get to the stop before he left. Kate looked out the window, saw him idling, screeched in horror towards my general direction and flew out into the early morning darkness. I swiped my backpack off the floor and followed.
Normally we would streak across the neighbor’s lawn, but there had been a recent snowstorm, and we had to stick to sidewalks and the road.
It was also garbage day.
Kate somehow missed the neighbor’s garbage can on the side of the road. I did not.
I wasn’t sure exactly what had happened, except that I had been hit by something and my feet weren’t on the ground anymore. I slammed headfirst into the icy pavement, dazed, while the soft plop of dirty diapers landing around me punctuated the winter air.
A normal person would have perhaps just lain there, hoping to be run over by a car and put out of his misery. My brain, however, wasn’t thinking clearly; one command managed to make its way through the haze of pain and confusion: I am going to miss the bus, I’m going to miss the bus, MOM AND DAD WILL KILL ME IF I MISS THE BUS! I heaved my protesting body to its feet despite the fact that one of my knees was no longer working, and began a sort-of half crablike speed walk towards the stop; like the world’s nerdiest, smelliest zombie.
Kate had somehow seen the whole thing, and made Dennis wait for me, laughing so shrilly that windows were cracking in the bus. When I finally hobbled to the bus door, Dennis’s face was red from suppressed mirth.
I discovered several mystery substances smeared down my pant legs; some green, some yellow. I did what I could in the school’s bathroom, but the smell of rancid onions lingered like an unwanted houseguest throughout the day.
I called Dad and asked him to go clean up the trash that was still strewn about the road. When he came home that afternoon he was still twitching from the trauma. Apparently there were some nasty things in that garbage can.
We never brought it up with the neighbors. They still hadn’t forgiven us for the time our dog snuck over and ate all of their hamburgers right off the grill; though I’d imagine if they had been looking through their windows that morning they would have considered this an appropriate punishment.