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The Long Goodbye

(Editor's Note — The following work is by Buffalo-born and raised writer Gerry Dempsey, who grew up with way too many siblings but thankfully a lot of really good stories.)




I had grown tired of our waste-management company. There were weeks when it wouldn't come, times when it spilled garbage in front of our house and didn't clean up, and most frustrating — the expense. We were paying more than $1,200 a year for subpar service.


Then my wife had an idea: Fire them!


We had recently purged a bunch of stuff in our lives that we no longer needed, had any use for, didn't fit us, or was out of fashion. The term — fashion — is debatable since I considered my cargo shorts still fashionable, even with holes in the pockets and the ink stain only my wife noticed.


We hauled two pickup trucks worth of "stuff" to a local recycling center. The relief we felt getting rid of it all was outstanding. Dare I say, ‘cathartic?’ There are studies published on the therapeutic value of decluttering. Still, many people have sentimental attachments to their stuff, which causes them emotional distress, can lead people to procrastinate and may even lead to hoarding. My experiment proves those studies, except for hoarding.


I am not sentimental and despise long goodbyes. The American Theoretical physicist Richard Feynman said, "If it disagrees with the experiment, it's wrong." So, there’s that.


After a few fits and starts, we developed a system for separating the recycling from the trash. Then came a wake-up call when we went on vacation and left a trash bag in the garage. We came home to a terrible stench. Maggots and flies were enjoying the buffet we left for them. (It reminded me of the time when my brother and I had a similar situation back in the day. Our plan was to eliminate the hundreds of maggots crawling on our garage floor by pouring gasoline on the floor and igniting it. Imagine our father's displeasure with that plan since we almost burned our house down.)


Another pleasant surprise was my dump experience. I came to know the workers there after a couple visits, and they were always helpful and interesting. When there was a long line of cars, I remarked to Joe, one of the workers, "You'd think you guys are giving stuff away."


"You got that right!" Joe replied. "The dump's the place to be." I nodded and agreed.


Another time I pulled in, and Joe and a coworker were fiddling with an old toilet. They were hitting it with a branch from a tree, trying to break it up and it wasn't working so well. I told him it was too bad my father wasn't around to help them.

"What the hell you talkin' bout?" he politely asked.


So, I told him how my dad occasionally slept on the toilet when I was in high school. I had to shower one morning before school, and he was asleep on the “throne,” as he called it. I was petrified that I would wake him up; I was also gagging from the smell of his Number 2 still in the bowl. About three minutes into the shower, his eyes opened wide, and I noticed him glaring at me.


"What the hell are you doing in here?!" he growled.


"I'm wondering why you haven't sent that turd to hell yet!" I snapped back. "Seriously, Dad, why didn't you send that thing to hell already?"


As my father reached over to flush, there was a loud cracking noise, and the toilet broke underneath him, sending him and the bowl’s contents spilling all over the place. Leaping over him and moving as fast as I could, I cackled, "You took too long to say goodbye!"


We had a good laugh, and Joe told me I was a funny bastard, to which I said, "You got that right!"


I drove off thinking about my dad and why, and how, a man could sleep on the toilet with a number two sitting in the bowl for an entire night. I learned a valuable lesson that day: Never take too long to say goodbye.




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