what if your job was as a collector of debris along a stretch of highway between two towns? where would you start, where would you finish?
what if you spent your days driving between the two towns, half on the shoulder, half off the road, a yellow arrow sign flashing atop your truck cab.
what would you find?
you would find tire remnants, partnerless shoes, soiled diapers, broken chairs, stained mattresses, road kill – dead skunks or cats or deer or rabbits – piles of excrement, some human.
you would find gloves and bras and shattered televisions and cassette tapes and gigantic plastic coke bottles.
you would stub your toe on a heavy chunk of air brake and be thankful for your steel-toed boots.
then, on that final day, you would find a price tag, a small white piece of cardboard stuck to a used tissue. or is that a fabric softener sheet?
it’s an innocuous item, a minor throwaway, not worth a second thought.
but you would be frozen, paralyzed.
after all the crap you’ve picked up, after all the tossed cigars and cigarette butts (why do smokers consider the world their ashtray?), after the used tampons, beer cans, and half-eaten mouldy hamburgers, this is it, this is the one that will make you walk away, turn in your garbage poker, and hand over the keys to your truck.
you will find a job slinging coffee, or babysitting the neighbour’s kids, or mowing lawns, knowing that, whatever you do, you will be forever plagued by a question.
what costs $5.48?
Myrl Coulter is an Edmonton-based writer of fiction and nonfiction. She is the author of two published books, most recently A Year of Days (UAP, 2015). Her first, The House With the Broken Two: A Birthmother Remembers (Anvil Press, 2011), won the 2010 First Book Competition sponsored by the Writers Studio (Simon Fraser University) and the 2011 Canadian Authors Association Exporting Alberta award. Her work has been published in Geist, Avenue Magazine, and several anthologies. She is cautiously optimistic that her third book will make its published appearance in 2017.