with apologies to Phillip K. Dick

Mother calls their special days, ‘garbage days’. Large, powerful men, wearing special uniforms and big, leathery gloves drive up to our house on these days. They pick up the garbage cans at the concrete border of our street called the ‘curb’. They empty them into the back of their huge, noisy truck. Then, they throw them back down on the lawn and drive to the next house.

Early on the morning of their special day, Father drags the cans to the curb. Normally, they sit beside the set of steps that lead from the kitchen door to the side yard. Mother places her offerings in the cans. On the day before they come around, she searches the kitchen for goodies for them. She tells Suzy to gather any offerings she has been saving for them and put them into a can. She tells Father the same thing. I have brought bones but Puff never gives up a thing.

These are very important men. I can tell. They come from outside our little world, our street, the section that runs from one cross street to the next. They drive onto our block. They make a lot of noise and no one shushes them. People just leave their gifts in the cans at the curb. When they drive off, everyone seems to breathe a little easier, especially the cats and dogs.

I think this is because many of us saw one of the neighbor husbands throw a dead cat into the can. The men made loud noises when the cat slid out of the can and into the huge scoop at the back of their truck. “Cat waffle,” one shouted and they all laughed. They seemed very happy to get this gift. After that day, all the pets on our block were afraid of the garbage men.

The ‘cat waffle’ was a cat named Lucy. Cats and dogs really liked her. She wandered around to all the houses and yards. On her travels, she would rub muzzles with anyone. Then, one day, a car ran over her. Cats and dogs were very sad.

Sometimes Mother brings the men cups of steaming coffee. She doesn’t even bring coffee to Father. Neighbor wives in the houses on our block bring them pieces of cake and sweet breads. I think the wives are all afraid of these men. I think they are the wives’ gods. I think Mother prays to the garbage men when she stands in the kitchen and cries over the chopped onions, “God help me.”