Yes, I was a little garbage picker, but a little garbage picker with a purpose. I was a kid then. I have no idea what age, but at least of an age when my height was enough to rummage through a tilted trashcan. I was hunting for treasure, not treasure of any value to me, but of hopeful value to others. Being a tomboy, I was used to slime, dirt and muck in general. They were simply part of the territory going hand in hand with flipping rocks over in search of worms, skinning catfish, or going toe to toe with an opponent on a muddy playground.
The neighborhood trash cans were staged at the rear of the parking lot between the horseshoe-shaped sections of townhouses. The other kids rode past me on their bikes and roller-skates and laughed as I filled cardboard boxes with my neighbors’ cast-offs, which included things like a chipped magnifying glass, a baseball with broken stitches and a doll with an amputated leg. Who amputates a doll’s leg? Sure I chopped off my doll’s hair for no real reason and tossed her out of a tree with only a paper napkin parachute, just ’cause, but I didn’t remove any body parts. When my bag was full I went home and, at mom’s insistence, scrubbed everything clean and left them to dry.
Once ready, I went to the fenced-in community black-top with my two younger sisters in tow. We made our way to the clearing set between the clothes lines filled with flapping sheets, dish towels and baby diapers. There, next to the behemoth sandbox, I set up my
carnival, my little games of chance, and my store of recycled prizes. I needed to be clever. My twenty-cent allowance only went so far. Only so much was left after my girl scout dues
and an apparently indispensable box of Lemonhead candy from the Y. The kids came and
gleefully gave me their pennies and nickles, the various bits of their allowances for a chance to win. Then they ran joyfully home with their shiny tattered prizes. I gave each of my sisters ice cream money for helping. Then I tucked the remaining coins into my pockets and headed into town.
I zigzagged between the trees and gravestones on my shortcut through the cemetery and
raised my imaginary sword in conquest as I charged under the bridge that supported the roaring train on the track overhead. I waved at the men in the barbershop and smiled at the paint can pyramid in the hardware store window as I passed by. Then I crossed the street to the Five and Ten. Inside there were aisles of wooden tables with dividers filled with every imaginable trinket and toy. I ran past them all and made my way to the back of the store. There she was, Pinkie, still hanging high on the wall well beyond my reach, like
a magical girl from a fairy tale, a wise angel from on high, floating in a pseudo-gilt frame. I ran back up front and emptied my pockets on the counter. Having grabbed a ladder, the clerk climbed up, carried her down and presented her to me, my muse, my Five and Ten treasure.