photo of a baby doll's fist

The Man at the Dump by Matthew Dexter

My wife moved out with all the suitcases and our toddler–so the apartment is full of toys and tiny handprints on the walls. I count the fingerprints climbing the stairs. There was a time when those things bothered me: the white walls besmirched with dirt, tortilla crumbs and scraps of meat from the final meal strewn upon tile, his tray table full of fire ants. The high chair glistens in the corner of the living room with the horrid majesty of an electric chair.

Cockroaches camouflaged in darkness are thrilled. The statuesque orange high chair with its plastic buckle hanging like a lifeless limb from stained seatbelt. The faded plastic soft and sticky. Silence entombs the fetid air exuding from the diapers in the garbage beneath the kitchen sink. Rotting Pampers and dirty dishes perfume the place. There is no bedroom door. I will inhale the residual decay of a giggling ghost of mediocre existence.

Within fingerprints are hidden memories of tickles and tantrums. Between cracked corners of paint where spiderwebs have stretched, undisturbed for months, there are two eyes staring into my own. My home has become a coffin. I buckle myself into the plastic. The high chair is killing me.

Next thing I know, all his toys are stuffed in my trunk, and seven trips later, the dump is full of items that have ambushed my credit. Sun-baked garbage stings my nostrils. A fairy dances on a heat haze. A filthy stray Dalmatian sniffs at the Tonkas and Matchbox cars with wheels soaked in lemonade. People are watching me out of the corner of their eyes as I kick dump trucks into the stinky hole–fathers with sons old enough to understand that they shouldn’t get too close for fear of falling in.

There is no pulling me from this dump. Trip after trip, my piece of shit Toyota is loaded with toys and clothes. Many of them are still being paid for. His cherry red Mini Cooper is in better condition than my own vehicle. I sit behind the wheel. The miniature coupe squeezes my lanky limbs. I hawk the remote control into the pit. I had pulled the antenna as high as possible with my incisors and it pokes through the unused diapers and Gerber baby food. There is no need for the joystick. There is no more joy. I jerk the switch to manual and tuck my knees into the plastic dashboard.

Turn on the radio. Flip through the stations. There is music and intermittent douchebags mesmerized by the beauty of their voices. Put her in reverse and back it up to the Toyota. Turn the wheels and aim for the pit of glass and aluminum and metal shards of lightbulbs. Mosquitoes suck blood from the neck and earlobes. Pay them no mind. Floor the accelerator to the beat of bouncing flies.

Matthew Dexter lives in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Like the nomadic Pericú natives before him, he survives on a hunter-gatherer subsistence diet of shrimp tacos, smoked marlin, cold beer, and warm sunshine. He is the author of the novel, The Ritalin Orgy (Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing 2013). His short fiction and narrative nonfiction have been published in hundreds of literary journals and dozens of anthologies.

Lead image“the fist” (via Flickr user Brian Yap)