fiction by Eve Odom

She ordered a new coat for the winter. It came on a Wednesday, which was nice because she hated Wednesdays, in a brown nondescript box. She dug through the packing peanuts like she was hunting for treasure until she found her jacket. It was wrapped in the most beautiful cellophane you have ever seen, iridescent and shiny. She thought the coat itself was okay and hung it next to a line of other coats in the coat closet. At the end of the day, she set the boxes and paper outside in the recycling bin and put it on the curb for pickup.

The next day she noticed that the garbage truck never ran. So, she thought she got her days mixed up and pulled the bins back to the house. Nothing to worry about. She’d catch it tomorrow. Hungry, she decided to make a salad and have a nice soda refreshment. She cut open the plastic bags and poured the contents of the salad, cheese and dressing, into a bowl, added a few nuts from the pantry, and stirred. When she was finished, all the bags went into the garbage as well as her soda can. Maybe a hard cider before bed would be nice. She popped the top of a glass bottle and poured it into a cup. Mechanically, she discarded the bottle into the recycling can.

The next day she put the recycling bin on the curb and at the end of the day it remained. Was she going crazy? How could this be? Confused, she walked to her neighbor's house and knocked on the door. They didn’t know why the truck hadn’t run. She decided she would call the sanitation department immediately and complain. After two hours of waiting on the phone, she was in queue to be the next caller. Then her phone died. She was frustrated. The whole situation was ridiculous. So, she got on her computer and crafted a glorious email that would make the garbage people shudder and surely be on time next week. While she was online, she bought the cutest little pig shaped coffee mug. She elected to have it shipped overnight because she wanted to use it as soon as possible. Why wait if it can be rushed for free? 

The next morning a box was waiting for her on the front porch, and she opened it excited to see her new cute coffee cup. Instead, she found a new pair of pants that she had forgotten she had ordered a few days before. What a surprise. She placed them in the closet in a line of other pants and put the plastic bag they had arrived in the recycling, which had really built up and was starting to fall out of the bin onto the floor. It was unsightly and she would complain about it for sure the next day when she called sanitation again. For dinner she made a box of macaroni and cheese with a bagged salad with a new flavor of avocado ranch. It was delicious! After dinner she smashed the garbage down in the trash can to make room for her latest items.

Two weeks later the garbage truck still hadn’t run. There were rumors of different issues, maybe even a strike. Of course, these progressives were bound to ruin everything. The plastic situation was getting out of control. She had cardboard precariously stacked throughout the kitchen. Multiple plastic bags full of plastic were stacked against the wall. That night with a glass of wine she ordered a rug for her living room and a cabinet to put some of the garbage bags in to be delivered the next day, and on last thought she added some plug-in air fresheners to cover that lingering garbage smell.

The garbage kept piling up. The rumors were that the city had shut down the garbage facility for smuggling. Of course, she thought, the government is always incompetent. The trash began pushing its way out of the kitchen towards the living room, and she decided to buy a mini refrigerator to put in the living room since the kitchen was no longer accessible. 

The trucks never ran again, and the garbage was all over her house. Daily, she would call and complain, until one day the sanitation line was disconnected and all she heard was a long irritating beep. 

The next day when she woke up a piece of plastic was adhered to her stomach. She frantically scrubbed and scrubbed in the shower, but she could not get it off. It pulled at her skin as she tried to remove it, blood seeping at the edges where she tugged so hard that it broke the skin. Tears flowed down her face as she looked at herself in the mirror. No one could ever see her like this. What was this world coming to? She ordered new shirts to cover it and added more plastic to the stacks which had reached the ceiling in the living room. She moved her mini fridge into the foyer.

A few months passed and summer came. She woke up to find another piece of plastic adhered to her leg. Tears fell down her cheeks as she scrubbed, but again, it wouldn’t let go. Devastated, she walked through a maze of garbage bags and trash. She pulled a mango out of her mini fridge that she had specially shipped from Costa Rica. In the summer, fresh mangoes were one of life’s little treasures. The flesh from the mango was soft in her mouth, and juice rolled down her chin. Her tongue flicked around but she couldn’t taste anything. All she could taste was plastic.

Eve Odom lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her husband and two children. She has been published in the North Carolina Literary Review and in Women Speak, Volume 7. Her essay, “Semi Shallow,” received honorable mention in the 2021 Alex Albright Creative Nonfiction Contest. She was also nominated for a John Burroughs 2023 Literary award. 

home               return to fiction