He pushed his fingers through the thin black plastic carefully. His nose wrinkled instinctively, waiting for a freshly putrid smell to smack him in the face.
It was dark in the small cramped space of the half-full dumpster, it made it difficult to separate the good junk from the bad. He made his jagged opening a bit wider and saw faces staring up at him. Beautiful faces with perfectly carved features staring up from shining magazine covers.
He smudged through them. All women’s shit. When he saw the stack he was hoping for a bit of porno or at least a lingerie catalog. No one read mags anymore.
He tossed the stack aside and pawed for another overripe trash bag.
The stack of magazines toppled slowly, a waterfall of glossy pages sliding down over his feet. He reached down to move them aside and saw a familiar face looking up at him from one of the back covers. The product was not important, but that face…
His eyes were suddenly moist.
He could hear her in the back of the car. The shrill tearing of her screams echoed in the small red Honda he pressed to its limit. The tiny engine screamed right alongside her as the cars around them began to slip behind them more and more quickly.
He exited the freeway and ran over a bush on his way to the hospital entrance.
She exchanged screams for half audible mumbles and moans. Her eyes were rolling slits.
He carried her through the big glass doors.
Her blood was all over him.
He gripped the glossy cover and stared.
Tears making small puddles on the page.
He kept wiping them away.
It can’t have been that long.
He stared across the otherwise empty table at the beautiful little girl as she blew out the candles on a bright blue birthday cake that she had picked out herself. It had been mother’s favorite color too. She said it made the red in her hair shine. The little girl’s hair was a beacon that always reminded him of her mother. He cried into it countless nights as the little girl slept in his arms.
He climbed out of the dark green dumpster and set his back against the cold brick. His fingers clutched the magazine. His eyes no longer poured tears. He smiled.
He wet his fingers, one at a time, into his bottle of vodka. Carefully scrubbing them clean with a bit of wadded napkin.
Reverently, he reached out and stroked the photo.
He held the gold chain tightly in his fist as he walked. His hair was greasy and matted to his head, but he did his best to comb it. He had chased a car into a car wash the day before, in his best jacket. It wasn’t exactly clean.
He saw her walking out of the tall white apartment building that shined in his mind – painfully. His run was jerky and unbalanced as he approached. He hit a loose piece of concrete and sprawled across the concrete. His head bounced painfully.
She was with a man who walked over to help. He saw the man coming but waved him away and got up. He asked if there was anything he could do to help. Could he call him a cab? She looked at him concerned. He saw the pity in her eyes.
His stomach turned to lead.
It’s not supposed to go like this.
He pressed the gold chain into the man’s hand and walked away, ignoring the confused shouts
.She got into the cab that was waiting for them and waited for her husband who followed soon after shaking his head.
“Well that’s one way to start the day.” Her husband said as he ducked his head into the car.
“Was he ok?” She was concerned, she could hear the smack of the old man’s head from almost twenty feet away.
“I have no idea, he just pushed this at me then ran away.” He handed her the gold chain, which had a single small round charm on it. “They need to do something to help these people.”
She looked down at pressed the small clasp on the side of the locket. It split in half, as she expected.
Her face went flat.
Two faces stared up at her.
One was her own, and one she had only known from photos. The matching hair was unmistakable.
“Anything inside?” Her husband asked as he noticed she had gotten it open.
She closed it with a snap.
She rolled down the window of the cab and dropped it out the window.
“What did you do that for? I’m pretty sure that was gold.”
She rolled the window back up and stared through the tinted glass.
“It wasn’t. Just that cheap costume crap.”