TOMMY by Ellyn Wolfe
The garbage truck rumbled down the other side of the street, eager to gulp the contents of the four black bins waiting at the curb. The Harriman’s bin was number five and would be emptied in approximately four minutes. Fontana shrieked as she pulled yesterday’s tee shirt over her head. She did a one-legged dance toward the door as she tried to get her second leg into a rumpled pair of Levis without falling.
“What do you mean you ‘threw Tommy away’?” she shouted at her mother. “He’s my all time favorite! I’ve had him since I was two … and you threw him in the trash? How could you do that? You’re heartless!”
“Get over it, Fontana. You don’t need that old thing anymore. You’re sixteen. For goodness sakes. Grow up girl!” Louisa tried to block the front door, but her nimble daughter beat her to it and was already half-way down the sidewalk zipping her fly while eyeing the approaching behemoth.
I can do this. I have just enough time to reach in and grab him. In her mind she saw Tommy lying on the top of a week’s worth of plastic garbage bags, waiting to be rescued, slightly annoyed at the humiliation, but noble as always.
“Hang on, Tommy. I’ll have you back in my bedroom in a few minutes.” She opened the lid.
He wasn’t there.
“Tommy!” she screamed, “Where are you?”
Fontana dug in. As the third bag hit the pavement, she noticed wet brown fur pressing against the plastic. She ripped the sack open, spilling its smelly contents, including a small brown teddy bear, onto the street. “Tommy!”
She yanked him out of the mess by the leg and, as she did, both his arms fell off and dropped back into the muck. A soggy round ear followed suit. She lowered herself onto one of the bags, tears threatening to overflow, and clutched Tommy’s dismembered body to her heart. Garbage juice soaked into her shirt.
The truck lumbered up and idled next to her. She heard the cab door open and close. “Problem with your trash, Miss?”
Fontana looked up into the azure blue eyes of a teenage Adonis who was grinning at her. She gasped at his perfect teeth, gorgeous blonde curls, and muscled biceps. Quickly she tossed Tommy back into the debris pile and never looked back. She covered the wet spot on her shirt with her hand.
“Uh, no problem. Everything is fine. Just a spill.”
With his heavy leather gloves, he brushed a couple flies off his stained City of Lamont Sanitation Department overalls. “Here, let me clean this up.”
He swooped the gunk, including Tommy, back into what remained of the bag and heaved it into the back of the truck. As he emptied the rest of the container, he said, “I only have a second, but my name’s Tommy. I just moved here from Montana. I’m not a real garbage guy, I mean, it’s just a summer job, but the money’s great. I’m going to be a senior at Lamont High this fall. What about you?”
“Lamont High? Me too! I’ll be a senior too!” She gave him her best Julia Roberts smile and squiggled her shoulders.
“Sorry, but I gotta go. The driver’s gonna have a fit if we fall behind schedule. Maybe I’ll see you next week? Try to avoid the spills.” He winked and flashed another grin.
Fontana waved as he hopped onto the back of the truck. He gave it two thumps, the all clear signal, and gave her a thumbs-up as he rode off down the street.
She meandered back to the house, dreamy-eyed. She opened the door and walked past her mother who was waiting in the foyer, ready to apologize for her insensitivity over the aging stuffed toy.
“Where’s your Tommy teddy bear?” she asked, confused.
“Oh, he had to get back to work. But, I’m going to see him next week. Let me take the trash out, okay?”