Our upstate run proceeded relatively uneventfully for the next couple of weeks. As we had little to do compared with the others, Phil and I spent most of our time getting drunk together behind my tent. Despite his never ending ordeal of dealing with garbage, Garbageman Mike managed to join us almost every night. On our last night, he showed up around midnight with a strangely satisfied look on his face. It was the satisfaction of being right, as opposed to the satisfaction of being happy.
“Well, I thought we could get through one shitburg without it happening, that’s what good thinking will do for you, especially if you try starting this late in life. Pass it here, please.”
I passed him the bottle.
“What happened?” asked Phil.
Garbageman Mike looked at me and laughed as he took a long pull. He knew that I already knew. We’d had this conversation many times in the past. Too many times.
“Some asshole shit all over the porta-potties. All three of them completely covered in shit, the walls, the floors, the ceilings. What kind of demented reject does that, and why are these assholes in every single fucking small town in America? Do they think they’re original? Or that this is somehow a good idea? And it is hell on my nerves. I can smell it before I smell it, something just seems off. I get close enough to smell it and I know. I pray I’m mistaken, but I know, and I dread opening the fucking thing but I go ahead and open it anyway, I have no choice, and this is when it all hits home. I already know I’m a fuck up, that I haven’t been the best navigator of my own life, and on top of that these crazy fucking hillbillies have to torture me.“ Mike took another long pull. “And in every fucking town! Every fucking time! Anyone who tells you that human beings are basically decent should try cleaning up one of those fucking porta-potties. Human beings are worse than maggots.”
Up until now, Garbageman Mike had confided this reoccurring nightmare to me alone, usually while I was letting him drive the train. It was not something he was proud of, obviously, but he had to let it out and maybe try to figure it out. Like a lot of things in life, there will never be a good or reasonable explanation, but you’re left stunned and bewildered and search for one just the same.
“The Sweeney sisters.” said Phil. “Three sisters, three porta-potties, together in every town. And they’re acrobatic enough to pull it off.”
Garbageman Mike laughed along with us despite himself. He took another pull, passed the bottle to Phil, and continued.
“Funnily enough, that’s the one thing I’m sure of, or at least I hope I’m sure of. I don’t believe a woman would do this. I can’t believe it. Somehow, it would make it even worse.”