(Image by Orit Yeret, taken in NYC)
Orit Yeret has a Master’s degree in Comparative Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Haifa in Israel. She is a lecturer in Modern Hebrew and is currently employed at Yale University. In her spare time she enjoys photography, painting, and writing short prose and poetry in both English and Hebrew. Her work is forthcoming in Borfski Press and Drunk Monkeys.
Monday morning, 6:00 a.m.
The sound of a garbage truck backing up in the alley underneath Prince’s window.
Prince jumps out of bed in a panic. Without putting on shoes or pants, he storms out of his fourth-floor apartment window and climbs down the fire escape. As he makes his way down, he catches a glimpse of his own reflection—his hair is messy, his face unshaven, and there’s a fresh cut above his right eye that, for the moment, has stopped bleeding.
The city that never sleeps seems to be under some kind of spell—half-dazed, half-awake—much like Prince’s current situation, only he is on the move. Skipping the stairs, two at a time, he waves at the sanitation workers who have already started loading up the truck.
“Wait! Wait!” he shouts, begging, as he makes his way down.
“Please!” His pleas become louder as he approaches them.
The two workers stare at him, puzzled. They are wearing long, dark-green overalls with reflective lights. Prince is wearing a white T-shirt and pinstripe boxers. He is now in front of them, trying to catch his breath, crunched down, resting his palms on his knees.
“Whew!” he exclaims as he inhales heavily.
“That was quite a run,” says one of the sanitation workers.
“What happened? Lose something?” the second worker says and starts to laugh.
“As a matter of fact…” Prince begins to talk, slowly. “Yes! Did you happen to see an old bedside table…red wood…sort of vintage-looking…only has one drawer…” Prince looks around.
“Haven’t seen it,” one of them says. “Anything inside, Marco?” he calls out to the other worker, who goes to check the truck.
“Nope!” Marco replies.
“Sorry, man,” the worker says, and starts rolling the trash bin toward the truck.
“Hey!” Prince stops him. “Wait a minute…” He notices the worker’s nametag. “Luke.” Luke and Prince now stand on opposite sides of the trash bin.
“Yo! What’s the holdup?” Marco yells from the truck.
“You have to help me out, man.” Prince holds his head with both hands. “I don’t know what to do!” He stares at Luke with a desperate look in his eyes.
“What’s the problem here?” Marco steps out of the truck and approaches them. He examines Prince from top to bottom and then turns to Luke. “Junkie?” Luke throws his hands in the air.
Prince is now pacing back and forth, barefoot, in the dirty alley. Marco signals Prince to calm down. “We’re not looking for any trouble here; just let us do our job.”
“You don’t understand!” Prince says. “It was in there… It was in there and now it’s gone!”
Luke and Marco exchange a confused glance.
“Sorry, man.” Marco then says, “Whatever it was, there’s nothing we can do.”
Luke and Marco start rolling the trash bin toward the truck again.
“Please!” Prince cries out. “You have to help me!” He falls on his knees.
“Oh, shit…” Marco says. “What the fuck, man?” He turns to Luke. “Get the fuck up, man!” he says to Prince, but Prince doesn’t move and keeps saying, “Please.”
Marco backs up and changes places with Luke.
“Calm down, man,” Luke says to Prince in a soothing voice. “Get up. Come on.”
Prince listens to Luke and stands up.
“What’s so important about that table?” Luke asks, taking off his gloves.
“My dad’s watch… It was in there…” Prince stifles his tears.
“And?” Marco intervenes.
Prince stares at the two of them for a moment.
“This is a waste of time,” Marco says to Luke, but Luke continues to look at Prince without moving.
“And…” Prince finally says, “He died a year ago, and that’s all I have of him…that watch.”
“Pshh,” Marco makes a noise and averts his gaze.
“Sorry to hear that, man,” Luke replies sympathetically.
“So why would you throw the table away?” Marco jumps in again.
“I didn’t!” Prince replies angrily. “My…” he hesitates, “…boyfriend did.”
“Okay.” Marco holds his hands up. “To each their own, that’s what I always say.”
“So why would he…?” Marco starts again, but Luke signals him to be quiet.
“We sort of got into a fight last night.” Prince paces in place and rubs his forehead. He accidently touches the cut above his eye and makes a face as he feels the burn.
“And that’s his handiwork?” Luke points at the bruise on Prince’s face.
“Not intentionally,” Prince explains. “He threw a book at me—my book, actually—and it hit my head… Anyway, it’s all my fault.”
“Oh, good…more to the story.” Marco taps on his wristwatch to indicate to Luke they need to get moving. “We’re on a schedule, you know,” he says to Luke.
“What happened?” Luke asks Prince, curious.
“I…cheated on him…during my latest book tour.” Prince looks away, embarrassed to meet their eyes. “It’s not like I planned it… It happened. He found out and…as you can see, all hell broke loose.” Prince points at the trash bins, which Marco and Luke notice are filled with clothes, broken dishes, and a shattered mirror.
Marco fishes out the pieced mirror from the bin. “Seven years of bad luck,” he mumbles. Luke nudges his arm as a sign to keep silent.
Prince comes closer to the bins. “What a mess…” he sighs. “Truth is, I don’t care about all of this,” he points at the bins, “but the watch—it’s all I have…all I had. He knew I kept it there.” He begins talking to himself angrily. “He knew it, and that’s why he did it…to hurt me.”
“Like you hurt him,” Luke says all of a sudden. Surprised the words came out of his mouth, Marco and Prince stare at him.
Luke mumbles, “I can deduce things too.”
“Hey, buddy.” Marco turns to Luke with a smile. “No one said you can’t.” Marco tosses the broken pieces into the bin and comes closer to Prince.
“Like I said,” Marco puts his right hand over his heart, “there’s nothing we can do… It’s Monday morning, after the weekend…” Marco wipes off his forehead. “There’s lots of trash, lots of trucks around town… Sometimes we do three, four rounds before noon.” Marco turns to look at Luke, who nods at him in approval.
“But you have to,” Prince begs again and, in a desperate move, clutches Marco’s overalls. Marco removes his hand with a swift move.
“Like I said, sir,” Marco continues, “there’s nothing we can do. Start loading up,” he says to Luke, turns his back to Prince, and walks away in the direction of the driver’s seat.
“Please,” Prince tries to appeal to Luke, who is now wheeling the trash bin.
“You shouldn’t have done that,” Luke says to Prince.
“I know,” Prince scratches his head. “I didn’t mean to…” Prince points to Marco’s direction.
“Not that,” Luke explains, “your boyfriend—you shouldn’t have hurt him like you did.”
Prince looks at him, shocked. “You’re right, I was an asshole. Shit, I am an asshole.” Prince paces back and forth, just now realizing his feet are cold and wet.
Luke stops wheeling the bin and lifts his head to locate Marco. “This watch,” he then turns to Prince, “why is it so important to you?”
“I told you, it was my dad’s…” Prince explains.
“And he passed away, yeah, yeah,” Luke intervenes, “but it’s not just that, is it?” Luke comes closer to Prince. “See, if it were just that, you wouldn’t be running down the street in your underwear at 6:00 a.m., probably suffering from a concussion, by the look of this bruise, digging your feet in yesterday’s trash, now, would you?”
Prince’s face tightens. “What on earth do you mean? It’s the memory, of course.”
Luke stares at him severely.
“All right.” Prince finally breaks down. “You got me. It’s worth a lot of money, like a lot, a lot…the only good thing I got out of that man. You know he disowned me when I told him I wanted to be a writer? Yeah…and when I came out? He told me I was not his son anymore.” Prince pounds his chest.
“That damn watch,” Prince continues, “worth a couple of grand…enough to get me by for a while…I need it!” Prince recites with fire in his eyes.
“Now, now,” Luke steps away with a satisfied grin. He attaches the trash bin to the truck’s metal arms. There is a loud noise as the bin is mounted and the trash piles on the truck. There are sounds of glass and china being further reduced and crunched together into tiny pieces.
“So, what do you say?” Prince shouts over the noise toward Luke. “Will you help me? I’ll split the profits with you, promise.”
Luke smiles at Prince as he lowers the empty trash bin.
“You know, people look down on us…because of what we do…” Luke wheels the bin back to its location. “But what they don’t realize…is that we know all their secrets.”
Luke winks at Prince and walks over to the truck. He grabs hold of the metal arm and jumps up; he taps the back of the truck twice.
“You have a good day now, sir.” Luke salutes Prince as the truck pulls away from the alley and into the city street.