I've been busy the last few days helping clean up an old estate for a new one. Yesterday I began burning, stacking cardboard and twigs into a fire drum. I thought, yes I hate burning plastic, I won't do that, but by mid afternoon I was chucking anything into the flames that I wouldn't have to reef out for the tip later. It was cheaper, I reasoned, to burn the plastic milk bottles and cool drink cartons, than to pay the rubbish tip fees. It's a compromise borne of desperation. It was unseasonably hot and I found myself seeking shade with a lemonade a few times during the exercise.
I've cleaned out a few deceased estates for friends but this one is the mother of them all. By day's end my hair was cloaked with acrid smoke and there was still rubbish lying around. Cleaning out the detritus and treasures of generations on the one property is humbling, confusing and really bloody infuriating.
We loaded the non-burnables onto the back of my ute. Today at the tip, I'd forgotten my gloves. I was on my own and had a wool sack, a wheelie bin and a metal crate full of rubbish that needed to be offloaded manually. I found all sorts of things in those bins. I asked the worker if I could chuck the beer cans. Normally I'm a recycle freak but the whole operation had become so overwhelming (see above) that I just wanted to bin everything and the tip hand agreed.
I was throwing everything into the skip bin. I came across birthday cards, beer cans, boxes, stickers, prescription packets, bottles, dead animals (yes), more beer cans and plastic straw bale wrappers that caught around my arms and legs. A pale frog leapt from the bottom of a bin and into the day. I threw an unidentified small animal carcass onto the tip at the same time as I realised I'd cut my fingers on some wire.
After I'd paid my dues to the tip, all I wanted to do was wash my hands with soap and water. My fingers were bleeding but this is a good thing, right? A bleeding wound will surely purge the germs. I drove to a servo and filled up with diesel. The toilet was occupied. I paid for the fuel and hung around for a while, hoping that whoever was in the toilet would come out, so I could wash my hands.
They didn't. I began wondering if whomever was in the toilet was okay. I mean, what if they've died in there or something? My wounds potentially infected with a dead cat or fox were kinda inconsequential in this particular situation. Still no one came out.
I had to meet Aussie and a writer at a swanky cafe ten minutes later for an edit and review meeting for the writer's latest book. I gave up on the servo's toilet and headed for the cafe. Hair coated in plastic-smelling smoke, with bleeding fingers and a strong scent of old beer, random rotten carcasses and defeat wafting from me, I scrubbed my hands clean in the very pretty ladies bathroom of the said cafe.
If anybody noticed, they didn't say anything, so maybe I pulled that meeting off. However, it is also possible that I'll never work in this town again.