It’s 2018 and we’re garbage people now, management tells us at the morning meeting. “Not garbage men,” Larry stresses. He strokes his Pomeranian, which is wriggling in his arms. “Garbage people.”
I look from Duke on my left to John on my right, then raise my hand. “But we are garbage men,” I say.
“Shut up, Mick,” Larry snaps. The dog yaps. “You are a person, and what you think doesn’t matter.”
I pick up rotten fruit peels.
I work Kiddie League South. There’s a trash bin on each corner of the pitch, and it is my sacred obligation to empty them after each game, unless it is a government holiday or moderately raining or after 5pm.
It’s not all bad. There’s 50% off fried concessions, and a solid government health plan that covers my blood pressure meds, which is important, because I get 50% off fried concessions.
Larry gets to work Kiddie League East because he’s the senior trash manager.
I hate Larry.
The moms of Kiddie League South don’t like me. Some because they don’t speak to the help, some because I won’t cheer for their kids, some because I don’t fill their indentured servant cabana boy fantasies, some because I do fill their husbands’ indentured servant cabana boy fantasies.
The moms like Coach Karr. “We’re so lucky to have gotten him,” they swoon. He’s widely known as the sexiest CFO in Westbook.
You know Brad Pitt? We’re talking Fight Club-era Brad Pitt. Jennifer Aniston Brad Pitt. A time when men were men Brad Pitt.
Yeah, Coach Karr looks nothing like that dude.
I pick up a bag of dog turds.
The Westbrook Owlets—a terrible name, in part for its fragility compared to the East Ridge Lightning, North Elm Jaguars, or South Bend Bundies; in part because most of the kids think they’re towelettes—is supposed to be the 4th and 5th grade team.
Their goalie, Tanner Q., has gotta be in high school.
He’s got a full ten inches and forty pounds on the next-biggest kid, with a voice an octave lower and more blonde body hair than Larry’s dog. I’m pretty sure he’s balancing Kiddie League with shifts at the local Jiffy Lube.
Once, I swear he offered Aydyn M.’s mom a smoke.
Bin 4 is where the parents of Kiddie League South always dump their leftover snacks. There are always leftovers, because their snacks are horrible.
In my day it was orange slices and Capri Suns, and once we convinced Tobin to eat a whole cigarette under the bleachers.
But no more. These are the kind of people who have read too many parenting books, who follow too many celebrity mom food-stagrams. So it’s all almond dust and celery water and wheatless vitamin cinderblocks.
At halftime, Connors C. and S. solemnly stuff their mouths with fistfuls of AstroTurf.
They must do it for the flavor.
I pick up a moldy spinach smoothie.
Aydyn M.’s mom buys the team T-shirts every year because her older son Tylr can’t get a job that’s not silkscreen.
None of her kids have real vowels in their names.
Aydyn M.’s mom, I think when I see her. Who hyrt you?
A few weeks ago, Tanner Q. missed the ball and kicked itty bitty Sierra B. across the field. She went sailing beautifully through the air with a serene expression on her face, as though she’d always known this day would come.
It was awesome.
This was around the same time Sierra B.’s mom sucker-punched Connor S.’s dad in the parking lot for scratching her Escalade.
Those B. women are tough B’s.
I pick up gum and condom wrappers.
Aydyn M.’s mom is the only one to have brought a popular snack this season. Eggless cookie dough. “We’re raw vegans,” she explains. “Much more natural. This recipe is full of fiber and Omega 28’s.”
After the game, as the rest of the parents trickle towards the parking lot, she sinks her French tips into my arm and desperately gazes up at me, her confessor.
“They’re not eggless,” she hisses. The sound is like the last of the air being squeezed from a delicate Pomeranian. “They’re Pillsbury.”
Larry’s been sleeping with Connor S.’s dad.
Okay fine he’s not, but wouldn’t it be crazy if that was true?
I pick up a single human tooth.
Sierra B.’s mom told Larry I forgot Bin 4 last week. Apparently the raccoons got into the cauliflower rice cakes.
Larry calls me over. “These people think you’re garbage!” he shouts. Pushes my shoulder. Spits as he yells. “Forget again and you’re out.” He turns to go.
I watch the halo of his balding head retreat across the pitch. The few desperate hairs atop his scalp knit into a crisscross pattern that somehow looks exactly like the kiddie goal net.
And then I’m on the field. My foot connects powerfully with the slightly deflated children’s soccer ball. It squeaks, and sails through the air with the same graceful arc as scrawny, aerodynamic Sierra B., towards those struggling hairs.
“Garbage person!” I shout across the pitch.
And then I realize that the ball is not a ball at all—but a small, white Pomeranian.
Emma Miller (@preemmanence) is a writer and editor in New York City. Her short fiction and poetry has previously appeared in Defenestration Magazine, Daily Science Fiction, The Molotov Cocktail, Flash Fiction Magazine, and Apparition Literary Magazine. See more of her work here.