A true story of a bizarre and slightly unsettling little encounter.
|Some true to life stories inspire, make you feel you're not so alone after all, bring laughter and tears, connect you to your fellow man and the world around you in ways you never thought existed and bring a little more understanding and clarity to life. Some of the true stories told are just muddled bits of weird apparent momentary glitches in the universal order (if there is one) that can't be applied to anything, in fact the longer you ponder them the less sense they make, don't pretend to be important or life changing in the slightest and are probably best left forgotten. This is one of the latter.
You see, I'm obsessed with a trash can.
In a little used small park by the river a ordinary, metal trash can sits in a concrete base with a domed top chained down to it that's got a little hatch door, I assume designed to keep animals out which it may or may not have failed at on the night in question.
I had just begun my regular two hour midnight walk (I'm weird enough already without worrying about trash cans as you can see) with my large and very silly dog Atticus (after the hero of To Kill A Mockingbird) who I swear has Acute Canine ADHD, but that's a whole different odd story.
I was walking on my usual route, swinging into the little park trail a bit and walking past the picnic tables and (perhaps mystical) trash can when I heard the oddest noise coming from it, which was doubly odd because my iPod was turned up loud enough to make me likely legally deaf to all else. I pulled out my earphones and looked around. It came from the trash can, something seemed to be banging around inside, almost like something, maybe something large, was jumping up and down and scratching at the walls of the can.
I listened to the can rattle for a moment, it had to be a animal. Atticus was circling the can, sniffing about and looking excited, perking up his ears to the noise. There were houses around here so it could be a cat or something but it was probably a raccoon. A raccoon must have jumped up and pushed the trap door to get to the garbage and fallen down inside, and now the trap door had closed after it and it was stuck. Right, that makes sense, doesn't it?
I felt bad about leaving it, and it would be bad if someone put their hand in in the morning and got bitten or something, I thought I should help it. It would only take a minute, I thought, but what about it biting me? I needed to be careful, I shouldn't put my hand near it. I just needed to push the trapdoor open and maybe the animal inside could jump up and out.
Atticus and I went across the street to break some sticks off someone's tree and then I tied him to a nearby picnic table and he sat and watched me cautiously try to push on the trap door with sticks from the opposite side of the can, as far away from the door as possible. The rattling paused for a moment as the trap door opened a bit and then I heard the animal scuffle around inside as I tried unsuccessfully to keep the door open with my too-weak sticks, the door was harder to open then I thought and kept slamming shut. Probably built that way specifically to keep raccoons from pushing it open, I wondered how the poor clearly panicked thing managed to get it open in the first place. I tried to get closer to see what I was doing and saw a flash, perhaps like a animal's eye reflecting light, and the door slammed shut again before I could see.
Alright, this wasn't working. I couldn't see well enough where the thing was inside in the dark to know where to stand and my sticks weren't strong enough. Time to figure out a Plan B, I was now clearly set on saving the poor animal. It sounded like it must be so scared the way it was banging and scrambling around in there, it couldn't wait until morning.
I untied a very excited Atticus and we headed for home and returned ten minutes later with a good flashlight, a traingle wedge thing I thought I could jam in the trash door to keep it open and the unscrewed wooden handle of a old plunger all in a plastic bag. I had thought about waking my mother up and asking for help but I wasn't sure how I would explain a raccoon rescue mission in the middle of the night. I thought about how I would tell her in the morning about how I saved a poor trapped raccoon all by myself, my good deed, on the way back to the park.
I set my bag down on the picnic table and secured Atticus to the base, in case he would try to chase the animal when it got out. The poor thing trapped inside the can was scrambling just as loud. I got my plunger stick and my flashlight and took up position again behind the trash can as far from the door as I could but it was no good, I still couldn't see what I was doing. I tried to shine my flashlight down from where I was, convinced that a big raccoon would leap out any second, and saw what looked like a blur of movement in the black inside. I would have to get closer. I got my nerves up and moved to the front and pushed the trap door open all the way. I waited a moment, nothing jumped up. I heard it just inside, moving a bit. I bet it was scared and confused. I should look, just to see if it's really a raccoon or not a cat or something. Whatever it is it's something fairly large, from the way its movements sounded. I moved a little closer, took a breath, and shone the flashlight down into the can.
This made no sense. I propped the door open all the way and stared down.
It was empty. All empty save for a few bags and a plastic container.
I stepped back. Okay, my logical side told me calmly, what's happened here is it must have gotten out. Alright, I told my logical side, that would make sense... if it wasn't still scrambling around in there.
The sound still came, and it was unmistakably the sound of something like a animal moving in a trash can over the bags and container. I shone my flashlight all around inside, to every possible corner, but it seemed like any time I wasn't looking at a area of the can the sound seemed to be coming from there. I looked around the can, it was sitting alone, just the picnic table nearby. Nothing else to make this noise. I put my ear to the top of the can and listened to something scramble around inside it a bit, it seemed calmer now. I stared down into the can with my flashlight. The only passerbys, a couple of boys, walked past on the sidewalk as I was looking into the can with my flashlight. I was dimly aware of one of them telling me to get a job or something like that. I just kept looking. I must have stood there looking inside the can for about ten minutes.
This isn't funny, I thought, Raccoon-animal-whatever, I'm going to a lot of trouble for you so stop messing with me. Turn visible, I know you're in there.
I turned to that rational side which had been so unusually vocal tonight, but all it had to say for itself was "What... the... fuck..."
My intuition gave it's report, in this space, it said, there are three beings. This is clear. There's Atticus, there's myself, and there is the Other in the trash can.
I watched it, beyond confused. The noises had gotten quieter and calmer since I had looked inside and they slowly dwindled down to silence.
I untied Atticus, he circled the can a few times sniffing, and put my plunger stick and flashlight back in the bag and we walked away. I stopped a couple blocks away and walked back to the can. I thought I might have heard a rustle, but nothing else. I walked away again, and turned back a little ways away and checked again. Nothing.
We headed home. I asked Atticus' opinion on the way, but he looked confused too and more importantly wanted to go for a proper walkies, but that wasn't going to happen that night. I told him we were going home early tonight.
As far as I can tell it's now just a garbage can, filled and emptied on schedule, nothing strange about it, but who knows what happens with even ordinary everyday things when nobody's looking?
So, with my dog as my witness, I swear that we encountered something more then a little odd in a garbage can. It's not a huge happening, it's not any earth-shattering event, and there's no conclusion to be drawn, but still, for all the things strange things can happen to, why a garbage can of all things?