SHONE LIKE GABBRO, short story, 2011
“We have to jump for them,” Dale said, standing on the ledge next to me.
In front of us were twelve large wheeled dumpsters, lined up in two neat rows. The smell of wet garbage permeated the air, seeping out of the open lids.
“We’ll each grab a scrap. There are scraps in these and we’ll each dive and grab one.” Dale instructed, removing his shoes and jacket. He crouched down, poised to jump, and then sprung into the air. He jumped so high! I tried to follow his trajectory but lost him somewhere in the sky. All around me, translucent silhouettes of Dale danced around the heavens as if several carbon copies of my friend and colleague had taken flight at once.
“Now it’s your turn,” said Dale’s voice, from somewhere.
Looking down at the dumpsters, I felt fear for the first time. I chose a bin at random and leapt forward, finding myself plunging into the soggy refuse almost immediately. The container didn’t look this deep from the outside, I found myself thinking as the waste rushed over my head. I struggled to keep my mouth shut over my last breath and I knew I didn’t have long to find the paper fragment.
I dug my hands through the thick layers of slop, searching desperately. The amount of pulped paper in the dumpster was incredible, almost equalling the volume of spoiled food. The scrap I was looking for could have been almost anything I came into contact with. I couldn’t hold my breath for much longer. I felt my hand connecting with soft plastic, and instinctively grabbed hold, swimming upwards as quickly as possible. As I emerged from the pungent pool, Dale stood on the ledge where we had started, spotless and waiting.
In my hand was a transparent food storage bag, zipped up to protect its contents. I slid the zip across and removed the piece of paper from inside, seeing that it had been torn from a larger sheet. Dale held up an almost identical piece of paper, perhaps shredded from the same leaf.
“I got Judy, who did you get?” he shouted across to me. On my paper scrap was written,
ELLIE WENT MISSING
SHONE LIKE GABBRO
LOST TO THE WORLD
REJECTED ALL BASES
“I got Ellie,” I shouted back.
“Check your top pocket,” Dale laughed knowingly.
I reached into the pocket on the left breast of my shirt, and pulled out an envelope, now soaked through and covered in sludge. Tearing it open, I saw a note scribbled in Dale’s handwriting. It read,
YOU WILL GET ELLIE
Dale must have slipped it into my pocket before we had even started our journey.
“It was a trick all along, you see?” He laughed again, heartily.
I stared at the note in front of me.
How did he do it?