Friday 10 March 2023

Trash Day by Phillip Temples, pumpkin spice latte

 Emma Jean Watkins looks at her overflowing trash can.

It’s time to take out the garbage.

She doesn’t generate a lot of refuse; what little trash she produces she dumps in the backyard for there is no longer any trash pickup in the town. Each week, a friend of Emma Jean’s from Luzerne County stops by to stock her with groceries and collect her paper and glass recyclables. 

 Emma Jean’s hometown, Centralia, Pennsylvania, is the site of an immense underground coal fire that has been burning for decades. All of the homes and properties in Centralia have long-since been condemned by the state due to the risk from dangerous gasses and sudden ground collapse. Seven elderly residents remain. They are grandfathered—allowed to live out their lives in what used to be a vibrant little town. No matter. Emma Jean knows that soon, she, too, will be dead and gone.

With a determined effort, Emma Jean drags the trashcan off the back porch and into the backyard. She stops twice to rest from the physical ordeal. When she arrives at the designated spot, Emma Jean summons up her remaining strength. She upends the can and dumps the contents into a smoky, smoldering pit of literal hell-fire.

She’s left instructions in her will that she should be disposed of in this hole when it’s time. 

About the author 

Phillip Temples is still trying to make sense of it all. Writing and photography seem to help. He can be followed at or @PhilTemples on Twitter. 


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