Recycle Man

Janice jumped down from the truck and grabbed one of the trash cans. She yanked off the lid and flung it on the ground. The can was fairly heavy, but she had been manhandling other people’s garbage for three years now. No big deal. And thanks to the union, she was finally making a halfway decent wage.

She dumped the contents of the can into the back of the truck and then dropped it on the ground. When she reached for the second can, Janice saw a pile of clothing behind it. When are people gonna learn that we only take what’s in the cans? You can’t just throw stuff on the ground and expect us to—.

But it wasn’t clothing. It was a man. His suit was torn and dirty. But she could see that he was somewhat handsome. He appeared to be in his twenties—probably close to her age. “Hey, Buddy?”

He didn’t answer.

“You okay?” She walked around and touched his shoulder.

He shrugged, as if to say, “Leave me alone.” Is this guy drunk? At seven o’clock in the morning?

“Just stay right here. Okay? I’ll come back and pick you up in few minutes.”

He didn’t respond.

Janice walked around to the cab of the truck. “Hey, Phil.”

Phil didn’t hear her. He was busy listening to the radio while devouring his second egg and sausage burrito.


He turned down the radio. “What?” A little chunk of egg flew past her head.

“I don’t feel so good. I need to go home. Could you please call dispatch for me?”

“Harry’s not gonna like it.”

“I don’t give a crap whether Harry likes it or not. I’m sick, and I need to go home right now. And if Harry don’t like it, he can take it up with the union.”

“Well, I’m not gonna tell him. You can do it yourself.”

“Phil, did I ever tell you that you’re a major wuss?”

“Bite me, Janice.”

She hopped up on the truck’s side step. “Give me the dang mike.”


As Janice drove her old car into the alley, she prayed her mystery man would still be there.

He was.

She open the back door of her car, and went over to help him up. “Let’s go get you cleaned up and get some food in you.”


The pungent odor of regurgitated booze nearly took her breath away—which was saying a lot, since she made her living smelling other people’s garbage. “Come on. I’ll help you.”

“You got any beer?”


“Now, didn’t that hot bath make you feel a lot better?”

“I guess so. I don’t really remember.”

The bath had made Janice feel a lot better. She had thoroughly enjoyed soaping him up good.

Her ex-boyfriend’s jeans and T-shirt fit him quite nicely. Watching him there, sitting at her kitchen table, he looked a little like her ex—only more handsome.

She delivered plates of bacon, eggs, and toast to the table. “Let’s eat.”

“I’m starving.” He began to gobble it down.

“So, what’s your name?”

He seemed puzzled. “I don’t know. I was hoping you’d tell me.”

“Well, this is a little embarrassing. I don’t usually do this.”


“Sleep with a man before I even know his name. But we really hit it off.” She giggled. “We just couldn’t keep our hands off each other.”

“Really? My memory is foggy. In fact, I can’t remember much of anything.”

Janice pouted. “You really know how to hurt a girl’s feelings. I gave myself to you over and over again last night. You couldn’t get enough of me.”

“Wow. I’m sorry I don’t remember. I’m sure it was great.” He thought for a moment. “Maybe I banged my head on the headboard. Or…did we ever fall off the bed?”

Janice nearly choked on her bacon. “Uh, no. I don’t think so. But I can’t be sure. It’s all a big, wonderful, sexy blur.” She smiled seductively.


For two days, Janice had spent every minute with her new boyfriend. It was a dream come true. She hoped he never regained his memory. Although, at some point he was going to have to get a job. She couldn’t support both of them on her salary.

When she opened her eyes, she was facing her alarm clock. She hadn’t even bother to set it. “Hey, sleepyhead, it’s after nine.”

No response.

“We should pack a lunch and go out to the park today. People like to go out there and fly kites on Sundays. I’ve got a couple of cool ones. Sound like fun?”

Still nothing.

She rolled over. “Honey?”

He was gone.

She panicked, running all over the house looking for him. Then she spotted him through the kitchen window. He was on the sidewalk, talking to some woman in her car.

Janice ran out the front door.

Her man was getting in the woman’s car.

She ran as fast as she could, screaming, “Hey! Stop! That’s my boyfriend.”

The woman sped away.

Janice stood at the curb, crying, as the car faded into the distance. How could he have left me—after all I did for him? We loved each other…didn’t we?

She finally turned and walked back toward the house, stopping only to pick up the newspaper.

She tossed the paper on the kitchen table, poured a cup of yesterday’s coffee and heated it in the microwave.

Janice hadn’t see any news since she found—. Maybe reading the paper would get him off her mind. She sat down and began to peruse it. Her eyes were immediately drawn to the headline, “Son of Local Banker Missing.”

John Rich, a local banker, has offered a $100,000 reward to anyone who locates his son, Bob Rich, who was last seen in a local bar on Thursday night. He was involved in a fight at the bar, and is believed to have been injured. He might have suffered memory loss.

Janice dropped her coffee cup, threw the newspaper at the wall, and screamed at the top of her lungs. “Crap!”


Copyright © 2010 Robert Burton Robinson