Sophie gripped the bag of garbage in one hand, the recyclables in the other, and had the damp smelly paper bag of compostables, already tearing, curled in her arm. “Mom…” she began.
Mom whirled around, “Sophie Johnson, no more excuses about why you can’t do the garbage. It’s disgraceful that you are making up outright lies to get out of the one thing you can do to support your brother!”
“I’m not lying!” protested Sophie. “And this has nothing to do with James making the soccer team! There are creatures in the bins!”
Mom smashed the kitchen knife so hard the chopping board cracked. “Can there be one night in this house where there is no argument over garbage!” she screamed.
Sophie turned and fled.
Struggling with the heavy bags, she made her away across the parking lot to where the giant bins loomed, green, blue, and black in the twilight. People dumped bags around the bins rather than placing them in—Sophie did that herself, scared of the noises coming from them. But she couldn’t do that anymore—the superintendent had seen her dump the bags and told Mom. That had not been a good day.
Sophie realised James hadn’t made the soccer team to make her life miserable, but since he was always at practice, she had to do his chores, on top of her own. She wasn’t no good at school anyway, so she might as well be useful around the house, Mom often said. She should be grateful to support her family, and stop complaining. But they produced so much garbage! Sophie felt life had become constant sorting of trash and trips to the bins.
And this noise from the bins. “Just racoons”, Dad had remarked offhandedly, overhearing her, but that didn’t make her feel better.
The bags lying on the ground moved—was maybe they were overstuffed and collapsing? Sophie peered in the dark. Something—things—were moving? The scuffling noise was unmistakable. How big are racoons? It seemed impossible to go further and reach the bins. She imagined reaching up and putting the bags inside the bins and knew without doubt she would die if she did that.
The noise stopped. The parking lot was empty. A car drove by and in the headlights, Sophie clearly saw three big racoons walking towards her steadily, their white stripes and eyes and teeth shining. She screamed, dropping the three bags, scattering all the garbage on the ground. Her worst nightmare. She sank to the ground sobbing—hoping the racoons would kill her quickly.
The scuffling noise started again. Something soft and furry touched her bare leg. Sophie looked. The three racoons were whisking around, diligently sorting the spilled garbage, occasionally pausing to take a bite.
Slowly Sophie got up. The racoons paid her no mind. Then one of them looked directly at her. Sophie was no longer afraid. She turned, and walked back home.