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Nobody Loves Mr. Iglesias by Shane Hinton | Word Riot
Short Stories

December 14, 2014      

Nobody Loves Mr. Iglesias by Shane Hinton


Listen to a reading of “Nobody Loves Mr. Iglesias” by Shane Hinton.

“Seventy-five percent of America’s trash gets exported right here, out of Tampa Bay,” the cop said to me, his leather shoe on my neck, pushing my face down into a paper bag full of liquefied fried chicken. “It’s what we call a booming local industry, which is why I’ve been sent here—when there are people all over town getting shot and robbed and raped, and having serious traffic accidents, and trying to leave their abusive spouses—in order to pull you out of a fucking trash heap. And now my shoes are covered in this shit,” he kicked a rotten piece of fruit with his other foot, “and I’m going to have to smell it all fucking day. Can you see why I might be a little bit pissed off, just this very minute?”
      “Yes, sir,” I tried to say, but his foot was choking me.
      “I can’t hear you, son.” He lifted his foot a little bit.
      “Yes, sir, I understand,” I said.
      Martin and Louis were the guys who worked at the dump, and I thought we had a pretty good relationship. They always told me to stay out of the trash, that it was a liability issue, and that they were going to call the cops on me, but I never thought they actually would. The dump was in a corner of the county that wasn’t very populated, so a lot of the time they would trade off shifts taking naps in the early afternoon. When it was Martin’s turn to keep watch for the supervisor or people bringing in trailer loads, I knew that if I waited long enough he’d fall asleep, too, and I could crawl out from the hedges, climb the chain link fence, and hide in the pile of trash before he woke up. I thought we had an understanding.
      When you love trash, there are a lot of people who don’t trust you. I saw Martin and Louis as brothers of a sort. I knew they weren’t as passionate as I was, but they enjoyed their jobs, the proximity to the mounds of stuff, the fillings of lives and deaths and marriages and dissolutions of marriages. You could see it in the way they refused to wear the county-issued masks. You could see it in the way they leaned forward on their toes to look in the backs of pickup trucks.
      The cop took me to jail and I spent the night on one side of a booking cell while the rest of the inmates refused to sit next to me on the bench. “You fucking stink,” a car thief named Sean told me.
      I didn’t call my wife to bail me out. She had been watching my relationship with trash develop over the last couple of years. I think she felt threatened. I tried to tell her that trash could never change the way I feel about our family, that it was a supplemental relationship, that the things I found would bring us closer together, but I could sense that she didn’t believe me. She had stopped telling me when she was going to bed. One minute we’d be sitting on the couch, then I would look up and she’d be gone, asleep in bed without me.
      When they released me from jail the following morning, I couldn’t get the shoelaces to go back in my shoes. I had to walk away from the jail with my shoes flopping against my feet. It was an indignity, but when you love trash you get used to that kind of thing.
      I kept walking, past my neighborhood, until I got to the front gate of the dump. It was close to noon by the time I got there. I knew Martin and Louis would be taking their lunch break soon. I looked down at my arm, but I didn’t have a watch on. I sneaked around the side of the fence and huddled in the bushes, watching Martin and Louis relax in their plastic folding chairs. Maybe they had already eaten, I thought. They looked sleepy.
      Here’s the thing about trash: it grows. You can be arrested one day, taken to the county jail, and the next day, as soon as you get back, it’s a whole new ballgame, trash-wise. It never stops coming. Martin and Louis can take short naps, but the pickup trucks roll through the gates, the weight in their beds making the vehicles lean backwards. Old people and young people park on the raised platforms and shovel stuff out onto the pile.
      After a short time, Martin and Louis were both asleep, and I climbed over the fence and went down into the trash pile. Mostly, I was looking for love letters. They were hard to find, and usually when you did they were surrounded by signs that the people in them had recently died: medals, prescription bottles, eyeglasses. I liked that stuff, too, but it was the love letters that kept me coming back.
      You can ask people to see their love letters, and people just won’t let you see them. They think you’re kind of creepy for asking. But you can learn a lot about people from their love letters. There’s no spellcheck, for one. So people who have learned words by hearing them spoken have a funny way of writing. Once, I found a post-it note that said someone was placed on a “petal stool.” If you ask me, that sounds a lot better than a pedestal. If I had to choose something to be placed on, I would choose the petal stool.
      I didn’t usually find love letters. I usually just found decaying pieces of meat, but I had a feeling about the pile that day. Sometimes the pile calls out to you. It says, “Look over here,” or, “Don’t step here—there’s a lot of nails.” That day, the pile was calling to me.
      I picked through some bags of kitchen detritus and turned over some cardboard boxes from TVs and refrigerators and window-mounted air conditioners. Love letters aren’t usually in those things, but you never know. What you really want to look out for are cigar boxes. Love letters fit especially well inside cigar boxes.
      That’s why I was so happy when I found the cigar box. When you love trash, and you find a piece of trash that’s really good, it’s probably the best feeling you can have as a trash lover. It’s like when someone who loves music hears a really good song. That’s what I think it’s probably like.
      The cigar box was old and full of letters. I took one out and unfolded it. Down at the bottom of the page it said, “I love you,” and there was a lipstick kiss-print. I closed the cigar box carefully, making sure I didn’t drop any letters, then headed toward the front gate. Martin and Louis were still asleep. I walked slowly past them, trying not to wake them with the sound of my shoes flopping against the ground.
      The letters were addressed to a Mr. Iglesias. He lived just down the street from me in Strawberry Hill, a retirement community nestled against a strawberry farm. There are a lot of strawberry farms around here, and people name neighborhoods after them and then sue the farmers for exposure to pesticides.
      I stopped on the sidewalk as I passed my house. The lights were on inside. I wondered what my wife was making for dinner. Maybe I could find Mr. Iglesias and be back before she and my son sat down to eat. I hadn’t spoken to them in days.

***

Central Florida is full of retirees. They come here for the sun, because who wants to die in the middle of a blizzard? The snow muffles sound, so nobody can even hear your last words. Down here, everyone can hear you scream. Also, we have a vibrant shuffleboard community.
      I walked up to the Strawberry Hill guardhouse and looked past the gate into the rows and rows of manufactured homes, where old people drove slowly on golf carts or sat in small yards, tanning on lawn chairs. The guard slid open the window and looked out at me.
      “What do you want?” he asked.
      “I’m here to see Mr. Iglesias,” I said.
      “You’re not on the list. And, anyway, Mr. Iglesias isn’t taking visitors.”
      “I have something of his.” I held up the cigar box.
      “Where did you get that?”
      “I found it at the dump.”
      “You’re lucky,” the guard said. “His family is here right now. I shouldn’t do this, but you have ten minutes.” He pushed a button inside the guardhouse and the gate lifted.
      “Thank you,” I said.
      “Ten minutes,” he said.
      I found the manufactured home with the address from the letters quickly. It was near the pool and shuffleboard court. There was a sedan and a hearse in the driveway outside Mr. Iglesias’ trailer. I knocked on the flimsy door.
      A woman about my age answered. “What do you want?” she asked.
      I held up the cigar box. “I have something for Mr. Iglesias,” I said.
      “I threw that away last week. Where did you get it?”
      “The dump. Are you his daughter?”
      “Granddaughter.”
      “I want to ask him about these love letters.”
      “Nobody loves my grandfather. He came down here to die, but it’s taken him ten years. Those letters are from a Russian prostitute who was hoping that he would marry her for citizenship.”
      “Don’t you think Mr. Iglesias might want to look over them before he goes? He kept them for a reason.”
      “He’s dying right now. Don’t you hear his death rattle?”
      I listened closely. I thought I had been hearing a window-mounted air conditioner, but I realized it was the sound of an old man dying. I looked back at the hearse. The engine was running and the man in the driver’s seat, dressed all in black, tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. “Okay,” I said. “I’m sorry to bother you.”
      Instead of walking back to the guardhouse, I headed for the shuffleboard court. The cigar box was heavy in my hands. I dropped it in a garbage can full of protein shakes and disposable colostomy bags and wondered if I’d see it again some day. A shuffleboard tournament was already in progress. I watched for a few minutes. A banner above the court read “Strawberry Hill Annual Shuffleboard and Family Picnic Day.” Families sat together on the benches at the ends of the courts, cheering for their parents and grandparents as they slid the black pucks from one end to the other. A young boy tugged at his grandfather’s pants leg between throws. The grandfather bent down and tousled the boy’s hair and talked to him until it was his turn again. “Did you see grandpa pull off that shot?” the man asked. “Watch this next one.”
      Over the music and laughter, I heard the short burst of a siren. The cop who had arrested me at the dump stepped out of his cruiser.
      “You again?” he said. “You just don’t learn, do you?”
      I lifted my hands above my head to show him that I didn’t have a weapon. When you love trash, sometimes you have to sacrifice your pride for safety. Some things aren’t worth dying for.

shaneAbout the author:

Shane Hinton holds an MFA from the University of Tampa. His work is forthcoming or has recently appeared in The Butter, Clackamas Literary Review, Atticus Review, and the Dead Mule. His first book, Pinkies, will be available June 2015 from Burrow Press. Find out more at shanehinton.com.

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