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  You could have a big dipper   

Even When You’re Gone by Amanda McLeod

Five minutes. We’ve got five minutes before the tip closes, and we’re five kilometres away with a rented ute full of smashed up furniture, crushed cardboard, Styrofoam, and other remnants of a life in flux. I hate rushed moves; the constant awareness that time is running out frays my nerves like the rope lashed over the load in the tray. Wobbling, insecure. Like me.

I look over at Seamus but his face is serene. If he’s worried, it’s not showing.

We pull into the tip entry and my phone says 4:59pm. Faster, I urge Seamus. Get up on the weighbridge, real quick. We pull up to the cashier window and the guy in the bright orange vest tells us he can’t let us in. It’s five o’clock and all the boys have gone home, he says.

Seamus’s shoulders drop slightly and the contents of my stomach reach a low simmer. I lean across and address the cashier. This is a rented ute, I tell him. It’s due back – I check the time – a minute ago. We can’t bring it back there with all this in it. We just can’t. We’ve got no other choice. Please, please just let us in. We’ll be so quick you won’t even know we were here. I try to tell him the whole sordid story with my eyes and hope he sees the pitiful looking pile in the tray, held down by an old bit of frizzy rope. Somehow the message gets through. Okay, he says, okay. I’ll let you through. Fifteen bucks – straight up and straight back. Relief washes across both our faces, and as Seamus edges the rattly old ute up to the hopper I can feel emotion starting to well in my eyes.

The dump is deserted, so there’s nobody to help with the unloading. But the silver lining is that there’s nobody to see what we’re turfing, all the stuff mixed in with the sheets of cheap chipboard shelving and ripped mattress. As we heave things into the pit, there’s no one to question the boxes of old photographs, the piles of shredded paper, the shattered glass in the picture frames. I watch the rain of paper confetti and sparkling glass fragments fall on what used to be family portraits and a bookshelf. Seamus will no doubt get a new bookshelf when he gets wherever he’s going. Furniture can be replaced. But what about identity? And friends? I wonder what else Seamus will replace.

We throw the last piece out of the tray and yell yes! as it disintegrates on impact. On the way out, we give the cashier a thumbs up. I slump back against the seat as Seamus pulls back onto the road. God, Seamus, I tell him as we gather speed, I didn’t think it was gonna work out.

Seamus looks so light he might float away. It’s always gonna work out, he replies.

Even when you’re gone? I ask.

The asphalt sighs.


Amanda McLeod is a creative based in Canberra, Australia. Her debut flash fiction collection Animal Behaviour was released in 2020 by Chaffinch Press. Amanda is the Managing Editor at Animal Heart Press, where she finds great satisfaction in helping authors bring their books to life, and is also the Art Editor and designer of FERAL: A Journal of Poetry and Art. Twitter: @AmandaMWrites

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