By William Kitcher
There’s an alley between the shoe store and the two-storey building that has a bar on the ground floor and a restaurant upstairs. They use the alley for deliveries and to haul the garbage outside. People also use the alley to smoke whatever they smoke and to throw away garbage because the city garbage can is unfortunately too far up the street, thirty feet away. Later at night, the alley is used for urination, defecation, and sleeping by the homeless to get out of the way and the wind.
No one had cleaned out the alley in years, so consequently people kept throwing their fast-food wrappers and cups and other assorted items onto the alley’s pile. One thing leads to another.
Broken garbage and recycling bins were subsequently left there and they filled with more refuse. Sometimes there were small fires caused by smokers who didn’t care anymore and wannabe anarchists who just wanted to see flames.
Eventually, and inevitably, there was a smell no one could identify but it wasn’t so out of the ordinary or bad that anyone thought about it too much. The new smell became the norm. The pile of garbage was already the norm. The disregard for the alley had become a tradition.
Raccoons moved into the neighbourhood after the ravine had been filled in to create a housing development. They appreciated the thrown-away food from the nearby burger and chicken places. The babies were so cute.
Then the rats came. There were occasional fights between the raccoons and the rats, but they worked that out quickly.
But the incomprehensible smell lingered, to the point that even the bar smokers and the garbage kids thought there was a problem. The owners of the shoe store, bar, and restaurant couldn’t agree on who should clean up the alley, so they split the cost of hiring an outside company, who showed up a week later due to the busyness of their business.
They loaded piles and piles of garbage into a dumpster, and it took them a long time. Halfway down the alley, under ripped garbage bags, discarded phones, human waste, and a dead baby raccoon, they found a dead human body. She was later identified as an older woman with a heart condition who had regularly gone to the bar, but was someone the bar staff didn’t really care about except for the times she tipped well.
One of the servers went to her funeral. She was one of four people who went.
People were sad and contrite and considerate for a while, and then someone tossed a squirrel who’d been run over by a car into the alley, had a smoke, dropped the butt on the ground, and the cycle started again.
William Kitcher’s stories, plays, comedy sketches (and one poem) have been published, produced, and/or broadcast in Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Czechia, England, Guernsey, Holland, India, Ireland, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, and the U.S. His stories have appeared in Fiery Scribe Review, Ariel Chart, New Contrast, The Prague Review, Helix Literary Magazine, Eunoia Review, Once Upon A Crocodile, Pigeon Review, Little Old Lady Comedy, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Slippage Lit, and many other journals. His novel, Farewell And Goodbye, My Maltese Sleep, will be published in 2023 by Close To The Bone Publishing.