Part One, by Jessie Powell
Felicia Weinhart scooted lower in her seat, trying to keep her head below dashboard level.
Her mother said, “I’m going to need you if that table ain’t broken.”
“Whatever,” Felicia mumbled. There was no point in telling her mother anything. She tried to sink even further down, but found she had reached the limits of how far her legs and body would bend. “Hurry up.” She hated being so tall that she could still see over the dashboard.
This particular dumpster smelled nasty, like somebody had tossed in raw chicken or some other piece of meat. Felicia hoped her mother would lift the lid and contain herself to looking at the first layer, then come back by herself later, alone. There were more apartment buildings to go, and Loreta really only needed help with the heaviest items.
Like the table. On the way to the truck she used two of the legs to knock on Felicia’s door. “Nobody out here.”
Felicia didn’t ask what the knock meant. She knew. She opened her door without rising up, a trick perfected over many years, then poured herself feet first onto the asphalt and hurried to the dumpster in a low crouch while Loreta delivered the remaining two legs to the pickup. “God it smells this week,” she told her mother.
Loreta nodded, and they hefted the tabletop together. Mother and daughter were both petite, with matching dark eyes and oval faces. The furniture they collected was typically heavy, a strain for both of their backs, and this piece was no exception. Loreta walked backwards, her face creased into a grimace. She grunted, then said “Oak or cherry.”
Felicia pursed her lips as she breathed the stink through her nose. “Pressboard. Hurry up.”
Eventually, they reached the truck, where Loreta rested her end on the tailgate while Felicia lowered hers to the ground, breathing into her shirt to clear her mouth of the horrible taste of the morning’s air. By mutual consent, they took a break before the final push. “Your back alright, baby?” asked Loreta.
“It’s fine.” Felicia moved over beside her mother and crouched behind the truck so she’d be less visible. “But I’m going to puke if we stay here much longer.” At this angle, she could see how her mother’s hair rested on her shoulders. “You need a cut,” she added.
“And a perm. But I think I’ll pay the rent this month, you figure?”
Felicia wore her hair long, but she couldn’t escape her resemblance to her mother. When she was little, she had enjoyed the nickname “Little Reta”. Now, though, people saw the bags under her mother’s eyes first, even when she was wearing make-up. It wasn’t so bad looking like her mother, really, but she wouldn’t want those eyes. Or the white scar just above Loreta’s collarbone.
Felicia stood up and returned to her end of the table. “Let’s do this,” she said.
After the heavy piece landed in the truck bed, Loreta snagged her junky chair and set about clambering up to check for big items inside the dumpster proper.
Felicia slid back into the truck, hunkering back into her hiding position, waiting for her mother to shout. Most of the time, Loreta could fill the truck bed in one stop on a fourth weekend, meaning Felicia could expect to be corralled into spending two or three hours tooling around town picking through people’s trash.
She pulled her phone out of her pocket; the one her mother was fond of pointing to and saying “If we didn’t do this” meaning the dumpster diving “You wouldn’t have that”. And since “that” was one of the few things separating Felicia from people like Ann Feese, who wore the same clothes day in and day out, walking the halls in quiet isolation, Felicia came with Loreta every fourth Saturday and Sunday morning. She sent a quick text to her best friend, Elise, “Pick me up at noon for the mall,” and was on the point of dropping the phone back into her pocket when Loreta started screaming.
“Mom?” Felicia sat up straight. “Mom?” She was out of the truck and running, trying to make sense of the scene in front of her. Loreta knelt on half of the dumpster’s flimsy lid, having already shoved the other half up, hands to her throat, her mouth open while she shrieked. And then she threw up. Vomited right down into the trash. “MOM,” Felicia shouted. “What’s WRONG?” Not Shut up! People will see us! which was what she wanted to say. Not when Loreta had just thrown up. Not when her mother’s hands were hands pressed into that scar on her collarbone, just like she had held them to keep the blood in that night five years ago when she took Felicia and moved out for good. But Felicia couldn’t see any blood now. “What is it?”
Loreta finally looked over and saw her daughter, then came scrambling back over the edge of the dumpster. “Get back in the car, baby! Fast, now! Get!,” she ordered.
Felicia was more than happy to comply, as Loreta’s act of opening the dumpster had released even more nauseating fumes. She turned around and ran back for her seat, Loreta coming fast behind her. Her mother jumped into the driver’s side, turned the key and backed away, yanking on her seatbelt as she drove. “Mom, what…”
“Call the police, honey; use that damned toy for something worthwhile, you hear me?”
“You tell them there’s a dead man on top of the rest of that trash.”
Part Two, by Eric Storch
Felicia waited on the stoop for Elise, knees tucked under her chin, clutching her phone in both hands. Loreta was inside, frantic as she talked to the police on the phone. She could hear her mother’s voice rising in pitch and volume as she became more agitated.
Felicia couldn’t do it. She wasn’t going to call the cops and she and Loreta argued about it all the way back to their home. Loreta had hurried inside while Felicia quietly slunk onto the stoop.
“Don’t you go anywhere!” Loreta had threatened.
Felicia had just responded with a shrug.
The distinctive rumble of Elise’s 1986 Caprice Wagon sounded from a few blocks away. Felicia stood and walked out to the sidewalk. Behind her the storm door slammed open.
“Don’t you dare go anywhere, damn you!” Loreta hollered, phone still clutched to her ear with white knuckles.
Elise pulled up while Felicia waved off her mother’s threat. Loreta ran down the walk as Felicia climbed into the car, slammed the door.
“Go,” she said to Elise.
“Felicia! No! Get back here!” Loreta was waving with both arms as Elise gunned the engine, squealing the tires and letting off a backfire like a gunshot that made Loreta jump.
Elise glanced into the rearview at the shrinking Loreta. “What the hell, Leesh?”
“Just go,” Felicia mumbled, trying to shrink into the seat.
“All right,” Elise gunned the engine and the wagon picked up speed. She turned on the radio and One Direction began blasting through the busted speakers.
“Oh my God, seriously, Elise?” Felicia flipped the radio off. “Turn that crap off.”
Elise glanced over at Felicia and the look in her eye spoke of a sarcasm to come, but she held her tongue when she saw how miserable Felicia looked. She turned the radio off.
“Leesh, you need something?” Elise said as she navigated around an old woman who was stepping off a curb. “I grabbed a few of my mom’s Xanax. You look like you could use some.”
“Yeah, sure.” Felicia mumbled.
Elise jerked her thumb over her shoulder. “In my bag.”
Felicia reached over into the backseat and grabbed the bag. She dug around for a bit looking for the pills.
“They’re in a baggie,” Elise said.
“Duh,” Felicia was digging to the bottom. “I know…” Cold steel met her finger tips. “What the…?” She pulled the Glock out of the bag. “What the hell, Elise?!”
“Jesus! Put that back!” Elise shouted and in her surprised swerved the car.
“The fuck, Elise? Is that your dad’s?” Felicia was shouting now too while Elise reached over and tried to shove the gun back into the bag.
“Yes, it’s my dad’s. Put it back,” Elise looked over at Felicia. “And find that Xanax. I could use one too now.”
Felicia put the gun back and after a bit more digging, found the baggie. It had more than one type of pill in it.
“The little purple ones.”
Felicia took two from the bag and decided not to ask what the others were. Elise was always taking her mother’s pills and sharing them with close friends. Felicia hoped that Elise knew what she was doing and didn’t get anyone hurt. The gun was something new though.
“What’s with the gun?” She asked as she handed a pill to Elise.
“Never mind,” Elise swallowed the pill. “What’s going on with you and your mom? You guys never fight like that.”
“I know,” Felicia looked out the window at the passing buildings. “Some strange shit happened this morning.”
Felicia didn’t like talking about what she did with her mother once a month, but Elise knew about it. Still, it didn’t make it any easier to talk about.
“You know that thing we do?”
“Dumpster diving? Yeah.”
“Don’t call it that!”
“It’s what it is.”
“Just…” Felicia sighed. “Whatever.” She looked down at her lap, building courage. “She…”
Elise placed a hand on Felicia’s arm. “What, Leesh?”
“Mom found a dead man in a Dumpster.”
“Oh, sweetie,” Elise said as she pulled into the parking lot of the bowling alley. The alley was closed and the lot was empty.
Elise stopped the car and shut off the engine. She took her bag from Felicia’s lap and leaned in to give her a hug. Felicia hugged her back and began to cry.
When they separated, Elise was leveling the Glock at Felicia’s chest.
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” she said. “You are my best friend and I don’t want to hurt you.”
Part Three, by David Wiley
Felicia woke up with a throbbing headache. Her hands reached up to hold her temple and ran over an angry red bump the size of her fist. Her eyelashes slowly fluttered open. She was at an uncomfortable angle in the passenger seat of Elise’s car. The aroma of menthol cigarettes was heavy in the air, but Elise was no longer in the car.
Felicia sat up too quickly, the blood rushing to her head. She leaned back a little, shifting her body to a more comfortable position. She noticed Elise pacing outside the car, talking on her phone. She tried to roll down the window but the keys weren’t in the ignition anymore. She leaned up against the glass, straining to discern her friend’s words.
“What else was I supposed to do?” Elise said to the person on the other end of the phone. There was a long pause and Felicia glanced to make sure her friend wasn’t coming back to the car yet. “I’ll make her believe it…”
The clarity of her words faded away as Elise paced farther from the car. Felicia leaned back in the seat, contemplating the possible meanings of what she overheard. She tried to think back to what happened before she blacked out. Did Elise really threaten her with a gun? The Elise that she has been her best friend for all these years? It seemed impossible.
Just as impossible as finding a dead body in the dumpster. It seemed her life had taken a bad turn today.
She vividly remembered seeing her mom retching into the dumpster. The lines on her face becoming defined as her mother’s complexion paled from the shock. The frantic look in her eyes as she told her to get back into the car. The nauseating stench of garbage and sweat and vomit that clung to her mom as they drove home.
Thankfully she never saw the body. She didn’t need to. Her mom’s reaction told her enough.
The door to the Caprice Wagon opened and Elise slid into the driver’s seat. Felicia hesitated to look at her friend, worried that she might end up staring down the barrel of the Glock again.
“You feeling ok, Leesh?” Elise asked in a gentle voice. Felicia looked over at her and saw her friend smiling at her, a worried glint in her eyes. “You hit your head really hard.”
“You…” Felicia hesitated, fumbling over words in her mind to form a coherent statement. “You pulled a gun on me.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Elise said, unfazed by the accusation.
“You pointed the Glock at me. That is the last thing I remember before I blacked out.”
“Your memory is a little off. You pulled the gun out of my bag and totally freaked out. I had to slam on my brakes and you hit your head.”
“I remember you holding the gun,” Felicia insisted.
“You must have dreamed it when you were out.”
“Don’t fucking lie to me,” Felicia snapped. “What was that all about?”
“Why would I point a gun at you?” Elise replied, popping another purple pill into her mouth. “You’re not making any damn sense.”
“Stop lying to me. You were going to shoot me because I told you about the body.”
The wagon sputtered to life as Elise turned the key in the ignition. A black cloud of smoke spurts from the muffler, lingering in the air behind them.
“Buckle up,” Elise said. Felicia noticed that she is biting her bottom lip so hard that blood is starting to surface. This wasn’t the Elise she knew.
“Where are we going?”
“Shut up, Leesh.”
“What the fuck is going on? You’re acting psycho.”
Elise’s hands gripped the wheel tighter. A strand of hair fell loose and dangled in front of her face. They whip around a corner and pull into the driveway of an old, abandoned house. White paint had flaked off over the years. Patches of the grass had turned brown and died off, decorating the yard with discolored spots. Barren branches dangled from the towering trees, some of them threatening to plummet to the ground in the gentle breeze.
“Get out,” Elise commanded Felicia.
“I’m not going anywhere until you tell me what is going on.”
“Don’t make me do this,” Elise snapped. “I swear to God I didn’t want it to happen like this.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Get out of the car and into the damn house,” Elise said, pressing the Glock into Felicia’s side.
Felicia had no choice but to comply. She stepped out and walked up the worn sidewalk with her best friend a few paces behind her. Inside the house was dim and dusty. All the furniture had old sheets draped over them. The scent of dozens of burning wicks lingers in the air. Felicia noticed dozens of candles scattered throughout the house, all of them lit. The house isn’t as abandoned as people believe.
Elise slammed the door shut and shoved her toward the couch. Elise was fidgeting constantly, trying to watch out the windows.
“You should have listened,” Elise said as a black car pulled into the driveway, blocking her wagon in. “You should have pretended to forget. Now you have to answer to the boss.”
The door opened and Felicia gasped. Standing in the door was someone she hadn’t seen for a long time. They thought he was dead, but here he was.
“Dad?” Felicia asked as he stepped into the room, pointing a gun at her.
Part Four, by Katie Ross
The combination of the drugs she could barely remember taking and the blow to her head made his figure dance and wobble as he approached her. He created an almost comical, fun-house mirror image, punctuated dangerously by the gun waving in his hand.
But there wasn’t anything funny about this situation–that much was clear in spite of her fuzzy vision.
“Hey, peanut.” David Weinhart’s voice hadn’t changed at all, gruff, gravely with a knife’s edge of mean. In the nearly five years since she’d last seen him, it was probably the only thing that hadn’t changed.
His gaunt, bony figure a mere shadow of the man he used to be. Felicia had always thought him massive, impenetrable with muscles built and honed for the specific purpose of beating her and Loreta. Time and drugs, she suspected, had stolen those muscles, leaving him looking pathetic and old. If not for the gun in his hand, he would not be even remotely as scary as she remembered him.
He moved shakily across the room, loomed over her from her perch on the couch. From this distance, she could smell him, a rotten combination of whiskey and body odor. He sneered down at her. “Thought you’d gotten rid of me, didn’t you?”
“You died. Mom told me that you died.” Felicia tried to keep her voice steady, tried to fight the urge to cry.
Elise laughed, a sick, strangled laugh that sounded nearly dead. She stood next to David now, her small hand gripping his; both kept their guns trained on Felicia. “Did you ever have a funeral? Did you even think to ask your mom where he was buried? Did you even care?”
No! Felicia wanted to scream it, wanted to push them both away and run far and fast. Why would she care that the man who had beaten her, who had made her life a living hell for so many years had died? Why would she care that the man who had nearly killed her mother was dead himself? She didn’t care then, and she wouldn’t care if he was dead now.
She wished that he was.
“Your mom left me for dead, peanut. Left me in one of those dumpsters she’s so fond of. She made a mistake though; she didn’t check to be sure I was good and dead. And as you can see…” He chuckled, gestured with the gun at himself. “I’m not.”
Elise snickered at his joke, pressed more firmly against his side. “After leaving for a while to consider his options, he came back in town a few months ago, and we happened to run into each other. I felt so bad for what your mom did to him. For what you did to him. Neither of you ever loved him, and he’s a man who deserves to be loved; aren’t you, baby?”
Still keeping his gun pointed on Felicia, David lowered his head, dropped a sloppy kiss on Elise’s lips. “Absolutely I am.” He directed his attention back to Felicia. “I left your mother a nice surprise this morning. Did she like it?”
Felicia thought of Loreta’s retching that morning, thought of the panic and fear in her face when she’d discovered the body, thought about what her dad and Elise were accusing her of now. She’d tried to kill David? She’d left him for dead in a dumpster? It should have made Felicia sick to her stomach; instead, it made her proud. Proud that Loreta had finally fought back. After all those years, she’d finally decided enough was enough.
If only she’d made sure he was dead.
Pushing up from the couch, Felicia faced her fear, faced the man who haunted her nightmares, who put bruises on her childhood. She met his dark eyes, ignoring Elise completely. “She didn’t like it. And neither did I. That was a shitty thing to do, but I wouldn’t expect any more from you. Did you even know the man you killed?”
She started pacing the floor. David and Elise just stared at her, surprised by her confident tone of voice, her brisk and casual movements. “That doesn’t matter. Nothing matters except what happens now.”
Using all of her strength, Felicia rammed into Elise, knocking her back across the room and into a table with candles scattered across it. After a brief struggle, she wrenched the gun away from the girl who used to be her best friend, jammed it between her breasts, closed her eyes and shot.
As Elise’s body went limp, Felicia spun around, trained the gun on David, whose eyes were wide with shock. She thought of Loreta, thought of all that she’d done and all that she’d sacrificed to make Felicia’s life as comfortable as possible, to make her feel loved. And she didn’t regret at all pulling the trigger.
She didn’t regret watching his skeletal frame fold like a broken rag doll onto the floor.
She didn’t regret losing him this second time.
She didn’t regret anything. And she knew just where she’d hide the bodies.
Looking down at her father’s broken, lifeless form, she heaved a tired sigh and said, “Dad, it’s time to throw you away for good.”