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Nostalgic Night at the Dumpster Fire


I’ve enjoyed writing for many years. I'm dedicating more time to the craft in my retirement days.

Author's Note

This work of fiction, narrated in the first person by a female character, was written in response to a challenge from Chris Mills. I hope you enjoy it.

And thanks for the inspiration, Chris.

Nostalgic Night at the Dumpster Fire

I didn’t know if he had stolen the batteries, found them somewhere in the trash, or how he’d acquired them. And I didn’t really care. That night we danced for the first time in many, many months to real music from a mangled and partially melted boom box playing staticky oldies on the AM dial while the dumpster fire burned away, sending dark smoke, sparks and tiny bits of black paper and soot into the night sky, leaving a sickly but strangely pleasant perfume of melting, burning plastic wafting on the gentle evening breeze.

The Chain by Fleetwood Mac came on the radio and I can still hear him saying it over and over. We loved that song, sang it long ago together, too, while we lay on our backs in the Black Hills National Forest, away from the campfire and even further away from the rodent competition of the everyday workaday, looking into the night sky for shooting stars and satellites passing overhead. When the music began to wind down for a moment, when there was only acoustic guitar and faint, rhythmic taps on the high hat, I jumped up suddenly, picked up a longish stick and readied myself to start playing the bass guitar solo right along with John McVie.

"The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac

While I concentrated on getting the hand and finger movements just right for each big bass note, he spun round and round in front of me, faster and faster until I was certain he’d topple with dizziness. Instead, he stopped abruptly without as much as a wobble, faced me and transitioned to his own air guitar precisely at the perfect moment: Lindsey Buckingham making that axe sing and ring until the voices of the band began to rise in a crescendo, singing about keeping it all together. “Running in the shadows,” he mouthed just like Lindsey. And I dropped my bass guitar stick, turned my head skyward, spread my arms wide and started belting out the final few seconds as the song faded away into a Geico commercial about beatboxing in a big box store.

He ran to me, grabbed me in his arms and spun me around a bit, then leaned in, pushed me away and supported my back in a slow, deliberate dip. His eyes never left mine, mine never left his, until he lifted me up quickly, raised my arm straight above my head and twirled me around as the first notes of Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic” started to play on the boom box.

"Into the Mystic" by Van Morrison

We came together after the spin, looked one another in the eyes once again, then I put my head on his shoulder and we slow danced round and round, eyes closed and listening for the foghorn to blow. I want to say I heard it. I think he heard it, too, but we didn’t speak and so I’ll never know if I really did…or if he did, or if either of us made it all the way to the coast and that spot on the beach just below the lighthouse. Or not.

I wanted in the worst way for those batteries to last forever, for the night to never end because all of this—or nearly all of this—was so much like old times, like better days in a better year, any year other than veinte veinte. But when I opened my eyes, saw sparks from the fire fading away into blackness where clouds were rolling in to cover the stars, I had the certain feeling it would not.

“Sir…ma’am,” the officer said just then, quietly, almost what I would call politely. “I’m going to have to ask you to leave. No loitering here, and no dumpster fires allowed. City ordinance, you know.”

Would that such a rule were true everywhere, for everyone, I thought. Still, it was a rule and the officer had been polite. So we stopped dancing, separated and looked at each other. His eyes were sad, black holes, defeated, and I’m sure I didn’t look any better. He turned his gaze to the ground and I looked over to the officer and nodded. We turned and walked away, hand in hand, into the darkness of the alley as the officer’s radio crackled with unintelligible chatter behind us.

© 2020 greg cain


greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 19, 2020:

Chris - I'd say that sums it up: there is good and can be good no matter the times. We might have to work at it, look for it, but it's out there. I also thank you in return for the wonderful comments, but also for putting that bit of a challenge out there. Having something to swing for put me in a strong writing mood these past couple days. Hope you have an outstanding week, Chris. Be well, be safe.

Chris Mills from Traverse City, MI on October 18, 2020:

Greg, your response to my challenge humbles me. You have written a remarkable piece that helps us to know that whether it is veinte veinte or post apocalyptic, life and love endure. Thank you for sharing this with us.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 18, 2020:

Sha Sha - me, too, my friend. I'm super grateful, as well. Good remainder of your weekend. Be safe, be well.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 18, 2020:

Box, your words humble me. I've never considered myself a leader (although I've been accused of being bossy! LOL) but your words reinforce my spark. I usually keep pretty much to myself until actions, especially those of which we have no vote, affect me and my community. My friends. My brothers and sisters. People I admire and respect. I believe voice can make a change. Complacency gives way to "like it or lump it." I certainly don't like it and I won't lump it. I'll find a place that respects the writer behind the words if it comes to that. For that's who we are: writers, not just words on a black and white page.

Your friendship and support mean the world to me, Box. I'm so grateful we found each other.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 18, 2020:

Sha Sha - so very glad to get your comment this morning. I don't know if this article will get picked up for the Letterpile or not, but if it does I'm glad to have your comment aboard before it moves. And also I'm so very glad to have lifted your spirits in some small way. I think I may like your glowing commentary more than I liked my own story. Haha! Thanks so much, and keep fighting the good fight, sister. I believe it's going to make a difference for all of us. And when you influence others to better those around you, those in your community, that's true leadership. Thanks for that, and keep it up.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on October 18, 2020:

OMG, Box, you've outdone yourself! Your descriptions put me right into the scene as if I were the narrator herself. And the music—well, what can I say? You took me back to my favorite era with a combination of soft rock and folk. Love me some Van Morrison!

You did an awesome job of answering to Chris's challenge. You also did an awesome job of lifting my spirits and getting my soul moving to the rhythm.

Excellent story, my friend! Outstanding!

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 18, 2020:

Bill - no such thing as late, my friend. I simply appreciate you giving my work a look see at all. It's a rainy day here, too, but I'm still heading out for a ride and some coffee this morning. Something to break the chill. Thanks, as always, for the wonderful words, Bill. Have a great week!

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 18, 2020:

Chrish - thanks for the advice on that. I will do some research and see if it's something I might be interested in. Truthfully, I've never given a podcast any thought at all. Now you have me thinking, anyway. Thanks again, and great day to you, too!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 18, 2020:

Sorry I'm late, my friend. I have no excuse other than rainy day laziness.

You set the mood, grabbed the reader by the scruff of the neck, and led us into a whirling dervish of intrigue and wonder. Wonderful story - wonderful writing!

Chrish Canosa from Manila Philippines on October 18, 2020:

There's an app you could use for the voice which all you have to do is just write everything you want to hear and you can choose what type of voice you want. There's a bunge known podcast platforms which you can publish your masterpiece and earn

You can try to search - fiction podcast platforms.(to choose the right place if ever you are interested) Great day:-)

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 18, 2020:

Chrish - yes, interesting thought there that makes me think I also could have used a different Van Morrison song if I’d thought of it. But I do not have what I’d call a baritone voice, nor do I have the technological or intellectual wherewithal to record a podcast. Interesting you should mention this, though, because I have considered recording a few of my poems after another friend (thanks, Sha) suggested it to me. Anyway, great day to you, as well, Chrish.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 18, 2020:

Eric - thanks again for the words. Yes, the mood was supposed to be very much upbeat and demonstrative of happiness and love between a couple of people. The copper, just another human being out doing her or his job, is the gentle call of reality ringing the line. Thanks for giving it a go, my friend. And thanks also for the great comments. Have a good Sunday.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 18, 2020:

Flourish - I’d agree with your assessment and say that I wondered how others would take it. As mentioned in previous comment, I had in mind the backdrop of these awful times and a down-on-their-luck young couple. I didn’t want to be too specific because I suspected that the reader might build their own idea of what it was all about. Sometimes less is more, I think. Sometimes, anyway. Have a good week, Flourish.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 18, 2020:

Hi Lorna - thanks for the in-depth analysis and observations, and also the kind words. You always have constructive inputs, which I really appreciate. This piece draws from so many different places in my own personal experiences and also in the world today. When I was done writing it I almost felt like I didn’t create it but instead passed it along from somewhere or someone else.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 18, 2020:

Brenda - I’m glad to hear it kept you entertained and interested to the end. I have felt the “didn’t want it to end” feeling at many times in my life, as I’m sure we all have. Your observation is exactly what I was after in this piece. Thanks for giving it a go and also for the lovely feedback. Happy Sunday.

Chrish Canosa from Manila Philippines on October 18, 2020:

Love 'neath the moonlight. It'll be perfect on a podcast with a baretone mysterious voice. It'll be sooooo good

Great day:-)

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 18, 2020:

Thanks, John. I’d imagined a not-too-old couple in the weird and wicked days of veinte veinte, down on their luck because of the horrid backdrop of these times. Still, they found a way to make joy for a few minutes despite all that. The cop is just reality reaching out and touching them on the arm as a grim reminder. Thanks, as always, for your kind words, brother John.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 18, 2020:

Ann - It sounds as though your music taste is similar to my own. I have eclectic interests in music ranging from country to some pretty heavy duty alternative rock and everything in between. Van Morrison and Fleetwood Mac are two of my all-time faves though I only really got into the former as an old man. Anyway, I heard “The Mystic” in a movie I watched recently and it really fit the mood of this tale. Thanks for the lovely comments, Miss Ann.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 18, 2020:

Welcome, Ivana, and thank you, in turn for reading and providing such nice comments. Much appreciated.

greg cain (author) from Moscow, Idaho, USA on October 18, 2020:

Thank you, Liz. This was very much a free-flowing stream of consciousness write that came out so quickly I didn’t really know what happened. I really enjoyed putting it together.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 18, 2020:

Wow, this is heavy. Resigned I would say. The holding hands and dancing made me think that love is everywhere. Even the copper at the end seemed to really care about them.

FlourishAnyway from USA on October 18, 2020:

Well-written and it leads to many questions for the reader, makes them want more.

Lorna Lamon on October 18, 2020:

You have created a compelling story against a background of music, which captures the audience and draws them into the scene. Expressive and poignant - an excellent write Greg, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on October 17, 2020:

What an excellent story. It held my attention all the way thru.

So sad that it had to end...they were happy in the moment & enjoying a time that was magical.

Thanks for entertaining me & a wonderful job writing for the challenge.

John Hansen from Gondwana Land on October 17, 2020:

What excellent writing, Greg. I felt as though I was there dancing and playing air-guitar along to the music. Also feeling sadness and defeat as the officer put an end to it. What a wonderful response to Chris’s challenge.

Ann Carr from SW England on October 17, 2020:

This is haunting, Greg. Well written and totally absorbing, it lends itself to the music - raw and compelling. I love The Chain and Van Morrison. I could feel the atmosphere and smell the fire.


Ivana Divac from Serbia on October 17, 2020:

I really enjoyed this. It's so well-written and the descriptions of everything are superb and elegant. Thanks for sharing!

Liz Westwood from UK on October 17, 2020:

This is an atmospheric and well-narrated piece. The reader is made to feel like they are standing watching the scene. Clever use of the songs too.

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