Mr. Dump was what we called the old coot. His name had meaning because the old guy operated a landfill right up the road from our house and rats ran all over the place. Now don't get me wrong, we didn't live in a ghetto but in a pretty nice part of the countryside. It sort of looked like a pastoral scene out of a poem by one of the cavalier poets or something right off Edward Scissorhands, that weird movie Johnny Depp starred in a long time ago. The sky was a perennial light blue overhead the pastures and fields, at least during the late-spring, summer, and early autumn. Then it turned into a dark gray cement pigmentation from late-fall throughout the winter and into early spring. It wasn't paradise, but our little place in the woods would've been damned close to the Garden of Eden if that dag-nabbitted, gosh-darned, hyena of a human being, that Mr. Dump character didn't run his landfill a country acre or two up our rural route.
Anyhow, rats don't pay no heed to property lines & such & if they did ole' Mr. Dump's neighbors wouldn't have minded his mined way of making garbage sing and slam like hillbilly ham. So many rats ran all over the hills and dales around that landfill. It was a rat community that had thousands of residents. If each of those rats had a name and a character, it'd be enough to fill up several Thomas Pynchon novels, plus add a couple thousand pages. [Everything in the Pynchon writing scheme of things being equal, of course, with five or six minor characters and at least two major characters introduced on every two or three pages. I once had a bumper sticker on an old car that read: "My Other Car is in a Thomas Pynchon novel." - This is very funny if you ever read any of Pynchon's books. He mixes so many genres into his writings, and even changes history around to fit into his fantastically crazy plots and themes. It's not uncommon to find a fleet of old boats like the Nina, Pinta and the Santa Maria with starship powers hydroplaning over old forgotten cities and a cast of hundreds of pirates running such crazy, high-flouting contraptions in one of Tom's books. Anyhow, I've used the Pynchon citation here because it fits so well. Pynchon's biggest, thickest works have more characters than the entire populations of Mexico City and New York City combined. - And the characters aren't flat either - there's even a bored dog who reads books in one of his novels! Yikes!!!]
Anyhow, to make a very short, trite story far too long, our neck of the rural 'hood was a regular rat city. It was too big to be just a rat village or borough.
Rats are the nastiest of all critters, and I guess that's why they fall into the category of animal or insect knowns as "vermin". To exemplify this, Danny O. tried to raise homing pigeons and the rats ate the pigeons. The middle-aged men around the holler would get their .22's and shoot the rats like they was rural terrorists. Nothing was safe from the rats. It looked like a desert around the place in the summer. The rats were so hungry they developed vegetarianism into their appetites and even ate flowers, trees, and an occasional Fuller Brush man or an Avon lady. And to be perfectly honest with ya'all, Ole' Mr. Dump was a crude ole' Hillbilly Jed Clampett look to be. He sort of looked like an aging old recluse demon from the backwater regions of Slim Pickensville. We considered Mr. Dump to be like Willard - the king of all the rats - that Michael Jackson sang about when he was just a weirdo teenager, long before he turned out to be like something out of a science fiction movie. Yes, that movie named Willard was about some weird kid who raised rats and loved them so much they were his only friends. Michael Jackson sang a song 'Ben' about the King of all the rats, who more or less ran the rat nest with his buddy, another rat named Socrates. Anyhow, Michael Jackson's song "Ben" was really the highlight of the movie. It was a touching love song, yes it was, and with that syrupy, whiney love song. About a rat. Yes, a rat. Well, most people began having deep suspicions of Michael Jackson after "Ben" flooded the airwaves and Willard graced our TV screens. It was then, folks, that we first considered Michael to be a real weirdo. He had passed from pop-star-whiz golden boy to Mr. Freako. Up to this time, everyone loved him like they love Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Even rural white kids who never saw a black kid at school at all thought Michael Jackson was okay. Then he sang that hideous song about a rat king and every kid in America thought he was a weird as gasoline pudding. Up 'til the rat movie, our pop star Michael, the diminutive brother who outshone his older siblings because he was the lead singer of The Jackson Five, was pretty much an A-OK role model. And afterwards? Well, let's just say he became a ratfink just like Mr. Dump.
The name Michael Jackson has a plethora of meanings today, but I think with that movie, "Willard" and that song "Ben" - well, this was where the shit hit the fan, it was indeed the watershed that made Michael Jackson a real pop pariah and his former status as a teeny bopper Kool*Aid-Kiddo got the boot real quick, real fast - like diesel fueled flavored popcorn. For those of you who aren't aware, Michael Jackson was the lead singer of "The Jackson Five." It seemed that The Jackson Five made just as many hits as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones back when the Vietnam War was raging on and on and on. But unlike the English greats, The Jackson Five made mushy, sweet little love jingles that most little teeny boppers tuned into - it seemed The Jackson Five had an ongoing war in the Pop Star P-R dept. that raged with The Osmond Brothers and The Partridge Family. Me and my boyhood chums really liked The Jackson Five, the Osmond Brothers and The Partridge Family during our tween years, then we became rebellious, foaming-at-the-mouth, antisocial teenagers and took a hankering to strange like Alice Cooper, Kiss, and Black Sabbath.
We was real bad kids. We liked garbage but not in our own yards. Nothing against The Jackson Five 'cause we hated The Osmond Brothers and had a certain contempt for The Partridge Family, too. But we liked the bass player of the Partridge Family, Danny, who was an oddball like any of the kids in the rural byway we called home. Danny was a real ugly looking kid who was part hippie, part weirdo, part comedian and even part any rotten kid's best buddy Kool Jay kid; though he was pale as a white hocker and had sickly freckles all over his fat little face.
That was more or less us, a bunch of rural kids from the country side of life. I'm making this general observation about one pop singer on how we felt. This is a very dangerous and primitive thing to do. It's called fallacious reasoning and I'm sure a lot of little kids actually liked Ben and the rats' king, a boy named Willard. And not all kids, even really rotten kids like us, solely were devoted to rockers like Alice Cooper, Ozzie O. and Gene Simmons. But we didn't like 'Tiger Beat' popup stars because we knew all about rats in our little corner of the world. Rats were not cool or slick. Rats were rats and they were like monsters when six or seven thousand of them was running loose in your back yard.
But back to Mr. Dump: Titles never mattered much to the old man though he probably didn't mind his courtesy title of "Mr." and his last name, "DUMP." What the rats referred to him as we'll never be privy to because none of us learned rat lingo though some of us took Spanish much later on, when our whiskers started to grow and we went to high school and said good bye to junior high school. What happened to Mr. Dump is an enigma but by now we're all old freaks & most of us are parents, to boot. Hell's bells, the calendar on the wall has turned so many pages now that most of us are grandparents.
Back then, we were just tikes on bikes. We'd ride those bikes all over the rural routes like some junior, pipsqueak little biker gang. Mr. Dump looked as old as some crumbling, crooked Appalachian foothill. That was back then. So today, I doubt old Dump would be alive. Of course, we'd never know. He may even be the stud of some nursing home around these parts somewhere. Who knows. But in all reality, Mr. Dump was then nothing but a hermit outcast who was dead even when he was old, filthy, and generally considered part of 'the living' Homo Sapient ape population. He might be as old as dump dirt today and I'm writing this like a kid though I certainly feel weird in doing so. It's written like a kid because it's a slight-of-hand writer's trick. Vernacular lingo can really help the plot, setting and themes of little short-shorts. Mark Twain used it; and so did Walt Disney and to some extent, even Stephen King uses this literary device in some of his shockers. A good case of this device is those old "Cosby Kids" cartoons about Fat Albert and some cartoon characters 'The Coz' once said are based on his real-life boyhood chums from when he was growing up. That's long before 'The Coz' turned into something more draconian and evil than even Mr. Dump. . . .
Mr. Dump was no hero, that's for sure. He is someone as obscure to the world as miserly old Uriah Heep out of David Copperfield. All bad things come to an end, thank God. And Mr. Dump and his landfill ended up closed, but only after this nightmare of endless garbage, rats and stink went on and on for years. Such a miserly old misfit hermit like Mr. Dump would never go down in history as anything other than a great collector of junk, gunk, garbage and porno rags. That's the main reason this little ditty is written as if it was jotted down on an old napkin by some fifth-grade dropout heading for a long day of work in the junkyard or even as a bulldozer man in a dump! In all actuality, the writer of this little ditty has a Master' s Degree in English, taught English at the college level for over a decade, all the time working full-time gigs at newspapers, something that went on and on and on and on for more than twenty freaking years!
But back to Mr. Dump: If he's dead I'm sure he's still with some rats somewhere out there on a filthy, vermin-laden astral plain of some sort or another. Mr. Dump and rats went as well together as coffee, stolen smokes, and chocolate; or Coke, bubblegum & rum; or Pop Tarts and a gallon & a half of diluted Tang.
Nope. We never took no shit from Mr. Dump. None of us did, especially me and Bobby. Me and my neighbor Bobby hated that old rat-fink bum eyesore of a human corpse. Tommy thought him a fool and Danny O. - steely and aloof as he was - only ignored the old coot like he ignored a mean teacher at school. Us kids were like rat terriers back then and once in a while we'd take a break from football and baseball in the big rural backyards and pick up our Daisy B.B. guns and shoot those pets of Mr. Dump & Landfill Co. We loved to shoot those vermin with the little golden pellets. It would look like a vermin massacre sometimes the way us boys would kill those blasted, bleeping rats. We hated those rotund rodents so much. They was dirty, cunning and killed Danny Boy's homing pigeons. They were big, fat rats who were overweight with having so much garbage, junk, and gunk to eat!
And Mr. Dump was just another rat to us. Once in a while we'd shoot our B.B guns at the old man, too. Sometimes he'd swat his back when we hit him there like a big horsefly just bit his bones. We'd giggle like crazy from some far off hillside of refuse, rats and run on oozes. If he did catch sight of us, we'd jump on our bicycles and scurry on down the road. Sometimes we'd even get chased out of the dump by Mr. Dump & sometimes I still think of him and that old sailor's hat he wore to work. Mr. Dump, by the way, was the only person I ever knew who could pile dirt upon stains upon dirt stains and be so filthy that he actually looked spick & span clean. Now this is an oxymoron and it's hard to visualize this type of filth and sleazy hygiene, but you didn't know ole' Mr. Dump like we did. He was a moron and that is no oxymoron at all. It's the simple, bone-jarring truth.
Anyhow, all stories have to end and I'll end it with sex. Me and a neighbor kid stole most of Mr. Dump's yellowing old Playboys one hot summer day & that was a very fine day indeed because I saw a beautiful naked blonde lady inside that thick magazine. I was just a kid, just knee high to a blade of ragweed but I knew what I liked the first time I saw that pictorial view of Cute Little Miss Pixie Pie all dressed up in frilly lingerie and garters. She looked old to me back then but now, I realize she was probably just barely older than a kid herself at the time when that photographer made her into a rhyme and riddle for me and the neighbor kids. There were some other ladies in the pages of ole' Dump Man's porno mags but my personal favorite was that mousy little blonde girl. If I saw her in my mid-twenties, dressed in tight blue jeans and a halter, my interest would have certainly hit the ceiling but she was really not a stunning beauty or anything. She looked like a very attainable girl in the village proper that without much pomp or persnickety pieces to my groove, I'd have a good bit of luck landing when I got a wee bit older. That's why I liked that little blonde so well.
She looked to be a future love interest.
And she was, actually.
I've had many sweethearts through the trek of years and the trail of tears later in life, and I even have one right now, in fact, who looked a bit like her but still, she was a unique find in her own way & Mr. Dump went out of business a bit later. I'm changing the subject now because I'm red and embarrassed. I know Mr. Dump didn't go out of biz because me and Bobby stole all his porno books. Heck, I don't know, maybe the landfill was too full by then. Maybe the powers that be, the Big Rat Patrol of the Good Ole' Boys Network, closed his rat pack down for good. Even back in the days of Vietnam and LBJ's southern drawl, us kids knew that garbage was something not cool at all. Nobody wanted a landfill in their community proper. My old man hated Mr. Dump so much but he never did nothin' to the old hermit. I think Dad pitied him. My old man was a schoolteacher and a former WW-II paratrooper in Europe during the Big War. But a lot of the other kids' dads wanted that landfill closed up for good and I think underneath it all, my Dad wanted the same. Sure, he was a nice guy and all, but not nice enough to want rats running all over the hills, dales and creek beds of his neck of the holler. He told me once, that during WW-II he doubted that he'd make it out of the war alive, but if he did, he said he wanted his dream of owning his own rural patch of paradise somewhere in the rural woods, with a big farmhouse and a barn. He got all that and more later on, when he came home after the war and all. . . .
And I'm glad Mr. Dump finally ended up in the landfill dump of yesterdays. He better stay there. He wasn't quite the Devil but a pretty good indication of the utter hopelessness of ignorance, self-loathing and misanthropy that still follows me whenever I see something really sick, awful and harrowing. I'd rather see Freddy Krueger or the alien from the movie Alien than see Mr. Dump today. If I actually saw him, I'd run like hell because I'd know that a rat brigade of absurdly astronomical proportions would follow closely on his tattered, torn heels.