Edgar walked around back to where the base of the building jutted out and met the concrete of the dumpster area. Here, the red bricks of the Whiskey Mart contrasted with the gray concrete and he couldn't help thinking this must be what war is like. Two opposing forces of different colors squaring off on a front, ready to do their worst to each other and then some. If life were any less curious it would be packaged neatly and shipped off in a box.
He fished a cigarette from his pack, lit it and walked around to the opening that lead into the garbage depot. Inside were two large metal containers, one blue and the other red, each overflowing with material. Yet again, another internal war, this time between society's struggle whether to discard or to recycle. Apparently the wasteful side was winning, seeing all the garbage strewn about the ground. It was piling up half the height of the dumpster, and the putrid smell was beginning to overwhelm. A mouse, alarmed by Edgar's sudden appearance, scurried away from the stockpile of waste and slipped away through a crack in the concrete enclosure.
Night was closing in and the moon was showing up to replace the sun. The air was still, crisp and easy to breath, and the sounds of town were beginning to die down. He inhaled a drag from his cigarette and as he exhaled the sudden appearance of a girl from behind the blue dumpster startled him and made him drop his cigarette to the ground.
"Jesus! What the hell, honey?" Edgar asked as he bent over to retrieve his smoke. She was a young thing, still looking fit and very pretty, but the hardness of life was chipping away at her clothing and her hair was anything but pleasant. She stood there in the corner, trembling, the outdoor light from the Whiskey Mart illuminating her like a dastardly angel. He looked at her with calm eyes and simple devotion, and he could see the effects of a yet another kind of war. Tonight was a night for never ending battles it seemed. "What's your name?" Edgar asked her.
Frightened, she tossed her arms out in front of her and held something up towards his face. "You stay back! Please, I don't want any trouble, I just want you to go away" she exclaimed. Edgar looked at the object in her hands with great curiosity.
"Did you find that in the garbage?" he asked. Her gaze fell away from his and turned down to the two tin cans that she held in her hands.
"Y-y-yes, I thought they might have food in them. They don't though, they're just empty cans tied to a stupid string. It doesn't make any sense, nothing makes sense anymore really." She tossed the cans to the ground and looked back up at him. Her eyes were tiny and beautiful, but you could tell she had painful secrets locked somewhere behind them.
"You should keep those," Edgar replied, "they allow whoever holds them to communicate with the dead, and the dead have all of life's answers, you know." He extended his arm and offered his cigarette to her, but she shook her head and politely declined. She looked back down at the cans and the attached string and nudged them with her shoe.
"Are you making that up just to send me for a loop?" she asked.
"No, I'm really not," Edgar replied. "I have a friend who swears by this method, and he has never been the type to make shit up." He moved closer to her and sat down on a red plastic crate. "Say, you look familiar to me. Have we ever met before?"
She paused for a long moment before answering. "Yeah, sorta. You probably know me from the TV. Everyone knows me from the TV." She kicked at a nearby trash bag and her foot sunk halfway into it. Her hands were buried in the pockets of her tattered red sweatshirt and it looked as though worms were moving beneath the fabric. A car drove through the parking lot and she nervously looked in its direction as it revved it's engine and sped off.
"I don't watch TV," Edgar replied, "so it can't be that. Maybe you just have one of those faces. Let me ask you this, how long have you been living in the streets?"
"About a year now," she murmured.
"And when you can't find food in dumpsters, what do you eat?"
"I fast," she murmured again.
Her hands were now out of her pockets and busy unwrapping something she had found on the ground. The soggy remnants of a partially eaten burrito were discovered inside and she tossed it into the dumpster. Edgar watched as she rummaged some more, carefully picking her way through the surface layer of trash. She was methodical in her motions and her fingers seemed to have a sense of adventure. When she would locate something of interest, she'd roll it around a few times for inspection before popping it into her mouth, but mostly she would just toss things back in.
"Hey listen, I live just up the road from here, in an old Victorian style house with many rooms, and in some of those rooms are my housemates, wonderfully creative human beings who like to write and study, sing and play music, paint, philosophize, and dream. It is our House Of Muse, and we live according to our own wants and needs, we come and go as we please and we respect each others' journey. I'd like for you to come over for dinner tonight, you can bring your own food if you like," Edgar smiles and winks, "or I can prepare you the best lemon pepper chicken and rice you'll ever eat. I invite you as my guest, and if you feel comfortable you may stay as long as you like. Would that be something that interests you?" Edgar asked her. "If so, my car is parked around the corner, I was planning on leaving after I smoked and talked to Eddie The Clerk inside the Whiskey."
"Sure, I'm down," she replied without hesitation.
"Fantastic! Here take my keys and go sit tight for a minute, I'm going to run inside and talk to Eddie. I won't be long. I'm parked right next to the illuminated store sign, you can't miss it, it's the only dragon wagon in town." He handed her the keys, smiled, and disappeared through the side door that lead into the store. She walked around front and surveyed the parking lot, and sure enough, she spotted an old white station wagon with a gigantic dragon face displayed on the car hood. As she got closer she noticed the dragon's scales were created from bottle caps, coins and aluminum foil all glued into place. The eyes and nostrils and flames were painted on beautifully and some of the scales continued down the length of either side of the car. It was really something to behold, and she was a little curious how she had never seen this machine driving around town before.
She unlocked the passenger side door and climbed in. It was still warm inside and smelled like cream of mushroom soup. She leaned over and stuck the keys into the ignition and started it up. Lou Reed's voice instantly joined her inside the car, and while she sat there waiting for Edgar, she closed her eyes and let the lyrics of Coney Island Baby wash over her...
"When you're all alone and lonely
in your midnight hour
And you find that your soul
it's been up for sale
And you begin to think 'bout
all the things that you've done
And you begin to hate
just 'bout everything."
She cupped her hands to her face and started crying as the song continued playing...
"And all your two-bit friends
have gone and ripped you off
They're talking behind your back saying, man
you're never going to be no human being
And you start thinking again
'bout all those things that you've done
And who it was and what it was
and all the different things you made every different scene
Ahhh, but remember that the city is a funny place
Something like a circus or a sewer."
The windows of the car began fogging up as the extra moisture from her sobbing and heavy breathing sought out an escape. The song was nearing its end when Edgar showed up and hopped into the driver seat. He had a brown paper bag rolled up in one hand and a lit joint in the other. He reached across the gear shift and handed the joint her way, "Here hun, have a hit of this. It's the preferred method of alleviating tear-filled eyes and a pained heart. Of course, your eyes will stay red a little while longer, but hey who cares?"
She accepted the offer and took a few hits, then wiped her face on her sleeve. "Sorry, I don't know what that was all about," she said, "I thought I got past all the crying."
"It's a never ending cycle of laughter and tears. A recycled nightmare at times, a brand new affection for misdirection the next. Don't carry more rocks than your little arms can handle, there's plenty of room on the ground. Now if you don't mind, I have to make one tiny pit stop before we get to the House Of Muse. That okay with you?" he asked. She nodded that it was and handed back the joint. The car lurched forward and headed out onto the main road, barely missing the yellow concrete pole guarding the store sign.
"You almost hit that pole," she said.
"Nah, it almost hit me!" he answered.
"You have a strange car," she mentioned.
"It's the dragon wagon, baby!" he declared as they sped on down the road.
TO BE CONTINUED... (Part Two, Click Here)