Author : James Hartley

My wife, Gladys, was really into recycling, it was the only way to save the environment, civilization, the entire galaxy. She really hated how I’d take the crossword from the morning paper into the john and then drop it in the trash when I finished it. I’m going to have a lot of trouble with recycling, now that Gladys is dead. She died last week, unexpectedly, it was an aneurysm. The funeral is over, I’ve got to get my life together somehow.

They say recycling is a good thing, that we need to do it more. All the paper–magazines, newspaper, discarded computer printout–goes in one bin. Glass, aluminum foil, and plastics in another.

Well, some plastics … I just can’t keep track. The plastic stuff has that little triangle with a number in it. When we lived up in Poughkeepsie we recycled “1”s and “2”s. Or maybe also “3”s, I don’t remember perfectly.

Where I am now in Florida, I’m supposed to recycle all the numbers except “7”s. Only I’m not supposed to do bottles from salad dressing or other oily stuff. Damn, I can’t keep track. But it has gotten so important that the new president has set up a special enforcement group, the Recycle Enforcement Police. The REPs.

Gladys and I got several tickets from them. Each time we paid the fine, but Gladys always nagged me to be more careful. One time the cat food cans weren’t washed well enough. Another time I just dumped the trash basket by my computer into the regular trash instead of sorting out the printouts and recycling them. Damn REPs go down the street ahead of the truck on pickup day.


Ooops, the doorbell. I open the door, it’s two REPs. What did I do now? “Sir,” says one of the REPs, “we have your recycling.” What the heck is he talking about? They pick up recycling, they don’t deliver it … ?

The two REPs step apart, revealing a third figure behind them. A hideous figure, part plastic and metal. Looks like one of the Borg from Star Trek. It starts to move forward, to enter the house.

I look closer. The face, what I can see of it, is familiar. Oh my God! No! Gladys! They’ve recycled my wife!


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