Author: Jeremy Marks
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
-Simon & Garfunkel
I am a plastic sac picker; I scour the streets collecting loose grocery sacs in the employ of my city. I live in a former metropolis whose every limb is now coated in disposable plastic.
My job is very repetitive, but not without its perks. Instead of wearing the standard issue orange and yellow municipal worker vest, I sport a blue oxford shirt, seer sucker slacks and burnished brown Italian leather loafers. My employer feels that I should work in style. My closets at home are filled with these outfits and I have never had to pay for a single one.
But what is most impressive about my deportment is that it is conductive: the garments transmit electricity. You see, when I shuffle my feet, the soles of my loafers generate a static current that is siphoned up my legs and torso, spun across my left deltoid muscle and shot down my bicep and into my forearm. The charge then crosses my wrist, and passes over my lefthand, into the fingers of a special rhinestone studded white glove that I use to grip the titanium handle of my “cane.”
This “cane” is a state-of-the-art trash picker, known as a “Sac Caesar.” But unlike your typical store bought litter management implement, my cane has a shaft crafted from rare mahogany. Inside that shaft is a copper conductor culminating in a tip of impermeable linen where a static pulse is released. To avoid any repetitive stress on my index finger, this pulse emission is automatic. I do not have to pull a trigger
The myriad sacs that litter our streets are attracted by this pulse and cling to the cane. I can attract up to half a dozen sacs with a single emission. The cane shrinks the sacs into a compact pellet, then fires that pellet up the conductor shaft and out the back of the titanium handle into a pouch that, once full, I simply detach and toss into a cloth sac slung over my right shoulder.
I am well paid. I have health insurance and benefits. And because my city knows that we are not likely to rid ourselves of this plastic sac scourge, I have guaranteed employment. There is a simple reason for all of this: the sacs that I collect are reproductive.
No one is entirely sure how it happened, but the story goes that because the sac manufactory is located along one of the continent’s most toxic rivers, the water from that river has mingled with polyethylene to create a singular mutation. We are left with something like a plastic prokaryote, an organism with neither heart nor brains, but a passion for procreation. A flatworm.
It happened that three years ago, a grocery chain opened in our city for the first time in two decades. Folks like me, who had only been able to buy our meals from gas stations and corner stores were delighted that we finally had fresh options. It didn’t take long before every city resident sported the dirty-white plastic sacs of that grocery. Even the squirrels, pigeons and sparrows took the plastic into their nests. I remember averting my eyes as the sacs started clogging gutters and storm drains, causing sewer line backups. Like my neighbors, I shrugged my shoulders when our city was visited by little windy plastic spirals whipping across our parking lots and back alleys. Much as I hate to admit it, I even accepted that some of our trees were ornamented with plastic banners.
But then, about a year after the grocery opened, things grew out of control. Like some strange algae, the sacs bloomed and covered every last inch of turf. I recall walking outside one morning to find my entire block coated in plastic: the cityscape was shrouded in a giant, dingy tarp. Not a single window or door was visible on any dwelling.
When I got to work, I learned of my promotion. After years of diligent service, I was now the city’s “Chief Sac Technician.” For forty hours a week, city streets has become my beat. I swing my “Sac Caesar” and don my conductive outfit. I have been granted the privilege of setting my work hours and picking my staff.
The problem is, my work is a fool’s errand. Every time two sacs come into contact they generate a third. It is literally impossible for me to make any headway whatsoever; the beat I walk rests atop a glacier of plastic. It won’t be long and I will be picking sacs off of the spires of our downtown’s tallest towers.
There is nearly nothing left to see these days, just plastic layering plastic. The city is very quiet, too. Gone are those morning when I’d wake to birds mingling their song with honking horns, crankshafts, and the groan of air breaks.
Still, I have a job and a reason to be. I have someplace to go each morning. In the silence, I sometimes imagine that the sea of dirty white is freshly fallen snow. For a moment, the Earth looks like it has shaken off its dingy condition and our sac-induced silence grows pregnant with meaning.