Atlas As A Trashman

Atlas as a trashman is well-suited to the profession. According to a semi-reliable source, he likes so much to shrug, after all. What’s more, rattling garbage cans with the “picker” at the side of the truck and then setting them down again is a manner of shrugging. An even more passive aggressive form of it, one might say. Despite being a brilliant philosopher, astronomer and mathematician, Atlas threw his talents in the trash as readily as the bourgeoisie did with plastic and cardboard in the neighborhoods he began to work in. He opted for the suburban circuit because they were less uncouth. It had to be said. And he said it often to the occasional acquaintance he would share a beer with at the local “tap house.” Called simply Bacchus Tap House. And, by the way, Atlas fucking hated Bacchus. Viewed him as being among the worst and most inane of the gods. He didn’t much care for wine either. Just beer. 

In fact, he could sit all day at the tap house, and often did. That was the beauty of being a trashman. You got all your work done at the beginning of the day, in the quiet hours of the morning–before the burst of activity that would flow forth from the houses of the neighborhoods he orbited (in a spherical pattern, of course). The men he could see actually departing from their houses at the same ungodly hour as he was driving down their streets seemed to be doing so only as a means to catch a breath of fresh air from their wives. Their wives who ensured the lawns were well-manicured and their doors had seasonal wreaths on them. Sometimes, Atlas got the urge to back his truck right up to one of those lawns and unload every filthy piece of trash back onto them. Shovel their own shit right into their faces the way Tyler Durden with the “high-end” soap made out of fat from the dumpsters of liposuction clinics (it all goes back to the dumpsters, you see?). Except Atlas wouldn’t bother with any alchemical processes, he would just serve the garbage up as it was. Show them all what they were worth. One day. He simply knew he would snap and finally do it. 

In the meantime, it was enough to shrug off the trash into his own truck. Hold it all suspended in the air before allowing it to cascade like a bubonic waterfall, watching it join in with the rest of the heap. This was now his version of raising up the celestial spheres–as Zeus had once made him do as punishment for siding with the Titans–and then letting go. Did it vex him that the people of Earth had somehow revised the narrative to make it seem as though he was holding up their planet as opposed to the celestial spheres? Why, yes, it did. They were always revising narratives to suit their purpose, and it was starting to get on Atlas’ last nerve.

Even chewing tobacco in order to better blend in with the average trashman’s ways wasn’t relieving Atlas’ vexation. In truth, where once this job had been soothing because it was an extension of that moment he finally shrugged off the sphere(s)–not, contrary to popular belief, the “globe”–it was now only reminding him of all the time he had wasted just to oblige Zeus. That goddamn tyrant who still haunted his dreams every night, no matter how much he drank. He also resented being frequently confused with someone who actually had it way easier: Sisyphus. Yes, old Sis was forced to carry a heavy, circular object in his story, too. But it wasn’t even half as cumbersome as what Atlas had to deal with–all the time. He didn’t get any breaks in the monotony. No pause to push up the boulder at his own leisure so long as he got to the top of the hill at some point. No grand philosophical work by Camus written about him. And here Atlas was dealing with his “load” endlessly. “Sissy” got a break, at the very least, with that downhill backslide. So yeah, Atlas’ story was actually more Sisyphean than Sisyphus’ when he thought about it. 

The resentment was starting to mount. It was becoming too unmanageable to manage waste–at least if he had to do it for someone else’s company. Drinking his feelings in the middle of the day again, Atlas turned to find that there was no one around him to commiserate with. Apparently, day drinking had become too “trashy” even for some of the others. He was the last man standing–as fucking usual. He might as well start his own goddamn garbage business, the way he was carrying everyone else. He ordered another pitcher of beer and drank it straight, no glass. It only took him one gulp of the entire thing to decide that’s exactly what he would do. 

Trashman Atlas was incorporated in the month of April, right before all the truly hot and fetid garbage would be left out during the summer. His bread and butter literally spewing out of the trash sacks like sperm from a scrotal sac. It was a wondrous sight to behold. And even in suburbia, the residents tended to lose their manners in the months from June to August, letting their bins overflow with unruly, disorganized and ill-maintained bags of their filth. It was enough to drive Atlas, at last, to his breaking point. He was sort of the king of breaking points, he had to admit (maybe in the next life, he would come back as a mental patient at a luxurious facility, but with his luck, he would be the therapist in a prison).

After a particularly brutal day of no one sorting their trash or tying the bags together properly, Atlas lost it. And, just as predicted, he found himself shrugging off the trash not into his truck but out of it, spreading it all over the driveways and lawns of those who just expected their debris to be “magically” disposed of. Well, Atlas was fucking done. Again. 

He learned a crystallized lesson that sweltering morning. He wasn’t actually cut out for working. Then again, maybe the jobs he “chose” (or rather, chose him) were part of why he felt that way. Perhaps he ought to turn to the more erudite pursuits that people so often forget to associate him with–the astronomy or philosophy circuit. But it didn’t take him long to remember that there are no paying jobs in those fields…lest he be reduced to, ugh, teaching. That settled it. He would go back to collecting trash tomorrow.

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