While jogging earlier in the week at one of Lilburn’s fine parks I came across a random trash bag with several clothing items, a bible and a small smashed radio. The items had been abandoned with no clue as to why they were there in the first place except a strange notebook paper task list that was equally random. I snapped a photo and wrote a short story about the origin of these things.
All Jerry’s remaining possessions were useless junk. He had them arranged out in front of him in the grass, the embodiment of his life’s achievements. Everything together wouldn’t get him fifty dollars if he put an ad out for them on craigslist. The one thing of any value, which wouldn’t be valuable to anyone but Jerry, was his father’s tattered bible.
In his past life he’d flown frequently for work and used to try and read the bible on the plane. He mostly just read the same page over and over and gripped the arm wrest with the hand not occupied with holding the book. At the time he’d needed something to believe in greater than himself. The book was a representation of an all-powerful being he’d hoped was watching out for him. Now, it was okay to leave the bible behind, because someone else watched out for him.
Everything else he had was borrowed clothing. He had one pair of jeans so stiff they might have been able to repel bullets, two under shirts and a few pairs of black socks. He carried these things in a white trash bag, which made him look slightly more schizophrenic than just his unwashed hair and paranoid gaze could achieve on their own. He clutched a mini tape player in his nervous palm. Jerry knew that his recording was indulgent, but he couldn’t help himself. He would be finished with the list today, and then his time on this Earth would end. It was a small comfort to know that something would remain to mark his presence on this Earth.
“It’s been two days since I left Atlanta. I had to take a taxi out to Stone Mountain but I have avoided all contact with outsiders since. I’m working through the instructions faster than expected. I finished with the church yesterday; it was Baptist, I think. They gave me money for food along with my choice of a few things from their donations bin. I will of course be leaving all of these things before departure.
Jerry stopped the tape when he heard voices in the distance. An elderly couple in jogging outfits were coming around the corner and getting closer to him. He was told not to engage with others or draw attention to himself. Jerry slumped against his trash bag full of clothes and pretended to sleep. They were so busy discussing holiday vacation plans they didn’t see him at first.
As the couple drew closer the woman yelped in surprise. “Arnie, look there’s a man! Should we call someone?”
“He’s not doing anything, but sleeping. It is a public park.”
“I know, but maybe he’s sick or needs help. And he can’t just sleep here, there are children playing nearby.”
“Hey fella. You into some trouble?”
Jerry groaned as if in pain and rolled over turning his back to them. He pulled the top of his hoodie down over his face to signify he did not want to be disturbed.
“He’s probably just sleeping off a drunk and anyways, it ain’t none of our business.”
Jeff held his breath and only let it go when he heard their footsteps receding in the opposite direction. Maybe I should find a more secluded area. Rabbits and squirrels aren’t likely to tell anyone what I’m doing, but that nagging old bat might talk Arnie into calling the police. That was the last thing Jerry needed.
He pulled out a folded piece of notebook paper with hastily written instructions in red ink. Most of the items listed were barely legible and if anyone tried to read them, the list would sound like utter nonsense. The ravings of a homeless lunatic, which is exactly how they wanted it to appear. It was the perfect accessory to his random trash bag full of junk. He was down to the last item. Come alone. Don’t bring anything.
Jerry folded the notebook paper and placed it neatly inside the bible. He looked around to make sure no one was coming up the path before stripping down completely. It was around noon but the November air hadn’t warmed up much from it’s frosty beginning. His skin broke out in gooseflesh as he folded the borrowed clothes and placed them inside the trash bag. He took one last look at his pathetic pile. Am I really giving up so much? Jerry jumped through the trees just as a police siren sounded in the distance. He had barely been eating for the last few days so he didn’t have the energy to run at full speed. However, the parking lot was at least a half-mile away and they’d have to get out of their cars and hike to reach him. They would find his bag, and bible. Maybe they would even take a moment to puzzle over the strange notebook paper list, but he would be long gone by then.