“I doan know why dem feel dem haffi eat off di whole ting.” He peered inside the blue and white, ice-cream tub, searching for a mouthful—a lick.
The tub landed in the grass to his left, its delicate thud upstaged by a loud, long, determined suck of the teeth.
He thrust his hand inside the scandal bag for a second time, almost slicing a finger on a corned-beef tin. “Jah Rastafari!” He flashed his finger in pain. “Cho!” He fished out the tin, pried it wider open, ran the same index finger along the insides of the tin and sucked on it. Fresh! Fatty-fatty . . . but fresh.
The tin landed at the heel of his right foot as he rummaged in the bag for a final check. A rinsed, mackerel tin, brown eggshells and a one-litre, white-vinegar bottle were dumped out before tossing the limp bag in a corner of the receptacle.
He untied the final scandal bag, lifted out a milk carton and raised it to the light of the street lamp overhead. He joggled it, uncapped it, tilted his head back and drained the residue down his tongue. The carton landed on his toes as he gagged like a tabby coughing up fur balls. Not so fresh.
Glinting red at the bottom of the scandal bag caught his eye. Water Crackas! The inverted cracker bag showered crumbs and two cracker fragments into his cupped right palm to form a miniature hill.
Careful not to disturb the hill, he dipped his free hand back into the scandal bag and plucked out a shiny blue wrapper. Quarter of a black and white sandwich cookie crashed unto the crumb hill.
He slammed his palm up against his gaping mouth and licked his lips, head bobbing and hands akimbo like Superman. He scanned the deserted street and dark yards to see if anyone was peeping through a window and noticing his Christopher Columbus moment. Cho! Everybody gone bed ahready.
Grinning, he chewed and chewed—still striking his Superman pose—and chewed some more as if extracting the essence of the savoury discovery. Satisfied, he swallowed, closed the receptacle lid and moved on to the next gate and the next bin.
This bit of fiction was inspired by a homeless man I’ve never seen. How so?
For several weeks, our garbage bin was being disturbed by a homeless man (according to one eyewitness report). I suspect these deeds were being committed in the dead of night. The a.m. evidence? Loose garbage in the bin and empty take-out or juice boxes scattered on the surrounding grass.
In case you don’t know, in Jamaica, the name ‘scandal bag’ refers to a basic, unmarked, black plastic bag with handles. The bag is typically used by our supermarkets and shops to pack groceries. Many Jamaican households re-purpose the used bags into garbage bags.
I would’ve posted a picture of said bag but, in Jamaican parlance, it has “no front appearance”. In other words, it’s not looking pretty, not pretty enough to be seen upfront and centre.
I think the term ‘scandal bag’ was coined in the 1980s or thereabout when paper bags were replaced with plastic. I’m not absolutely sure. I could be wrong.
Back in the day, it was utterly scandalous to be seen with scandal bags filled with clothes or personal belongings during a house move or eviction.
Any Jamaicans out there with a different history of the scandal bag? Do share.
Peace and love,
Original image “Food Leftovers” courtesy of clairedekens at FreeDigitalPhotos.net