The Smiling Snowman

He was smiling still, the wooden snowman with the broken nose.  He wondered: if his nose hadn’t been knocked off, what would he smell?  He had some interesting companions in the pile he had recently joined. An old toilet; some pencil crayons – pink, orange, brown and blue; a VHS video tape (he remembered when the family he use to live with upgraded to a DVD player); and some pink princess stickers.  He was sandwiched between some chipboard and straw, which were in turn sandwiched between metal objects, not big enough to be girders, but the same shape. Kind of.

Some people walked past wearing bright yellow vests and uncomfortable looking hats. They stood by him for a while. One of them took a picture, “Cheese!” he thought smiling a little more enthusiastically. He loved being in photos.

***

The site was full of tidy rubbish.  Sorted loosely by material.  A washing machine drum, next to some inner parts from a car, sprinkled with Irn Bru cans.  The open space watered down the beeping of lorries and the clanging of metal and other materials being picked and sorted by mechanical grabbing machines.  Non-descript items fell from metres above, through a funnel and into a skip, whilst a large pile of soggy mattresses sat stacked like pancakes in the middle of the yard.

“So what will happen to that pile?” asked one of the visitors to the site manager, as she pulled out her camera and snapped a picture of a snowman jumbled up in amongst other waste.

“That pile will be sorted again but most of it will go for SRF or RDF”, the man replied.

“What is SRF?” asked the other visitor.

“Sorry, it stands for Solid Recovered Fuel and RDF stands for Refuse Derived Fuel, it gets burnt for energy recovery.”

“Ah ok, thanks” said the visitor “better than going to landfill I guess.”

They moved into a shed, part-full of technicolour waste.

“This is mostly plastic packaging, food wrapping and the like, though the quality is pretty low.  We would once have given it another manual pick to pull out recyclables but it’s not economically viable to do this at the moment, particularly with this level of contamination.”

The visitor nodded and snapped another photo. She thought about how to replicate the smell of the household waste for the school children they would be speaking with, perhaps days old fish leftovers mixed with banana peel?  The pleasantness of the patchouli like scent up by the windrow composting area was definitely nicer on the nose than this.  However, whilst a bit unpleasant, the smell was certainly less pungent than she might have imagined, the open space diluting more than just noise she supposed.

***

Crash!  The little boy and the dog both looked equally nervous as the ball struck and knocked over the 3-foot snowman.  The boy looked at the dog: “Ooops.”  The dog looked back and cocked his head to the side slightly.  The snowman who had sat nicely by the side of the fireplace now lay across the hearth, his carrot nose on the carpet a few feet away.  The boy’s Mum had heard the crash and appeared in the doorway.

“I’m really sorry,” said the boy quietly, looking at his shoes.

“Are you OK?” his Mum asked picking up the snowman and standing him upright.

“Yes,” said the boy.  “Sorry Mum.”

“That’s OK, accidents happen, but maybe take Zack outside to play with the ball, OK?  In fact, I’ll come with you,” she said, picking up the ball but leaving the nose on the floor.

“What happened to the snowman?” The man asked his wife, later that evening.

“Nate and Zack were playing with the ball inside and got a bit enthusiastic,” she replied.

“Oh.” said the man, “Where’s his nose?”

The woman looked around the floor. “It was here somewhere, I bet Zack found it and took it somewhere, that dog will chew anything.  It looks OK still,” she said.

“No it doesn’t, and look – it’s sharp,” he said running his finger over the place where the nose had splintered off.  “We’ll get a new one, we’ve got enough scruffy stuff around the house, without a scruffy snowman too.”

Later that night Nate peered out of his bedroom window at the snowman poking out of the rubbish bin up on the street. He looked at the dog curled up by his feet. “Don’t worry Zack,” he said, brushing the blonde hair out of his eyes.  “We’ll rescue him! You got the nose, right?”

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