Justin Boote

The June Featured Writer is Justin Boote

Feel free to email Justin at: justinboote@gmail.com


by Justin Boote

Arnold looked at his watch, crumbs from his morning toast falling to the floor. It was seven fifty-nine. No time to sweep up the mess or clean the plates. He had exactly one minute to gulp down the remnants of his already luke-warm coffee, finish his toast, and make a dash for his car before heading off to work.

For Arnold, it wasn’t a punctuality issue; after fifteen years working in the same accounts office, no one was going to worry about him being a few minutes late. On the contrary, the extra hours he put in the evening—free of charge, thank you very much—compensated more than enough. And besides, when your father was the boss of the company, what are they going to do about it? His soon-to-retire father had already laid out the plans for his son’s eventual taking over—so, no worry there.

Where there was a worry was that in approximately ten minutes—depending on the state of the driver’s hangover—the garbage truck would turn slowly onto his street and begin the tedious job of collecting the garbage. How anyone could stoop so slow as to get their hands and clothes filthy dirty day after day, and put up with what were on occasions odors potent enough to make the most resilient gag, were beyond him. But then, someone had to do it.

Grabbing his car keys, he hurried to the door, stepped outside, locked it and headed for the car. So far, so good. I think it might be my lucky day.

As he opened the car door, he strained to hear any sound of the monstrosity coming from around the corner. Nothing. The only sound the odd neighbor talking to his dog as he walked by, and the kids bawling and laughing as they headed for school. Another perfect, normal day on Peter’s Street, and he’d beaten the garbage truck once more. Music was called for.

It hadn’t always been this way. In fact, it was generally the opposite. The garbage truck, over the years, had become his personal nemesis. The driver and colleagues came and went, but the routine was always the same. It was as though there was a school or farm where they bred the gut-bursting, red-faced slobs. Or maybe a conveyer belt where they were mass produced, packaged, and then sent out as required to torment and harass the decent, civilized folk that populated the rest of the world. Honest, hard-working folks like himself, he theorized. Honest people that shouldn’t have to put up with their foul and primitive language, and offensive insinuations.

And of course, on the many occasions when he had been stuck behind the truck, breathing its obnoxious fumes, and trying desperately to get by, he had let his opinions be known to them. And how had they replied?

“Hey man, relax. Chill out. Someone’s gotta do this shit, ‘cause I bet you wouldn’t want to get your little pinkies dirty now, would’ya? Wanna read a mag while you wait? This month, I think the centerfold’s your mother.” At this hilarious witticism, in which they would burst out laughing thus taking longer to do his job, Arnold would reply the only way he knew how.

“You disgusting pigs!” Witty comebacks were not for Arnold and so that outburst caused another round of applause from the pigs in their shiny yellow overalls.

Jill Stone from across the street walked past in her usual outfit of mini skirt and low-cut blouse. Arnold stopped looking for a CD to play and watched-gawped-as she strolled by.

“My God, that’s terrible. She’s just asking for trouble,” he mumbled to himself, although this did not prevent him from remembering her when he was alone at night, and safely tucked up in bed. No wife for Arnold. His life was dedicated to making numbers meet and grow, not wasting his time with some flirting hussy who’s going to spend all his hard-earned money while he’s out making it.

As Jill walked past him, he leaned out the window to ascertain if the rear view was as interesting. Confirming his suspicions, he went back to the task of finding a suitable disk to play.

Suddenly, he gasped, long and deep. His intestines dropped a few inches and began swirling around inside.

“Oh No! No, no, no!”

A rumbling could be heard from not far behind, loud and ominous. The garbage truck was coming.

Arnold’s world changed instantly from tranquil and bliss to panic. Dropping the CD to the floor, he began fumbling with his keys. An operation that should have taken seconds became eternal; his shaking hand unavailable to connect key with slot.

The truck appeared like some gigantic, metallic dinosaur from around the corner, farting grey-black fumes from its rear. The sound of its engine akin to thunder…the yellow lights on top spinning like miniature, manic lighthouses.

“Come on, come on!” he pleaded. Finally, the key found its destination. Almost sobbing with relief, Arnold turned the ignition and pressed down hard on the pedal. Nothing happened; the pedal was stuck.

Cursing in a language that would have shamed him had it come from others, he stooped to find the source of the problem. The CD case was wedged between two pedals. Grabbing at it, while desiring it the worst of illnesses, he threw it on the back seat, and pressed down again on the pedal.

Just as the truck drove by.

“Bastard!” he shouted.

Almost spinning the wheels, he shot off as though a Formula One driver, yet he already knew that the damage was done. He was stuck once more behind the truck, with no possibility of overtaking.

To show his frustration, and just on the off-chance that the driver may be feeling generous this morning, he leaned on the car horn in the hope that the driver might pull over to let him past. Negative. He might as well have tried ramming the truck.

It pulled up at the first of the garbage bins that stood waiting to be emptied; sentinels standing at attention, waiting to be released from duty.

“I don’t believe this. Damn, stupid CD. If only…” Arnold shook his head, mumbling expletives concerning his bad luck. Experience told him that no matter what he said or did—short of producing an armed weapon—he was condemned to spend the next ten minutes staring at the arse-end of the truck. And it was not pretty. Not like Jill’s rear-end, for example.

The two men in the truck jumped out from the metallic beast and headed over, nonchalantly, as if they had all in the time in the world, to the first of the bins.

Arnold frowned. These were not the usual louts he had to put up with, the defining evidence being the lack of blubber overhanging the trousers as though heavily pregnant. With quadruples, perhaps. These two looked young, fit, even muscular. Maybe, if he was polite and asked nicely…

“Er, excuse me!” No reply. He tried again. “Hello. Excuse me. I’m in a bit of a hurry. Would you mind pulling over…” He stopped abruptly as one turned to look at him. The garbage man’s eyes left him flabbergasted.

Although he was about ten yards away, and the sun was directly overhead, Arnold was shocked to see that the man’s eyes were jet-black, without pupils, as though wearing frameless sunglasses. His face was bright red-just as the others—yet taut, the cheekbones pushing through the skin as though searching an escape route. And his nose was missing, to be replaced by nothing. A black hole.

Then the man smiled at him. Long, yellowed teeth protruded from each corner of the man’s grinning mouth, glinting in the sun, before he turned away to continue his task.

Arnold sat, stunned, in his car. A trick of the light, it had to be. Maybe the stress of work? Yes, that’s it.

“I didn’t just see that,” he murmured to himself. “I imagined it. Is taking over the company really getting to me that much? Maybe I should take some vacation time.”

Arnold rubbed his eyes and dared to look again. If he saw the same features on the worker, he would ask for time off. It would do no good to start off as boss of his father’s company when suffering hallucinations on the way to work.

The two men continued emptying the trash bins, their backs to him. Lowering down the window, he shouted to them once more. “Excuse me. Could you hurry up please? I’m going to be late for work.”

The other of the two turned to face him. His features were perfectly normal. Gaunt like the other, but at least there. Arnold breathed a sigh of relief. Thank God for small mercies!

“Just doing our job, Mister. Won’t take long,” he said grinning to reveal a set of perfect teeth. Perfect black teeth.

“Aaargghh,” Arnold jumped back in his seat. He stared, gobsmacked, as his brain tried to process what his eyes had seen.

He began to panic. Revving the car, and pressing down hard on the accelerator, he tried desperately to squeeze past the truck and get away from the hallucination he was inexplicably suffering. It was useless. Trees lined the side of one road, the truck the other. If he continued, he was going to seriously dent and scratch his precious car. His still unpaid-for car.

Sobbing slightly, he forced himself to reverse back to where he’d been previously. There was no choice but to wait until they’d finished.

He heard himself speak out loud. “Tomorrow I’m going to the doctor’s. First thing. My tension’s obviously running through the roof. Too much cholesterol. I knew it would catch up with me someday.”

Arnold continued babbling to himself, an occasional tear running down his sweaty face, until a sound awoke him from his stupor. The workers were back inside the truck and it was moving.

“Oh thank you, thank you!” he exclaimed. Wiping the sweat from his brows and forehead, and willing his heart to slow down to a less ominous rhythm, he followed behind the truck as it prepared to turn the corner onto the next street, and the next set of trash bins. Here, he would be able to pass and head to the safe and comforting world of his office.

Then, it stopped again. The traffic light was red.

“Oh please, come on!" Arnold punched the steering wheel, his momentary relief shattered. His patience began to wane, a mild trembling coursing through him as anger took over once again.

“Goddamn stupid lorry, traffic light, shit!” he yelled as he watched the back of the truck mash the contents inside. He smacked at the steering wheel repeatedly with his forehead, until suddenly, he jumped. Something large and heavy had hit his windshield.

He looked up to see what he had contrived to worsen an already bad start to the day. Two wide, red-veined eyes stared at him. Arnold screamed in shock and jolted back against the seat.

A bloodied human head sat on the car’s hood; it’s bloated, purple tongue waggling from side to side as though trying to squirm its way back inside. Tendrils of nerves and bone flapped from the neck; this had not been a clean cut in some fatal accident.

Arnold gawped at the spectacle before him. He felt his bladder give way when the driver opened his truck door and headed over to his car.

“Sorry you had to see that. Didn’t mean to startle you, Dude. But you understand….some guy needed punishment. I’ll just take the head back now. Wouldn’t do to have some policeman spotting it, would it?”

The driver winked at him as he picked up the head and threw it back in the truck, yet in his still inoperative state, Arnold noticed that when the winking eye opened again, it was jet-black, just like the other worker. One black, the other a bright, sky blue.

Arnold whimpered as the driver came back to his car.

“We’re the proper trash guys, see. You wouldn’t believe the calls we get from pissed wives and jealous husbands.” He chuckled as though collecting human heads was the most normal thing in the world. “Hey, as an afterthought if you, er, require our services, here’s my card.” He flicked it through the open window, where it landed on Arnold’s lap, then strolled back to the truck and drove off.

Arnold flinched as it hit his lap. He looked down at the card: PAN’S HUMAN WASTE, followed by a phone number.


Three months passed since Arnold’s incident with the garbage truck. He’d lost weight and his medical cabinet was brimming with various bottles of pills for his nerves, although this was not the worst.

Despite giving him time for his evident nervous breakdown, Arnold’s father had decided that he wasn’t ready after all to take over the company, and thus had been given ‘permanent leave.’

Arnold’s life was in shatters. No job, a looming mortgage and car to worry about, andhe was incapable of leaving the house in the mornings for fear of encountering the garbage truck again.

He was going to die a broken, homeless old man, all because his father hadn’t believed his stories about demon garbage workers. His father had ruined him, belittled him, laughed at him. Now, he’d never be boss of the company.

Arnold twiddled the card in his fingers while he pondered what to do.

“Fuck him,” he said, and picked up the card given him by the garbage man as he pulled out his cell phone.

Justin Boote is a 42-year-old Englishman living in Barcelona, Spain for over twenty years who plies his trade as a stressed waiter in a busy restaurant.

He has been writing for just over a year creating short stories, all based on horror or the supernatural. To date, he has seven stories published in diverse magazines, and is a member of a private writer’s forum, The Write Practice, where he has also acted as judge on two occasions for writing contests.

He can be found at his Facebook page under his own name.