by Ariel Wagner-Parker

The skip appeared out of nowhere early one morning in December, looking huge in the little village street. The first to see it were old Mrs No. 1 and her mongrel dog, Spindy. The human stared at it in surprise, then circled it looking for some form of identification and the canine followed, ears back and tail low.

Back from their walk, they met Mr No. 6, briefcase in hand and car-key poised, eyeing the skip suspiciously.

“Seen this?” he growled. “Bit odd, isn’t it, just arriving like that.”

Mrs No. 1 nodded. “There’s no name or anything on it. Wonder who ordered it?” Their gaze turned to the skip. It was oblong, old and rusty and dark with dirt, but in places you could see through to its original Coca-Cola red paint. One of the shorter sides let down, like a gangplank, so you could climb in.

 The Skip

Photo: Guy Wagner
The skip appeared out of nowhere...

Within an hour, the younger children of the rue du Village had discovered this and embarked on a blood-curdling game of pirate ships, while their parents tried to discover who was responsible for the skip’s presence in their midst.

No one knew anything, not even the local authorities. Rumour abounded.

Finally, Mr No. 4 announced that he didn’t care; skips were for throwing things into and he for one meant to do just that. After all, it was easier than lugging stuff down to the local depot. He then spent the rest of the day throwing armfuls of old newspapers, magazines and brochures into the skip.

Mr No. 2 shrugged. “Why not?”, he said, and proceeded to chuck in everything in his garage he could see no use for, including several sets of old tyres, a broken fridge and a TV that had imploded the day George W. Bush became president.

Mrs No. 5 struggled briefly with her conscience, then threw in two pairs of uncomfortable shoes and the floral umbrella and smart hat her sister had given her for her birthday.
Liberated by this sisterly treason, Mr No. 5 threw in the tasteful ties, sober socks and hemmed handkerchiefs his sister-in-law had given him every single Christmas since their wedding. Their son, Theo, just thirteen, marched solemnly to the skip and while the younger children gaped, tossed in his Teddy with grown-up nonchalance. In the middle of the night though, he dried his eyes and rushed out to rescue his furry friend, observed only by Leo, the cat from No. 7.

Mrs No. 3, suspecting her husband of having an affair with his boss, rolled his suits, shirts, ties and shoes up into a giant ball and lobbed it into the skip. Mr No. 3 took his revenge and in went her entire wardrobe. His wife smiled cat-like and manhandling the marriage-bed into the skip, dreamt of her New Look.

The French teacher from No. 7 remarked to his wife that it was strange: however many things those idiots threw into the skip, it was never full. That’s because it’s magic, pronounced that lady and returned to her book.

And on it went. Mr No. 6, considering that his recent promotion at work required a higher standard at home, threw in the old desk and swivel chair in his study, paused briefly, then added the standard lamp, the bookshelves, the small sofa, the angle-poise and the desk furniture. His wife thought of all the dinner-parties she was ordered to provide for important clients and hurled in her recipe books and kitchen utensils. Warming to her work, she added the kitchen furniture, cooker, fridge, washing-up machine and micro-wave. Mr No. 6 cast an appraising eye over their dining-room suite, found it wanting and threw it all into the skip. His wife did the same to the living-room. Spindy, cocking a leg, as was his habit, against the wheel of their BMW, nearly got brained by a flying coffee-table.

Mr No. 2 declared that if the No. 6s could afford to throw away their furniture, so could he. And set about heaving the entire contents of his living-room, dining-room and kitchen into the skip. Mrs No. 6 returned for the bedroom suite. Mr No. 2 threw in his greenhouse and Mr No. 6, their bathroom fittings. Mr No. 4 said it had been his idea and he wasn’t going to be left out. In went the entire contents of his house and garden down to the ornamental rocks round his pond, three garden gnomes and a fake Greek statue.

During the somewhat shocked hiatus that ensued, the teacher sauntered down the road and casually dropped in the new mobile phone his wife had given him that he disliked so much. She, for her part, had long since dumped in the new high-tech laptop that was to replace the friendly little machine she found perfectly adequate for her needs.
But material had begun to run short. Visits to the skip tailed off and ceased. On the Friday afternoon, the skip was finally full. The teacher made the last contribution of all: a little paper flag stuck jauntily on top of the mountain of jetsam, which read “…and one raccoon”.

Next morning the skip had vanished, as soundlessly as it had come. There was no sign to show it had ever been there.

The end of the story? Well, not quite. With the skip’s disappearance, a shroud of silence settled on the street. The inhabitants of Nos. 2, 4 and 6 were looking glumly round their bare homes. What had possessed them? Where were they to sit and sleep, how were they to cook? Fortunately, the postman brought a bumper bundle of advertising bumf, reminding buyers that boutiques, stores and shopping malls would be open for business that Sunday. Slowly they began to revive.

Next morning, they rose bright and early and were off into town with their credit cards. Their departure was observed by Mrs No. 1 and Spindy, who had only just managed to pee against the BMW before it screeched off, showering him with gravel. He gave an aggrieved whine and the old woman bent down to comfort her dog: “Never mind, Spinders. They’re all mad and that’s the truth,” she confided. The mongrel licked her hand and treated his mistress to a whiskery grin.

© Ariel Wagner-Parker, 2002 - published in "kulturissimo mensuel", December, 2002

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