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Confessions of an Amateur Garbologist

By Carl S ~

Usually, when tourists and summer residents to our state come around every summer, they move in a different mode and have a very different itinerary from us full time residents. Rarely do I have much chance to go beyond small talk with them. David L. happened to be an exception, as lone travelers are apt to be. Dave was hanging around the cafe’ one July morning a year ago, and he turned out to be one of those unforgettable characters we sometimes read about but seldom meet. It turned out that Dave, who is what old timers would call a "plain vanilla" blue-collar worker, had a lot more to offer in life experiences than he had to learn from me. So, being willing to be fascinated, I took in a lot of what he related.

Dave is a trash collector for a national collecting company. He said something about it being the, “anytime, anywhere, anything, and everything confidential" company, as unofficially coined by the employees. (They even haul away and dispose of nuclear waste.) Dave worked in several states for a while before he ended up in a settled place with a regular route. He was assigned to collecting outside the cities. In an earned position of trust, he picked up disposals mostly from homes of the rich and famous. After some years of this, he got curious after hearing about "professional garbologists," who sort through the trash of city dwellers to find out their tastes in food and culture, personal correspondence, bills, etc. They were studying history in the making. He decided to try being a non-professional garbologist, for fun. Although he's in a position of confidentiality, he decided to give in to the temptation to pry, "just once." Of course, what he found led to more investigating. One of his pick-up customers happens to be the mansion of a Catholic cardinal. I had to stop him then, to tell him I'm an atheist, (as if he didn't read, "atheist" on my hat before he sat down), so I'm interested in all things religious, especially if something is inside information. "In that case," he said, "I have something for you." What he found by chance in one toss-out came to be what he calls "the most interesting stuff I'd ever seen."

"One morning, I’m loading, and a servant comes running out with a large transparent bag of shredded papers. Every week, they're there, and so I asked him what's inside. Prayer requests from all the dioceses. They’re submitted with the utmost secrecy, so nobody'll see them again after the Cardinal. I asked if the cardinal ever gets thank-you cards for answered prayers, or nasty replies asking why they weren't answered. ‘How the hell would I know? He doesn't talk about them.’ On the way out I started wondering what else he didn’t talk about. There it all began. After that day, I started throwing their bags into a secret section in back that I prepared, and then I hid them in the woods where I could pick them up after work.

People tell me nobody can be good without God in our lives..."One afternoon, I came across some crumpled-up papers from more than a year before, under fresh potato and carrot peelings. They were from the Vatican, with official letterhead, and the pope's signature, written in Latin and English. These were different from the others I'd seen. They had thin black borders on them, announcing a funeral. God had died. It proclaimed his funeral would be held on the following Tuesday, and that prelates of the Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Islamic, Mormon, and Judaist faiths would be in attendance for the ceremonies. Other papers stapled on them listed the thousands of clerics from those faiths who did come and pay their respects."

"I had to ask myself: Is this some kind of a joke, or is this for real? I took one letter over to the library, copied it, tore off the letter, and took the letterhead to a local parish house. The priest confirmed that, ‘Yes, it's the official seal only used for papal correspondence. You see, it has the watermark and a coding built into it, just like U.S. paper currency, so it can't be counterfeited.' Since then, I've got problems: I can't tell him or anyone where I got it from; and if I showed these papers to the media, who'd believe me? Either way, I'd lose my job, maybe pension, who knows? Maybe any future job prospects. So I thought: this is just Too Big. Every news media in the world will be reporting this eventually - it has to leak out. Years later, it's silence everywhere. Who suppresses this, and why? (The only thing that hinted an announcement was a very fast and vague mention on Al Jazeera TV America, now off the air in the U.S, about a "possible meeting of multiple religions."

"Well hell, that was a long time ago, and I'm no religious person myself, but I ask you, isn't the world supposed to be different after God dies? I haven't noticed anything different; in fact, I suppose even those guys who attended the funeral are feeling relieved, ‘cause now they don't have to be worry about pleasing someone so tough and scary as God anymore. They can do things God wouldn't approve of. Or do they? But they haven't changed one bit, from what I can tell. Business as usual, I guess. Don't ask and we won't tell; and we won't tell even if you ask. Funny."

"People tell me nobody can be good without God in our lives, but I don't notice anyone acting any different than they did before he died. (For instance, I'm still seeing the pedophile priest reports in the cardinal’s mail. Can't figure why they miss the shredder.) Life just keeps rolling on, with all the good and bad stuff still happening, just like it always has. With God dead, I feel relieved, but I can't tell you why; I just do. I've always been told I'm supposed to feel free to go out and rape and steal and all that “forbidden fruit stuff," if it ever came to "the cat's away, the mice will play" absence of God. You'd think this would happen for everyone if God's gone forever. So what's up? Why doesn't God's death make any difference in my behavior? I just can't believe it does for the greatest majority of people on earth. And I wonder if the news of his death isn't getting out because some people might be forced to realize that without God in the picture, nothing changes. After, all, God hasn't been active for ages, from what I’ve seen. Maybe he had a lingering death that's been going on for centuries. You'd figure God would have a long time period to die in. Maybe the witnesses at the funeral are scared or threatened by God's death because they and their livelihoods are at stake, as much as I'm deterred in revealing his death for the same reasons?"

What David L. said sounded bizarre but was it official? For the sake of the reader as well as my own curiosity, I skeptically asked to see some evidence. He had it locked in his glove compartment, and all of it looked to be in strict seriousness. But things didn't stop there. Now, if I want to look at it all over again, all I have to do is contact him at his address. I've found him to be a dependable pen-pal, too. He tries to encourage me to hunt through the detritus thrown out by all clergy, to be an "ecclesial garbologist," for what secrets are yet to be uncovered? I told him I think society needs whistle-blowers on the inside. On this we both agree: we won't hold our breaths waiting for the media to announce the Death of God. You can bet your life savings it won't happen until hell freezes over.