Annabella stepped forth into the twilight. Five years old. Curiosity on two skinny legs.
Her home was a trailer propped uncertainly on cinder blocks in a backwater town. At the edge of a backwater town. And in the dark interior of the trailer her father was passed out. Drunk. Lost in a boozy nightmare. Inert at the folding kitchen table. Forehead pressed to the flaky, plastic, simulated wood grain.
And Annabella stepped forth into the twilight.
There were no other kids for company. No playgrounds nearby. Just a burnt-out warehouse, and a public garbage dump. She followed the gravel road up to the chain-link fence that surrounded the dump. The heavy stench from the heap, a smell so familiar to Annabella, was being pushed off away from her by a choppy breeze. She put her fingers up to the fence and walked slowly beside it; feeling her hand vibrate as it skimmed the links. A raccoon crawling out of the dump through a hole under the fence heard her coming and froze halfway out of the hole. Of the two, Annabella was the least startled, but she watched warily as the creature considered her, then jogged off into the low, leafy brush.
The hole under the fence was new and small. The kind of rut a raccoon would make. Or a dog, or a rabbit. The beige earth was dug away to form a U-shaped trough under the links, and the bottom of the fence was bent up and away to make a larger passage.
The evening was cold, and growing colder as it dipped into night. Annabella folded her arms across her body. She considered the hole, and continued on along the fence. But it wasn't long before she turned back and returned to the hole.
She gathered her skirt before her and crawled into the passage. Her head passed through easily, but her shoulders were just a bit too wide. She began pushing with her legs. Pushing. Pushing. At last she came free and emerged fully from the passage, crawling on her hands and knees.
The dump was a great, dark desert of garbage, with rolling dunes of used diapers, newspapers, washing machines, and rotting table scraps. Annabella climbed over the nearest dune. And the one after that. And in the descending darkness, from the crest of a stinking dune, she looked down into a ravine of refuse whose dark shadows were but a stage for a glow. Some slab of phosphorescent, fluorescent, green garbage. Some toxic waste tossed over the fence by disposal workers too lazy to drive the last five miles to the official toxic dump site for one measly slab of deadly whatever-it-is was glowing down there. Beckoning.
Annabella half-climbed, half-tumbled down the hill to the glow. It drew her to itself, charming her with its steady, light. Trailer park Annabella. Drunk daddy Annabella. Dark world dwelling, brown-eyed Annabella. Turned on by the radioactive slab. Entranced by the magic in the night. She kneeled by the glow and studied it intently. Breaking free of her silent reverence, she giggled at the thought of a thing of such unearthly beauty somehow being abandoned in a garbage dump. Tenderly, she picked it up. And carefully, she stole back over the dunes.
Brian Tanaka (firstname.lastname@example.org) lives and frolics in San Francisco. He continues to enjoy writing despite having just graduated from San Francisco State University with a B.A. in Creative Writing. (Bio last updated in 1992.)
InterText stories written by Brian Tanaka: "Glow" (v2n4), "Rufus Won't Wake Up" (v2n4).
InterText Copyright © 1991-1999 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 2, Number 4 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1992 Brian Tanaka.