Ghosts of Plastics Past

plastic ghost

“You seriously don’t care, do you?” The unimpressed brow of her friend expressed her distaste as Vivian came back to the car, her arms laden with heavy plastic bags.

‘I care.” 

“You clearly don’t.” Cherry glared pointedly at the offending bags and put her hand on her hips in her usual characteristic pose of disapproval. 

Vivian sighed, turning away, tried to ignore her friend’s glare that was lazering into her back. “Could you please get off my back?”

“Could you please stop using plastic bags?” Cherry snapped back at her, tossing her head at the same time.

“Listen, you tree hugging hippie, the last thing I need is a lecture from you, I deal with that enough at uni.”

“You use plastic even when you don’t have to! You have drink bottles yet you continue to use plastic bottles, you have reusable shopping bags and you continue to use these plastic bags over and over again!” She jabbed at the sad pile of used plastic bags that were crunched in the corner of the car, fluttering helplessly against the slight breeze that was passing through.

“I’m lazy.”

“That’s not an excuse!”

Vivian slammed the boot in irritation and straightened up.

“Do you want a ride or not? You can walk home if you’re so concerned about the environment.”

Cherry sighed in defeat and fell silent. She marched to the front of the car in a huff, her multicoloured dreadlocks swinging behind her. Vivian followed her with a look of amusement on her face, keys jangling.

Later that evening, as Vivian took out the garbage, she recalled the exchange with a twinge of guilt. She knew that she was careless, very careless, but if somebody asked her, she could honestly say it wasn’t that she didn’t care. It was more that she didn’t care enough to do anything about it. Anyway, there were enough environmentalist warriors out there, like Cherry for instance. She, Vivian had other more urgent concerns to deal with. Her turd bin of an ex for instance. The fact her mother decided to remarry for the fourth time, despite the ink on the divorce papers barely being dry. Or the drunken teenagers yelling and singing across the street at this very moment. Wasn’t it past their bed time?? Vivian slammed the lid of the garbage bin and rushed out to the front gate of her house, grabbing an egg carton from her fridge. She started hurling abuse at them and when they started swearing back at her as she knew they would, she emptied her egg carton on them until they were forced to scatter, though they still managed to swear obscenities at her as they did so. Vivian slammed her front door closed and flung herself on her couch. Definitely had more urgent matters to deal with. Definitely. Furthermore, now she had no eggs to eat for breakfast tomorrow. Stupid teenage hooligans.

“Wake up, wake up!’

Vivian groaned and turned over. “Leave me alone!”

She felt a heavy weight land on her and scrabble around the doona that was tangled around her legs.

The heavy weight barked and sniffed despite the fact she kept turning over to avoid it. Resembling a poorly wrapped mummy, Vivian gave a growl of irritation. Then it hit her.

She didn’t own a dog.

Vivian bolted upright and by reflex threw the dog away from her. 

It landed with a yelp and looked at her accusingly from the ground.

“That was unnecessary.” It said with a look of grievous hurt on its shaggy face.

The speed and explicitness of the language that collided into her mind would have horrified her mother. Vivian stared at the dog, her face frozen in utter disbelief.

What did she take last night?? What did she take last night?? She racked her brain furiously, but the only thing Vivian could recall was fuming about eggs and then falling asleep in an angry heap.

Had she finally lost her mind? Had she finally snapped? She stared at the dog and even in her shock, she couldn’t help notice that it looked vaguely familiar.

“Have you forgotten me already, Vivian?”

Candy. It was Candy, her dog from when she was a child. It was over a decade ago now. So, if the dog was dead and she was seeing the dog then-

“I’m dead.” Vivian said her last realisation out loud. ‘I’m a dead person.”

“You’re not dead, Silly Billy.” Candy jumped back on her and nudged her shoulder with her wet nose.

“I must be dead because you’re dead.” Vivian looked at her dog, her eyes filling with tears.

‘I’m dead but that doesn’t mean you are.” Vivian looked at Candy, not understanding.

“I can explain to you later but right now you need to get out of bed.” Candy gently nudged Vivian again and started to untangle the doona around them.

‘Where are we going?” Vivian asked allowing herself to be pushed out of her couch

“Hold my collar, you’ll see.”

Vivian reached down and took hold of the navy blue collar with the gold bell on it. Something in her heart gave a little pang as she did so but before she could dwell on it longer, she felt herself get pulled into what felt like an air vacuum. A moment later, she felt herself getting pushed out. She landed on something soft yet spiky and Candy was next to her as she straightened up. It was somebody’s lawn. Her lawn to be exact. Her lawn when she was 16 years old. The rather overly manicured garden that her mother had insisted on having. The white, imposing house that still managed to be oddly frilly, reminiscent of Antebellum America. Pale curtains and curlicued gates. The sun was too bright, the scent of jasmine a little too strong. The sound of crying in the distance broke her train of observation and following Candy, they made their way to where it was coming from. It was her mother, looking much younger and her stepfather, definitely not looking like all the life had been sucked out of him were on the veranda, talking in a tone that clearly expressed distress.

Her mother was sobbing and her stepfather’s face was lined with sadness.

“We shouldn’t tell her.” Her stepfather said softly, moving to hug her mother.

‘Poor little guy.” Her mother whispered. She leaned down to stroke something Vivian couldn’t see. “Poor little thing.”

“We should have warned her.” Her stepfather continued, looking down at her mother.

“We did.” Her mother replied in anguish. “I told her over and over again, do not leave those plastic things around the lawn. Do not leave them lying around or else something can choke on it…”

“We shouldn’t tell her what happened though, she is such an empathetic thing.”

Her mother and her stepfather moved away and Vivian finally saw what had been hidden from her view. Her heart dropped with a suddenness that stopped her breath.

‘They told me you ran away!”

“I know they did.”

There was no accusation in Candy’s eyes when Vivian looked at him. Only sorrow.

“Listen to me Vivian.” Candy padded closer to her and rubbed his face against her leg. “You will be visited by two more ghosts after me. You can’t get away from them, just follow and listen to them.”

Candy gave her one last gentle nudge then a slow wind seemed to pull him away from her. “Take care of yourself, Vivian.”

Then he was gone. An empty space where he used to be. Then the scenery too, seem to dissolve around her and she closed her eyes, feeling herself sink until she was once again on her worn couch. When she opened her eyes, she found herself staring straight into the green eyes of her father, her father who had died when she was 6 years old.

plastic tree ghost