Episode 3: Mystery at the Old Town Dump
This is about more things I saw down by the bank. Here we go again…
Down by the bank, I carried my snowshoes. The winter terrain was torn up by big, rude tire tracks. Bullies! Incidentally, if you see a guy carrying his snowshoes in the winter, you know the terrain’s bad. Couldn’t be bothered snowshoeing up that hill! The old town dump was to my left. To my right – steam rising up from the evaporator plant’s warm, saltwater settling pools. Below me, dirty snow full of deep 4 x 4 tracks. Nature! I was manoeuvring round those rude tracks when I looked up and spotted her.
Like an arty film edit, she suddenly appeared – centre of the horizon. She was dressed in dark winter clothing – no hat – and carried a large black purse. She was walking towards the road. Soon, she’d be out of view. She seemed like a regular person, but I don’t know; some men might have thought she was a goddess – goddess of the dump. I imagined her walking into the Bedford, approaching the bar and taking a seat next to a lonely Blue Jays baseball cap. I imagine the conversation between her and the guy resting comfortably beneath said cap.
Haven’t seen you here before.
Haven been here before.
Buy you a drink?
Where you from?
The old town dump.
The old town dump? What on Earth was she doing there? Seemed like an odd place for someone dressed like her to be casually walking, especially in the snow. Was she on the way to work in town? There were no homes nearby. How did she get there? Why not walk on the road? I was so curious, my pace quickened. I wanted to get to the top of that hill and see what was up. Damn – that was a steep hill … and those tire tracks! It was a chore.
When I reached the top, I looked right. I looked left. What the hell? She vanished! Where’d she go? Did a car pick her up? How did they know where to find her? Did I even see a car go by? Weird. It didn’t add up. It got me thinking.
Maybe she worked at the evaporator plant; one of the movers and shakers. Maybe I could ask her about some of that stuff, down by the bank. But why did she walk from the plant all the way down to the old town dump, in the wind and snow? To smoke? To go to the bathroom? There must be bathrooms at the evaporator plant, I figured (they were keen on water); and the men that worked there – the other movers and shakers – I couldn’t see them being sensitive to cigarette smoke. Call it a hunch. Now, I don’t want to paint a bad picture, but I’m gonna. What the hell was her game? The theme from Law and Order got stuck in my head – always a bad sign.
That plucky baseline filled me full of purpose. I have a theory that the guy who played the Law and Order baseline also did the Seinfeld base, but that’s another story for another day. Back at the old town dump, my snow shoes and I looked for evidence. My eyes interrogated the snow. New to the area, the snow had a clean record; a real smooth operator, calm as houses – the type my snowshoes liked. Under scrutiny, it broke; quickly giving up the woman’s solitary journey. My eyes followed her careful tracks back to a large snow-covered pile of dirt. Pile of dirt? She came from a pile of dirt? We all end up in one, when you think of it; but not the other way around. Curiosity was getting the best of me. Should I follow her tracks and see what was behind that pile of dirt? Why was I hesitating? What would I see there? Would I want to see it? Did I really want to know what she’d been doing back there? Why were there tracks leading away from the pile but none leading into it? Confused, and no better off than when I began my investigation, my snowshoes and I headed home.
When I got home, I made the mistake of telling my father about the woman from the old town dump. I was ill prepared for his Russian doll logic. He started with a simple theory – she was living back there, behind the pile of dirt. Then it got bigger. They lived there. Homeless people were camped out everywhere: in the town bush, next to the railway tracks and behind Zehrs – in the young town dump. But a pile of dirt? It wasn’t big enough for people to live behind. In the winter? I didn’t have time to contemplate her relationship with the pile of dirt at the old town dump. My father added layer after layer of theories, the doll growing bigger and bigger, reaching statue size in a confusing swirl of small-town gossip, innuendo and half-truths populated by drug dealers, prostitutes and burglars; culminating in a vast conspiracy that may or may not involve the remains of Jimmy Hoffa. There was a lot going on behind that pile of dirt!
To this day, the mystery remains unsolved (where is Robert Stack when you need him?). I still think of the mysterious woman at the old town dump. I still see her solitary tracks leading away from that snow covered pile of dirt. While I may never learn her secrets, I will always carry this story with me. Who knows – maybe she wrote a story about a man carrying snowshoes who was tracking her. All good mysteries have many sides to the story – not that this is any great shakes. Let’s face it: the old town dump isn’t exactly Loch Ness, Area 51 or Jack the Ripper’s London. But mystery can be found anywhere, if you’re willing to look.