“Iron!” The cats growled. They were hungry, mangy and matted. They fought amongst themselves as I sat resting against a brick with the bottom half of a broom and two thirds of a rake. “I have no food,” I said, “I don’t look for it like you.” The tomcat cursed at me, “No, Iron, tell our kittens your story, would you please?” I looked at the tomcat, a cat that would rarely speak nicely to anyone. “Well, you did ask like that,” I said. With this, I began with a shout.
“Criminal!” She screamed towards the closed door. She seemed to over-react, I thought. I was dropped on the cloth-covered table and she stomped towards the only entryway. I sat and glanced out the window seeing a picturesque winter evening. The snow fell lightly towards the white world. There was a layer of frost from the fog that morning and the window was beginning to trace tiny fractals of ice up the panes. She opened the door and stood looking at a large man with a beard.
She looked him up and down and he asked, “Why the scream, dear?” She smiled and touched his arm, “The damned iron just short circuited.” He laughed, smiling at the reaction of his loving wife and asked, “But your OK, no shock?” She looked him straight in the eye. “I may need a new one, I suppose. Throw it in the trash with the rest, the truck comes tomorrow.” He walked into the room and lifted me up by my old black handle. He brought me downstairs and through their house to the garage. He lifted the lid of the trash bin and set me on top.
I sat in that bin all night in the dark. I sat and thought of better days, when I had worked perfectly. Why couldn’t they repair me? No use, I thought. It was simply time to replace me. I’m sure if you asked them they could list reasons why a new iron would be a much better way to spend their money. I’m sure the price of a repair on a seven-year-old iron like myself is not equal to my worth. Money better spent on one of the new irons, with all the unnecessary dials and that.
The bin was pulled out to the end of the driveway on a busy street the next morning. The vehicles moved past the house carefully as it was very cold and the road had a layer of ice on it. Quite quickly after I had arrived at the street a large truck came and stopped next to the corner. I heard the bins next to me emptied into the side of the truck. The man then grabbed my bin. He pulled the lid off and poured the contents into truck. I sat surrounded by wrappers with an old coffeepot to my left.
The coffeepot looked at me. I looked at the coffeepot. After a few exchanged glances and a moment of silence the coffeepot smiled and extended his handle. “Jake’s my name,” he said in a friendly manner. I looked at him and realized I didn’t have a name. I couldn’t think of a response for Jake. I knew I had to respond with something. “Is it your time too?” I asked, somewhat knowing the answer.
Jake laughed. “I suppose it may be. My people left the burner on over a weekend and I cracked myself up the backside. I can’t tell you were my other half is. I’m trying not to think about that. Why you in here?” I told Jake, “I’m not fully sure. I was working fine one minute and the next there was a large spark of light, some fuzzy noises and I just quit. I’m not a doctor, I’m an iron.” Jake smiled, “Seems like a short-circuit. It’s a waste to throw a perfectly good appliance out like this.”
“I wish I could have argued,” I said. I felt hopeless and I’m sure Jake had picked up on that. “I got a plan, stranger. It’ll get us out of this place. You’ve heard of where we are headed, right. It is where the crows rule. They are worse than the humans. Crows and big mean old ranked metal irons, cast-iron coffeepots, all that. When appliances get there, well, sir, there ain’t no coming back.” I nodded, “I’ve heard of that place too, I was afraid we were headed there.” “Yes, sir. It is where we are going, but I have a plan.”
He pulled out a wrapper with a map sketched on it. “All we need to do, and I’m saying all we need to do, is get out of this truck.” I looked at him and asked, “How do we do that?” He laughed and started climbing, reaching towards the light with his handle. I sat for a second and began to pull myself towards Jake. We climbed and climbed, missing four stops. At the fifth stop we were near the top. I started to jump and Jake grabbed me, “No, you can’t jump while we are stopped! They’ll just throw us back in, I’ve seen it before, son.”
The truck began to move, so I jumped off the side. My power cable was ripped from my body. A sharp pain tore through my side. I looked up and saw it hanging off the side of the truck. Jake came tumbling soon after. The hatch was lifting but we made it past the side. I hit the ground with a thud. I stood up and dusted myself off and looked around. Jake fell slightly to my left and hit the ground and simply shattered. It may have been the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen near this alley. His glass was in pieces and only his handle and brim remained. He waved at me, “At least I tried to live…” He said, and faded off.
I was on the street, so I climbed to the sidewalk. I jutted through unnoticing passersby. Dancing through their legs I reach the side of a building. I pulled up tight to the building knowing that I had to run or be found. I ran down the block and found a nice alley. It was this alley, to be sure and that is why I have never left. I walked slowly down the middle, glancing with horror and deep thankfulness at the garbage bins to either side. I tried to yell to those inside, “Jump out! When you are there, jump out!” They would understand soon enough.
I kept walking and looking above me, the building drove high into the sky. It was like nothing I had ever seen. Snow covered the ground and began to fall from the sky. I pulled my tired body into a corner and sat silently for a while. The snow began to cover my metal surface and the plastic became very cold. I shivered and reached for a small wrapper to cover myself up with. I had been sitting in this position for a very long time when I heard a rat coming at me from my left.
The rat tapped me on the shoulder and startled me. I swung at him and he jumped back. The rat paused and snarled. He looked me dead in the eyes and said “Look, pal you need to listen to me quick-like. This is my area, back up little broken kid.” I looked him in the eye and said, “I want no trouble, I just jumped for my life from a truck and I’m just looking for a place to sit for a minute.” The rat stated flatly, “This isn’t it, keep moving.” I rose and pulled the wrapper off me. I moved down the alley and the rat laughed.
I moved further down the cold alley, passing more garbage bins and eventually finding a nice cinderblock. I climbed atop it and sat down once again. I needed to make a plan. I had nowhere to go and it was the dead of winter, I was cold and would die if it were possible. I had heard of hypothermia and was afraid I would catch my death of a cold. This thought was stifled by the realization that I had no real body. I felt a bit safer in my condition.
I sat atop that cinderblock all night, keeping vigilant watch for the rats and things that would cause me trouble. I had nothing of value and was truly useless, as my cord had been ripped off in the garbage truck. It was painful but I was glad it would not hinder my journey. The next morning two rats being chased out of a doorway by a small Chinese man woke me from my slumber. I was covered with a thin layer of snow and a wrapper I used to stay warm. The Chinese man glanced at me and walked towards the cider block. He brushed the snow off me and picked me up.
He examined me for a while and noted I was of no use, not because he knew I had short-circuited but because he noticed I had no power cord. He placed me back on the cinder block and left me there. I brushed the rest of the snow off the top of the surface as soon as he turned his back. He walked inside the doorway and shut the door with a thud. I climbed off the cinder block and began to briskly move back towards the other end of the alley.
I hadn’t made it far when I was approached by one of the rats that were shooed out of the Chinese man’s doorway. The rat came to me and I was noticeable scared. He looked at me and said, “Hey man, don’t worry. We’re all in this together, right.” I said to him, “Look man, I’ll keep moving if this is your territory.” “No man, look, it’s like I said before. Here, have some bread.” I took the small piece from the rat and tried to find a way to eat it. I couldn’t find the hole that he had to chew with.
He looked at me and said, “Oh, you aren’t a being like us, are you? One of them inanimate objects, hey? I know just the place you’ve got to go. Give me that bread back.” I handed him the piece of bread and he motioned for me to move down the alley with him. “I have your back, kid. Remember to be careful. This is the gritty street, down on this level. I wish one day to be one of them big things, you know that sort. We all live off their leavings. Like that guy chasing me out of his building. One of them.” I laughed, “Yeah, I know the type.”
We walked quite a while making very little conversation and he ate both pieces of his bread. I looked around and saw the alley did not change at all. Another dumpster was usually followed by a few cinder blocks. Once in a while there was on old plastic chair. The rat stopped by one of these chairs and reached in to a large metal pot and grabbed a handful of cigarette butts. He lit these with a large orange lighter he had hidden behind the landing near the chair. “Ever try these, man?” He asked as he smoked the butt. I said to him, “I don’t have a hole to do that either, I don’t think. You’re using the same one.”
The rat smoked his cigarette and laughed to himself. “I love this stuff, makes me feel like a big man. They say it stunts your growth though. I say it adds to the growth of you personality. Your voice changes, becomes older sounding. Like a cool, refreshing hit of this stuff. I don’t know what it is, but the French have a word for that.” He put the end of the cigarette out in the snow and we marched on again.
After a few more bricks and cinder blocks we arrived at a large hole in the wall. There was a board over it, but a gap in the board was just large enough for a broken old iron like myself to fit through. It was dark inside and kind of murky. The damp was nice; it was much warmer than being cold and wet in the snow. We traveled briskly down the tight corridor. The rat would turn every few steps to see if I was still behind him. He glanced and acted surprised nearly every time I was still behind him.
He stopped and moved a board to the side. There was a light behind it. “Here it is, partner.” The rat told me, “End of my line.” I was not sure where he had brought me but thanked him for it. He replied “A good deed a day seems to help keep me fed.” I thanked him again and he scurried down the path the way we came. I glanced into the light and saw little. I moved the board and slid through.
A calculator greeted me. He was missing three buttons on the number pad and the screen had been scratched rather badly. He bumped into me and apologized. “Who is this here?” he asked. I spoke softly, “I’m just an old beaten iron, trying to find a new lease on life.” He moved towards a desk lamp, grabbed his body and asked, “Who is that?” The lamp looked at me and said to the calculator, “I ain’t ever seen this cat. Who are you?” I was ready for some questioning so replied softly again, “I’m just an old beaten iron.” The lamp looked at me and said, “Look, Ernie here, with the numbers, he’s good at math but rather blind. Me, David, I hold the light, still. I’m just always on. You can’t try to turn my light off. Its been done. My bulb is burnt, but I feel it. I’m sure you do too. You, Iron, you must have something right.”
“I don’t know,” I said to the lamp, “I jumped from a truck, they sent me away because I was broken.” “Just like the rest of us, nearly all of us anyway,” the lamp said. The calculator said to me quickly, “Look you got something in you. You are here now. That means you have a certain joy of life. A thirst for adventure, right?”
I looked at the broken old tools in the room. There were many, including an old chess set they seemed to be fighting amongst themselves, a small TV that was missing both dials and was telling a group of dishes a story and a bottom of a rake that was found rather recently with his friend a bent up old metal dustpan. “Well,” I told the calculator, “I think I may have found the place I was looking for.” The lamp joyously bounced up and down, “That’s the spirit! Welcome to our home.”
I stayed at their shelter for the winter and made many friends there with rather similar stories. Many of the beat-up appliances were just trying to avoid the dump like myself. I shared the story of Jake the coffeepot with the friends I made and they claimed not many glass-based products make it out in the gritty world there is. They were not surprised he broke on impact with the cement. It seemed a common tale around these parts. The products were all making use of their existences after they were discarded, and they were all very happy to not be fighting the fight at the junkyards we had heard about through myths. It seemed everyone here was in this act together and at some point we would all have to move on.
In the spring, when the snow melted we all moved briefly outside. This move was brought to an abrupt end when fellows from inside, some bigger items, were thrown back into dumpsters one night. We became scared and now, as we all finally know better we only come outside during the day. This world is an uncertain one, we never know who may be thrown back in a dumpster and brought to the wrecking yard.
This warning is not for you, children. We are not the same beings. The worst you can fear is a fight with other cats or maybe staying off the road. The humans care for what they call “living things.” If the humans find you, they take you and feed you. They cuddle and try and help you. In our world they try to destroy us. Sending us to a lot outside humanity where we are pushed and buried amongst each other. I have heard tales of irons and such coming back from there. It is a horrid existence still. Feel lucky you are a cat. You can run and jump and play. Your shape does not hinder you. You are free to do much more than us. You all are lucky to be cats. Myself, I am an iron.