Dust man

December 12, 2013 at 7:41 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments
Tags: , , , ,
Heading out.

Dead and gone.

At primary school there was a small, T-shaped space behind the toilet block.

It housed an incincerator, and the man who kept it.

The area was bordered by trees and strictly out of bounds.

But through the chain-link fence and foliage, you could glimpse the device if you tried.

It looked to be cast iron, painted silver.

The air intakes were shaped like halved grapefruits – almost floral.

The contraption sat in silence, smoking sporadically; awaiting its next meal.

Also mute was its keeper, who wore a coat as grey as the ashes he shovelled.

In six years at the school, I never heard this man speak.

Nor did I ever see him collect refuse from the grounds.

He simply appeared, on occasion, to feed the incinerator with boxes of paper that spontaneously materialised.

There were never any flames; just languid wreaths in the autumn sky.

Today it seems extraordinary  that a strange man in a filthy coat would be allowed to combust behind the boys’ and girls’ toilets.

But in those days, kids could safely knock on strange doors for bob-a-job week.

Like the papers, the dust man, the incinerator and their reason for being,

have all vanished

in time.

Brought to you by The Feisty Empire.



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  1. Brilliant writing, cant wait for the next instalment!



    Malcolm Owens General Manager Sales & Marketing | Kubota Tractor Australia

    P: (03) 9394 4425 | M: 0419 524 559 | F: (03) 9394 4410 25-29 Permas Way, Truganina 3029, Victoria, Australia mowens@kubota.com.au | http://www.kubota.com.au

    Follow us on: P Please consider the environment before printing this email

    • Bloody ripper, Malcolm! I was so hoping you’d like it. I’m also hoping it’ll trigger more memoirs at your end, as I recall you get very good when describing your childhood. Thanks so much for your swift endorsement of this latest effort. Kind regards, P. 🙂

  2. Lovely vignette. Your bio’s been quiet of late, so I’m pleased to see the smoke rising. It sure was easy to be a fell human being in the old days, and many of us paid. Your dust man may well have been a stand-up guy, but plenty weren’t. Hey, on another note, I like this Malcolm fellow. He sure knows how to make himself known via comments. I’d send him a fax, if I knew what that was. Keep them coming!

    • Thank you very much, Ad. I’ve been feeling (and ignoring) the call to write for some months now. After much reflection, I’ve concluded that I’m one of those souls who simply must write, or pay the price of chronic discomfiture. And so I’ve heeded the call. Your generous comment makes me feel this was a fine call indeed. Best regards, P. 🙂

  3. I had completely forgotten about the old incinerator at school (and home) – i can almost smell it reading your post. Keep it coming please.

    • Wow; what a great amen, Nikki! I’m delighted to have triggered a memory in that fine mind of yours. Thank you for the compliment – which is exactly the validation I need to keep writing apace. Fond regards, F! 🙂

  4. I treasure reader comments and hate to lose track of any. So here are some bulk-ace responses from Facebook:

    Darin Draper: Nice one Paul. We had a similar incinerator built from red bricks. No attendant though. I love the image of the “languid wreaths in the autumn sky”

    Paul Hassing: Thank you kindly, Darin. I originally had summer sky because it sounded better. But then I realised summer meant school holidays. I wouldn’t have been there to witness. Also, autumn better fitted the mood of decline I was trying to create. So glad you dug it! Kind regards, P.

    Darin Draper: You have a gift for bringing obscurity into wonderful frames.

    Alison Fitzgerald: Awesome Feisty, I could see it, smell it, hear it and sense it….ahhhh the memories!

    Paul Hassing: Thanks so much, Darin and Fitz. Your validation fuels my creativity like you wouldn’t believe.

    Chris van der Pol: Vividly grey, mournful yet nostalgic. Love it.

    Paul Hassing: Egad! That’s just the feeling I was shooting for! Many thanks for taking the time to say so, Chris!

    My deep thanks to you all! 🙂 🙂 🙂

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