Contributor: Rachel Scott

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Shuffling, shifting, toiling…lift grate, insert hose, wait, reverse. The Man Who Cleans Street Drains places fists on hips and contemplates the filth inhaled by the plastic elephant’s nose attached to its mechanized body. There has been the usual cacophony of degradation.

“Again? It’s disrupting traffic.”

“That smells like death.”

“Why can’t the city send him in the middle of the night?”

Out of sight, they mean, because it’s hardly respectable to earn a living through the removal of decomposing coffee cups and the corpses of vermin.

“Didn’t you go to college?” a peer with two mobile phones jeers in passing.

The Man Who Cleans Street Drains feels pity for his accuser’s manic pace and need to destroy in order to survive. There is no defensiveness, because a former CEO down the block refills soda machines, and a woman at the department store was a journalist and is now a janitor. At night, of course.

The plastic nose sniffles, and The Man Who Cleans Street Drains packs up and moves to the next metal grate. Someone approaches…a scruffy junkie with a devastated look on his face.

“Take this,” he says, handing over a yellow ticket with numbers on it. “It’s a winner. Not much, like a thousand or something. But I’m quitting…definitely. I want to quit. Take it from me.”

The Man Who Cleans Street Drains receives the yellow handout from the giver and watches him fade into the atmosphere. He glances at the lottery lifeline briefly as he thinks of hard labor and self worth. He lets it fall down the drain to join the refuse claimed by the artificial feast of his own control.

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Rachel Scott is a high school English teacher who has a deeply eccentric love of all things British, and has also spent the last three summers studying Shakespeare at Oxford University.
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