****submitted by Fred Johnson, Vice President of the Bond County Recycling Association***
Alumie Can's first memories of his birth were all the sounds. The tinkling as they bumped into each other and the clanking of the conveyor belts as they whisked through the darkness. When he burst into the light, the scene almost took his breath away. He saw rows and rows of aluminum cans. He was an aluminum can. Alumie was surrounded by his brothers and sisters, the girls were nervously giggling with an occasional shriek, the boys acting bravely, spoke out boldly.
Alumie was wondering what they would be filled with as they sped toward a divider. The girls went off one way, the boys the other. His questions were soon answered as they came into the paint room. He could feel the cool, wet paint as it covered his skin. Then in a reflection of a window, he saw he was a soda can. Like his father, Steele Can, and his grandfather, Coffe Can, before him, he was a beverage container.
As they traveled out of the paint room into a gathering area, he saw that his brothers were painted up as colas, root beer and other stronger sodas. His sisters were painted as the softer drinks like orange, lemon lime and such. Then came the filling room, as the cola filled his insides with its cool liquid, the fizz made his nose itch and tickled his sides. As they sealed his top, he let out a soft burp.
Out of the filling room into the packaging room, he was put into a carton with his brothers. As the top was closing to shroud them in darkness, Alumie began to worry. What was going to happen to him? Then a deep, gruff voice from the corner of the box broke the silence. It was Old Sarge. "Don't worry kid, you will do just fine. This is my third time to be recycled. This trip will be a breeze. You should have been with me on my first trip. Oh, never mind that" he said. "You guys have it made. You colas will be going to a party or a picnic. Some little kid will pick you and when you are empty, he will put you into a recycling bin and you will start all over again."
Old Sarge was right. Alumie and his brothers and sisters made it to a store shelf when one day there was a buzz of talk as a young man came down the aisle. Old Sarge whispered to Alumie, "That young man is youth director for a kid's camp and they recycle their cans." Alumie watched as the young man picked up the cans of his brothers and sisters. He wanted to yell, "Pick me, pick me." Then the young man looked right at Alumie and reached out and picked him up with his strong, gentle hand. He placed Alumie in a basket with his brothers and sisters. Alumie swelled up with pride. He was going to a youth camp and would be recycled.
It was hot and dusty in the camp's store room. Alumie was confused, as this was not what he thought a youth camp would be like. As he let out a soft sigh, he heard the reassuring voice of Old Sarge. "Cheer up kid. Our day will come."
Old Sarge was right again. The next day the lights came on and there was a flurry of activity as the camp director called out orders and the kids began to pull supplied from the shelf. He saw a young boy reach out and pull him from the shelf. Alumie was put into a cooler with some of his brothers and sisters. Then the clinking sound of ice being poured in was cooling them. Alumie's skin tingled partly from the cold ice and the excitement that he felt as the cola inside began to cool.
Once again Old Sarge broke the silence. "See, I told you so. We are going on a picnic." It was a beautiful day. The sun was shinning on the camp's green grass while the kids were running and laughing as they played their games. Then it was lunch time. The table was full of all kinds of food, and the kids gathered in to fill their plates and get their drinks. The young boy who took Alumie from the store room shelf reached into the cooler and pulled Alumie out. The next hour or so went by in a blur and Alumni, now empty, sat on the end of the table with his other empty brothers and sisters.
The Alumie heard the camp leader tell the kids it was time to clean up the area. "Put the cans and other recyclables in the recycling bin." As the kids went about following these instructions, a gust of wind blew Alumie and two of his brothers off the table. He heard some one say, "Pick those cans up before they get lost." A little girl came and picked up Alumie's two brothers. But Alumie had landed under the table in the tall grass and the little girl didn't see him. He heard the leader say, "Let's look around one more time before we leave." Alumie's hopes raised as the little girl came back and looked under the table. But, she didn't see him laying there.
Alumie lay there all alone as he heard the bus start up and the kids running to get back on for the ride to the camp. Oh how he wished Old Sarge was there to comfort him.
It was quiet in the park and the sun was getting low in the sky. Alumie was scared and began to whimper. But a noise made him stop and he lay still and listened. Something was coming. He could see a small black and white animal that was sniffing around. He lay real still as they animal pressed his cold, wet nose to Alumie's open top. The animal took a couple of sniffs and moved on.
Alumie was about to let out a sigh of relief, but another gust of wind blew a paper against the table leg. Alumie called out to the paper for help, but the paper frowned and said, "Be quiet and lay still. The maintenance crew is coming. Everything they pick up goes straight to the land fill. Your only hope is to make it through the night when an elderly couple comes to look for recyclable items. Got to go," the paper said, as a puff of wind blew him along.
Alumie lay as still and quiet as he could as he heard a voice say, "Let's go. It's getting late and the land fill will be closing." Alumie could see the scuffed toe of the work boot next to the table. Maybe he had not been seen. Then a coarse, dirty hand reached down and pulled Alumie from under the table. His worse fears had been realized as the hand tossed him into the back of a truck piled high with soiled plates and other garbage. Alumie landed on top of the pile next to a half eaten hot dog. The man said, "We will have to drive fast if we want to get to the landfill before they close." Alumie heard the truck engine start up. With a lurch and a jump the truck was flying down the road to the land fill. As they were leaving the camp grounds the truck hit a speed bump and the stuff in the back of the truck flew all around the truck bed. Alumie hit and rolled toward the back of the truck and with one more roll he was out and falling onto the road. His joy was short lived as he saw another truck coming right at him. He rolled with all his might for the side of the road. The big tire missed crushing his thin sides, but blew him off into a deep ditch.
Alumie was feeling pretty good about his escape until he looked around. The ditch was covered with forgotten recyclable papers, plastic bottles and things. But what gripped him with fear was the dented, faded soda can. Alumie called out to him, "How long have you been here?" he asked. The old, lost soda can sadly shook his head and said, "I don't know. I have lost all track of time."
Alumie drifted off, into a restless sleep, surrounded by all the lost recyclables. He awoke the next morning to the sound of a car coming slowly down the road. A woman's voice said, "Stop the car. I see something in that ditch." Alumie looked up to see a grandmotherly lady with white work gloves on. She reached into the ditch and began picking up the recyclables. He saw the gloved hand reach down to him and felt the warm glove pick him up. He was placed gently into a box with the other recyclable aluminum cans. Then he heard her say, "This box is full. Let's go to the recycling bin."
A few minutes later, Alumie was dumped into the big recycling dumpster with the other cans. He landed with a bump that put one more dent into his scratched and dented skin. But he didn't care, because now he felt safe.
As he went over the events of the last few days, some one nudged his side and he heard Old Sarge say, "Glad to see you made it, kid." Alumie thought that he had heard a catch in Old Sarge's voice and it sounded a little softer.
As Alumie leaned against Old Sarge and drifted off to sleep, he welled up with pride because he knew that he had fulfilled his destiny. He would be recycled.