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Ashley Gardana

Bartering Life

It starts out as a large bag of other people's garbage, meticulously found over a week's time. It is then sorted between plastics and other. The other he trades to Tim for chicken meat. The plastic is further sorted between color and clear for washing, but first he has to give two sacs to Nijari to access her water source.

Then, the washing begins. His soggy hands crack and bleed due to years of overuse, a cost of business that stings as he dips them once again in soap.

Tonight he'll eat a little of the chicken but put the rest on ice he borrowed from his brother. He'll need the meat to last the four days of drying.

The drying process is the slowest part. Sometimes, he'll use the break to work on his jokes. The City Center lets people take turns on the platform, as long as others are there to tip the entertainment.

He's doubled his weekly income on a particularly funny day, but today he'd rather read a book under the early spring sun. The park is free for all people, no need to barter for entrance. He sleeps away the afternoon.

The plastic always seems tougher, heavier, after four days drying. On day five he puts it back into the large container to begin his journey to the recycling center. He barters plastic bags and full jugs of water for transportation.

Before long, he's across state lines. He trades in other people's garbage for a two-week fortune. Then, he starts again.

Ashley Gardana is a DC based writer who spends her time working on flash fiction, poems and short stories. Her pieces have recently been published Broad! Magazine and the Literative. You can find more of her work at

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