anyone else would be up. I took some trash with me as a cover story. If I got caught I could always say I got confused about the bins.
Even though it was all stuff he’d thrown out, and as such could be considered in the public domain, it still felt like breaking and entering: albeit a wheelie bin. I opened his bin and was greeted by that familiar sweat smell of percolating trash. On the top were some old newspapers and magazines: the usual Sunday supplements. There were some cardboard beer cartons, neatly dismembered, and a broken hanger. It hardly spoke volumes about him. Then there were some old vegetables, potato peelings, onion skins, that kind of thing; nothing very personal, nothing very informative, no balled up first drafts of letters or old diaries. I was about to give up when my suspicions were aroused by the meticulous way in which a black plastic sack was tied up about half-way down the bin. I lifted it up. It was quite heavy for its size. I rested the sack on the edge of the bin, balancing it against my chest, and carefully untied the knot formed by the black plastic. It was difficult to undo and it took me some time to open it up. As I opened it I got another whiff of rotting garbage, and then I saw it. I only let myself see it for an instant, that was enough, I let it drop. I let the whole thing drop back into the bin. I hesitated for a moment. I looked around, suddenly worried that someone might be observing me and, I know this sounds silly, I debated, for a moment, whether I should put the other garbage back on top. In the end I didn’t bother, I just went back to my apartment. I felt quite calm. I just went back up the stairs, into my apartment and dialled 911.
When they answered I said I had to speak to the police. I said I had found something they would find interesting, in my neighbour’s garbage. I thought they might ask me what I was doing poking around in his garbage, but they didn’t. I told them what I had found in the bin; a head, a human head, just the head. I gave them our address. I asked them to hurry.
After I hung up the phone I sat down, rather heavily, on the couch. The apartment was very quiet. No noises came from the apartment next door at this time in the morning. He must be sleeping, after all he works late. In my mind I reviewed all the sounds I had been hearing over the previous weeks.
I sat and waited; waited for the reassuring sound of the police siren. But there was no siren as the police arrived. They knocked on my door and asked me to show them what I had found. They followed me down to the basement. They didn’t hurry. They seemed to have no sense of urgency and it bothered me. I showed them the bin. They hesitated, then looked inside.
‘It’s on the top,’ I said.
‘On the top?’
‘Yes. The top bag.’
They lifted it out, looking at one another doubtfully. They placed it on the ground and opened the bag and there was a head; but it was a big old rotten head of cabbage. A whole speckled, stinking, cabbage. They looked up at me from their crouching positions around the bag.
‘Is this some kind of joke?’ they said.
I couldn’t believe it. They didn’t believe it. We went back up to my apartment. On the way I explained to them the things that had aroused my suspicions. They listened quite intently, I thought.