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In The Park; Open Thread
Topic Started: Oct 27 2009, 12:09 AM (1,158 Views)
MurderWeasel
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((Everett Taylor continued from Simply Studying))

Everett was walking around the small park with a trash bag in his left hand and an absurd grabber-claw device that looked like some B-grade super villain's weapon in his right. He was wearing his oldest pair of jeans and a ratty t-shirt, a far cry from his more formal school attire. He was picking up garbage.

It was astounding how much trash could accumulate in a public area in the space of a month. Everett volunteered a lot of his already-limited free time, not out of a sense of altruism, but because he was pretty sure colleges liked that sort of thing. His applications were all already sent out; he was just waiting to hear back from the schools, but he still kept up with his volunteer work, even though it was no longer strictly necessary. It just wouldn't be right to bail on the causes he had supported for the past couple of years, even if they didn't mean much to him.

Besides, as much as he would have hated to admit it, he actually liked cleaning up the park. People took sickeningly poor care of common property, and it made him feel better to be able to give even a little bit back. It was his way of showing respect for his community.

The park was mostly empty, but there were a couple of people and two little kids. One of the kids ran by, dropping a candy wrapper as he went. Everett grabbed it with the claw, and deposited it into his trash bag. It didn't even annoy him. Kids littering he could understand. Litterers his age, or worse, older, though, they were what really bothered him.

Looking back at the ground, Everett continued his litter sweep. There wasn't all that much left now.
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((Lily continued from Shutterbug))

Most of the school day had gone fairly uneventful for Lily, and as such, she couldn't get anything to write about, a situation that left her sense of pride deflated. She was supposed to be a great journalist, and she couldn't find a damn story for a school newspaper. Great way to start a career, that.

Defeated, but not feeling it necessary to return home, Lily drove to the park. Like what she assumed were many people, Lily found the park a great place to relax, relieve stress by doing essentially nothing. That's essentially what she was doing, walking through the park by herself , when she saw Everett picking up trash in the park.

Lily recognized him from school somewhat, a heavyset guy who seemed to have his hand in a lot of stuff while not being particularly social. What interested her was that he seemed to be doing community service, with no supervision. Was he doing it for himself? She was curious now. A student doing community work in his spare time could make an interesting student highlight human interest piece.

That and she was somewhat bored.

Lily changed course toward the student, feeling around in her pocket to be sure she had her small notepad handy. She stopped a foot or two away from Everett.

"Hey. Making the park a cleaner place?" She said, trying to be conversational as she gave him one of her icebreaker smiles.
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MurderWeasel
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Everett grabbed another piece of trash, this one a cigarette carton, and deposited it in his bag. It stuck to the grabber, so he had to shake it a little, then scrape it against the side of the bag to dislodge it.

He was so distracted by this that he did not notice Lily coming up behind him. When she spoke, though, he turned, managing not to jump, and looked at her. He instantly recognized her from school, and was able to remember that her name was Lily. He felt like there was some reason he knew her, but he had to think for a few moments before he connected her with the newspaper. He'd seen some of her work, and thought it was well done, which was a pleasant change from some of the drivel the underclassmen wrote.

"Oh," he replied to her, a couple seconds slow on the uptake, "yeah, I'm just trying to keep things a little nicer here."

She was smiling nicely at him, which made him smile too. For some reason, Everett always tended to get along fairly well with his classmates when he bumped into them outside of school. He actually liked them better when they weren't in an academic setting, for the most part, because then their antics didn't distract him and make his already difficult school life any harder.

Of course, there were people he would never want to see outside of school. People like Monty Pondsworth.

"I come here once a month," he added, "as part of the adopt-a-park program. Someone's supposed to come by and pick up trash once a week, and this is mine."

He didn't add that the other teenagers from his neighborhood who worked on the park were a bunch of miscreants, who made a halfhearted effort to do their part on good months. Everett usually had to pick up far more than a week's worth of trash. Some months, like this one, the park looked like no one else had even tried to clean it.

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As she listened to Everett, Lily leaned down and picked up discarded candy wrapper that was near her left foot, the label obscured by grime as no doubt people had carelessly trampled it underfoot.

"From the looks of things in this park sometimes, you'd be the only one."

Lily had picked up on the lack of effort as well. Other times she'd been to the park sometimes it looked like it was aching for a cleaning. She always threw a few pieces of garbage away, but she never made a concerted effort.

She walked over to the Everett and tossed the candy wrapper in his bag. She didn't pull out the notebook yet; she'd rather get a few good words in with him before she got all five w's and inverted pyramid on him.

"Do you just pick up the trash, or are there other duties?"
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Everett chuckled a little when Lily said it looked like he was the only one to clean the park. He didn't want to brag or anything, but since she had mentioned it...

"Yeah, well, I'm sure the other people who signed up to help are all really busy with school or something," he said, intoning his voice more sarcastically than usual.

Then she asked him if he had any other duties. There were a few, but not many.

"I check it out when I'm here to make sure everything's in good repair and safe, basic stuff, you know. If anything looks like it needs work I call the city and they're supposed to send someone to check it out. It doesn't always happen, though."

He dug a large black marker out of his pocket and held it up, saying, "I also help remove graffiti. I don't know why people insist on trashing community property, especially stuff that kids use. At least there isn't much here for people to write on.

"So," he said, moving the conversation away from himself a little, "What brings you to the park today?"
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Everett chuckled a little when Lily said it looked like he was the only one to clean the park. He didn't want to brag or anything, but since she had mentioned it...

"Yeah, well, I'm sure the other people who signed up to help are all really busy with school or something," he said, intoning his voice more sarcastically than usual.

Then she asked him if he had any other duties. There were a few, but not many.

"I check it out when I'm here to make sure everything's in good repair and safe, basic stuff, you know. If anything looks like it needs work I call the city and they're supposed to send someone to check it out. It doesn't always happen, though."

He dug a large black marker out of his pocket and held it up, saying, "I also help remove graffiti. I don't know why people insist on trashing community property, especially stuff that kids use. At least there isn't much here for people to write on.

"So," he said, moving the conversation away from himself a little, "What brings you to the park today?"



Lily shrugged, filing away what Everett said in the hindbrain. Sounded like he had a lot on his table for being a high school student. She'd see what else he did later, if he was interested in giving her a story. She would understand if he wanted to remain anonymous.

"Nothing, I guess. Little stressed out with deadlines, but, the park gives me a place to be stressed out at." She bent over and nabbed another piece of trash, this one an empty Doritos bag. "You want a hand? I've got nothing but borrowed time on my hands." She smiled.
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"Sure," Everett said in response to Lily's offer, smiling. It was nice to have a little company now and again, and even better to have some help. He offered her the claw.

"You can use this if you want, so you don't have to touch the stuff. I've got gloves in my pockets. And don't feel like you have to stay to be polite or anything. Any help at all is really great, even just a little."

Everett hoped he wasn't forcing her into anything she didn't want to do. After all, her offer could have been insincere, merely designed to help both of them feel better. He didn't really think that was it, though. Everett knew that many people acted for various selfish reasons, but he also understood that many did not. He was never quite able to understand the more cynical members of his class; true, most people their age were disrespectful and lazy, but not all of them. It would be a shame to group good people like Lily with the slackers.
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Lily waved off the claw. "More trouble than it's worth, probably. If you don't have another pair of gloves, I can pick it up with my hands. How bad can it be?" Lily scanned the grass near them, found a target, and zeroed in on it. She didn't notice until she got with close range of it that the piece of trash was a condom. Likely used.

"...On second thought, I might need that." Lily took the claw from Everett and grabbed the contraceptive, flinching as she carefully maneuvered it over to Everett's bag before dropping it in. She gave a small retch as she released the condom.

"How..." She stopped, swallowing hard. "How long you have you been doing this?
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"Oh my," Everett said as Lily deposited the condom in the trash bag, "I don't think I've ever seen one of those here before." He held the bag away from himself, feeling somewhat disgusted. Couldn't people restrain their idiotic urges until they at least made it home? Or, that failing, couldn't they pick up after themselves? Leaving a used condom lying around was beyond irresponsible. It was a health threat. Some kid could find it, and eat it, or try to inflate it or something. Everett shuddered at the thought, and abandoned that line of mental activity. Some things were too disturbing to think about. He gratefully latched on to Lily's question as a return to sanity.

"I've been coming here for two and a half years," Everett said, then flinched. Of all the stupid ways to answer that question, he just had to pick the one that sounded the absolute worst given the circumstances. Normally he paid more attention than that. Granted, normally he wouldn't even think of sexual innuendos...

"It's gotten a little worse each year," he said, trying to sound casual and move the conversation past his embarrassing gaffe, "I don't know what'll happen to it when all the people who help out now are off at college."

...Meaning me. The others probably help the vandals.
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Lily caught the inadvertent, off color bit of humor, and had to stop herself from snickering. She felt like a little kid for a minute, right when someone said boobs or penis or something. Real professional.

"You ever advertise around school, maybe try to nab some altruistic freshman?" She said this seriously, with a slight edge of sarcasm to the word altruistic. She was cynical, but not that cynical. Everett couldn't have been the only guy who had some sense of care for the rest of humanity.

As she waited for Everett to talk, she grabbed another piece of trash, a Trojan wrapper. Probably the one the condom came from. She deposited it in the bag, shaking her head.
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Everett sighed.

"Yeah, recruiting some new people would probably be a good idea. I just... I've been really busy with stuff, you know, just trying to make it to the end of the year. I guess I should try to find some way to let people know..."

He trailed off. He really hadn't been putting much thought into doing anything for Saint Paul in the future. Actually, he had pretty much been planning to go off to college somewhere far away from the city, probably far from Minnesota, and never think about it again. Really, though, what would he have accomplished then? What was the point of cleaning up a park for as long as he had if it would just go to pieces when he left? Sure, it had probably made some people happy, but why not take a chance to do something real, something lasting?

"I don't suppose you know any likely freshmen," he said, bending to scoop up a hamburger wrapper.
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Lily flinched as she grabbed a hold of a Butterfinger wrapper. It looked like someone had left half the candy bar in it, and it had started to melt, sticking the whole thing to itself in a mass of plastic and chocolate. She dangled it over the bag carefully with the grabber and dropped it in.

"Yeah, might as well let someone know. There's always somebody who'll probably do it, you know? Either because they care or because they want to beef up their accomplishments before college."

Lily grabbed another piece of trash, this one a piece of a Snicker's wrapper. "Did a fucking vending machine explode out here?" She muttered, maybe a little louder than she meant. She turned to Everett, sheepish when she realized what she said. "Pardon my language."

She didn't usually apologize when she was profane, but for some reason Everett didn't seem to her like one who cared for it.

"No, can't really think of anyone right now, unfortunately." She said in answer to his question.
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Everett considered Lily's statement. It was true; there almost certainly was someone who would be willing to take over his duties at the park. Of course, they'd probably fall into Lily's second category, and be people who didn't care at all, and only wanted to bolster their resumes.

Hypocrite.

How could he condemn people like that, even for a second? After all, he was one of them. He'd never have started coming to the park if he hadn't thought it would make him look better to colleges. He'd only grown to care about it in time. Why should he assume that his replacement would be any different? It wasn't fair at all to hold other people to a higher standard than he held himself.

Lily picked up some more trash, then cursed about it. She then apologized for the swearing, which caused Everett to smile a little. People often assumed he was uptight about swearing and other things of the sort because of how he dressed and acted, and they were pretty much right. He didn't care about swearing for its own sake, but the disrespect it usually carried with it was disturbing to him. He knew that swear words carried some power, and it bothered him that so many of his peers casually threw them around.

"No problem," he replied to Lily, "and thanks. I'll ask around the school, maybe bug some of the freshmen on the honor list or something."

The park looked a lot better now. Everett gestured ahead of them, at the few remaining patches of garbage.

"We can probably have this cleaned up in a couple minutes. Afterwards I can toss the bag. There's a public dumpster on the other side. Thanks again for your help; you've made it go a lot faster."

Also, you dealt with the condom. I'm really, really glad I didn't have to handle that...
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"Oh, no problem, I like the park. Makes it nicer when it's clean."

It didn't look like there was much garbage left around the area, and Lily figured now it was as good a time as any to hit up Everett for an interview. She felt a little bad; sometimes when she did it like this she felt like she was springing a trap on an unsuspecting victim.

She tucked the grabber under her armpit and held it there as she reached into her hip pocket for the small spiral notepad and golf pencil she kept with her. She didn't have a tape recorder, but then again, she didn't need it; her mom always said to never rely on technology when she could get away with it.

"Can I ask a favor of you, though? You probably know I'm on the school paper, right?" She said. She waited for his answer, figuring the context was evident by her word and by the fact she had more or less switched gears.
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Lily seemed happy enough to help, which was good. It meant Everett didn't have to feel at all guilty for taking up her time.

Lily then put the grabber away, asking Everett if he knew she worked for the paper.

"Oh, yeah," he replied, "I like your writing."

He read the paper fairly regularly, and remembered having enjoyed some of Lily's articles. He couldn't quite figure out why she was asking him about it, though. It didn't really make sense, unless she wanted to ask him something for a story, but he couldn't imagine that.

After all, I'm not exactly the most interesting person in school. I mean, I clean parks in my free time. Other kids are running around winning basketball games and performing in concerts and writing stories and all sorts of amazing stuff. I clean parks. Even I wouldn't want to read about me.

Not sure quite how to continue, he just waited. If she did want to interview him for some reason, he'd be glad to help, but he didn't want to presume anything.
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