Fiction: Trash Landing

An essay by Emin Luke, as provided by Liz Hufford
Art by Leigh Legler


When I got a call to report immediately to Kessler’s office, I knew something was up.

Luvy had already arrived and watched as Kessler paced the room. “Well, men, er, team, there’s been a change of plans. You’re taking CS up tomorrow.”

Luvy and I looked at each other. The scheduled ClearSpace launch was months distant. I couldn’t count the protocols that would be broken if it happened tomorrow.

“Something’s come up,” Kessler said, pointing his finger.

I sometimes wonder if my father would be proud of me. I’m never sure. He would love the ship but perhaps not its mission. In truth, the apple did not fall far from the tree.

My dad drove a garbage truck for the city. Once, after career day at school, I announced at dinner that I wanted to be a sanitation engineer just like him. He finished chewing his meatloaf, wiped his mouth, and addressed me. “Nothing sanitary about it, son. I’m a garbage man. I’ll accept trash man or refuse man, but I’m no engineer.” Then he waved his fork at me. “You could be an engineer.”

Dad moved with the times. When building codes required the ultimate home composter, the city quit hiring. “I’m the last of a breed,” he’d say, thumping his chest. When homeowners on his route began to retrofit the composters, dad still had recycling. When the EPA demanded decomposable food containers, he retired “to make way for the younger guys.” But he’d sit on the porch on the rare recycling days when the big truck would rumble down the street with interludes of breaking glass and clanging metal.

“See that,” Kessler said, pointing to the computer screen. We’d been monitoring space junk since the 70s–rocket stages, spent satellites, even an astronaut’s glove. Thousands of objects exceeded two hundred pounds, but this one was huge.

Luvy tilted her head to the side. “Something’s not right.”

Art for "Trash Landing"

My dad drove a garbage truck for the city. Once, after career day at school, I announced at dinner that I wanted to be a sanitation engineer just like him. He finished chewing his meatloaf, wiped his mouth, and addressed me. “Nothing sanitary about it, son. I’m a garbage man. I’ll accept trash man or refuse man, but I’m no engineer.” Then he waved his fork at me. “You could be an engineer.”


To read the rest of this story, check out the Mad Scientist Journal: Spring 2019 collection.


Inspired by his father to greatness, Emin Luke lives an extraordinary life. Still he questions roads not taken, in the past and in the future.


Liz Hufford is a lapsed people-pleaser and a competitive reader. She has on occasion doodled Yoda and created otherworldly ceramics. In 2017, she finalled in the Roswell Award for Short Science Fiction. Some previously published stories were reprinted in best-of-the-year anthologies. Her sundry work history includes (but is not limited to) stints as an editorial cartoonist, an oral historian, and a professor. Her sometime passions include tennis, miniatures, and travel. Her favorite new word and practice is fika.


Leigh’s professional title is “illustrator,” but that’s just a nice word for “monster-maker,” in this case. More information about them can be found at http://leighlegler.carbonmade.com/.


“Trash Landing” is © 2019 Liz Hufford
Art accompanying story is © 2019 Leigh Legler

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2 Responses to Fiction: Trash Landing

  1. Bernadette says:

    Loved it! What an awesome imagination.

  2. Dana McNeely says:

    First contact made by the space garbage man! 🙂 Cool.

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