It’s bin day on Tuesdays, but if you weren’t used to the ways of our street, or if you hadn’t watched Harry every week, you’d think it was on a Monday. On Monday mornings, out the blue or green bins trundle, at least eight of them, pulled along by Harry. He does his own house first, then Mrs Geary’s, then numbers six, eight and sometimes ten. They’re all lined up like soldiers, not one out of place. It’s quite satisfying to see, if a little disturbing. Sometimes, I’m shamed into taking mine out early too, and make sure it’s straight with the pavement, perpendicular to the hedge, handle facing out, just like Harry’s are.
There was nearly a crisis one day, when the brown bin lorry passed by on a Monday. Perhaps fooled into doubting it themselves, the men lifted Harry’s bin, and emptied it, the only one already out. Oh the consternation that followed. Harry came out of his house, took in the passing bin lorry, his now empty bin, and scratched his head. Back into the house he went, still looking up and down the street. A moment later, he emerged again with his indulgent wife. Soon both of them were peering into the bin and looking up the road. I still don’t know who was more puzzled: Harry, his wife, or the bin men. Even I had a moment’s self-doubt, despite being the omniscient observer.
I have to confess, there is a temptation to beat Harry to it, and see his face when he realises he’s not the first. But then, I remember: this is his life now – all paid jobs have passed, all his children have flown the nest, and all he has to carve meaning into his life now are the regular things he does, like driving out to get the paper at 10.30, or raking up the leaves on his tiny square of grass in the autumn, or walking in to visit his older neighbour, or taking out and bringing in the bins. This is what makes him Harry now. It is all that I see of him, and I love him for it.