by Yitzy Richter
The old maintenance man smiles as he bends down to empty the blue recycle bin.
On the bottom there is a paper with a bunch of doodles made by the kid with curly hair who sits in the back. It’s chock-full of shields and swords and bows and arrows. When he grows up he wants to be a knight. During class he holds his pencil like a sword and makes fighting noises, but sometimes he accidently does it too loud, so the teacher gives him a look and then he blushes and goes back to his pencil. Sometimes he holds one pencil in each hand and they have a fight and his left hand usually wins. It gets on the teacher’s nerves, but less so than when he sat in the front. She still snatches the doodles away when he gets too loud. He gets to keep his pencils.
The crumpled paper next to it says 66 in red ink. The girl whose name is on the top in mostly uppercase gets her letters all mixed up in her head, and her parents think she’s lazy and makes too many excuses. She really deserved a 43, max, but her teacher knows better. The girl throws all her spelling tests into the recycle bin on her way to recess, even though her parents usually find out she had a test anyway. She loves recess. She is the fastest at going down the slide and then running across to the basketball hoop and then to the tree and then back to the slide and then climbing it—even faster than the boys. The boys try to beat her every day, but she always wins anyway.
Hidden under a paper bowl near the top is a week-old tissue of the kid who had a cold. He forgot to take it out of his pocket one day, so it hardened when his mom put it in the wash, mucus and all. He thinks it’s the coolest thing in the world. He showed it to his best friend, who said it might turn into like a diamond or something if they bury it in the ground, and that the teacher will take it away if he sees it because adults think it’s gross. So they hid it in the recycle bin. They plan on getting it after school and burying it in a secret spot behind the dumpster and then coming back like a whole month later to get the diamond or jewel or gold or maybe even a spiderman toy if they get lucky.
Under that is a coffee-stained attendance sheet. The office has extra attendance sheets. They don’t have extra coffee.
All the way on top is a paper plane from recess. One kid made a really fancy one that he says he once saw his uncle throw like a million hundred feet. The other kids watched excitedly as he folded it, happily fighting about who saw the second-best paper plane ever. When he finally threw it, it went straight into a nosedive. He said it was because everyone was watching and they messed him up and tomorrow he would make the best paper airplane ever ever and it could even go as far as real airplanes and if you get a big enough piece of paper you can even fly on it. A girl with short brown hair said that her father is a businessman and they could even make like 17 dollars if they make one so big and then sell it to the president. The kid said that it was his idea and that she can’t steal it and her father would go to jail if he stole the idea because it’s stealing. She said nuh-uh and then he said yuh-huh and then recess was over. He was going to take it home but then he forgot it, so the teacher put it in the garbage. The old maintenance man moved it to the recycle bin.