I’m not generally in the habit of rummaging through my neighbors’ trash, although there have been temptations. Lawn chairs. Desks. TVs that look like they work. However, this morning I passed a great temptation: a thing, covered in a floral sheet, with a sign pinned to it that read, “Please Do Not Take.”
Why not? I immediately asked myself. I don’t know what’s under the sheet, though I thought I glimpsed a bit of wood. I’d like to say I snuck a peak, but I didn’t. I’m a coward and something about the sign made me think its writer had anger management issues. Also, it’s just way more fun to think about.
What could possibly make you want to put up a sign like that? What could it be? A broken piece of furniture and you’re afraid someone will sue you about it. But there must be a legal assumption that trash is broken. Perhaps you have a phobia about other people using your things. Perhaps you think the item is possessed, but then why let the garbage people pick it up. Perhaps you are a nut. Perhaps you loved that item so much that you can’t bear to think of anyone else using it. Perhaps a broken mirror. Perhaps a computer with nuclear launch codes.
Whatever it is, I feel confident there’s a story behind it. And isn’t this how stories begin, so often—with something that’s just not quite right. Have you ever started a story that way?