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It wasn’t my fault when I threw away my new husband’s paycheck—after all, I tidy up

the house—and our marriage vows hadn’t stipulated, “Thou shalt not throw away thy spouse’s paycheck.” I considered denial, running away from home, or shifting the blame for this transgression. A twisty tie and a twist of fate redeemed me.

While I taught school in the early 1970’s, and my husband attended Northern Arizona University and built houses for a contractor on the side, we lived in a one-bedroom duplex on the Navajo Army Depot west of Flagstaff, Arizona where the government rented former military housing to civilians at a modest cost. We enjoyed living near other young college couples, and a friendly older couple who lived in a house behind us. Neighbor Jim had a contract to collect the trash and haul it to a landfill once a week.

The smell of frying sausage made me salivate early one morning, as I rushed around preparing poached eggs and toast for breakfast.  In between flipping the sausage and timing the eggs, I packed lunches, and grabbed and filed my school papers into my brief case.

“Today is trash day,” Dan called from the bedroom. “Get it ready. I’ll take it and put out the trash bin.”

I stopped buttering toast and looked at the stack of junk mail and newspapers on the corner of the table. I snatched up the pile, stuffed everything into a plastic garbage bag, and found a twist tie. Coiling it around the bag, I thought, “That’s a peculiar way to twist it, but it will have to do.”   Morning minutes ran through the hourglass faster than water through a sieve, so I didn’t take time to retie it.

After school, the coffee just finished perking when Dan came in from work.  He poured two cups of coffee, handed one to me, and sat down at the table where I was reading the newspaper.  He helped himself to a cookie to go with the coffee.  Around the

crumbs, he said, “Give me my paycheck and a deposit slip. I’ll stop by the bank tomorrow.”

“I haven’t seen your check,” I replied.  I felt puzzled because he usually handed it to me.

“Sure you have.  I put it right here on the table,” he pointed to the corner.  Except the only thing on the table was our two cups of coffee, a plate of cookies and today’s newspaper.

“You probably left it in the truck,” I tried, but my heart headed south.

“It isn’t in the truck,” he sounded forceful. “I put it right here.”  Dan thumped the spot on the table with his fist.

“Oh, oh,” I thought. I looked over my shoulder out the window.  Jim’s truck, parked by the backdoor, was as empty as our trash container.  My heart started to race but not from the caffeine.

“I think I threw it out,” I said.

Dan stared at me.  “What do you mean; you think you threw it out?  It’s money,” he clarified for me.

“I picked up that whole stack on the corner of the table and put it in the trash bag this morning,” I said.

Suddenly, I had a bright idea, at least brighter than tossing away his paycheck. “I think it will be okay.  I remember how I tied the bag.  We’ll go ask Jim to take us to the dump.” I started to get up as I spoke.

“Even if Jim takes us to the dump, we’ll never find the bag.  How can you know how you tied a twisty?  You think it’s any different from how everyone else ties a twisty?” Dan looked skeptical.

“Yes, actually, I do,” I had to admit that once I said it aloud, the idea sounded far-fetched. Refusing to admit to myself how unlikely this scheme was, I headed out the back door seeking salvation from Jim.

“That won’t work. It’s crazy,” Dan called to me as the screen door slammed.

Jim chuckled at my story.  “Hummm, a check is mighty important,” he said.  “Go get Dan and we’ll drive out to the landfill.”

The three of us crowded into the front seat of Jim’s pick up.  The men laughed and joked with each other while I fretted about losing an entire paycheck.

Dan was right. Looking into the dump at hundreds of identical black trash bags, I felt a bit overwhelmed. “I know how I tied it,” I reminded the men.

That is probably why they began their search at the opposite end of the dump, united in their manhood, while I began alone at the other end.  Since they had to open bags to look for familiar contents, their search was slower than mine was. I only inspected binding styles.

I picked my way through the hundreds of black bags dreading stumbling over a rat and opening smelly bags of other people’s garbage.  Then I decided not to open bags at all. I would only inspect binding styles making my search much quicker than the men’s who had to plow through bags looking for familiar contents.

Jim, who had worked his way closer to me, held up a pocket sized New Testament, Psalms and Proverbs from the refuse heap. “Here, Linda,” he called. “You may need this.”

At that moment, my heart leapt.  I blinked a couple of times.  There was my tie.  Could it be?  While Jim was joking with me, I untwisted the tie and peered into the bag. I pawed through potato peelings, cigarette ashes, and empty containers until I retrieved the paycheck, soiled but still cashable. Watching me, Jim shook his head, laughed and said.  “You’re one lucky girl.”

“I don’t believe this,” Dan said as he walked up behind me.

After that first experience, I might have learned to be more careful. Yet I have thrown away three checks in our four decades of marriage.  One was a small amount that my sister handed to me in the rush of a Christmas day.  Worse, two were Dan’s paychecks. The company re-issued the one I never found, but the tie that binds helped me find the first one. Today, Dan is thankful for direct payroll deposit!

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