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A garbage chute. | Source: Shutterstock
Source: A garbage chute. | Source: Shutterstock

Man Throws Trash down Garbage Chute, Hears a Kid's 'Ouch!' from the Bottom – Story of the Day

Sonali Bharadwaj
Jan 22, 2023
11:00 A.M.
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A man is dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder while caring for his elderly mother, and in an unusual turn of events, he is about to have a chance encounter while disposing of trash that will change his life forever.

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Something about those eyes and that smile made Gustavo think about them frequently. As a soldier in the US Army, he had met several personalities and dignitaries, but nothing compared to that pearly smile and greenish eyes.

Gustavo was stuck in the middle of the desert that fateful morning, battling between life and death. There wasn't a single muscle in his body that didn't ache for rest and scream in pain.

Gustavo was wounded in combat, and his military uniform was drenched in blood. He was only partially conscious but aware of the sharp pain that wouldn't let him move. At that moment, he had closed his eyes and begged God for death.

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"All I want is for my mother to be fine when I'm gone," he had whispered in a weird agony and desperation. Then he had fallen into a deep sleep with no intention of waking up. But Gustavo saw those greenish eyes and pearly smile when he regained consciousness and opened his eyes…

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Unsplash

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He was inside a small hut built with straws and dried grass and was aware that he was lying on the floor on what seemed like a straw mat. His chest and left arm were bandaged, and a female figure and a small child sat across from him, their backs facing him.

"Where... where am I? And who are you?" Gustavo asked, grumbling in pain, and the woman and child turned around.

"Oh! You're awake! I hope you're not a danger!" the woman said, clutching the boy close. "We saved you! Saved your life!"

"A threat? No, no, I'm not…" he sighed, shaking his head.

"You had a gun! And you wore one of those uniforms!" the woman added fearfully. "All I ask is that you spare my son and me! You can show us some kindness in return!"

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"I... I'm not going to hurt you," he said. "Ah... I'm not who you think."

"I don't want to trust you," she said quietly, but Gustavo heard her.

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

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"I can't even move!" he cried, trying to get up, and collapsed to the floor due to the pain.

"Are you a soldier?" the boy asked. "Who saves people?"

"Yes, I am. Yes," he said and closed his eyes. "That's exactly who I am! I'm not a threat! Jesus!"

Fate reunites us with the people we are meant to be with in the strangest ways.

"A real fighter?" the boy asked again.

"I work for the US Army!" Gustavo almost yelled, but then his voice succumbed to the pain. "Oh God, trust me, I'm not a threat! In fact, I want to thank you for saving my life. I mean it. I need to find my comrades… Friends, I mean, and return to the base camp."

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"They left you to die," the boy said. "Mother and I found you! They are not your friends!"

Gustavo said, "You don't get to decide that. Help me get up, so I can leave. My comrades need me."

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

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The woman shook her head. "You must not," she said. "A day's rest is a must for you. I don't trust you, but in our culture, you don't leave an injured man alone."

Gustavo didn't know why the woman couldn't seem to trust him, but he was grateful for her help. She introduced herself as Afina and said she was a single mother to the boy, Kassim.

They lived in a small hut, and she worked as a maid for a living. Gustavo told her he had been attacked by his enemies, had lost consciousness, and needed to return to his base camp as soon as possible.

The woman assured him he could leave the next day and made him some porridge. The desert night was cold for Gustavo, and he regretted sleeping on the floor. The cold worsened the pain, and he kept twisting and turning until Kassim noticed him.

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"You need to ask for a blanket when you are cold, soldier," he said, wrapping him with his blanket. "Night night."

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

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"Gustavo. Please call me by my name," Gustavo said. "And thank you. I'll be gone tomorrow, but I'll remember you and Afina. You both saved my life."

But Gustavo didn't leave them the following day. It would be a week before he was able to walk, and Afina and Kassim were the ones who made it possible. They cured him, and when Gustavo's military 'friends' tracked him at her hut one morning, Gustavo was hesitant to leave them.

"I will remember you both forever," he told Afina and Kassim. "If you ever need help and I am around you, I will return your kindness. I promise that."

And like that, Gustavo had to leave Kassim and Afina, watching their reflection fade away in the rearview mirror of his military vehicle.

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After recovering from the injury he suffered on the battlefield, Gustavo wanted to return to the usual life in the army. He didn't have a wife or children but a sick, elderly mother back home.

Because her treatment was expensive and his job in the military paid well, Gustavo didn't even care about the dangers that his job entailed.

However, the young soldier didn't know how deep of a toll the recent injury had taken on his physical and mental health. The medical board decided he wasn't fit for service, and he was sent home.

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

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Gustavo was suffering from post-traumatic stress. He hadn't realized the symptoms soon, but a few days after returning to the base camp, he knew something was not right. When he returned home, he knew why he was not well.

The battlefield flashbacks and nightmares made Gustavo restless and didn't let him sleep. He often spent the nights sitting beside his mother's bed and admiring her face while she slept peacefully.

"Mum," he told her one night. "I want you to get well soon. I miss spending time with you. Can you believe I'm crying right now? Jesus, I wonder if I'll be able to return to a normal life…"

Gustavo's mother didn't respond to him that night, and he dozed off on the armchair beside her bed. The next morning when he woke up, his mother was sleeping in the same position as the night before, and her right hand was oddly hanging from the bed.

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Gustavo carefully positioned her hand, and something in his heart made him sob like a child. He knew why he was crying as he hugged his mother's body and called her "Mum" one last time.

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

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After losing his dear mother, nothing in Gustavo's life was the same. He had lost the only person he loved with all his heart, and it made him miserable. He didn't sleep or eat or go out. All he did was watch TV. All day and all night.

Gustavo's house, which was once filled with the lovely scent of his mother, now reeked of garbage meat, and he stank. It seemed like miseries didn't want to stop knocking on his door.

One morning, three months after losing his mother, Gustavo dared to step outside his house. He wouldn't have done it if it hadn't been for the overflowing bottles and pizza boxes in the house bin or the trashy atmosphere that had begun to irk him.

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Gustavo collected all the trash in three big black trash bags and finally decided to get rid of them. He walked out the front door and stopped right outside the garbage chute.

As he dropped the first bag, he heard an "ouch!" from the bottom and almost thought he imagined it until he dropped the second bag and heard a child's long "Aaaouch!" again.

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

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"Is someone stuck in there? Hello? Kid? Can you hear me?" Gustavo peeked into the garbage chute but didn't see anything inside.

"Jesus! The trash can!" He suddenly remembered. Gustavo ran downstairs to the trash bin where the waste was gathered. He rummaged through all sorts of dry and liquid waste and noticed a movement in the corner of the can.

"My god!" he gasped, taking a step back. "What the hell is that? A kid?"

Gustavo found himself staring at a pair of greenish eyes, which he recognized too well. And as the green-eyed figure raised its head, Gustavo recognized its pearly smile.

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"Kassim? What in the world… How did you get here? And in the waste disposal machine?" Gustavo asked.

"Soldier!" the boy cried. "Can you help me come out of this?"

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

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"Jesus, yes, yes, I should!" Gustavo scooped the little boy out of the garbage can and realized he had minor injuries on the arms and legs.

"You need first aid. Come with me."

"First aid?" Kassim asked. "I need bandages."

"That's a part of first aid! I wonder what they teach you in school!" Gustavo replied, scooping the boy in his arms again.

Kassim revealed he had never been to a school. "I help my mother at home," he said. "I didn't know I would meet you here, soldier."

"You need to call me Gustavo, as I had said the last time," Gustavo reminded the boy as he bandaged his wounds. "And why didn't you tell me you didn't go to school when we met? I mean, I could have helped you and your mother financially… with money. You understand what money is, right?"

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"Paisa?" asked the boy. "My mother calls it paisa. You buy things with paisa!"

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Unsplash

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Unsplash

"Yes, that's what I'm talking about," Gustavo said. "I could have helped you as you and your mother helped me."

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"I need it," Kassim said sadly. "Both Mother and I need it. The help…"

"Afina? Is she here with you? How did you guys come here?"

"Mother and I left our old home," Kassim revealed. "Mother sleeps under the bridge. I was traveling in your city alone. I wanted food and paisa. I looked for food in that machine, and I slipped, and I was there... then you dropped the second bag, and I fell."

"Jesus! Where's Afina? Can you take me to her? Do you even remember the routes?"

Kassim nodded his head eagerly. "In the desert, we need to make our own way. We need to learn how to beat the eagles and winds! I can take you to my mother."

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For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

And Kassim did know the way. He took Gustavo to the old city bridge, where Afina was sleeping on a cardboard sheet. Her clothes were soiled, and her body was burning hot. She was sick and running a fever.

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Gustavo immediately called the ambulance and rushed her to the hospital. It turned out she had come to America to work at a rich man's house but was soon kicked out by her employer due to poor health.

She didn't know how to return to her home country or ask people for help, so she and Kassim sought shelter under a bridge.

At that moment, Gustavo knew he could repay the kindness she had shown him when he was injured.

And he did that. He looked after Afina and Kassim until she was completely recovered, then he helped her find work. But most importantly, Gustavo was able to enroll Kassim in school.

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"I cannot pay for his schooling. I don't make enough paisa," Afina shyly told Gustavo when he announced Kassim was joining a school.

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

For illustration purposes only. | Source: Pexels

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Gustavo smiled and said, "I'll take care of it 'cause I have a few job offers lined up. And I'm not doing you a favor. This is for saving my life the second time. Every child deserves a good childhood, and Kassim is a bright kid. He can do wonders, Afina. Trust me."

"And because of you both, I have gained the strength to move on from my mother's death and change my life. Your struggles inspire me, and it's saving my life for the second time. So this was the least I could do!"

What can we learn from this story?

  • Fate reunites us with the people we are meant to be with in the strangest ways. Afina and Kassim had never expected to cross paths with the injured soldier they had saved, but fate made it possible.
  • Good deeds are like boomerangs; they always come back to you. Afina's selfless decision to save a soldier's life despite considering him a threat came back to her in the form of help when she was stranded in an unknown country.

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Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.

If you enjoyed this story, you might like this one about a woman who adopted the disabled twins she found abandoned on the street near the trash cans and how they changed her life forever.

This piece is inspired by stories from the everyday lives of our readers and written by a professional writer. Any resemblance to actual names or locations is purely coincidental. All images are for illustration purposes only. Share your story with us; maybe it will change someone's life. If you would like to share your story, please send it to info@amomama.com.

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