“There was a time’n a big dead alien corpse in the middle’a town would’a brought tourists, stead of run’n ’em off,” Fred said tossing his shovel into the back of the pickup.
“I know Fred, I was here too,” Harry replied, knowing that Fred was going to tell the whole thing anyway. He lifted the handle on the passenger side door, trying to find the sweet spot that would open the latch. He wiggled it a little mumbling “every damn time,” when it didn’t open right away. As always, just when Harry was starting to think that the latch might not open this time, there was a click and the door swung out.
As the latch functioned it washed away any thoughts he had been having about putting in a maintenance request to have the lock fixed. By the time he had settled down on the seat of the city work truck he had completely forgotten any inconvenience the latch could potentially cause and wouldn’t think about it again until the next time he muttered, “every damn time…”
Fred climbed in behind the wheel, slipped the key into the ignition, then glanced over at Harry as he tried to turn over the engine. He wasn’t really looking at Harry, he was listening to the engine as it went through the motions of complaining about its age, then eventually puttering to life.
“I mean, ‘s not just the tourists it’s chas’n off,” he said, putting the old truck into reverse and pulling out of the parking spot, “I mean, the smell’s so bad people’r leave’n.”
“Yuh, I know Fred.”
“Like, what’s the name’a that famly that lived down nexta you out there’n Washington Street?”
“The Jenkins’s,” Harry sighed, looking down at his watch, then back up to peer down the street as they turned out of the parking lot, it was so early that the street was painted blue with the pre-dawn light. They were right on schedule, they always started work before the sun came up. That had been something that had taken some getting used to, but now that Harry had been doing it for so long, he kind of liked the feel of the early mornings when everyone else was asleep. Everyone, that is, except Fred, the jabber-box. Harry was pretty sure that even when Fred did sleep, that mouth probably still ran on and on and on and on…
“Yeah, the Jenkins’s, that famly’d been in town fer a long time, jus’ up an left cuz it smells so bad.”
“I was the one that told you that Fred,” Harry said.
“You did?” Fred asked, glancing over at him briefly, but then put his eyes back on the road, “guess you wood’a.”
After a rare thoughtful silence, Fred dove back in, “All I’m say’ns not right, people gett’n run outta town.”
“Don’t have to tell me twice, Fred,” Harry said for the thirteenth time that week in response to the same comment. It was true, though, since the giant corpse had landed in the middle of town the smell of its decay was all encompassing. Unfortunately, federal regulations stated that it couldn’t be moved until federal agents came out and inspected it. This was a law laid down in the early days, when it was exciting and new that earthlings were not alone in the universe- back in the days when the appearance of alien artifacts were rare. Now, though, after they had tried to attack and been shot out of the sky, there were wreckage and corpses the size of buildings scattered all over. The US government insisted, though, that they were not to be moved until federal agents got a chance to take a look. Anyone who has been to the DMV will tell you tales about the efficiency of government employees. Harry thought that, compared to these inspections, the DMV was a well oiled, beautifully smooth and painless machine.
As Harry thought this, on his way to his very own government job, working for the city, he wondered just how long it would be before they got the chance to dispose of the body. He knew that in other towns which had been visited by the feds already, they had chopped the corpses up and trucked them somewhere it could be buried or burned. Harry knew it would probably be their job- him and Fred- if the time ever came. The thought of going near the thing made his stomach churn, but he would be happy to finally be doing something to get rid of it.
As if having read his thoughts, Fred said, “I guess we’d bury it out in the landfill.”
“Yeah,” Harry said.
Fred turned the truck onto Fifth street and Harry peered between the buildings, knowing that the huge pile of rotting meat was over there, but it was too dark to see anything yet.
“Today’s water main should be just up here,” Fred said slowing down a little, “Think it’s silly that we’re routin all this water round it, rather’n just fix’n the broken pipes under the thing?”
“Some parts of town have been without water for months, we can’t wait any longer,” Harry said, the same defense to the same old argument.
“Yeah, but we should jus fix the old ones,” he said, pulling the truck up to the curb.
“Government efficiency, my friend,” Harry said, popping open the door and stepping out. It was time to get to work.