A new science fiction tale by author Jenean McBrearty.
When I saw the bumper sticker on the battered blue delivery van – I LOVE GORE – I thought the owner must be a Democrat too lazy to peel it off. But when I called in the license plates, the squad car computer told me the vehicle was registered to a Fistoola Eisenbrains—entrepreneur.
“Now looky here, Fella, you can’t be slicin’ and dicin’ up corpses and serving them on Rye bread with thousand island dressing just to make a living,” I yelled at him in the final seconds of our two-hour standoff. “We’re gonna gas the crap outta you if you don’t surrender.” I saw something white being waived from the window, and lowered my canister gun. He was nice for a ghoul. Said he was sorry for giving us a hassle when we finally collared him at his home-based mortuary and catering business, but felt he had to put up some kind if resistance so’s he wouldn’t look like a sissy.
“It’s not like I kill people. I tell folks I’ll cremate their loved one for cheap, and I do. They do get real ashes, just not human ones. Nobody’s complained. I buried my Mamaw two years ago today, and it cost me nearly four grand—not including flowers. That’s too damn much!”
Much as I agreed with him, desecrating the remains of dead folks was still against the law, so we had to haul him in. But I learned something important about law enforcement that day, something they don’t teach you at the police academy. Know your adversary, but don’t get to like him, they tell you, but they don’t tell you how to stop yourself. It’s damn near impossible not to like your adversary when he’s friendlier than your partner and a hell’uva lot more fun.
“How the hell did you get to be a Democrat when you’d obviously rather work than collect food stamps?” I asked him.
He said, “It’s like this. My daddy was a gamblin’ man and my mama was a whore, so the both of them bein’ jackasses, I strongly identified with the logo, if not the party platform.”
It made sense to me. When I was ten years old, I identified with the Raiders pirate logo and like the team to this day even though it sucks. But my partner, Sam Cotteaux —who hated his name because everyone pronounced it Kotex instead of Coe-too—said Eisenbrains’ reasoning was BS; he was an ugly mother fucker and shouldn’t disrespect his parents that way ’cause God don’t approve. So that right there tells you Sam’s not a real good time even after a six-pack. Hell, I got a funny name—Jeremy Floodbottom—but I’d never tell people to their face they’re ugly and that the Lord don’t approve of them. Judge not lest ye be judged. A man should have a motto as well as a logo.
I guess it was that fun part of Eisenbrains who came up with the idea to shoot out Imelda Hump’s tires after we gave her a fix-it ticket on the way to the station, and she gave us the finger when she drove off, yelling out the window, “Sam Kotex is an asshole!”
Sam said, “That’s it, I’m arresting that hag’s ass.”
He was going to hit the siren again when Eisenbrains said, “Don’t do it. Women don’t like macho men. You’re better off bein’ sneaky—from a distance. Shoot out a rear tire and she’ll think she’s blown a flat. She’ll pull over and expect us to change it, but we’ll just sail right on past her, and I’ll flip her off, because it wouldn’t be right for men in uniform to disrespect a woman.”
It occurred to me it probably wouldn’t be right to leave a woman alone in the desert with a flat tire either, aliens bein’ what they are, but Sam thought for a few seconds, took out his pistol, drove up on her rear end, and took aim. He missed the tire, going 60 miles an hour like he was, but hit her gas tank head on and Imelda Hump’s car blew up. Boom! Just like that in less than a lub—dub.
We squealed to a stop, and me and Sam ran to the car, but it wasn’t any use. Imelda was toast – more like a stuffed muffin that had blown apart in the microwave. Sam was real pissed he’d missed, and said he was upset enough to kill Eisenbrains because he didn’t need a witness with an axe to grind.
Given Eisenbrains’ occupation, I thought that was funny, but I didn’t laugh. “We could tell him she’s just a mite shook up, book him, and then come back out here and bury her ten parts. Nobody would miss her for a few days. She’s only got one next of kin, a daughter in Fort Lauderdale,” I told him. But Sam was still keen on the idea of killing Eisenbrains.
“It’s all his fault,” Sam said.
I had a decision to make then: save an amiable citizen whose worst vice was serving up human stew or let a man whose worst sin was blowing up a mouthy citizen commit murder. Should be a no-brainer—thin blue line and all that shit—but that friendly fun component sneaked in like I was sayin’. “Sam,” I said, “I can’t let you kill Eisenbrains. Hump was an accident that never would have happened if he’d kept his mouth shut, but he’s got constitutional rights.”
“And I don’t?”
Technically we all had rights, although it was a moot point in Hump’s case. “Sure. Sure you do, but you got a duty to protect and serve, and Eisenbrains doesn’t have an onus.”
“Hell, everybody’s got an onus, Floodbottom. How’s he take a dump?”
“Sitin’ down, I reckon.”
Sam shook his head. “Damn. He’s had a fucked up life. Short too, if I take him out.”
“That’s my point, Sam. It wouldn’t be right.”
“You make a good argument. Pulls at the heartstrings, you know?” Sam started twirling his gun, like cowboys do in oaters, and was looking over at Eisenbrains. “But, I damn sure ain’t goin’ down for a bitch like Hump.”
I tried to reason with him, but Sam headed for the squad car. I let him have it in the back of the head. With a name like Floodbottom, you know I had to be a good shot. Slingshots, rubber bands, pistols, I got dead-eye aim. Sam didn’t see the bullet comin’, so he didn’t bob, weave, or zigzag. He fell over like a tree and I saw Eisenbrains’ eyes bulge big as balloons. Guess he was afraid I’d turned postal. I strolled over to him and said, “Now what? Barbecue? Sausage?”
“I did promise,” Eisenbrains said.
“Well, I know you did, but he was gonna blow your ass away.”
Eisenbrains changed his tune right away. I popped the trunk. We loaded Sam, and drove to the meat locker. I helped unload, and undress ol’ Sam, but left the butcherin’ to Eisenbrains. That was the friendly part of him comin’ out. He was a good sport, and except for Sam, he was a man of his word. To my knowledge, he’s still a vegan.
You might be wondering why Eisenbrain’s and me didn’t make up a really, really good story, and turn ourselves into the Sheriff. Simple—there’s more to livin’ in the desert than keepin’ hydrated and avoidin’ rattlesnakes. Lots of people know about Roswell and how intergalactic aliens visited in 1947, but most people believe that’s all they did—visited and then left. That ain’t the case. The fact is, a few of those aliens stayed behind and set up housekeeping in the desert, believing that, because there were so few people around when they landed, the area would always be deserted. But then, some damn fool decided the desert was the perfect place for artists. Writers, painters, poets—people who could afford solar air conditioning.
That’s when things got tricky. Aliens were expected to be strangers in a strange land. Many of their odd ways could be overlooked, chalked up to the fact that they didn’t know what the Romans do, no different from aliens that hail from other exotic places like Latvia or Chicago. Artists, on the other hand, were just plain wacky. They had all sorts of funny ideas about finding themselves, their inner child, their inner voice, or something called a muse. They thought they were special, and that, if there were intergalactic aliens in the desert, they wouldn’t mind hanging out with special people: them.
The artists were wrong. When they eventually made contact, they were welcomed by the aliens who first wined and dined them, and then dined on them. I knew exactly where to take Sam’s parts, and who would make sure there wasn’t a trace of him left. I had Eisenbrains stuff chunks of Sam into big plastic trash bags, and we reloaded him in the trunk. “Are you sure the aliens will eat him up?” Eisenbrains said as we lugged the trash bags up to Flat Rock, emptied Sam’s remains, and left them to the elements.
“You bet,” I said. We went back to the squad car and waited. Not more than 15 minutes after the odor of Sam’s blood hit the wind, aliens came scurrying out of their caves and had themselves a fine meal.
“They ain’t gonna come after us, are they?” Eisenbrains said nervously.
“Your paying customers don’t come after you, do they?” I said.
“There you go.” I admit it was a pretty gory scene. When aliens eat alfresco, they’re none particular about their cuisine or their hygiene. They just dig right in and start munchin’ and crunchin’ without plates or napkins. I’ve seen them devour an entire cow, horns and all, in less than eight minutes. They can down an artist or a cop in a lot less.
“What about Sam’s uniform?” Eisenbrains said as we headed home.
“I was thinkin’ you might need a job seein’ as how you’re out of the body cookin’ business. You’re about Sam’s size. Think you could protect and serve?”
“Let me think on it a spell, Floodbottom.” The spell lasted about two minutes. “The only thing that’s holdin’ me back is his name. I’d want to change it.”
I had to admit havin’ an onus is one thing, but a funny name is a cross to bear. “Okay,” I said.
“How about Jeffrey Cotteaux? We’d be Jeremy and Jeffrey. Like twin brothers.”
It made sense to me, in a desert kind of way. We shook hands. “Officially, you’ll still have to be Sam, you know. That gonna be awkward for you?”
When me and Jeffrey got back to Hump’s car, there wasn’t a trace of her. Aliens done got there before us. See, that’s what I was talkin’ about. Friendly fun folks are easier to get along with and in the desert, when you have to deal with heat, and rattlesnakes, and aliens hangin’ around, that’s very important.