The Hurry Up Lube Job Hero
by Charis Emanon
Reggie had a tale practically bursting to get out of him. It was all
about the night this spinning alien ship had taken him up on high, in
the grip of a blinding light, before his body had been wedged through a
metal tunnel, tied down to an examination table, and then a robotic
blade had sliced deep into his chest.
“There, see, there!” he’d cry out, to some new-found friend that Reggie
had cornered near the end of the bar, his voice carrying over the flow
from the taps, the beat of the juke box, the crack of the cue ball
smacking against the other colors.
His long, crooked finger would point towards a slash that emerged on
his neck and upper torso, a crevice of flesh that separated the front
of him into sections, a poorly-sutured wound that revealed the full
length of its dehiscence as Reggie pulled back at the ratty wool
sweater that wrapped him in. His cracked thumbnail packed under with
black crud (left behind from the oils he worked with at the Hurry Up
Lube Job joint next door) poised there over the gash.
“I know! I know! It ain’t healing proper,” Reggie said, noting the look
of horror that crossed his companion’s face. “My doc asks me silly
questions, like if I’ve been opening it up and sewing it back. She
don’t understand: it’s the aliens and their technology what’s done me
Reggie just sat there, waiting. Waiting for what exactly? Waiting for
acknowledgement of his suffering? Waiting for affirmation of the truth
of his story?
No. Reggie waited to be told that he had experienced something
extraordinary, an event that marked him as unique, as a chosen one.
Night after night, though, time and time again, Reggie was
disappointed. The only response was a harried look in the eye, a polite
but firm, “Well, thank you for the beer, mate,” before this brief
acquaintance sidled away into the faceless mass of “never again bother
me” kind of people.
Reggie had stopped being surprised. After all the reaction had been
little different when he’d found his way into the 24 Hour Urgent Care
that night only a few months before as a ripped-open mess, his insides
threatening to spill out everywhere, blood draining out of him like a
Chevrolet with the underside of its oil pan jaggedly ruptured.
While the emergency crew sewed him up Reggie had told them the story of
his encounter, then to a patrol officer, a detective downtown, an
on-call shrink at the county jail, a pair of social workers at the
human services agency, and his ex-wife’s lawyer. Always it had been the
same: first revulsion, then raised eyebrows, the rolled-back eyes, the
looks of pity, followed up with a slow slide into being just another
person that Reggie used to know, a conversion into the crowd of the
disbelievers, the “doubting Thomases.”
“Drove away another one, did ya’ love,” Sharon asked, as she set
another sweating bottle of Raging Fire Ale—the top already popped—in
front of Reggie.
He wrapped the fingers of his hand around the bottle, took a long, deep
swig, then looked back in the direction of the chemical blonde. She had
already twirled away, without waiting for his rejoinder.
“Yup, another one who can’t see the truth when it is right in front of
their nose!” he called after her. “Their loss though! It’s all of you
who are losing out! I know what I know.”
He buried his face in his oversized hands for a long time, sitting
there at the far end of the bar alone, preferring the dark of his palms
to the company of apostates. After that passed he submerged his head in
drink for the rest of the evening, killing the psychic pain as well as
the physical as he slowly got stoned.
Then he managed the walk back a block to his garret over top of the
office in the garage, the one the manager, Lou, had set up for him on
account of them being old friends and all: “I don’t know what really
happened to you, but I don’t want to find my best mechanic sleeping in
this doorway no more. This is a respectable business you know.”
Reggie felt his way up each rung of the ladder in the dark, managing to
pull his body up and over the top of it. He crawled onto the loft, tore
off the layers of clothes until only his boxers were left, and then
rolled his body into his old Army sleeping bag.
He thrashed about and then was out. The slit on his neck opened wide,
from top to bottom, like a zipper on a jacket being pulled down. Light
shone out from his rent flesh, illuminating Reggie’s chin.
Three little bioluminescent flitter flies pulled out of the gash, their
little wings beating hard. Goop from Reggie’s insides flung off of
their rapidly whirring bodies.
“It is so good to get out of this guy’s skin! The stench is unbearable!
And he tried to blow our cover again!” one said, in a high-pitched
voice to the others, yelling to be heard above Reggie’s snores.
“Yes, but it’s of no consequence,” called back one of the others. “They never believe him.”
“Why would they? Even their doctors with all of their training and
experience didn’t find us hidden behind his lungs. Relax, Larry, these
humans simply don’t have the wherewithal to match wits with us.”
“Right, right, Darryl. Okay. Yeah, you’re right. We stick with the
plan. We stay buried in his hide for the rest of the year, to prove
that the environment is safe, and then we put out a call for the entire
slathern to join us.”
“You know it! Thanks to our pioneering work here the whole furrow will
be able to escape, before cooling ices over our home globe. We will
save our entire civilization and prove Dr. Wristerling’s theory is
correct about our odds of planetary escape in this microsized form.
We’ll be heroes!”
“Yes, heroes!” replied Other Darryl. “Can you imagine how the suffering
of our kind will end once down here, with all of these oafs ripe for
the harvest? It’s a buffet. Each and every human can host a full
coterie—and there are billions of them. We just slice and slip in and
let their bodies nourish us. We will wear these bodies like skin, and
nobody will be the wiser. Just inside of each one of them, nibbling
away at these living feed bags, until we’ve stored away enough eggs to
ensure our dominance when we emerge full size!”
“Nothing can stop us!” the three cried in unison.
Reggie, startled by the suddenness of the high-pitched squeal, grunted.
He threw out his hand in a swat at the noise; it landed heavy, his
hairy arm squashing the flitter flies into the hard plank flooring of
the loft. The three of them crunched against the wood, becoming nothing
more than a glowing green ooze that coagulated into a tacky gum on the
Reggie pushed deeper into the cloth bag, pulled the rounded top of it
over his head, and rolled over. He continued his slumber.
He had overdone it, that’s for sure. He’d wake up with a thumping head
and ripped stitches that would land him back in a hospital in the
Sure, Reggie had a tale that would be told the rest of his dismal life
to disbelievers. But you and I know the truth. This very night that
rugged drunk saved our species from certain extinction.
On such miracles rests our entire existence. On one planet, the tragedy
of a lost expedition of discovery means that it is the end of the line;
on another, civilization marches ever onward without so much as a
passing backward glance.
There’s a Reggie in every corner bar in every town and city tonight,
getting rip-roaring drunk and telling wild stories about strange
encounters. Somewhere out there at least one—possibly even two or more
of them, and we never know which—is an unsung hero.
© 2021 Charis Emanon
Bio: Charis lives along the shores of the Columbia River in the
Pacific Northwest. They maintain a wildlife refuge for words that have
developed consciousness at ElectricSoupfortheSoul.com . Their writings
have been published widely, including in Mobius, Parting Gifts,
Barbaric Yawp, The White Crow, and Jokes Review. Their latest book,
Portland Must Die: 51 Ways to End Your World, is due out through Montag
Press in the coming months.
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