Wednesday, October 24, 2018


Pet my head.
I can’t eat unless you pet my head.
Shiny floor.
Can’t walk on the shiny floor.
Pet my head.
Pet my head.
Shiny floor.
Can’t walk on the shiny floor.
Should I eat?
No, shiny floor.
Pet my head.
You’re not doing it right.
Can you stop looking at that little machine
for one second?
Pet my head.
Here, I’ll help you.
I’ll put my head under your hand.
You say,
Giza, stop,
Giza, stop,
Giza, stop.
Should I go eat?
No, shiny floor.
Pet my head.
Okay, I can eat.
Jump across shiny floor
to the rug in the kitchen.
Pet my head?
No, I see food.
Carry a mouthful
to the living room.
Spit it out on the blue bed.
Eat it.
Still hungry.
Pet my head.

Collision Course

It’s not that unusual, really,
the asteroids hurling themselves
at our colony.
It happens all the time,
but we blow them up
before they crash, of course.
X-457, for example,
could have vaporized us all,
and that’s just one!
We usually are on a collision course
with around 250 a year, on average.
It’s such a routine occurrence
that now it’s kind of a party
if we dodge an especially big one.
About a month or two in advance,
the governor will announce
that the enormous rocky projectile
is rushing, unwanted,
headlong at us.
On the news, they’ll discuss its size
and what would happen if it did
actually hit us,
and everyone shudders,
and some people panic
and apply for transfers off the colony,
and some people are convinced
that the fail-safe system will fail this time,
and some people, the religiously minded,
pray and hope for some kind of
apocalyptic redemption.
But most of us just go about our
day-to-day lives,
secure in the knowledge
that the Alliance will take care of it,
strike it with a missile like a piñata,
while we sit with picnic baskets and telescopes
under the stars,
oohing and aahing at the resulting meteor shower
as the fragments of the asteroid
burn out magnificently in our atmosphere above.
And we would be doomed
in the face of mechanical failure or simple human error,
but would it be any worse than
the endless storms on Indra 42-S?
Or the sand typhoons
on Seth 938B?
Or the fact that Janus 51 will definitely
crack in half at some point,
but no one knows quite when,
and the weather is pretty nice,
so you’ll still be on the residency
waiting list for at least 10 years.
So better to have a night out,
with friends and family,
eating all the best imported foods,
crack open an old bottle of Earth wine,
sing songs,
scratch your dog’s ears
and kiss your lover,
you know,
just in case.

One O'Clock Appointment

I wasn’t surprised
that Mrs. Baker, my client,
was surprised
when she opened the door
and saw me standing there,
in my uniform,
my equipment in hand.
After about a second,
she registered that looking surprised
was kind of rude,
so she shook her head
almost imperceptibly and smiled.
“Please, come in,” she beckoned.
“I’m so glad you’re here.”
I put shoe covers on,
as I’m directed to do in nicer houses.
I must admit,
in the real shitholes, I don’t bother.
The Bakers were doing really well, though.
White-collar types,
definitely not putting in 12-hour shifts
at the lanthanum mines.
I imagined Mr. Baker being a top manager,
answering important video calls importantly,
in his starched dress shirt.
Or maybe he was even a bigwig
in colony government,
collecting a big salary and even bigger bribes.
But it’s silly for me to be sexist.
Mrs. Baker could be equally well employed,
a top surgeon, for example.
or one of those biologists
with high security clearances.
Anyway, these are the things I thought about
when I was standing awkwardly in her foyer,
waiting for her to show me where the problem was,
the kitchen, for example,
or the storage shed.
“Come this way,” she offered, then paused.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“I just wasn’t expecting…”
“A woman?” I answered for her,
and she nodded.
“I don’t mean to be…” she began.
“No, no, it’s okay.  I grew up on a farm,”
I said, and that seemed to be
a sufficient explanation.
She opened a door that led
to a flight of stairs leading down, down to
a basement!
I had never even seen a basement
in all my life.
And not just a gray concrete
storage area,
but it was a whole other living space,
with couches and a bar
and a dartboard and a television
and a bathroom and a guest room
with its own little bed
and plastic children’s toys
scattered on the floor
of a separate play area,
but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I couldn’t see all that at first,
but just the stairs leading down,
and Mrs. Baker said,
“I can’t go down there,
I hope you understand…”
“Of course, Ma’am,” I replied.
“I’m sure I’ll find my way around.”
She smiled with shaking hands,
and I put a hand on her shoulder,
and I normally never touch people,
but I looked right in her eyes and said,
“It’ll be okay, ma’am, I promise.”
As she closed the door after me,
I walked slowly down the stairs,
flamethrower at the ready.
A shame I’d probably have to torch
all this nice stuff.
But the leather couches and mahogany chairs
were covered in poisonous green bile
and the shells of molting giant spewing roaches.
I heard a quiet scratching just behind me
and turned to face the darkness.
It was standing erect on two legs,
so it towered above me,
hissing growing louder
as it sensed the danger,
venom dripping from its mouth.
I could hear it preparing to regurgitate.
If any of that shit touched any part of my skin,
it would melt into a black, bubbly tar,
and I would never heal.
So looking it in its black alien eyes,
I torched it, heart beating a little faster
but otherwise outwardly calm.
Because I am an exterminator,
and I am damn good at it.

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Scene of a Disaster

It was a Type I, Category III emergency,
beyond my personal resources to resolve.
I did a walkaround, sized up the situation,
called for backup,
but no one was on the way.
Mayday, emergency traffic, evacuate now!
I called for a defensive mode of operations.
There was no saving this.
Containment and protection of exposures
were the objectives now.
Retreat, retreat! Abort, abort!
Overwhelmed by the tragedy and conflagration,
I am ready to surrender command.
I walk through the ruins,
Boots crunching broken glass,
smoldering ashes,
toxic fumes.

“I had a wonderful time tonight,” he said.
“Would you be interested in coming back
to my place for some coffee?”
“I’m awfully tired,” I replied
with an apologetic frown.
“I’d like to see you again,” he suggested.
“Uh, I’m pretty busy this month.”
I start digging through my purse for car keys.
“I’ll get back to you, okay?”
Wet kiss deflected to left cheek.
In the safety of my car,
I slump head on the steering wheel
and exhale.