As Dr. Merkel is suddenly lifted off her feet and levitated onto her back, she thinks there is never any reasoning with these Greys. She rises toward the ceiling and just as she’s about to bump her forehead on its asbestos laded popcorn texture, an intense orange light surrounds her and she passes right through the ceiling and through the building’s roof and out into the fresh late morning air. Cherry blossoms bloom below, scenting the air with spring.
High above her is a saucer ship with an open portal in its underside. As she’s lifted toward it on a beam of light, she says, “All of this is really unnecessary. We can take my car. It’s parked in the building’s garage, and Burgerville is just down the road a short ways. Why always so elaborate? Call my office, make an appointment, we can take my Mercedes. I won’t even charge you for mileage.”
But the Greys don’t respond, and as she brought inside the ship, she takes one last big breath of fresh flower scented air before being enclosed in the stink of their ship and the doors seal closed beneath her.
* * *
Buck hasn’t felt this free since spring break thirty years ago in Mexico when he took magic mushrooms and ate the worm out of the bottom of a bottle of mescal. He admittedly doesn’t remember much of that night, but he remembers it as the last time he felt free before he bought into all of the “stuff” everyone told him he needed and had to do. Get an MBA. Get a high-paying white collar job. Get married. Have children. Get a mortgage for a suburban house with a yard and a lawn to mow. Drive a status symbol. Shop at Whole Foods or Zupan’s. The list goes on and gets longer each year and has even become multigenerational to include stuff he is now supposed to make his son do. Go to a fancy college and start the cycle all over again. But they don’t take into account kids like Junior who aren’t suited for college. They shove them into the status seeking pipeline whether they like it or not, only for them to crap out and beat themselves up for not living up to someone else’s standards. That won’t happen to Junior, not with his low SAT scores. He’s already crapped out.
And there are the clothes, always the unspoken dress code that states who you are. Buck hates it all, so confining, especially the suits and ties and leather soled wingtip shoes he wears everyday. The only thing he truly likes that he wears are his boxers, but even those he has to keep conservative because of his workouts at the club. Bright flowered boxers won’t do in the locker room even if they do express who he is more than light blue stripes on a white background.
“I’m a flower, not a pinstripe,” he says aloud to himself. The words liberate him.
He loosens the knot of his tie at his throat and pops the top button of his shirt, but that’s not enough. He tries to pull the tie loose over his head, but even his collars are buttoned down. He tears at his collar tabs, snaps loose the buttons, and pulls the tie over his head and tosses it aside. He tears open his shirt front and more buttons pop loose, hitting the inside of his windshield like pellets from a bb gun. With his chest now bare to the world, he feels better but it’s still not enough. He craves more freedom, always more.
Then he catches the scent of burgers grilling and out of the corner of his eye spots the Burgerville marquee and realizes he’s craving every food he can remember on their menu. He hits the brakes, swerves across several lanes of traffic, and swings into their drive-thru lane scraping his tailpipe and smelling like burning rubber. He rolls to a stop in front of the big plastic menu, self-illuminated like the Goodyear blimp, and sits there drooling up at it like a Newfoundland dog. So many fried and grilled delights he can’t make up his mind which to choose, but a funny sensation makes him feel like he doesn’t have a mind and not to worry about it, just let his stomach do the thinking this time.
The menu speaker crackles. “May I fuck your order, peas?” a tin voice from the dysfunctional speaker asks.
Buck tilts his head at the menu speaker. “Um… I’d rather you didn’t. Maybe you could save that for your break? And peas? I hadn’t thought about having any but now that you’ve brought them up I think I will have some peas. Are they deep fried?”
The speaker crackles some more. “Sorry, no pee.”
“Don’t be sorry. I don’t want any pee. I’ll take a Dr. Pepper instead. You have Dr. Pepper, don’t you?
“Dr. Pecker, yes.”
Buck looks over the menu wondering what he can order that Dr. Pecker will be least likely to fuck. Can you fuck a burger? He’s definitely avoiding the hotdogs, anything with a bun like that. What about a milkshake? His stomach says don’t worry about it. Order and eat, worry about what’s been fucked later. But then Buck’s heart starts to worry about how lonely Dr. Pecker is if he’s fucking hotdogs and tacos. Maybe he needs a hug.
The car behind Buck honks long and loud.
Now Buck’s heart begins to worry about the discomfort of the stomachs of the people in the car behind him, but Buck’s stomach interrupts and says to the menu speaker, “I want one of everything on you menu, give it to me with extra grease and extra fucking.” Buck has no idea where that came from, then he hears his stomach gurgle with hunger.
The speaker crackles. “Please pull up to the pricks-up window.”
The car behind him honks again. Buck waves over his shoulder, puts the car in gear and pulls forward. It’s an odd sensation not having a mind, but his stomach is making a lot of sense right now, much more than his mind ever did. Gurgle-logic is powerful stuff.
* * *
“Stop honking,” Dr. Merkel snaps at the driver from the passenger seat. To her initial delight, it’s the actual Ricardo from You Tube, but her titillation quickly faded she realized he is the hubrid, and alien human hybrid so human in appearance they can’t be told apart from the real thing, who can’t get a handle on using the drive-thru.
The gray leans between the two front seats and asks, “Why shouldn’t he honk? People seem to do it all the time for no apparent reason, like belching in shopping malls and picking their noses in the food court.”
“You just don’t. Not in a drive-thru. It isn’t done.”
“Yes, but why not?” Ricardo asks. He looks to be in his mid 20s, but you can never tell with these hubrids, hybrids who are indiscernible from regular humans, and dressed in his bland outfit straight off the racks of Target, he fits in like any other basement dwelling pajama boy geek, though a very fit one.
“The only time you might honk is if you pulled in behind someone you knew, then you might give a polite little tap on the horn to say hello and let them know you were there so they could see you wave at them.”
The driver honks his horn again and opens his door to get out of the car.
Dr. Merkel grabs his arm. “Where are you going?”
“To say hello, I mean, I honked, now I need to go shake his hand and tell him how happy I am to make his aquintance.” He glances back at the gray. “Isn’t that right?”
Dr. Merkel shakes her head. “But you don’t know him.”
“I feel like I do, I’ve been behind him for so long.”
“Get back in the car and close the door, you moronic hybrid,” Dr. Merkel says, and with a glance at the gray, adds, “What did you mix this guy’s genes with? A lost puppy or something?”
Ricardo slide back in his seat and closes the door. “I am not moronic. My intelligence is far superior to yours. And if stray puppies ruled your world, we’d be hybridizing with them instead of you, so consider yourself lucky.”
She smiles at the smug tone in his voice.
“He is right, you know,” the gray says from behind her.
Dr. Merkel twists in her seat to face the gray in back. “Are you having the fries this time, or are you going to stick with that seaweed paste you slather on yourself like a sorority sister on spring break in Waikiki?”
The gray is about to comment on the benefits of absorbing nutrients through the skin when it realizes she’s being sarcastic.
Dr. Merkel smiles at his confusion. “There’s a lot more going on than simple intelligence, wouldn’t you say?”
“Sarcasm is foreign to us.”
The car in front of them pulls forward to the pick-up window. Dr. Merkel waits for Ricardo to pull forward to the order menu, but he just sits there staring at the receding brake lights of the car ahead like a deer in headlights.
“How are you going to blend in if you can’t manage the most mundane of tasks. A 13 year old in stolen car can manage the drive-thru. Pull the fucking car up to the next menu, puppy-boy, and I’ll give you a bone.”
The corner of the hybrid’s lip pulls up in a snarl. “From what I understand, it’s you, Dr. Merkel, who wants the bone.”
“I don’t want a bone, you moron, I want a boning. If you’re going to insult me, at least get it right and do it with some panache.”
The hubrid driver goes humph and pulls the car up to the order menu.
The tinny sounding speaker asks, “May I fuck your order, peas?”
The hubrid smiles at the speaker as if he’s presenting himself in a formal introduction to an actual person. “Yes, you may fuck my order, but no peas. They remind me too much of seaweed paste,” he says the last with a guilty glance at the gray in backseat.