pub. 7-3-23 - 554 words

I enter the prodigious hangar through the gate. I display my passport to the gentleman—nervous, nervous he will catch me in my ruse. He does not. He gives a pleasant smile and gestures me towards the plane.

But I have not escaped. There is a second attendant, a much older man with graying hair and drooping cheeks. He asks for my name, and I confidently tell him, “Chase Peck.”

“Chasing what? Pecking?”

“Chase Peck?” I repeat.

“What are we chasing, a woodpecker? Ha! Chasing pecks?”

“Sorry?”

“Ha ha, yes. I know it’s a name. Anyway, I have some questions.”

Zut. Keep calm.

“You,” he begins, “are boarding this plane on a business trip?”

“Yessir.”

“And you work for the Nutritional School Lunches Corporation?”

“Yessir.”

“You are a lunch lady, correct?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“What’s your business at the NSLC headquarters?”

“Well, I’m advocating for better treatment of lunch ladies.”

“Is that so?”

“Yes.” Somehow, I am able to maintain a believable stream of lies. “Don’t you know how teenagers treat lunch ladies these days? Absolutely abhorrent.”

We are standing in a lunch line, or a sort of buffet. The attendant stands on the opposite side.

I say, “A teenager doesn’t care about the food. All he sees—I use he because of the tendency for violence in men—is the forearms of the lunch ladies, and of course he wants to punch them. The lunch ladies are abused, their forearms are punched. And thus they explode.”

“They explode?

“Well, yes, they explode. There is way, way too much violence nowadays.”

Other people are lined up next to and across from me at the buffet counter. I look down. There is a plate of chocolate chip cookies, and I take one.

I notice my cousin. She has heard my conversation, and adds, “Yes, don’t you know how they make cookies? They use milk. From cows. If you think about it, we are stealing from the young calves. We steal the milk for ourselves, to make sugary treats.”

“That’s right,” I say. “Don’t you know, mister? Every time you eat a cookie, a baby dies.”

“No way,” the attendant says.

“Yes way.” I take a bite of the cookie. “There goes one.”

“Woah,” he breathes.

I recall an event: I was riding in the passenger seat of my parents’ car one day, down the road to the local park. There were cows; there are usually no cows. Now I think just how much milk I’ve stolen from them in my life. I become awash with guilt.

I do not actually work at the Nutritional School Lunches Corporation.

The elderly attendant gestures me onto the plane. I thank him.

I remove my laptop and three hard disk drives from my bag. Without much hassle I plug in all of the drives with my myriad dongles and USB boxes. Finder loads the files, and a cheeky smirk escapes from me.

Of course, the intergalactic novellas and manifestos—the literature of the Sidereal Alliance, a societal outcry over the injustice caused by the treacherous lunch ladies of Earth. My real job is to translate the works from the various Sidereal Languages, such as QiB4inopII, Keplerian, and RRng’snopgr. Finally, the Nutritional School Lunches Corporation will be taken down by the Sidereal Armed Forces, and the lunch ladies will suffer greatly for their crimes.