Universe W-1234: Muddy Creek 2
Red Or Green?
Morning With The Flavor
The shrill rhythmic beeping of an unsnoozed alarm clock precedes a blip of static. Then, “Goooooooooood morning lovely residents of Muddy Creek! It’s me, the host with the most Mister Bonga Boast, and I’m here to start your day off right! Here’s that little diddy by everyone’s favorite garage rapper, Morning with the Flavor!”
The melodic tune of some poor impoverished bastard living their dream pours out of Jonathan’s speaker. He groans as he sits up, ridding his eye of crusties before he gets out of bed and immediately drops to the floor. The words of his Pop echo in his mind: ‘Pushups, every morning. You need to do pushups, it’ll make you stronger and it’s the right thing to do.’ Ah, the days of his past when his parents still breathed, the days when they’d wake him up early to go on morning hikes before the day got started. What a time.
Two sets of twenty-two pushups later and Jonathan can be found pillaging through his closet, searching for something appropriate to wear to work. Dark blue jeans and a light blue shirt, or light blue jeans and a dark blue shirt? Decisions, decisions. He picks the latter and heads into the kitchen for some breakfast, Deany Jim’s sausage and egg sandwich just can’t be beat these days. After brushing his teeth and walking his elderly neighbor’s dog, Jonathan is off to work. Those animals aren’t going to stuff themselves, after all.
Traffic was light; in hindsight Jonathan didn’t need to leave his house so early, but that’s okay. Better to be a half hour early than to be thirty seconds late. Jonathan’s been working at the plant for… well it’s gotta be six years now, ever since he acquired his own place to live, coincidentally enough, and he always goes far out of his way to show loyalty to his employers. That’s why, when Bossman pulls up at ten minutes after nine, he sees Jonathan using the scissors on a pocketknife to trim the hedges ‘round the parking lot. Pleasantries are exchanged and they both head inside the unventilated, fortress-esque metal box, excited to start their days.
The last of Jonathan’s bumbling coworkers show up at nine and a half to find Jonathan stuffing small plush animal skins full of fluff, as happy as a clam. By ten o’clock everyone is dressed in gloves and hair nets and the assembly line is running at full speed. The staff goes through their normal daily routine, Bossman delegating the Norwegian half of the crew to removing fluff from the returns and the old discontinued models and washing it in a big vat marked REPURPOSING whilst the English speaking half preps orders and stuffs empty skins with repurposed fluff that was washed yesterday.
At around noon, a blacked-out van pulls up to the plant, driven by none other than a shady man dressed in black with a flowy red scarf. The man struts in and glides through the warehouse, ignoring the floormen as he marches towards Bossman’s office like a Nazi, proud to report the success of his latest raid to his Fuhrer. Jonathan has seen this van before; suddenly, lunch break sounds like a great idea.
He washes his hands before going into the break room. He needs to get his phone and lunch bag from his locker before he leaves, and if he’s really careful, he’ll be able to avoid Bossman and his shady associate for at least the next thirty minutes.
Sliding out the door unspotted, the sun beats down on Jonathan’s skin and guides him ever so gently to the front seat of his car where he sits down and checks his phone. Seven missed calls from Boingo, an old friend that pops in from time to time, and a notification from his audio book app telling him the latest posthumous King novel has been released, download it now! Deciding the sucklers of Mister King’s long-dry teet can wait until later, Jonathan dials Boingo and pinches his phone with his ear and shoulder while simultaneously trying to back out of his parking spot.
“Ayyyy Jonnyboy! I called ya like twice man, where y’at?”
“What’s up Boingo. I just started my lunch break now, I’ll see you in a few.”
“But doot, we had uh appointment fer ten minutes ago ‘nd I’ve been waitin’ here ever since, jus’ me and the BoingBus, nuttin’ to do, nowheres to go, one dude t’see who hasn’t come t’see me yet. Ten minutes, doot.”
Jonathan makes a noise like he’s really surprised. “Ten min–TEN MINUTES? Holy crud! Then you can definitely wait a few more!! Lol I’ll see you in a bit buddy.”
“Ughhh I hate when ya say lol over the phone. Fuckin’ internet speaker. See ya in a few, man.”
Pulling onto the dead main road from HeadHoncho Parkway, Jonathan zips around brilliantly angled dime-like turns and follows the asphalt path through Muddy Creek’s industrial park until it turns on to the main main road. A short zap down the main main road and a right turn onto an unpaved dirt trail takes Jonathan to the parking lot of the local reservoir. The small dust storm emitting from his tires when he hits the lot makes for quite the inconspicuous arrival, but there are no police officers down here, not even any retired cops who ended their retirement early to drive circles around the reservoir. It’s the middle of the day, after all, and the majority of Muddy Creek’s residents have day jobs like good, responsible adults; the parking lot is totally deserted, save for the rustbucket that goes by the name of the BoingBus. It’s less of a bus and more of a ‘87 Sinan Bentra, but good luck telling Boingo that.
Jonathan drives through the cloud of exhaust spilling from the exhaust pipe of the BoingBus and parks on the driver’s side. They both roll their windows down in unison.
“Hiya Jonny,” whilst checking his surroundings like a meercat. “Y’got the stuff?”
“Of course I do man, come on. You only wanted a gram, right?”
Boingo smiles a most insidious, entitled smile. “Yezzir, one gramma’ smack. Should last me ‘til next week at least, dependin’.”
Jonathan shakes his head. He pulls out a tiny Zippalok baggie of pure, grade A heroin and tosses it through Boingo’s open window. “I don’t even want to know what that’s depending on, just be good Boingo. Happy Friday.”
Boingo passes the money off to Jonathan in a handshake and then drives right off, eager to inject himself into wherever it is that heroin takes you once it starts backstroking its way through your bloodstream. Jonathan doesn’t know, and he doesn’t care to find out. Dude has twenty minutes to eat his peanut butter and jelly sandwich he packed for lunch before he needs to be back at work, there is no time to waste.
Jonathan gets back to work with a whole thirty seconds to spare. The van is gone and the plant is silent when he walks in, everyone seems to be huddled around something laying in the middle of the floor. Jonathan approaches slowly, a certain familiar smell gracing his nostrils as he does. Chills go down his spine as he peers over the youngest of the four Norwegian brothers’ shoulder and sees it: a wooden shipping box full of fluff that is just oozing an unfortunately familiar red liquid all over the concrete floor. As if by clockwork, Bossman steps out of his office and joins the team huddle, a bulging lit cigarette caught between his lips.
He takes a drag, declaring, “Well boys, nothing you haven’t seen before. The company is getting paid very well for taking this fluff, it’s been quite used. You know what to do.”
With that, he turns back around and waltzes towards his office, a rolled-up ATV catalogue sticking out of his back pocket.
Tony, an English-speaking Norwegian, steps towards Bossman and grips his belt buckle, speaking up. “Hey, what do you want us to do with the solids in there, Bossman? By the way, we’re all out of rubber gloves out here. We bareskinning?”
Without turning around, breaking his stride, or acknowledging that last question, “What’s that name you guys have for the pit back there? The Zoo Of The Dead? Bury the bits and pieces there, like you always do. Un-fucking-believable.”
The group sighs before breaking into formation and gathering their supplies. Last month the English-speaking crew dug the holes, so today the Norwegians be ripe for the shovel. Meanwhile, Tony grabbed four garbage cans and joined Jonathan and the boys in separating the fluff from the bloody animal parts.
“What kind of creature you think it was this time?” Tony asks, his hands dripping.
“Beats me,” says Jonathan, ungloved hands full with sopping wet crimson fluff. “Probably a big cat, maybe a snow leopard or a Florida panther or som’n. Definitely endangered, likely skinned.”
“It always is, ain’t it?” as he tosses the innards of a severed cat leg into the garbage can to the left. “This is real fucked up, we don’t even get a bonus for this. Why do we put up with it?”
Jonathan laughs. “Hey man, nobody’s stopping you from getting another job. In fact, I just made a sale during my lunch. I can afford to pass on overtime today, happy fuckin’ Friday to Jonathan!”
“Shit man,” Tony starts, lowering his voice so nobody can hear them through the open window in his office, “burying illegal animal body parts or selling some drugs for a living, which is worse?”
“That, my friend, is a difficult question. What I do know though, is that one leaves red on your hands while the other leaves green.”
“Red or green, huh? Why not both?” Tony looks up and hands Jonathan an eyeball, the optic nerve still attached. “Merry Christmas Jonnyboy, don’t say I never gave you nothin’.”
The Norwegian crew finishes digging the holes before the body parts are sorted so they grab the fluff cans and empty them into the vat when they come back inside. Three more canloads later and the clock strikes five; leaving his coworkers to continue working and earning their overtime, our man goes to the break room and gathers the few things he brings to work before proceeding to Bossman’s office to say his obligatory goodnight. They have an awkward conversation, Bossman bringing up the fact that he has a nephew who is more than willing to work overtime every day of the week.
Jonathan drives home five miles an hour under the speed limit to piss off the dude in the lifted pickup truck behind him in traffic. He parks, stomach rumbling and eyelids heavy, and drags his feet across his lawn and into his house. Another day down, another dollar earned. He treks up to his room and fishes out the shoebox from beneath his bed; taking his $200 out from his back pocket, he drops the fat wad in to join the rest of his small fortune without organizing it whatsoever. If Jonathan’s math is right, this box should contain around $37,485 by now, his math isn’t fantastic, though.
Jonathan puts his stash away and goes outside to his backyard, grabbing an ice-cold cherry soda on his way out. Sitting down in an old lawn chair, feet up on a log, he cracks his bottle and takes a long, deserved swig. The bubbles tickle his throat as he easily downs half the concoction in a single gulp, unleashing a mighty belch when he’s done. Studying the bottle in his hand, he utters to himself, “Red or green, Jonathan? Red or green?”