“Communicate with aliens. Putin owes me money,” the woman in the huge mascot suit said under her breath. These were things she’d read on the wall of the referees’ locker room toilet that morning. Other things were written there, too, but mostly dealt with blowjobs or hockey players’ wives. She stood next to a small table with a stack of forms and a cardboard ballot box, shaking a brass bell now and then to garner extra attention.
A chubby man with a warm smile bent over the ballot forms and began filling one out. “I don’t even like the water,” he said, chuckling. Top prize was a boat.
The arena floor was packed as tightly as anyone dared. Meaning it was the sparsest trade show they’d ever had, and everyone inside had a limit on how much time they could spend per section. The health minister had lessened the restrictions recently, but every large gathering had cordons and every face wore a mask. White stands with battery-powered hand sanitizer dispensers popped up like parking meters on the masking tape lines splitting the rows of traffic between the vendors. Nobody complained. Just south of the border, the virus kept on its upward surge and only that morning took its 300,000th victim. January—supposing things were corrected in November—couldn’t come soon enough.
Jamey Sansom didn’t think much of the virus, but felt doubly safe inside the bulky Sammy Tsunami outfit. The headpiece rose an entire foot above her scalp, foam blue hair with white tips clawing out like a wave reaching to just shy of seven feet. The hollow body was bulky and her hands were hidden behind clumsy, oversized hockey gloves. The bottoms gave her a snowman’s ass and had chunky legs on foam skates that fit over her shoes. Beneath, she wore only yoga pants, a t-shirt, her sneakers, and a fluorescent pink fanny pack to cart her phone and card wallet. She wore no undergarments. She wore no mask.
Of course, Sammy Tsunami had no mouthpiece and all the vents were at the back of the head. And it was not as if she was approaching the situation with the same gusto she had before the hockey season was cancelled. Kids still needed a pat or a hug against the leg of the costume, but she wouldn’t be rolling around, wouldn’t be tackled by a tiny screaming hoard.
She missed that, but everyone had to make sacrifices.
It sounded wrong in her head—and thankfully she had no reason to articulate it in so many words—but touching kids was her only physical contact left with other people. She hadn’t had any friends since high school ended, and then she moved three hours away from her hometown to take the part-time job as Sammy Tsunami. She’d never had a girlfriend—though she had had three boyfriends in the twelfth grade, despite knowing she was gay. And her mother had died three years prior—on top of that, the woman had been in care for dementia for six additional years, and on pills most of her adult life. Jamey’s father had died when she was a baby.
This left Jamey lonely, barely employed, and worth just shy of ten million dollars. She rode an electric bicycle around town and lived in a rented two bedroom condo with revolving goldfish she named Willie.
The chubby man with the nice smile folded his ballot and slipped it into the box. It was true that he had a chance to win a boat, but he’d also given his name, age, telephone number, email address, and occupation to the local Investors Group office, who would be calling and emailing him fairly relentlessly for the next six months.
“Good luck,” Jamey said, too low for the man to hear. She hadn’t meant it anyway.
A kid came up, eyeing the ballots.
“Can I do one?”
A man stepped in behind the boy and put a meaty hand on the kid’s shoulder. Jamey pointed to the dad and then to the form.
The man understood immediately and leaned down to read the fine print on the side of the ballot. His face scrunched and he looked at the goofy sneer of Sammy Tsunami and said, “Data farming, huh?”
“Putin owes me money!” Jamey shouted.
The man jerked straight back and then some. He spun the boy away from the ballots. “Come on, Scotty.”
Jamey pouted out her thin pink lips and wondered why in the hell she’d done that. Not that it mattered.
By the noon hour, she had to pee and wished she’d brought her cannabis pills. She could stand around waving and ringing the bell totally conked out, and she probably wouldn’t yell at anyone—after Scotty’s dad, she’d only yelled two more times, both with suggestions to communicate with aliens.
Just as she was about to hurry away to the can, a woman in a denim jacket and matching jeans stepped forward. She had on steel-toed boots and a yellow t-shirt featuring Cardi B flipping the bird. This woman was so perfect Jamey gasped.
Her plump lips. Her dark eyes. Her skinny hips.
“Can I sell the boat if I win it?” the woman asked. She had already started to fill in a ballot. Her hands were strong and had a slightly darker hue than her arms, like she had a dirty job.
Jamey brought herself to nod, but could do no more.
“Nice. Can I fill out two?”
The answer was no, but Jamey nodded again.
This time the big dopey Sammy Tsunami head shook with what little range it had.
“Oh, well.” The woman dropped the first ballot in and started onto the second. Within a minute, another woman was filling out a ballot and the beautiful woman in denim was gone from sight.
Jamey stood stock still until some minutes later a dribble of piss dampened her yoga pants. She grabbed the ballot booklet and box, and tore off through the loose crowd.
The arena dressing rooms were locked to the public, but Jamey had a key to the referees’ room—where she’d slipped into Sammy Tsunami. After emptying her bladder—the pressure on her urethra had made her wince—she opened the box and began rooting for the only double ballot of the bunch.
“Heather Bracken. Heather Bracken, the mechanic who lives on Berkley Lane in Dermond,” she said, slowly, before slipping that extra ballot into her fanny pack.
Heather Bracken had a website for her business. She repaired and restored everything from classic cars to modern trucks to all-terrain vehicles.
Jamey had gone straight home from the arena and set to boiling a hotdog in a pot of water—after she retrieved the Red Hot, she’d dump in the Kraft Dinner noodles, cut the dog into coins, and then toss them in with the delicious, high-octane-yellow cheese powder before mixing everything to together, after pouring out the boiled water.
While the dog bobbed, plumping, getting ready to split, Jamey sat at her kitchen table basking in the ambient blue glow of her laptop screen. She looked up Heather Bracken on Facebook and discovered the woman was single—no word on sexual orientation.
“I love you,” Jamey said and then tongue kissed the blown-up profile picture as boil bubbles splashed and hissed against the stovetop.
Ten minutes later, munching the KD from the pot with a soup spoon, she finally looked at the big fish tank next to the red leather couch. Willie was spying her, like he knew something, like maybe they had an idea about how to approach the beautiful Heather Bracken, or…
“Sonofabitch,” she hissed and set the pot on the coffee table. The little food shaker dropped out two miserable flakes. She spied into the hole. “Communicate with aliens,” she growled and then looked up to Willie who’d already munched the flakes. “After I finish eating, I’ll run to Wally World, okay?”
She spooned the KD and scrolled one-handedly with the Xbox One controller through Netflix options. She side-eyed the tank. Willie was still looking at her, hovering, flapping his teeny lips.
“Fine!” she shouted and tossed the pot and spoon onto the coffee table. She slipped into her sneakers and clipped her fanny pack around her waist.
The Walmart bag bounced off the handle bars as Jamey pedalled lazily, but kept up a speed of about twenty KPH. Heather Bracken hadn’t left her mind, but it seemed like she was swirling a drain, about to leave the picture altogether. She had no reason to call the woman, hell, she didn’t even have a proper licence. She couldn’t even buy a car or truck and muck it up somehow.
Jamey hit the brakes and the fish food in the bag went into a twirling frenzy below her handlebars. Out front of an old brick bungalow was a tube-frame dune buggy with a hand-painted for sale sign. Jamey was so excited she wheeled the bike up and down through a mucky ditch to get to the buggy.
“Are you broken? Do you need fixed?” she whispered to the machine.
Seconds later, a crackly smoker voice called out over the lawn, “Hi, there!”
Jamey straightened. The woman charging at her filled out her muumuu quite admirably. Her short legs and little feet were frantic over the grass. Pink curlers dotted her thick gray hair like acne.
“Hey. Is this thing broken?” Jamey said.
The woman stopped and frowned. She then sighed and nodded. “If you come around here, you’ll see where the rear axle broke.”
“So it needs to get fixed?” Jamey was almost thrumming.
“Yes, unfortunately. My husband was driving it and a black bear jumped out of a shrub and startled him. He lost control and wasn’t wearing his seatbelt. When the buggy rolled, my poor Dwayne shot out through the roll cage and into a transformer box. Nobody even lost power, but he broke his neck.”
“That why he’s selling it?”
The woman scrunched her eyes and leaned her head forward. “He’s fucking dead.”
Jamey unzipped her fanny pack and withdrew her cellphone. She opened the notepad app. “Can you write down what needs fixed.”
“It’s the rear axle and wheel.” The woman was shaking her head. “Look at it.”
“No, but, I need it written down. I’ll call you later for sure if I’m going to buy it.”
“I didn’t tell you the price.”
“Just type the wrong stuff!” Jamey shouted and thrust her phone into the woman’s chubby little fingers.
The woman did as told and added the telephone number and a price of $900. She then thumbed open the camera app and took a picture of where the wheel and axle came together.
Willie was mowing down and Jamey was composing an email, picking at cold noodles.
Dear, Heather Bracken,
I am in need of your expert services. I have recently purchased a dune buggy that has a broken rear axle and twisted wheel hub. I think the engine is clunky, too. I wish I knew more about this stuff and am wondering if you’d be willing to explain dune buggy logistics to me so I can maybe have a better handle on things in the future. It would really mean a lot to have a mentor like
Jamey held down the delete button and started over. It wouldn’t do to sound like a desperate freak. Not at all.
Hello, Heather Bracken,
Do you have time to fix my dune buggy? It has a busted axle and wheel hub, and the engine’s not running right. I hear you’re the best around and I need this done sooner than later. Additionally, I would like to stay to watch you while you work
“Holy, creepo,” she said and then rolled the type back to the beginning.
My dune buggy has a broken rear axle and wheel hub. Could be an engine issue, too. Have time to fix it?
Before she could second guess herself, she hit send and then slammed shut her laptop. Willie appeared to be asleep, facing his plastic castle.
Jamey checked her phone every ten minutes late into the night. She imagined a thousand shades of the same scenario. Heather in denim. Jamey in yoga pants. Willie in the tank. The TV would have on something a little funny and a little sexy. By the end of the program, they’d be holding hands. By the end of the week they’d know each other’s favorite food. By the end of the month, Heather would bring her own goldfish over for a playdate with Willie while Jamey proposed with a Ring Pop.
Jamey awoke at eleven and whipped out a hand to check her phone. Heather had emailed and Jamey’s heart went into overdrive and her fingers started to shake.
Perfect timing. Bring it in tomorrow before lunch, preferably by 11:00. I’ll take a look and give you an estimate.
“Perfect timing,” Jamey whispered, knowing it was Fate. She burst from her bedroom in her shark onesie and shouted at Willie’s glass wall on her way to the washroom. “Perfect timing!”
Then it hit her and she stood up straight from the toilet.
She did not own that dune buggy, hadn’t even put a down payment on it. Singularly minded, she finished her business in the can and broke for the door, slipped her sneakers over the feet of her onesie and dropped her cellphone into her fanny pack. She grabbed the battery for her e-bike from its charger and popped out the door.
She pedalled hard enough that her lungs felt like she’d inhaled bleach, and the little engine buzzed along with her—topping off at forty KPH. Her ears had gotten cold in the gentle morning breeze and she flipped up her hood. People honked. One child yelled at her. She noticed neither; by profession, she was numb to people shouting at her.
She crashed her bike into the cement lip of the sidewalk in front of the RBC, taking a gentle roll and scuffing a blue knee of her onesie. She didn’t come to a full stop until she was firmly in front of an ATM. She withdrew $1500 in fifty-dollar increments. The money spewed out quickly, but hardly fast enough.
“Step away from the bike! Putin owes me money!” she shouted at a dirty young man with scabby lips and purple tread marks up his arms. He wore gray jeans and a t-shirt from that movie where Bruce Lee’s son died while shooting.
He lowered the kickstand and scowled. “I was only—love is in the air!” he said and lowered his eyes, began scurrying away.
Jamey looked around the busy, but unaware, parking lot. Something had just happened. Two perfect timings meant Fate was dancing with Destiny.
She hopped on the bike and pedalled and buzzed over to the dune buggy lady’s house. The woman was on her lawn, but the buggy was gone.
“Sorry, a man just loaded it up.” The woman had a small grin on her lips and in her gray eyes, as if something about the dishevelled thirty-year-old in a shark onesie on a bicycle was amusing. “He didn’t even haggle.”
The man at the bank was not what she thought. He was not a harbinger of her Destiny to be with Heather Bracken, he’d been an agent of Chaos. Jamey balled her fists and screamed, monkey-like, at the sky. She snapped her head down and said, “Which way did they go?”
The old woman did a half-assed finger gun point down the street. Jamey recommenced her highest possible speed and chased. After three blocks, she took a chance and hooked left. She then took a right at a set of lights without slowing. A Mercury Cougar honked at her as she cut onto the street that would soon become the highway. About a kilometer away was the next set of lights. At those lights was a truck with a dune buggy loaded onto an uncovered trailer.
“Mine,” Jamey said into the wind.
The distant red switched to green and the truck was quickly matching and then exceeding Jamey’s top speed. Within minutes, they were out of town and Jamey’s presence had become a nuisance to many drivers. They honked horns and shouted from windows; big trucks sent her wobbling in the trailing drafts of their cargo.
After an hour, Jamey was about as low as she could get. Heather Bracken awaited her future wife with a dune buggy, but Jamey didn’t have a dune buggy and thusly couldn’t be…she crested a hill, just pulling out of a roadside chip stand was the truck and trailer.
“Wait!” Jamey said, though it was pointless. The temperature was in the high twenties and the truck had its windows up, almost certainly blowing AC from its dash.
The truck pulled from view and Jamey put her head down, pedalling. The battery gage suggested she was down to about twenty percent; she cringed. She lowered the assist level and instantly began to sweat and slow—the e-bike wasn’t great unless the engine was really pushing for her.
“Putin owe me money!” she wailed, but persevered.
After only minutes, Jamey had to stop to lean against her handlebars. She’d pulled all the way over into the gravel where it met the grass of the ditch. She imagined Heather in the embrace of another woman. They were wearing matching denim, but the girlfriend had hers cut into capris and wore Birkenstocks on her feet. Traditional farmer’s market couture.
“Heather, why?” she said through mounting tears.
Her life was completely and utterly…a crow hopped down from a power line and started toward her on foot. “Caw!” it said and Jamey lifted her head. The bird popped two jumping steps to the right. “Caw! Caw!” it said and took flight, over a field and landing on the roof of a big red shed.
Parked next to the shed was a truck with an empty trailer.
“Mine,” Jamey growled and began pedalling with renewed vigor.
“Oh, Taylor, I’m sorry. Yeah, go rest for a bit,” the man said to the frail boy.
The boy left the shed and his father. Jamey slunk from the shadows and entered the shed. “That’s my dune buggy. I will give you fifteen hundred bucks to give it back to me.”
The man jumped and spun at the sound of her voice. “Holy, you scared me.”
“Take the money. It’s all there.” Jamey held out a wad of bills.
“What? No. My son and I are going to fix it up.”
“No. It’s mine and Heather is going to fix it up and fall in love with me.”
The man furrowed his eyebrows. “Are you retarded?” he said.
“No, are you?”
“What the hell is going on?”
“That’s my dune buggy.”
The man blinked. “I just bought it for my son. We’re celebrating. His cancer’s in remission and we’re going to fix it together.”
“No that’s—” Jamey’s phone pinged and she glanced into her cracked fanny pack. She could see only a portion of the screen, but saw enough to recognize the email icon. She snatched the phone out and opened the message from Heather Bracken.
Just want to check. You’re coming out tomorrow? Got a call for a fluid flush and want to make sure I’m not double booking, at least not when we first have a look at the dune buggy.
All those scrumptious WEs. The man was still talking, saying something about his son and how difficult the treatments had been, but Jamey wasn’t hearing it, she was too busy responding, promising she’d be there with her dune buggy.
The phone went back into the fanny pack and Jamey said, “I’ll give you five thousand for it.”
“What?” the man said, his tanned face going red.
The man squinched his eyes and evaluated Jamey a little closer, head to feet, feet to head. “You don’t have six grand. You don’t have five. That money in your hand was probably printed by the Parker Brothers. Get off my property.”
“That’s my dune buggy.” Jamey’s expression was wide with disbelief.
“Lady, take your short bus ass off my property before I call the cops.”
Stunned, truly and wholly, Jamey stumbled backward, into the field where she’d left her e-bike. The man followed her far enough that he could watch her departure.
Darkness had settled over the property. The boy had come into the house much earlier and it appeared it was only the two of them. Jamey was in the master bedroom closet with a long knife she’d pulled from the block in the kitchen after she’d discovered that the back door was unlocked.
The first step was to force the man at knifepoint to load the dune buggy back onto the trailer. Then he’d drive to Heather Bracken’s to drop it off. Then they’d go to the bank and pull fresh bills from the ATM to prove she meant no funny business. Lastly, they’d come back and she’d pedal home, put an end to this deviation from Destiny.
The man hadn’t come inside yet and Jamey hid amongst the many plaid shirts and pairs of blue jeans. The denim was rough and awful, nothing like what Heather Bracken’s jeans would be like. Heather Bracken would have soft denim, so worn there’d be tantalizing little holes around her back pockets and up her thighs, revealing the shades of her underwear.
Jamey couldn’t wait to do laundry with Heather Bracken. Heather Bracken would take her onesies and her yoga pants and she’d smell them when Jamey wasn’t around, just to feel closer. Jamey tilted her head back, seeing the beautiful future.
Jamey groaned gently, lost in reverie and the perfection of her Fate; from the moment pen met ballot to when they’d get married by an Elvis impersonator in Vegas, to when Jamey would plant kisses over Heather Bracken’s eyes and Heather Bracken would lay back in her arms and sigh. She groaned again.
“What the fuck are you doing?” the man said a half-second after the closet’s accordion door swung open.
Jamey reacted on instinct.
“Communicate with aliens. Communicate with aliens. Communicatewithaliens,” Jamey said, her breaths ragged and her body stiff with wasting adrenaline. Blood matted the front of her shark onesie and the battery on her e-bike was blinking red.
The dune buggy was not on the trailer headed for Heather Bracken’s garage.
Jamey pedalled hard enough that she had to close her eyes. The e-bike veered in and out over the white line of the shoulder. Images of her future with Heather Bracken were splitting and cracking, bursting like little fireworks of gold dust.
A horn honked behind her and a groundhog popped up from the ditch. Jamey yanked her handlebars to the left. A Mazda M3 clipped her and sent her airborne. She spread her wings and flew, but landed hard, nailing her jaw first.
The world was suddenly bright and she had to squint. A white drop ceiling. White walls. A white woman under white bedsheets. She was in a hospital. She felt her chest absently with a weak hand as she closed her eyes.
They’d taken her onesie.
Jamey smacked her lips and listened as a youngish sounding woman attended to the woman in the bed next to her. She had a nice voice. Jamey squinted open her left eye, drank in the pink scrubs and the gentle curve of the nurse’s butt. The nurse turned then and looked at Jamey. Jamey’s heart fluttered and her mouth ran dry, dryer.
“You had quite a tumble,” the nurse said.
Jamey licked at her gooey teeth. The nurse held out a cup with a bendy straw so Jamey could drink.
“You should’ve been wearing a helmet.”
Jamey pushed away the straw, shot a quick glance at the nurse’s left hand—no ring—and then said, “What’s your name.”
“Heather,” the nurse said.
Jamey’s eyes widened and pain shot through her head on an invisible lightning bolt. She closed her eyes again and moaned.
“Is it a headache?”
Jamey nodded and the movement presented another issue. “I have to pee,” she whispered, flushing. It was so early to get intimate with Heather, but whatever, Fate ruled the cosmos.
“Right. Lean on me and we’ll see if you—oops, better hold this a minute,” the nurse said, pinching the untied rear panels of the hospital gown together. “The doctor was by earlier, but you were out. He’ll come back soon.”
Jamey heard nothing the nurse said, but moaned in gratitude over the thoughtful gesture of closing the back of the gown. The wedding would be white, just like the hospital room.
“Here, you go, just sit. I’ll be outside. Call if you need help standing,” the nurse said.
The door closed slowly on brushed silver piston. Instantly, Jamey’s vision had gone watery with glee-tears. She began to pee, tapping rigid fingers against her numb legs as she inspected the sink and mirror. Someone had left behind a black Sharpie marker. She looked at the clean blank wall to her left. Without thought, she grabbed the marker and reached for the wall.
About the Author:
Eddie Generous has fallen off three different roofs and been lit on fire on multiple occasions. He grew up on a farm and later slept with his shoes under his pillows in homeless shelters. He dropped out of high school to afford rent on a room at a crummy boarding house, but eventually graduated from a mediocre college. He is the author of several small press books, has 2.8 rescue cats (one needed a leg amputation), is a podcast host, and lives on the Pacific Coast of Canada. www.jiffypopandhorror.com