Today’s post is an excerpt from my writing notebook – a glimpse into a city where aliens are commonplace.
It was an okay job, I guess. The guys in the back of the house knew how to work hard, but they also had a dedicated sense of when to goof off. It was necessary, just to preserve some kind of sanity in a place that never really closed. There was no “last call” when you are servicing a metropolis teeming with visitors from all corners.
One night when I was taking some glasses to the back to be prepped and washed, one of the dishwashers poked me with his stubby fingers and said “Youz, Followz”. He used that damn projection thing that they do, that vibrates your skull and makes the words seem to come out of everywhere. Scared the crap out of me.
Looking down, I saw in his beady eyes a sense of urgency, so I put down my rack of dirty glasses and bent low to get into the small access tube he waddled into.
There were some lights strung up like an afterthought at the worlds drunkest party, zig-zagging all over the top of the tunnel until there was a lit heap at the end, where the rest of the string had been thrown. Near the heap we took a fast right and left, until there was a small space where some of the other washers were sitting.
I got the once-over from a bunch of small black beady eyes, but since I was escorted, they stayed put and kept on working at their seats. Each one had a small break crafted into a larger pipe, and I could see waves of liquid pushing through. Looking up, I saw this was one of the many fractured alleys and pathways in the city that had been built over, so there was no entrance other than the one I came from.
A narrow slit of sky was visible, with the floating advertisements blasting colored beams into the foggy night.
They all had a worn cup, that was tied to the pipe in segments, which allowed them to scoop up some liquid and dump it into containers near their feet. The sound was like a gentle scraping, as if ocean waves made of cups would make crashing on to wooden shores. Some were taking hits from the cups too, and looking further down I saw a few of them asleep, cup dangling in their hands.
“Youz Scup, Youz Friendz”
Oh, an invitation then. They cleared a seat at the pipe and I pointed and asked “For Whatz?” and was met with a pause before he said “mucho safez you likez”. Well damn, I guess I won’t go blind. Our metabolisms were similar enough, and this unregulated tap line must be from some pirate brewer somewhere, the smell was like gentle aged whiskey before it got poured into bottles and capped.
I sat and took a worn cup, dipping into the waves — “Noz Waitz” – he slapped the cup out of my hand and I saw the darker debris that was floating inside. Oh, okay… there’s a trick to it.
I watched as he deftly got the cup, dipped into the flow avoiding the particles and slapped it back into my hand.
It was slightly warm, like it had been through a fractioning column. I took a deep swig, and the familiar burn down the back of my throat was all I needed to know.
They had accepted me, I was one of them. I drank, and the warming feeling of the booze pushed back the grey fog leaking from the sky.