I hate guarding the aliens. Itís, like, so boring! Iím not allowed to take my eyes off the video monitor and my supervisor wonít even let me talk on the phone. Itís not fair and doesnít make any sense because there are Marines with rifles in guard towers all around the refugee camp who get paid to watch and the transport ships that keep landing to unload more aliens have guards watching, too. Itís not like I canít talk and see the monitor at the same time! I tried explaining that to my supervisor but he just confiscated my cell phone and wouldnít even answer when I tried arguing about it, the rude bastard. Just wait Ďtil I tell my mom! She works for the doctor in charge, which means sheís pretty important (which also sucks because if she didnít, I wouldnít be here). Adults are so frigging stupid.

My life was perfect two weeks ago. If I could go back in time, Iíd choose that Friday. I was finally over at Jenny Cooperís house (yes, the Jenny Cooper!) after trying to get in with her crew for months and I was excited because now my summer was set and Iíd get invited to all the cool parties. We were in the kitchen with the radio blasting, mixing margaritas and, like, dancing and goofing around and someone had just lit a joint when the announcer interrupted to say that a spaceship had begun orbiting Earth with aliens onboard and suddenly my cell phone was ringing. I wanted to cry because I knew it would be mom saying come home because the news meant she had to go be with her geeky scientist friends to work on their dumb secret project and itís just my luck that the government would ruin everything by picking that afternoon to make contact with aliens.

But mom ruined it even more by saying I had to go with her. I was, like, mom, I canít believe this shit, are you serious? And she said yes, the government was moving all the scientists and military people responsible for the aliens to this special camp in Nevada and that their families had to go with them because theyíd be gone for months and the government couldnít, like, risk any leaks. So I had kind of a tantrum right there in Jenny Cooperís kitchen and started screaming and crying and I think I might have broken stuff I was so upset. I know Jenny was pissed but before I could apologize, this military guy came to the door and made me go with him in this black van to the airport. I had to board a plane with my mom and her geeky friends for this three hour trip and there wasnít even a movie or anything and I ended up here and it sucks because I have to stay in this stupid refugee camp in Nevada all summer and they wonít even let me out to attend Burning Man, for Christís sake!

Oh, and! Iím not supposed to call them aliens. Theyíre refugees. Can you believe it? First they show up and ruin my summer and now Iím supposed to pretend theyíre from, like, Viet Nam or something. At first it was cool because all the networks sent reporters to cover the story and celebrities kept showing up to shake hands with the aliens (excuse meórefugees) and do commercials asking for donations. But that only lasted, like, five minutes before there was this earthquake or hurricane or something in Mexico (or somewhere) and suddenly everybody was more interested in that. The only thing left to look at since the celebrities left (besides the aliens) are the Marines and yeah, some of them are real hotties but they never say anything and wonít look at me even when I wear my jean shorts with the flag patch on my ass. (Of course, I canít wear that to work. Mom got me this dumb summer job with the security company that has the contract to guard the alien dormitory and theyíve got this really gay cop-wannabe kind of uniform. Itís so gross, I hate wearing it.)

So I work from, like, ten at night until six in the morning watching this monitor showing the dormitory hallways and exits because even though everybody knows the refugees are here, they still have to be protected. (From what? I asked my supervisor. Angelina Jolie? That was when he decided he didnít like me.) I leave work at six and sleep until one or two in the afternoon then make lunch for mom when she comes back to the trailer after helping the head doctor run tests on the aliens. Mom says they need to run these tests before the aliens are released into Earthís general population. To do what? I ask. Find jobs at Walmart or something? and my mom says yes thatís more or less the plan. But not until sheís sure they arenít carrying some disease that could kill us all. Well, canít you, like, just call the planet theyíre from and ask? and my mom says they tried that but couldnít get a response. (I guess theyíre not answering the phone up there on Mars or wherever. Which tells me that alien leaders are no different from ours. Once in charge, they stop answering questions.) I ask my mom why the aliens couldnít get jobs teaching us how to travel to other planets and stuff and she says the refugees are from the lower classes of their society and so donít have any smarts about spaceships or curing cancer or building awesome laser guns and I say if thatís the case, then why are we bothering to help them? Then mom gets upset and calls me a selfish little bitch and I stay in my bedroom and play on the computer until itís time to go to work.

So, Iím still upset from my fight with mom and have some pot left over from the party at Jennyís so I decide to go get stoned. I wait until my dumb-ass supervisor takes his lunch then go outside to this area behind the dormitory building thatís a kind of loading dock and, once the Marine patrol passes, I light up and take a great big toke of weed and look up at the stars. Itís, like, really clear in the desert. As I start to get high, I feel a little better. I usually do. But that only lasts until I remember that I forgot to prop the door open behind me and now Iím locked out and the only way back inside is past the sentries at the front door and I know theyíll smell pot on me and I start to get all paranoid. Will they shoot me if they know Iím wasted? Then I start to freak out and go all shivery like that time I did too many Ďshrooms with my cousin Sara and we ended up in the Emergency Room getting our stomachs pumped together. (It made us closer, yeah, but it still kind of sucked.)

Iím thinking about all of this when the door opens.

Iím in that really freaked-out place people get into when theyíre too high, so the squeak of the hinges sounds like some monster screeching. And I feel like puking and screaming and peeing my pants all at once but I donít. Which is good because itís one of the aliens that steps out and Iím supposed to be guarding them and doing all those things at once would be, like, totally unprofessional. So, I try to man up and be all security guard-ish for this alien female. And Iím, like, what are you doing out here? And she tells me she comes out here all the time after curfew and that tonightís the first time sheís ever, like, encountered anyone else, so she assumes I must be doing something Iím not supposed to be and sheís all, what are you doing here? So weíre at kind of a Mexican stand-off (which is such a weird expression because Mexicans are such totally mellow, non-confrontational people). I decide to kind of relax and see if that helps the situation any. Iím on break, I say and wait to see what she says.

And she stares at me almost like she can see inside me. And you know those big nostrils that they have? (Like, Iím assuming youíve seen the aliens on TV, same as everyone else.) Well, she leans forward, her bald head touching mine and her blue skin jiggling with all that extra flab they carry around (being overweight is so gross) and she takes a good long sniff with nostrils the size of golf-balls and says I smell different from the others. (And so by now, Iím like totally paranoid. It would be just my luck to end up bumping into the biggest alien snitch in the dormitory but it turns out she isnít interested in being a fink.) She says I smell relaxed, which is a good thing because most of the humans sheís met have been very tense and she says this causes her people to be frightened. So I tell her, yeah, Iím pretty mellow and she says thatís good because it reminds her of this place back on her planet called a do-em where she says they gave everybody medicine to be relaxed and I ask what a do-em is and she looks at me kind ¨¨¨of funny and says itís home. Then she says that she and her friends sneak out here all the time to enjoy themselves and that next time sheíll bring some of them so we can hang and I say cool and slip back inside and return to the computer screen at my desk.

Next day Iím really excited because I start thinking about what the alien said about how back home they take ďmedicineĒ to be relaxed. And I think maybe she can turn me on to, like, some really wicked alien drugs and that maybe being out here all summer wonít be so bad after all. So, Iím daydreaming about all of this while mom and I are having lunch and Iím not paying attention and she has to repeat herself when she says that the doctors have decided the aliens are more or less healthy and that we really have nothing to worry about regarding diseases and stuff. Does that mean we get to go home soon? I ask and mom says weíll be staying until theyíre sure the aliens are fitting into society okay, but that that might end up happening sooner than anyone originally thought. And Iím, like, so jazzed by the idea of getting home before summer ends and hanging out with Jenny and like that.

So the next night Iím out at the loading dock waiting for my new friend when the door opens and out she waddles with two other chubby blue alien chicks. And theyíre, like, hi, how are you? and Iím friendly even though theyíre overweight and have no fashion sense at all. Not the kind of girls Iíd be seen dead with at school but out here in the middle of Nevada, itís, like, totally different. (Especially if youíre, like, alone and donít know anybody and want to score some drugs.) So I turn them on to some pot and we all get high and they start giggling and jibbering amongst themselves about do-em this and do-em that in their funny language and Iím trying to follow along when suddenly I see headlights approaching and I know itís the Marine mobile patrol. So I get them to duck behind the dumpster with me and suddenly the car stops. I think weíre about to get busted by the Marines until we hear footsteps crunching through the gravel and then the sound of a guy pissing. And by the way we all look at each other, I can tell that guys from their planet must do it the same way because suddenly weíre all, like, stifling giggles and trying hard not to make a sound. Then one of the alien chicks makes a gesture like she wants to borrow my lighter so I give it to her and she sneaks away for a minute or so before coming back. Then we head inside. I make it all the way back to my desk before the patrol car explodes.

I watch it burn on the monitor at my desk for a while before my supervisor bursts into the room screaming at me to evacuate the building right away and Iím like, duhóyou donít have to yell and I head home and change into my sweats and make a sandwich and download some new music onto my iPod before getting to bed (early for a change). And when I wake up and go for coffee, mom is at the kitchen table with this balding guy with little round glasses who she introduces as Dr. Ridley. (I donít like anyone whoís older than about twenty-five so I kind of grunt at the guy and sip my coffee but when he starts talking and I discover that he has, like, a brain and a sense of humor, I have sort of a conversation with him.) Turns out heís a linguist from some place called MIT (why donít they just say ďmittĒ? Duh!) whoís been brought in to help decipher the refugeesí native language. He says the refugees are really brilliant the way theyíve been able to learn English so quickly but that acquiring their language might encourage the government on their home-world to respond to our radio messages.

So I tell him Iíve learned an alien word: do-em. Dr. Ridley says he thinks thatís very interesting and asks my mom for a piece of paper and pencil to write it down (since his notebook and pen have gone missing from his office). While mom gets it for him, she jokes that lots of things have disappeared lately from her lab (which I donít believe because momís, like, the obsessive-compulsive Queen of Cleanósheís probably just saying it just to make the old guy feel better). So Dr. Ridley writes down my alien word of the day and waddles back to his office to do his lingual thing and I put on a Tae-Bo DVD. Itís really important to stay in shape.

So when I get to work that night, they call a meeting of all the guards on night shift. And this really uptight Marine lieutenant comes in and starts barking at us about all the problems theyíre having with ďcontainmentĒ in the camp and that last nightís explosion and all the recent thefts has everybody concerned about security and he talks in this alphabet soup of abbreviations and says things like ď10-4Ē and ďstand byĒ in response to peoplesí questions. So I put my hand up and when he calls on me Iím, like, arenít the Marines really the ones responsible for guarding the camp, so why is he giving us such a hard time? And he goes all red in the face and upset and afterwards my supervisor says Iím a trouble-maker and Iím, like, if Iím such a trouble-maker, then why not fire me? And he says he canít because my mom works for the doctor in charge but that heíll add a formal Notice of Reprimand to my personnel file once he finds the proper forms (which have gone missing from his desk drawer), then he tells me to scram.

So by the time I arrive outside later that night, Iíve had enough grown-up bullshit for one day and Iím totally anxious to see my new alien gal-pals. But they donít show up, which really pisses me off. So I smoke the last of my weed and go back to my desk (I remembered to prop the door open; yay!). And itís, like, really quiet in the hallways, which is surprising since they have Marine guards inside the buildings now but thereís no sign of them (which is fine with me Ďcause I donít want to get into any trouble for being high at work). So Iím sitting at my computer screen, moping, when thereís this knock on my office door and I open it and thereís my alien girlfriend. And weíre all, like, hi, how yaí doing? and I notice that sheís carrying, like, a back-pack and a rifle. So Iím all, whatís up? and she tells me to look at the camera by the main dormitory room, which I do, and I see a bunch of aliens sneaking down the hall and out the building past two Marine guards who theyíve got hog-tied on the floor. And the alien girl says thanks and it was really fun getting to know me and that itís been just like do-em and that perhaps weíll see each other again some time. Then she hugs me and leaves.

So I get home after my shift and momís awake and drinking coffee at the kitchen table along with Dr. Ridley and that really uptight Marine lieutenant from the meeting I told you about and a guy in a suit from the Office of Science and Technology and theyíre all, like, really upset. And Dr. Ridley stops the meeting when I walk in and introduces me as the girl who found the key to the alien language. And Iím all, like, huh? what? And he explains that he ran something called a regression analysis on the word do-em and was able to figure out what it means and use that to decipher the rest of the language and communicate with the government of the aliensí home-world. And theyíre all sitting there staring at me and they still havenít told me what the word means and Iím confused so after a moment or two of silence, the guy in the suit clears his throat and speaks up.

ďThe alien government admitted the refugees were actually deported,Ē he says quietly. ďTurns out overcrowding is a problem in their prisons, too.Ē

So now that all the aliens have escaped and are, like, robbing banks and convenience stores, I get to go home for the summer. (Yay!) Despite the curfews and martial law, I guess Jennyís planning this big Fourth of July bash at her place and sheís asked me to help organize it. (Iím, like, so jazzed!) I wish those alien chicks had cell phones so we could invite them, too, because theyíre really kind of cool (even if they are blue and fat). Itís shaping up to be a great summer. The only bad thing is that all the soldiers driving around have really put a crimp in the street trade so Iím having a hard time scoring pot. You wouldnít know where to get any, would you? Hereís my number. Call me if you find some and maybe you can come to the party. Oh, and donít worry: Iíll, like, totally pay you for it. Iíve still got some money left over from my last paycheck.

# # #

My Dumb Summer Job by Jamie Mason
originally published in the Fall 2011 print edition

 

 


Jamie Mason is a Canadian science fiction writer and critic whose stories have appeared in Abyss & Apex, On Spec, Not One of Us and Thaumatrope. His young adult sci-fi novel ECHO is forthcoming from Drollerie Press. He maintains a website at: http://jamiescribbles.com/.

For more of Jamie's work,
visit his Big Pulp author page

 

This feature and more great
fiction & poetry are available in
Big Pulp Fall 2011:
On the Road from Galilee

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