by Steven Gumeny
Ben set out for work again. It’s always hard delivering food for tips, and even harder when the majority of the population has disappeared underground. Well, the majority who hadn’t already been mutated, burnt to a crisp, or fled to one of the outer planets to escape the growing sun’s heat.
But Ben set out for work again. His boss, Jimbo, would be expecting him. Why disappoint a man who was on his last leg?
Prior to the heat wave, The Internet had declared itself a sovereign nation. As revenge for an overcooked shrimp cocktail, its leader posted half of Jimbo’s body for sale on an online auction. To avoid negative seller feedback, Jimbo reluctantly obliged the winner. The bidder was kind enough to ask Jimbo which half he chose to part with. Unsure which head he could live without, he opted to be split vertically down the center. A clever solution, he thought, as it let him keep half of his former functionality. But all the hopping around did get old.
So Ben set out for work again. It wasn’t like he had anything else to do. The ozone holes made sunbathing unpleasant, unless you missed the smell of fried chicken enough to take the pain. Such was the fate of Jimbo’s cousin, Ben heard.
Ben could have chosen an indoor activity, but McWalBucks had been closed for years. And besides, the survivors underground sucked anything useful from the surface, through a drill formerly used to suck dino-juice from oil wells.
Ben didn’t have many deliveries these days, but for those that stuck it out, he would dutifully deliver them some of Jimbo’s half-assed cooking. Even after the surface was declared inhospitable, some stayed. They each had their reasons, some better than others. Some just missed the last jet to Neptune, a tropical oasis spawned after the great solar warming. Neptune, it was said, was like an endless day in Aruba, only with much better cocktails. The smart ones had packed their bags the day Al Gore made his first movie.
So Ben set out for work again. He couldn’t leave old Miss Rose hanging. Jimbo had worked out a deal with the old lady to have a Liver & Onion Slider delivered daily until the end of the world. As his lawyer reminded him constantly, the world had not technically ended, only life on the surface. Although half the man he used to be, Jimbo was still a man of his word, and Ben had to deliver.
Ironically, liver & onions had come back en vogue just before things got out of hand. It was a trend many experts saw as a harbinger to the trouble ahead. But the true nail in Earth’s coffin did not take an expert to pinpoint. The Sovereign Nation of The Internet had formally declared war on the Sun and its invading rays, claiming it made their servers cranky. When the Sun pushed back, Earth’s surface became like the planet Mercury, before Mercury was burnt up. Ben thought it resembled a stale, well-toasted bagel, hold the butter.
Ben could have fled underground, but he had chosen to stay. What fun is sleeping late if you don’t have daylight to avoid? Besides, he had a job to do.
So Ben set out for work again. He emerged from his basement into the heat. On his way out, he noticed all his car tires had melted flat, again. He sighed, lit a cigarette off the pavement, and started walking. He hoped he would catch Jimbo’s good side today. At least the food wouldn’t get cold.
STEVEN GUMENY is a freelance writer, temporary employee, and believes insomniacs are simply living in the wrong time-zone. Born in the Garden State, he currently resides “somewhere in the swamps of Jersey.” He also has an affinity for a certain Boston Lager. “Dry Heat” marks his first attempt submitting work to be read by anyone other than himself.