Ever since the aliens came, I wondered if they’d been here in Ancient Egypt times and gave us cats. ‘Cause there was a Calico with brown patches who kept climbing up my back to see what I was doing under the kitchen sink.
She was a pretty little cat, all skinny and lithe, her purring machine humming away. She’d already staked me out and knew I was a softie. But I needed to get this drain unclogged.
“Cat, you need to move your crazy butt.”
Wedging my hand under her belly, I relocated her to the yellowing linoleum. By the time I had the gunk ball plopping into my plastic bucket, the cat was back, sticking her head in the cupboard. Her tail brushed my nose, a cat mustache. But not crazy cat butt. Stinky cat butt.
A pair of wrinkled hands reached down to pick up the cat. “Alistair, behave,” admonished the customer.
Alistair? Who names their cat Alistair?
But then I supposed I’m not one to complain about names. My name is Dice Ford. The Dice is actually short for Candice. Yeah, you’re probably making that face, too. I hate the name, and Candy…just…no. I’m not being called a food. My mother hates it, but that’s okay. She hates that I’m a plumber, too.
This was my fourth call of the day. Second clogged drain, one water heater rusted out, and a lost ring. I’d been glad to leave that last house. Taken longer than the water heater. The couple was probably still fighting.
I tried not to look too much at the customers. I saw all shapes and types and sometimes I wasn’t always kind with my thoughts. Never had blurted out anything stupid but I didn’t want my thoughts on my face. This customer was old. Not old the way you think, though she was in her eighties. No, she was old in the way some people simply are, regardless of their age. Like they’d put up with too much in the world and used up all their years.
“How much longer?” she asked.
No hints of impatience. It was an art form to figuring out how long I should take to satisfy the customer. It was a clogged drain. But if it took ten minutes to fix, the customer would squawk at the cost. So I always did a little fourish. You know, made it look more difficult.
“Almost done,” I said.
Behind the customer, the TV on the breakfast nook table flashed. The melodious voice of one of the aliens filled the tiny kitchen. The customer turned to watch. It was one of the aliens I’d seen around doing interviews. News media ate him up. He was talking about how they were still looking for the right superhero.
“What do you think of them?” the customer asked.
“The aliens?” I latched my wrench around the pipe joints and tightened it. Difficult in the work gloves but I didn’t want to get bit by a brown recluse.
“They’re downtown, you know,” the woman said. “They have a Hero Portal set up in the convention center.”
I hadn’t heard that, but I’d been making an effort to not pay attention. Too much drippy love from the media. They weren’t questioning anything, except what the aliens wanted. Me? I had enough of my mother’s lawyer side in me to be a cynic. People were stupid if they thought the aliens were handing out technology and superhero suits from the kindness of their two hearts.
Alistair squirmed in the woman’s arms, so she let the cat jump to the floor. The kitty immediately scurried back to me on soft feet, inspecting the open cabinet.
“You going to the portal?” the woman asked. “Everyone’s talking about seeing the aliens in person.”
“I’m sure my boyfriend will take me,” was all I could manage.
It was at least true. Jason would be all over the Hero Portal. He’d been talking about flying out to Los Angeles to visit the one there, convinced he was the one destined to a superhero. We’d had our first major fight over it. He’d wanted me to pay for the plane ticket since he couldn’t afford it. I told him to save up for it. He told me I was ruining his chances.
I left the cat inspecting the dark and mysterious hole and stood up to turn on the water. Drain flowing smoothly again and no leaks below. I removed the glop bucket and started putting back the cleaning supplies. The calico came out, triangle nose poking at the bucket like it contained catnip. I quickly snapped on the lid before the kitty got glop all over her pretty white fur.
“Do you think they’ll finally find a superhero?” the woman asked.
I stowed my tools in my red toolbox. Alistair batted at my hands like she had fists. “There must not be very many people with the right DNA. Kind of like a needle in a haystack.”
But the question bounced around in my head as I stowed the bucket and toolbox in my van. The aliens had Hero Portals set up on all the major continents. Not one person claimed a suit.
Then what the heck were they doing with our DNA?