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Mid-Earth Removals Limited
Public works are extra problematic in the magical realm, as R.S.A. Garcia delightfully proves in this free, first story for the month of November. ~ Julian and Fran, November 5, 2023
Mid-Earth Removals Limited
by R.S.A. Garcia
Is true. I wasn’t looking for this at all, especially not in the beginning.
When you just standing up, minding your business, toting water from the standpipe on the corner in front Miss Janette house—the Miss Janette that does do hair when she not working in the Ministry of Tormented Souls, yes, that Miss Janette—the last thing you really expect is a man to jump out into the road next to you, braps! Just so! Spear in he hand, helmet on he head, shiny armor an’ everything, you know?
Well, yes, ever since them invaders from Mid-Earth buss down the barriers between them and we, is all kinda thing popping up all over. Radioactive giant hummingbirds eating out the damn Amazon. Tiny jaguars hunting rats everywhere like it going out of style.
But them thing not really bothering you at five in de morning when you focused on trying to full up buckets because the Water Authority cut off the supply, because a damn dragon was bathing itself in the Nariva Dam and that contaminate the whole thing, and nobody know how to get it out, because the Water Authority say that’s the Ministry of National Security problem, National Security say Works and Spirits have to fix it, Works and Spirits say is the Ministry of Agriculture, Agriculture talk to the Forestry Division, the Forestry Division send for the zoo, and the zoo send back and say them don’t deal with mythological creatures, so everybody just stand up there waiting for the thing to get tired and go, leaving most of the country, and all of Tabaquite, in an uproar, and without regular water.
So, nah. Sorry. I wasn’t expecting no sweaty soldier before the sun rise good, and meh mood didn’t get no better when he swing round he spear and lick over my bucket.
“But what wrong with you?” I ask him, vex, vex.
Imagine, water throw down everywhere, and now one of the buckets have a hole.
“Hold!” he shout out loud, like I not standing right next to he. “Kneel before the forces of the Immortal Lord of Undying Evil!”
“How the hell I go kneel on this buss-up road?” I ask him, hands on my hips. “You ain’t see the amount of pothole? Public Utilities pass through here last week and mash up the road again RIGHT after the Ministry of Works and Spirits pave it over because Janette good-for-nothing son crack it up trying to raise a demon, and you want me put my knees on that mash-up gravel? Your Lord paying my hospital bills?”
“Insolent villager,” he bawl out. “I will run you through with this spear!”
I fold my hands across my chest. “Well, try nah. But I have people to see about, so after Clement do that foolishness, I went by Mr. Anansi down in the drugstore in Town and get a temporary invulnerability spell, so to hell was with you and the portal you ride in on.”
He look confused and alarmed. “Be you not afraid, woman?”
“The only thing I fear is having to go Licensing for anything. Half them cashiers like they is zombies.”
He pause for a minute, looking around him, then he take off he helmet. He rest the handle of he spear on the ground. “My army—”
“Is only you here,” I tell him.
He glance behind him and I see a black gem around he throat flash in the rising sun and slowly fade. He clutch after it. “My Binding!”
“It tied me to the Immortal Lord.”
“Well, if you from Mid-Earth, them thing don’t work here.”
He look at me, mouth open. “You mean . . . I am free?”
I shoulder my remaining bucket. “Yup. Like a bird.” I look him over, taking pity on his confusion. “You lost?”
He hem and haw and finally say, “Perhaps.”
“Welcome to Tabaquite, then.” A thought occur to me. “You eat anything? You hungry?”
“I could eat a griffin,” he reply, looking cautious. “His Evilness does not feed his army before battle, to keep us aggressive and—”
“Yes, yes, he sound nice.” I roll my eyes.
The soldier look confused again. “Not really.”
“Listen, I only have accra and bake. But I will share with you, if you want.”
He bowed deeply. “I would love that, woman.”
“My name is not woman. Is Julia. What you call yourself?”
“I am Marlonthaine of Ecthlessville.”
“All right, Marlon, bring that bucket and come. And watch out for the jaguars.”
When I reach back the little place I renting, I direct Marlon to put the bucket in the kitchen, and march off across the yard to collect Keith from the neighbor. Soon as I walk in the door, Marlon look shocked. “You have offspring?” he say.
“I ain’t know what that is, but this is my son, Keith.” I hold him out to Marlon. Keith eyes was too young to focus, and he was dribbling a little, but I had already fed him and he was clean so I figured it was safe.
Marlon back away. “I am a soldier. I have no experience with—”
“Here. Hold him so.” I grab his arms, shove the baby in them, and demonstrate how to support he head. I point to the old couch in my living room. “Sit there. I will bring the food.”
Now, I not boasting, but my son real cute. He not a fussy baby either. By the time breakfast was over, Marlon was on the floor without he armor, playing with him, and I feel safe to start cleaning the house. I was in the back of the house, washing out clothes, when Marlon cry out and make me run back inside. “What you do?” I say. My first thought was he drop my chile.
“Matron Julia, I fear something terrible has gone wrong with your offspring!”
“Son,” I correct. Marlon look real upset, but I breathe a sigh of relief when I see Keith kicking he legs on the carpet and gurgling up at Marlon. “He look fine to me. What you bawl so for?”
“There is an awful smell emanating from him!”
Well, I wanted to dead with laugh, but Marlon new to the whole baby thing so I just smile and say, “That? That normal.”
“How can that be?” he say, and he look at me with horror. “I have fought in the sulfur mines of Archeron and brought down the marsh beasts of the Everlasting Swamps, and yet nothing has singed my nostrils as potently as whatever has possessed your offspring.”
“He name Keith and he just need cleaning?”
“Yeah.” I grin. “Let me show you.”
Now I will say this for Marlon. He does learn real fast. And I guess because he kill a lot of nasty things working for he asshole Lord, he not squeamish. So, from the time I show him how to change the diaper, he was good. “I’m relieved he is not ill with some dread disease,” he say, bouncing the baby on his shoulder after, the way I show him.
“Nah, but when he ready he will cry like something killing him. Don’t get too work up, eh. Most likely he either hungry or need changing.”
Marlon look around. “Despite the size of your dwelling, you seem to have much to do and little help.”
“Well, boy, Keith good-for-nothing father, Francis, leave me for my best friend a few months ago and since then is pressure. I have to go back to work in a month and I really must find somebody to keep Keith in the day. If I could, I would stay with him and work from home. I find it hard to leave him. But work not easy to find in Tabaquite, so I have to hold down that job with KFC.”
“What is a job?” Marlon ask. “And KFC?”
And that’s how we get to talking. Turn out Marlon come from a big family he ain’t see since the Immortal Lord of Undying Evil run through he village and take him into he army. So, he had a lot of sympathy for me because he used to worry nonstop how his mother was making out now without him, as he was the only boy with six older sisters.
“So, she survive the raid?” I ask as I turning the pot for lunch in the kitchen.
“Thank the Dark Lords. My cousin was conscripted three months later and he told me my mother had returned to her village and was living with my uncle, his father. I had hoped to send whatever I pillaged home to her, as this was my first time plundering the rich cities of the North. Before that, I was posted mostly to the Borderlands, where we did battle with rogue minions of the darkworld, or whichever of the Immortal Lord’s pets had managed to escape.”
“Well, I sorry you stick here now,” I tell him, turning off the fire under the oxtail soup. “Nobody know how to send people back.”
Marlon straighten up, looking determined. “I am not, Matron Julia.”
“Is just Julia.”
“I am not,” he repeat. “I never wished to be in the service of His Evilness. I believe you have need of a good soldier and I stand ready to do battle for you.”
I raise my eyebrows at him. “What battle? Battle who?”
“I will find one of these jobs you speak of, and I will secure one. Then I will give my plunder to you so that you may remain at home to take care of your little one.”
I stare at him, eyes wide. “Marlon, why you would do that for me? We just meet!”
He look a little embarrass. “I’ve only ever been of service. It’s all I know how to do. But I have no Commander here to lead me. You have shown me much kindness in a short time. If you will allow me to reside here and be my Commander, I will provide for the needs of your household, which your dastardly, good-for-nothing Francis abandoned.”
Well, I wasn’t in no position to turn down help, not with Keith to see about. So it didn’t take me long to think it over. Plus, I ain’t go lie. I always like bossing people around.
“All right,” I say. “I go be your Commander.”
Yes, is true, it didn’t start out too good. But you try guiding a man who spend he whole life doing nothing but eating, sleeping, and stabbing things. I don’t feel nobody could have done better. And is not like Marlon didn’t try.
First thing we do, we went Immigration in San Fernando and get he application for residency in. Portal Migrant department give him a one-year ID card to allow him to work and get health services and send him for all he shots.
Then I arrange a job for him at the KFC branch I was working. The manager was an old boyfriend, so he give him a chance. First thing was getting Marlon to leave the spear home with the armor. I had some of Francis clothes and he wear that for the interview. He look nice and presentable after I cut he hair and help him scrub up and thing. They try him in the back, but cook say she want somebody who could operate the fryers better. So they try him out front, and honestly, he last a good three days. Then a customer phone went off with one of them customized rings where a man talking, and he jump over the counter and try to stab it in the man pocket because he thought it was possessed by the Evil Lord minion and it was looking for him or something. So that was the end of the KFC job.
I had a cousin who work on the road gang cleaning up the place, so I figure he could try a ten days with them. He almost make it. But first time he see a chicken snake, the man scream like a girl and run off the job, so pay get cut and my cousin say he will have to let the supervisor cool off before he try to get him a next ten days.
We try one of them garbage contractors working the Regional Corporation next, but he make friends with all the tiny jaguar, flinging little titbits from the lunch I give him, and they started running after he truck when they see him, and the supervisor say it don’t look good driving in the Corporation with vermin swarming after them, so they let him go. After that he try being a janitor, and even selling a little water and juice by the intersection, but that was the worst job for he—and also, the day everything change.
“Matron Julia, your world is full of beautiful wonders, but your metal horses are terrifying. I cannot abide their smell or their noise,” he say when he come back from selling.
“So what we go do now?” I fret, sitting in the living room while I bounce Keith on my knee.
Marlon look apologetic. “One of the other water sellers assisted me and we were able to sell all of the flasks you bequeathed me.” He rest a bundle of money in my hand. “On the morrow, I shall begin the hunt for a permanent job again.”
“I feel like I advantaging you, Marlon.” I sigh as I put the money in my pocket. “You doing so much, and is really my problem to see about this household.”
Marlon kneel in front me, he face hard. “Matron Julia, I have accepted responsibility for you and Keith. On my blood, I will find a way to support us all or die in the effort.”
“It have worse things than dying,” I say.
“What could be worse?”
“Lining up in Social Welfare to apply for a grant if we don’t find something for you to do. Is definitely only zombies working there.”
Same time, a voice call out from the yard. “Julia, you there?”
I steups. “Why he have to call out my name so?”
Marlon stand up. “Who summons you?”
“That is Francis,” I say. Next thing I know, before I could move, Marlon out the door and I hear Francis say, “But what the ass?” and then Marlon dragging he in front me and tossing he on the floor. Francis jump up one time, ready to fight.
“Who man is this you bring in my house, girl?”
“YOUR house?” I glare at him. “Lease on my name. You ain’t have nothing here.”
“And he wearing my clothes!”
“Is I buy that. You take what you wanted when you went by Cheryl.”
He narrow he eyes at me. Francis is a nice-looking light-skin boy, and he know it, but I was done with he and what he think. “So when you give gift, you does just take it back?”
“You take yourself back and leave Keith without he father, but you vex for a pants and shirt? Boy, leave me alone, eh.”
Keith start to sniffle, probably because we was quarreling and Marlon look like he want to spit fire. “You have discomforted the little one!”
“Aye, you stay out of this. That’s my chile,” Francis say one time.
“You don’t act like it,” I say sharp, sharp. “You give me anything to buy a Pampers self for him?”
“I was offshore working on the rig.”
“Since before he born? He three months next week.”
Francis twist up he mouth. “Look, I wanted to talk to you, but like you done find a next man. I always know you wasn’t no good.”
“You disrespect the mother of your child!” Marlon thunder, taking a step toward him. “You are no better than a beast of the wastelands!”
“You better shut your mouth before I lick you down,” Francis threaten.
Marlon poke his chest with a finger. “You are truly depraved. I would never let you put your tongue on me. And for your insults and impertinence, I challenge you—”
“Marlon, I go handle this. Go outside for a minute please.”
He pause, looking at both of us. “He’s not to be trusted,” he warn.
“Believe me, I know.” When Marlon reluctantly step outside, I stand up. “You really trying to make me look like I is the one to shame, Francis? You come here to talk about man? Well, Marlon and I only meet a few weeks now and he more man than you. Day in, day out, he helping me mind Keith and put food on the table, and you ain’t even leave a forwarding address or a black cent for your only son.”
Francis look furious. He pull out he wallet and flip a set of blue notes on the coffee table. “Is only money woman like you does study. You and Cheryl is the same thing.”
I sniff at the hundred-dollar bills. “So what you telling me, you and Cheryl not lovey-dovey anymore? That’s why you come back here? To see if I stupid enough to take you back? Well, pardner, you waste a trip.”
“I could see that,” he sneer. “Whatever, yes, just know I will send money for my chile once I get a bill.”
“Bill? Bill!” I shout. Keith start to cry, but I so furious I don’t care. “You need a bill to know your son need diapers and clothes and powder and all the rest? If is so you moving, don’t bother. I could see about my own chile.”
Next thing I know, Marlon there, pushing me behind him. “Brute,” he grind through he teeth, “you have disrupted this household for the last time.”
Francis ain’t even say a word, he just swing. Well, he didn’t know Marlon is a trained soldier, and plus them people from Mid-Earth very different. I didn’t know at the time how strong and fast he was. But the point is, Marlon didn’t start it, and Francis working with the oil company, so he didn’t even have to go San Fernando General, they send him by the private hospital in Gulf City and he going to be just fine.
Anyway, that was a banner day for we because the neighbor call the police when Francis start to shout for mercy, and when the police come, I was telling them what really went on while the ambulance load up Francis, and that’s when a big red dragon fly overhead and everybody steups, including the sergeant.
“Father God,” the neighbor say, shaking she head.
“I bet you it going straight to the dam. More water problems,” the sergeant gripe. “And school starting back tomorrow.”
“I really ain’t want to have to go back to bucket,” I grumble, rubbing Keith back.
A loud roar make him jump and the neighbor in the house across the road shout, “Oh shucks, man, not that blasted dragon again!”
Marlon look around at everyone and say, “Why would Beatrice be the cause of water problems?”
“Beatrice?” everybody say at the same time.
I watch Marlon skeptical. “Like you know the dragon or what?”
“She’s my cousin’s mount. He rides for His Evilness in the Dragon Squadron. I’d hoped to join him there as I have a way with animals, but the Immortal Lord sent me to the infantry. She’s a very tame and agreeable mount, unless she’s hungry or dirty.”
I start to get an idea. “Marlon, what you saying, you know how to control that dragon?”
He snort, folding muscled arms. “No one controls a dragon, especially not a female. But if you ask nicely and give her a good reason to do something, that is usually sufficient.”
Well, I march straight inside and call the Ministry of Public Utilities, and several hours and many departments later, the Water Authority come for we and we went up the dam, and Marlon talk to Beatrice, and she apologize and come out the water one time, and even boil it with she fires to make sure it safe.
After that, was a little runaround to set up the company, and then get the proper approvals to be a government contractor, but it all work out. Sometimes the things you don’t expect is the best thing to happen to you. Is a little over a year now Marlon and I running Mid-Earth Removals Limited, the best option for safe removal of invasive Mid-Earth flora and fauna in Trinidad and Tobago, and everything good, good.
We even in talks with the other countries for foreign branches. The US in particular want we come Washington because some terrorists try to send a chimera to burn down the African American museum, but it burn down some secret Ku Klux Klan headquarters instead, and a set of rich politicians dead, and now it rampaging through the towns and countryside attacking all the sheets it see, in stores, malls, on the clotheslines, wherever.
We also have specialized help, now that Marlon find he cousin, Wylfred, who had come through chasing Beatrice after they get shoot down in battle, but he end up in the Trinity Hills and it take him weeks to come out the bush down there. He cousin real good with plants, and I see here you having a problem with vampire vines that eat your dog. Well, we can’t do nothing for the dog, but if you decide to hire us, is a thirty percent retainer and full money-back guarantee if we fail to get them to move out your garden.
That sounding good? Excellent! Excuse me a minute, I have to make a call.
Marlon, boy, is me. Get Wylfred and Beatrice ready to go. It have an emergency at the councillor house and if we fix it today, he paying double!
Thank you for joining our journey this week.
R.S.A. Garcia is a writer of speculative fiction and a Sturgeon, Nebula, Locus, and Ignyte Award finalist. Her Amazon bestselling science fiction mystery Lex Talionis received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and the Silver Medal for Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror E-book at the 2015 Independent Publisher Awards. She has published short fiction in places including Clarkesworld Magazine, Escape Pod, Strange Horizons, and Internazionale. Her stories have been long-listed for the British Science Fiction Association Awards, translated into several languages, and included in a number of anthologies, such as the critically acclaimed The Best of World SF, The Best Science Fiction of the Year, and The Apex Book of World SF. Her sci-fantasy duology, beginning with The Nightward, is forthcoming from Harper Voyager in Fall 2024.
She lives in Trinidad and Tobago with an extended family and too many cats. Learn more at rsagarcia.com.
“Mid-Earth Removals Limited,” © R.S.A. Garcia, 2023.
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