Trinity County, CA
You'll Want to Come Again, and We'll Be Glad to See You!
by Peter S. Beagle
1st Place - Best Story - 2010
"This stuff stinks," Connie Laminack complained. She and Gruber were dressing
for work in the yard's cramped and makeshift locker room which, thanks to budget
cuts, was also the building's only functional toilet. To get to the dingy aluminum
sink, she had to step around the urinal, then dodge under Gruber's left arm as he
forced it up into the sleeve of his bright yellow outer coverall.
"You get used to it."
"No, I won't. They let me use my Lancome in school. That smells human."
"And has an FPF rating that's totally bogus," Gruber said. "Anything you can buy
retail is for posers and pet shop owners. Won't cut it out here."
Laminack unscrewed the top from the plain white plastic jar on the shelf below the
mirror, and squinted in disgust at the gray gloop inside. "I'm just saying. Gack."
Gruber smiled. Stuck with a newbie, you could still get some fun out of it.
Sometimes. "Make sure you get it every damn place you can reach. Really rub it
in. State only pays quarter disability if you come home Extra Crispy."
"Nice try, but some of us actually do read the HR paperwork we sign."
"Oh, right," Gruber said. "College grad." She gave him a hard look in the mirror,
but dutifully started rubbing the D-schmear on her hands and arms anyway, then
rolled up her pants legs to get at her calves.
"Face, too. Especially your face, and an inch or two into the hairline. Helps with
the helmet seal."
"Just saving the worst for last."
Gruber laughed wryly. "It's all the worst."
"You'd be the one to know, wouldn't you?"
"Got that right, trainee."