Rust: Episode Five
by Alan Augustson
13 March 2017

“Um… ma’am?”

What?!”

The boy nearly pissed himself, standing there with his box of scrap, trembling and silent. Annie looked up from her work, made a smirk and wiped the red smudge from her cheek. She was nearly red from head to foot, in fact. She came to the boy and assumed a calmer tone.

“Okay. What have you got for me?”

“M-more aluminum. Mostly cans, but I found a few big things too. Solid things. I’ll have more tomorrow; there was a bunch.”

“Okay,” she nodded. “That’s good. Just what I need; I’ve got plenty of scrap iron and steel for now. Keep it coming.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Cut the ‘ma’am’ shit, okay? And thank you.”

Annie took the scrap aluminum and dumped it into a large barrel marked Al. From the neighboring barrel, FeO, she took a few more rusty bits of scrap and returned to her workbench. She filed, as she did all day, every day. She loved the work. Her mind was free to wander or just go blank, and she didn’t have to put up with the boys. Or the men, for that matter.

The boy’s feet remained glued to the floor, and Annie shot him a glare.

“If you want to stare, go down by the barriers. Plenty of whores to gawk at down there, and they wear less clothing. I’m in overalls, for fuck’s sake.”

The boy mustered one more sentence. “They’re… they’re not real. You’re real.”

“Please, just go.”

He nodded, and backed out of the room as if he’d just been dismissed by royalty, closing the door behind him. Annie shook her head and sighed, then wrapped the rust-covered bandana back over her naturally rusty head, dug a little more rust from under her nails, and returned to her filing.

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Social scientist, public policy analyst, emergency management consultant and author. U.S. Marine Corps veteran and former firefighter. Former candidate for U.S. Congress.

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