Short Story: “The Daily Grind” by Chris Michaud

time passes...After a while, you kind of get used to the smell of rotting human flesh. At first, it’s overwhelming, like walking into someone’s house who cooks with too much garlic and onions, but after 6 months it doesn’t smell that bad. It doesn’t smell good either. It just smells normal.

Other than the plague, everything has pretty much been business as usual. The day starts out like any other. My alarm clock goes off at 5:45 AM. I hit snooze. It goes off at 5:54 AM. I hit snooze again. It goes off at 6:03 AM. I hit snooze for the final time and lie in bed until the alarm goes off at 6:12 AM and I drag myself out of bed. I go into the kitchen and pour myself a bowl of Captain Crunch with some powdered milk. All the real milk has gone sour some time ago. Milk is one of the things that I miss most about the world as it was before. This powdered shit is disgusting.

After breakfast I take a shower to wake me up, fill up my thermos with coffee, grab some granola bars, and head out.

The commute to work is quick. There is literally no one on the roads. This is a perk that makes the lack of real milk worth it. I get to work 15 minutes early, punch in, sit down in the lunchroom to have a couple cups of coffee, then start the daily grind. I work at the Pure Beef Meatpacking Plant. You know, the beef supplier for Smiley Burger. Our plant used to make 500 cows worth of patties in a day, before the plague.

Now that it’s just me, we only do about 50.

Originally I just worked the gutting station. It was my job to supervise the machines as they cut the organs out of the product. I would have to be there in case any of the cattle cutters malfunctioned. I also watched to see if anything from the stomach or intestines spilled on the product. If it did, I would have to spray it down. It’s not pretty, that’s for sure. In fact, it’s downright revolting. Enough to have made me quit eating Smiley Burger since I started working here over twenty years ago.

As people started calling in sick, I started having to take on additional responsibilities. First Bill got sick, so I had to cover the gutting station as well as the shaving station where I would have to dislodge any hair or strips of flesh that would get snagged in the shaving arms. Then I had to cover for Jorge at the mincing station, which removes all the flesh from the bones of the product and prepares it for grinding. Then I had to cover for Carlos, who was in charge of slitting the products’ throats. Eventually, they had me operating an entire killing floor by myself.

Everyone was all concerned about the plague, but I didn’t see what all the fuss was about. I mean, everyone got scared with SARS and the Swine Flu too, but pretty much all of us survived.

I thought it was just like that. It sucked that there was no one available to play poker with on Friday nights, but learning to work a whole killing floor by myself earned me an extra dollar an hour. And I was getting as much overtime, at time and a half, as I wanted, which was much needed. I had a second mortgage I needed to pay off, an RRSP plan that took about a grand a month, credit cards, and truck payments to worry about. I worked for 16 hours a day for about three weeks straight. After all, plague or no plague, people needed their Smiley Burgers.

I had no idea why I seemed to be the only person I knew who didn’t get sick. I didn’t exercise or eat healthy. Aside from not eating at Smiley Burger, I always had a horrible diet. I never liked vegetables or fruit. All I ate was candy, ice-cream, anything deep fried, and pretty much anything in a box I could throw in the microwave. Yet somehow, I was the only person I knew who didn’t get sick.

Then people started getting better. It was nice to get Friday night poker going on again, but I really needed more of that overtime, especially since I had just financed a new Camaro. I figured I deserved it after all the overtime I had been working.

Everything was back to normal for a few months, then people started going into a serious relapse and this plague became an epidemic. Some doctors wanted to do some tests on me, since I was one of the few who never got sick. I told them I had bills to pay and couldn’t take the time off from work, but they had some government goons with them and I really had no choice. So they kept me for about a week, which was a pain in the ass. Of course, the doctors running the tests were sick as well. So I snuck out after they died, chocking on their own vomit.

I left my hospital room and saw corpses lined up in the hallway, stacked up upon one another in the waiting room, lying in pools of every kind of bodily fluid. I left the building and the streets were empty, aside from the odd dead body lying in the street. I figured I would take the rest of the day off. Then the next day I went back to work. No one was there, but I was given a keycard and security code when I started covering everybody’s stations.

That was about 6 months ago and I haven’t seen a living person since. But I still go to work Monday through Friday, with the odd weekend shift when there’s nothing happening. I still get paid every two weeks through direct deposit and my bills still get taken out of my bank account every month. I have made some great progress on my mortgage. And my truck is almost paid off. I still have lots to pay on my Camaro though. And my credit card bills have increased, since I have been buying a lot more video games and downloading a lot more porn. There’s little else to do when I’m not working.

I work for 4 hours before I take my lunch break. I get to the lunch room, buy some chips from the vending machine and turn on the television. Another one of the things I miss most about the world as it was before is Hockey. Now, there is never anything on except reruns. I flip through the channels as I eat my chips, one of my granola bars, and drink the rest of my coffee. I take a 40 minute break. We only get half an hour, but no one has given me any grief over an extra 10 minutes for the past 6 months. This is a perk that makes the loss of Hockey worth it.

I return to work and only get another 5 hours in. That’s only one hour of overtime. I really should work longer, since I just put a new Z-Station 1440 on my credit card, but it’s Friday and I have some errands to run and feel more like playing with my new toy rather than working to pay it off. You might as well enjoy the fruits of your labours every once in a while.

Before clocking out, I take the day’s product to the freezer. It’s the size of a warehouse and already starting to fill up without our delivery staff. Looking at these boxes and boxes of product almost makes me feel sorry for them. They live their whole lives, completely unaware that the entire purpose of their existence is to die so we can eat them. I feel remorse for a moment then think, “Fuck it. They’re just cattle.”

I clock out and go to the bank first to check my account balance. I didn’t clear as much as I had hoped. I need to start working more. Next, I go to the store. One cashier who died on shift is lying on the floor as maggots feast on her nearly decomposed body. I grab a case of beer and a frozen Pizza and go to the self checkout. I decide to pay with credit, since I made so little this past week.

I finally get home, throw my pizza in the oven, and play some vids while it cooks. The time goes by too quickly and I forget about the pizza until I smell it burning. So I throw it in the garbage. Luckily, I still have a microwave steak dinner in the freezer. I nuke that up and eat it while watching reruns. That old show with the lifeguards is on and I get a boner. Times like these I think about driving out of town and seeing if there are any women in one of the surrounding cities, but then I remind myself of how often I would get shot down by the women at the pub down the street. And driving out of town seems like a bit of a hassle. Getting shot down is one thing about the world as it was before that I do not miss at all. Instead, I download some porn and jerk off. It sure as hell beats a drive out of town. I look at the clock and realise it’s already time for bed. I set the alarm clock for 5:30 so I can get an early start tomorrow.


© 2014 Chris Michaud. All Rights Reserved

Twitter handle: @SamDChurchII


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