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Condemned Milk

Scalzi Story

Wherein I take a band name from Scalzi’s Next Band Name list, and spend no more than 20 minutes writing the story with the band name as a title. Today's name: Condemned Milk and the full story archive


"Really? Today is your last day?"

"Yeah," Jim said sullenly, poking at the soggy french fries on the plate in front of him.

"But, that doesn't make any sense," Beth protested. "You're the best engineer this depart has, maybe the best in the company. Why would they let you go? Worse, why would they actively send you away?"

"Personal reasons was what they told me," Jim responded.

Beth scrunched her face as she watched him continue to move the fries around on his place. No one else in the company cafeteria sat next at their table, or at the tables immediately around them.

"Are these the same personal reasons that cause everyone to treat you like a leper?"

Jim looked up. "What?"

"Are these the same personal reasons that cause everyone to give you a wide berth? I've never understood why people do that to you. You're nice. You're friendly. You're open and considerate. But no one sits with you at lunch."

Jim looked around. After a few moments, he smiled and looked back at Beth. "You noticed that, eh?"

"Hard not to notice it."

Jim shifted a bit in his seat, then picked up his glass of milk. "Half empty or half full?" he asked Beth, raising it slightly.

"Oh, definitely half full," she said with laughter in her voice. Jim downed the glass in one quick gulp.

"Say, could I have your glass, too?"

"Sure," she answered, as she pushed her full glass of milk to Jim. "You sure like milk."

"I do. A lot." He paused before continuing, "This will be my last here, so I might as well make the most of it." He quickly finished her glass, too.

"What does that mean?" Beth asked.

Jim looked at her without answering, his hands rolling the glass around. He then leaned over, and while Beth waited for him to answer, farted loud enough for Beth to hear over the noise of the cafeteria.

Beth looked at him for a moment, then smiled slowly.

"I give that an eight. Good bass, nice duration, surprising volume. Definitely an eight."

Jim looked at her with a look of shock on his face.

"You... you..." he stammered. "You can't smell that?"

"Oh, no, not at all. I was born without a sense of smell," she explained then paused. "Does it smell bad?"

Jim smiled back. "Oh yes, very bad. It has a range of about 12 feet, too, which is why the tables are empty."

Beth looked at him. "Is that why..." she trailed off.

Jim looked at her. "Yes."

"That's a stupid reason." They sat in silence for a few minutes, neither looking at the other.

"So," Beth broken the silence. "Want to go out with a bang? I'm buying."

Jim smiled, then shifted in his seat.

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