art by Ron Sanders
Life on Mars
by Kelly Jennings
I was on my way home from my night job when I heard they'd found life on Mars.
Algae, I thought, wearily. Fossil bacteria. My night job, my other job, not my full-time job, which was unloading trucks at a warehouse, this job was tutoring Exceptional Teens in Broken Arrow for five hour five days a week, from five to ten p.m.
Exceptional is what you get called if you're a thug and your parents own half the state.
It was a nice job, indoor work with climate control; still, I was worn out. My spine ached, and it was sleeting again. The crack in my boot sole had let the icy slush through. However, a nice kid on the bus gave up his seat to me. I rested my head against the window and watched the blurred lights of Tulsa jolt past, trying to stay awake. I'd slept past my stop more than once.
"Gateway brought in a linguistics team," the kid to his boyfriend, showing him his phone screen, which was one half playing a video clip and one half skyping someone, some other friend of theirs I guessed. "Translators."
"Translators?" I sounded ruder than I meant.
They all looked up at me, even the girl on Skype: identical faces, bright as new pennies. Though no one that young had ever seen a penny, I imagine. "Ma'am?" one said. A polite child.
"Translating what?" I said.
"The aliens!" He smiled with delight, shaking back the braids all the wild boys were wearing lately, long as chains and woven with multi-colored strings of silk. "We found aliens on Mars! It's so boss!"