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Thank You for Your Service

Steve Zisson is a journalist who covers the biotech sector. His fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Nature's Future, and Mad Scientist Journal, among others. Born in Salem, Massachusetts, he now lives in a nearby town.

So I drag myself to this ALL-NIGHT store, one I don't usually go to, and the guy behind the glass wants to thank me and all.
"Thank me for what?"
He checks the monitor above him. "You know. Your service."
All I wanted was to zip in here and pick up an emergency pack of Nightend, on account of my regular delivery, which comes right to my place, isn't showing up for another week or so. I guess I lost a couple of Nightends in the couch cushions.
But this guy is slowing me down, wanting and needing to thank me and all.
He can't stand the silence and that I haven't answered him so he repeats his thanks, only with a longer sentence. "I just want to thank you for your service."
It's not like I'm going around wearing my medals. I'm not even in uniform. This hoodie doesn't qualify at all as a uniform.
So how does he know? I flash my script at him.
"Where did you serve?"
I can't answer. It's none of his business.
I don't want to answer that I was out at the Freedoms Zone. I don't want to get into it. I was out there for War Year 1040. 40 years past the current Thousand Year War.
I'm sure he didn't want to serve, that he didn't serve out beyond Mars with us. We're all volunteer.
He just wants to feel part of it, like he's doing his crucial part for the Earth's survival by thanking me.
The door opens and the readout above it says 3:14 a.m. Another guys shuffles in. He's not wearing the uniform either. His arrival gets us moving.
Finally, I still haven't said anything to him but he slides the Nightend under the glass.
Once I pay him, I ask, "How did you know?"
He nods and says, "You troops back home are always running out of Nightend. I'm happy to do my part. Again, thank you for your service."
I grab my Nightend package.
"Thanks," I say, and start to leave. "The nights never end out there, or back here."
I'm sure that's what he wanted to hear.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, September 5th, 2017

Author Comments

I wanted to explore with this story the multiple meanings of thanking someone for their service.

- Steve Zisson
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