Disaster Relief – by Caleb Echterling

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A National Weather Service are-you-crazy-for-the-love-of-God-get-inside warning coughed from the idling trucks’ tinny speakers. Twilight darkness captured the noon sky. Hailstones fell from the sky like ticker tape at a Yankees’ championship parade. Molten lava provided emergency track lighting along the roadway shoulder. Highbeams twinkled from the stalled National Guard convoy. Soldiers – ripped from their day jobs as teachers, accountants, or porn stars – lashed the final pontoon into place next to the washed out bridge. Raging red water rocked the makeshift crossing.

“Move out,” the commanding officer yelled. “We’ve got tornado activity coming our way.” Soldiers packed up tools and scrambled into truck cabs. The caravan rumbled to life. As the lead truck reached the midpoint of the swollen river, the ground danced the Charleston. Two front tires dipped into the water. A clown car cavalcade tumbled from the cab, and ripped open the truck’s side awnings to save precious cargo before it disappeared into the flood.

Soaked-to-their-underwear soldiers ditched parkas that held as much water in as they kept out. “Sir, we can’t go on. There’s no road. We’re driving through a swamp.”

The commanding officer dumped water from his boot. “Dammit, we’re the Army National Guard, not the Quittersville Quitters’ Quorum. Quittersville needs us. Hurricane Jim Bob knocked out their power, bridges, and mothers. We’ll get through, or die trying.” A far off rumble brought a red flash as a volcano sent distress flares of magma into the sky. A nearby rumble brought a rushing mass of brown fur topped with nacho-scoop antlers. Viscous foam poured from every orifice on the animal’s body. “My God. It’s got double super rabies. Get the moose tranquilizer.”

The zig-zagging moose crashed into a truck, which flipped on its back like an angry beetle and burst into flames. A two ton anvil, with ACME embossed on the side, dropped the moose with one blow.

“Sir,” wailed the sergeant. “that’s two trucks and five men we’ve lost. At least stop for a proper burial.”

“No can do. A plague of locusts is working its way north from Bergtonville Town. We’ll be eaten alive if we stay.” The convoy revved to life. Wheels nestled into mud-track ruts. Off-road driving strained shock absorbers and bruised asses. Pounding hail gave way to sporadic rain punctuated with thunderclaps, lightning flashes and volcanic ash. The sky lit up as though the sun had popped by to borrow a cup of sugar. A deafening blast assaulted the soldiers’ ears. A charred skeleton of a truck gave off the stench of burned food and charred hair.

“Sir, please. Turn back.”

The commanding officer shook his head. “The only way out is forward. Headquarters says the river’s teeming with frogs. Not nice frogs like Kermit, or the ones you can lick to get high. Mean, grumpy frogs. Roll out!”

The convoy tires found blacktop. Ultra-low friction mud driving gave way to slippery ash-on-asphalt driving. The convoy’s speed clicked up from glacial to tortoise. Clouds parted to reveal patches of blue sky and a fleet of silver discs speeding toward Earth. Red bolts poured from laser cannons covered with angry spikes. The laser shots homed to human targets. Each laser strike raised a constellation of weeping boils.

“Corporal Jenkins, break open the alien invasion kit.” The corporal smashed a glass cover, and pulled out a black box with a video screen on one side. An antenna sprang from the top. The box beeped and whirred. The sounds of Celebrity Apprentice shoved aside the thumpa-thumpa coming from the laser cannons. The cannons fell silent, and spacecraft pulled out of strafing runs.

A giant fist appeared in the sky, and shook at what was left of the Guard unit. Unseen speakers blasted a message that sounded like a duet for gagging wildebeest and reversing dump truck. The ships blinked from view. All eyes turned to the commanding officer. “Everyone spit on your boils and load up.”

The convoy stopped at a saltwater marsh. The dark silhouette of Quittersville sat on the opposite side of Prudence Bay. “What do we do now? The hurricane knocked out all the bridges,” the corporal asked.

“Boat. Find us a boat,” said the commanding officer.


“Every boat within fifty miles is a pile of splinters. That storm had hundred-sixty mile an hour winds. Fifteen foot storm surge.”

“Then we’ll make a bridge from that pile of lice, diseased livestock and firstborns. The bay’s not that deep.”

Every bell in Quittersville, whether church, dinner, or Taco, peeled as the convoy weaved up debris-strewn streets toward the town center. Soldiers sprang from cabs. Awnings cranked from truck sides to reveal signs reading ‘Tacos del Tío Samuel’. Propane grills came to life. Professional knives dismembered onions, limes, and cilantro. A mob surrounded the trucks. The commanding officer commandeered a megaphone. “Attention Quittersville. The United States Army 49th Mobile Taco Distribution Battalion is open for business. Carne asada or carnitas.”


Caleb Echterling is a founding member of the Vuvuzela Chamber Music Society. He tweets funny fiction using the not-very-clever handle @CalebEchterling. You can find more of his work at www.calebechterling.com.

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