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Jin Cheng was delivering a 40-megaton warhead. He wasn’t sure if it was a hydrogen bomb, a neutron bomb or an atomic bomb. He never knew. He only knew it was heavy. His forklift was having a bit of trouble with the weight as he moved it to Warehouse One-One-Seven-B. Warehouse One-One-Seven-A was completely full, so he knew he’d have to bring it into One-One-Seven-B. It was late September and cold. He had just worked for twelve hours for the last twenty days in a row. He could use a rest, but not until he put the warhead away.
Cold rice again for dinner.
He would turn thirty-seven next month, he thought. It would be his ninth wedding anniversary soon after that. If he could get a pass he could take his wife to Taiwan, and then perhaps, if his papers were good enough forgeries, fly to Seattle. He’d like to fish in Seattle and drink coffee all day, watching The Mariners on TV play at Staples Stadium. His wife could buy a good Japanese car like a Toyota Camry. Maybe he could work for Boeing, building 777s. He’d like that.
He lifted the warhead off the forklift with a bridge crane. He thought it was about three A.M. If the moon was full he could ride home fine. Was the moon full? He’d have to check. No, it could only be half full. He was sure of it.
Where the hell was he going to put this damn thing?
Warheads were piled to the ceiling like beats stacked in a pyramid. They had run out of packing crates a few years ago and they were never reordered. Everything was like that. His pencil was worn down to the point of being the tiniest stub of a writing instrument, but he dared not ask for another. Besides the lead always broke in the new pencils, usually right after sharpening. He wished people would care more for their work. He despised the Japanese, but sometimes wished he had their work ethic. Not that it mattered in his line of work. Last week, he was sure he’d seen a warhead on the bottom of the pile that was cracked. It must have been older than him.
Jin lifted the new warhead to the top of the pile. He held the controller of the bridge crane high in his hands. It was bright yellow, like a newborn duckling. He kept pressing the green button.
Cold rice again for dinner.
The warhead was raised to the height of the ceiling now. He moved it West, over to the top of the largest pile of warheads. It was three in the morning.
He placed it down gently next to a big fat warhead, labeled ‘NIXON’.
The tip was painted blue. It was near another that said “Omaha or Bust.” The moon would be full at the end of the month. Cold rice again for dinner. It would rain in Taiwan just like it would rain in Seattle. He had never tried a Decaf-Double-Tall-Vanilla-Soy-Extra Hot-No Foam-Latte.
The warhead wobbled. Jin could see it begin to roll. He put his hands to his mouth. He knew accidents happened. In all probability nothing would happen. Nuclear warheads just didn’t go off. The warhead began to bounce as it gained momentum.
Workmen ran over quickly, yelling
“Catch it, Catch it. Quick!”
Jin just watched it bounce and spin. It dislodged others and one by one he could see the warhead pyramid collapsing. He would not be going to Taiwan anytime soon. He’d probably be re-educated. He knew what that meant.
No lattes from Starbucks for Jin. No Seattle Mariner games at the Staples Stadium. His wife’s car would not be Japanese. Jin didn’t bother to close his eyes. He didn’t have time to.