The Town Drunk  
When Science Fiction Clichés Go Bad


The Last Man and Woman on Earth

“Finally! Another person!” The Last Man on Earth ran up the front stairs of the Boston Public Library and flung himself at the woman who was attempting to unload a full book truck into the back of her already-packed SUV.

“Ew! No touching!” she yelped, prying him loose.

“But we’re the last people anywhere.”

“Are we? That’s interesting.” She lifted another pile of books from the truck and deposited it between cases of ravioli and diet smoothies.

The Last Man on Earth pushed his thick spectacles up with one stubby finger. “There’s no one on the radio, no one on shortwave, no one picking up the phone when I dial random numbers, no one on the streets.” He wiped his sweaty hands on his Radio Shack polo shirt. “They’re all gone.”

“Maybe they’ve just all left the Boston area.”

“But I’m from Providence.”

“That’s a pretty small sampling.”

“There’s no one on TV, no one—”

“Fine, I believe you.” She closed and locked the SUV’s hatch, which proudly displayed an “Ask Me About Mary Kay!” bumper sticker, then headed back into the library.

The Last Man on Earth followed. “What are you doing?”

“Getting stuff to read.” She pushed the cart through the propped-open door. “I figure the electricity won’t be working much longer, so I’m looting reading material for the rest of my life while I can.”

“So you believe me!”

She shrugged and pressed the elevator button. “I’m being proactive.”

He stood between the book truck and the elevator doors. “Then you know what we have to do.”

“Oh, trust me, I’ve also been stocking up on food, candles, matches, tampons, moisturizer, bandages—”

“And baby books?”

She stared at him blankly. Behind him, the elevator doors opened.

“We need to breed,” he solemnly intoned.

She rammed him with the book cart, and he doubled over, clutching his solar plexus. “You need to keep dreaming,” she said. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I still haven’t raided the Victorian pornography section.”

“I’ll wait for you here,” he wheezed.


As threatened, he was standing by her car when she came out with her next load of books. “The future of the human race depends upon us.”

“Too bad for the human race.” She unlocked the car with a chirp and piled more books in. “I don’t care if you really are the last man on Earth. We’re not having sex.”

“If we don’t, the human race will die out!”

She dumped the last stack of books into the back of the SUV, then closed and locked it. “Even if we do, the human race will still die out, so I say there’s no point in bothering. Just like there’s no point in me ever bothering to shave my pits again.” She lifted her arms high to show off the twin brown patches. “It’s awfully freeing, don’t you think?”

He blinked behind his thick lenses. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, if you’re really the last man on Earth, I don’t see any reason to get razor burn for you.”

“No...before that.”

“About the human race dying out even if we have sex?”

He nodded.

“Because we’re a genetic bottleneck.”

“Uh...”

She rolled her eyes. “There’s nothing more pathetic than a stupid nerd. Look, it’s very simple. The two of us don’t have enough variation in our genes to continue the species. Our descendants will become dangerously inbred and everyone will die horribly and painfully within a few generations.”

“Nonsense. I’m healthy, and you’re healthy.”

“I was born with a tail, you know.”

He blinked again. “A tail?”

“Mmm hmm. And those are some mighty thick glasses you’re wearing. Do you really want our offspring to be inbred myopic monkey babies?”

As he stood there gaping, she drove off.


The Last Woman on Earth woke to the sound of breaking glass and a muffled, yet mild, curse. She lit one of the many scented candles in her basement apartment and waited.

In skulked The Last Man on Earth with a turkey baster.

“That isn’t what I think it is, is it?” she asked.

“My sperm? Of course. Don’t look at me like that! It’s not like I was going to rape you.”

“And how is squirting me with a turkey baster of sperm while I’m sleeping any better than rape?”

“I don’t care if our children are inbred!” he cried. “It’s better than giving up and letting the human race die out without a fight!”

“Well, it was a valiant attempt,” she said. “I’m sure if you’d succeeded, those little buggers would have found a way to swim past my tampon.”

“Tampon?”

She nodded.

The Last Man on Earth sat down with an audible sigh. “So I should come back in fourteen days?”

“In fourteen days, I’ll have found a new place to live,” she said. “Plus, I’ll probably start being irregular real soon now that my birth control pills have run out. I was on the pill for eleven years straight, you know. Just imagine, mutant myopic monkey babies!”

“I think you’re lying about that tail.”

“Do yourself a favor and let yourself out.”


He found her again three years later in Baltimore as she was raiding an upscale candle shop.

“So, lonely yet?” he asked.

“Ooh, yes.” She sat down on a wrought-iron chair and spread her knees. “Come get me, big boy.”

When he got close enough, she kicked him in the balls.

She continued methodically collecting scented candles while she waited for him to be able to speak again. Finally, he groaned, “Why?”

“I still owed you for that turkey baster trick. Besides, I really liked Boston. But Baltimore’s nice. Too bad I can’t stay. Dare I ask how you found me?”

“I’ve been hitting cities all along the eastern seaboard. We’re still the only people out there. You’re my Eve!”

“I’ll be your Lorena Bobbitt if you keep this up.”

He followed her to the counter, where she was tossing fistfuls of matchboxes into her shopping basket. “I solved the bottleneck problem,” he said. “I raided a sperm bank.”

“Wouldn’t the little buggers have all thawed and rotted away by now or something?”

“You’d be amazed at the backup systems sperm banks have in place. So, shall we start?”

She shot him an incredulous glare. “Oh, you have got to be kidding me.”

“The human race has done so many incredible things. How can you just let it vanish like this?”

“Easy,” she said. “I’m not about to pump out brats in a world without medical care, or schools, or civilization, or babysitters, or—”

“You’re just being selfish.”

She feinted another kick, smiled as he collapsed to the floor in a fetal position, and moved on to the earring rack. “Do you know how many women die in childbirth?”

He peered up at her, and since it seemed safe, sat up and hugged his knees to his chest, just in case. “Isn’t it worth the risk when the future of the species is at stake?”

She selected a pair of delicate red-beaded earrings and examined them in the dying sunlight. “You’re right, I must be selfish. Oh, the happy little monkey babies I could have begat. My own private Planet of the Apes. What woman wouldn’t want that?”

“I still don’t believe you.”

She set down her shopping basket, turned her back to him, and pushed down her pants, exposing the scar.

“Ew!”

She pulled her pants up and emptied the entire earring rack into her basket.

“I...I have some thinking to do.”

“Good, I have some driving to do.”


Seventeen years later, The Last Man on Earth staggered into The Last Woman on Earth’s living room and collapsed. “Looking...for...years... Never...thought...I’d...find...you...” He let out a long, rattling wheeze.

The Last Woman on Earth put down her book, lit another candle, and tucked her now-salt-and-pepper hair behind her ears. “Are you kidding? I’m surprised you didn’t make it to Salt Lake City sooner. Goddess bless the Mormons! I’ve got enough canned goods to last me a hundred lifetimes.” She tossed him a bottle of water from the stash by her chair. “Drink up.”

When he’d drunk enough that his throat no longer felt like sandpaper, The Last Man on Earth said, “That’s enough to feed a family for several generations.”

“What about the tail problem?”

“I’ve had some time to get used to the idea. Maybe tails will give our children a unique evolutionary advantage. They could be like a third hand or something. What do you say? Are you willing to give the human race one last chance?”

“Too late. I’m post-menopausal.”

“Dammit!”

“However...” The Last Woman on Earth rose sensuously from the sofa, ran her fingers through her long hair, and smoothed her hands down her clingy silk dress. “Now that I don’t have to worry about getting pregnant, wanna have sex? It’s been decades, and you’re actually starting to look good.”

The Last Man on Earth looked at her in horror. “Have sex with someone who used to have a tail? Ugh! What kind of a sicko do you think I am?”

She boggled at him. “But...you just said...”

“I might be willing to make some sacrifices for the future of the species, but not for you. No offense, lady, but a tail? That’s nasty.”

The Last Woman on Earth picked up a baseball bat and chased The Last Man on Earth through the streets of Salt Lake City, screaming, “Get back here, you bastard! I ran out of batteries last week!”



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