In a war-ravaged future where most urban areas are riddled with mines, a de-miner's only friends are New York street kids and his bomb dog Uxo (short for unexploded ordnance). In the short story "Uxo, Bomb Dog," available from excellent scifi blog Futurismic, author Eliot Fintushel creates a wry, sad portrait of a man who has devoted his lonely life to de-mining open spaces so people can walk freely in parks again. Eventually, the government sends him a human partner and the two of them turn their de-mining into a kind of strange comedy act, attracting locals to watch them de-mine fields while dispensing Smokey the Bear-style wisdom about how to avoid getting your face blown off while walking across Central Park ("Use your pate! Circumnavigate!") Yes, it's today's lunchtime reading.
Here's a snippet from the story's opening:
We stood on a hill overlooking the meadow. A bunch of other kids ambled behind us, rags and bones, scruffy faces, some little ones on the shoulders of the bigger. Bit by bit, as Uxo and the damn machine cleared the meadow, we'd advance to the new safe zone for a better look.
It was a comical sight, if not for the stakes: Volkovoy, dull gray heap, like a breaching whale, trundled and pivoted, roared and smoked, extruding claws and spades and hammers. It plowed up the sod. Now and then, if it couldn't defuse a dinger, Volkovoy flashed and shook, encasing and detonating the thing, then dropping it out the back, busted metal dung. Meanwhile, Uxo, sweetie, his tail curled back like the tongue of a letter "Q," walked and sniffed and walked. His smart flat face was matted and dirty, but when he yipped and looked back at me and the kids - "A bomb here, boss!" he seemed to say. "Look how good I am!" - his eyes were full of light. Then I'd tiptoe out to fetch the dinger and disable it. He knew not to lick me then.
The whole story is free online. Check it out. Photograph by Sarah Pickering.
"Uxo, Bomb Dog" [via Futurismic]