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Part 7 --Back in the alleyway outside the Grand Arena, Verse City. The alleyway had been quiet for sometime after the scuffle. The usual sounds of hustle and bustle returned to fill the streets. Normal life in Verse City once again. But life in Verse City was far from normal. ______________________ HONK HONK! Moe drilled his palm down into the center of the steering wheel. “Driving in this town is the worst!” Moe, with his cohorts Larry and Curly, were stuck on the freeway during a terrible case of gridlock. The sun beamed hot and high, causing them to keep the windows rolled down in their Verse City dump truck. Or V.C.T., as the logo on the side suggested. Verse City Trash “Cleaning Up The Multiverse, So You Don’t Have To” They each tried to ignore the stench of the truck bed wafting in and enjoy what little breeze they could. They sat together, the three of them inseparable in life as they were now, stuffed in the front seat with no elbow room. “You said it, Moe.” Larry said. “I’ve about had it up to here with this job. Why did we agree to this in the first place?” Curly, the biggest and baldest of the three stooges, responded with his own question, “Didn’t ya say that about our last job, Larry?” Moe answered them both, “Heh, our last job was a stinker too. This one isn’t much better but at least we’re out of the Forgotten District.” “Where was that? I forget,” Larry wondered. Without looking, Moe reached over Curly and slapped Larry in the back of the head. “Forget that wise guy?” Moe mocked. “No sense in remembering ‘cause we got better days ahead of us. I’m telling you boys, new horizons.” He let his hand drift outside with a starry look in his eyes. “We ain’t got nothing but cars ahead of us, Moe. You’re delusional.” Curly said. Moe went to strike him too, but Curly put a hand up to stop him, “Hey now, hands on the wheel, buster!” Moe paused to consider, then put his hands back at ten and two. Curly gave his trademark, ‘Nyuk Nyuk Nyuk!’ as the traffic inched forward. "Say I remember now,” said Larry, rubbing the back of his head. “We do this job and we're free to go!" "That's right.” Moe answered. “Once our community service is up, we'll be regular citizens again in the big city. If only these people knew how to drive we could actually get somewhere." The traffic inched forward again, but not much else occurred between the three men as they waited another thirty minutes before they were about to get off the freeway and to their destination. Central District, or more commonly called ‘The Common’. The Common existed as its own independent district within the Megalopolis that is Verse City. It was one of the only sections of the city that tourism was encouraged and that citizens of neighboring districts could mingle or participate in commerce. Generally, the Common was the first thing you saw of the city when you arrived, as most of the infrastructure for multiverse travel began and ended here. It also served as the capital and the seat of government for Verse City. Major sporting events were also held here. The Grand Arena, known for its extravagant tournaments, started on 52nd street and also marked the start of the Stooges’ trash route. Moe turned the wheel, taking the truck into the alleyway behind the Grand Arena. “Well boys, here’s where the route starts. Let’s earn our keep,” said Moe, signaling the three of them to get into action. Curly and Larry got out to stretch their legs and pick up loose trash in the alley. Moe stopped the truck at the first dumpster in a line of dumpsters and with a careful hand, started the heavy machinery. Two mechanical arms jutted from the dump truck, picked up the dumpster and deposited it into the truck bed. “Neh, so dirty out here,” Curly complained, picking a loose trash bag off the ground and tossing it up with the intention of it landing in the truck bed and not on his friend Larry who stood on the other side. The sound of Larry’s dismay told Curly that he missed his target. “Hey, watch it buddy!” Larry shouted. “Sorry Larry,” said Curly. “Guess I’m too strong for my own good.” “You two quit fooling around or I’ll toss you in the garbage myself,” said Moe, moving the truck to the next dumpster in the line. He operated the arms like before, but not wanting to get distracted by his friends usual banter and antics, he turned on the radio. The hit single ‘Talk Dirty’ By Jason Derulo was on. It wasn’t really his jam, but Moe found himself whistling to the trumpets and shaking his shoulders. Continuing to clean, Curly bent down to pick up a can, not realizing the truck arms were lowering for the dumpster and knocked him in the back of the head. THUD WOOB WOOB WOOB WOOB “Curly, what are ya doing?” Larry found Curly on the ground and helped him up and out of the way. “The thing tried to clobber me!” Curly said, shaking his head to get his wits back. “Dang it, Moe. Watch where ya swinging that thing.” Moe didn’t hear him, continuing to whistle and empty each of the dumpsters in the alley. Only two more to go. Larry dusted the dirt off of Curly’s coveralls, “Come on, let’s finish this up. I’m starving.” Curly answered with hungry interest and followed Larry to pick up the last of the trash on the ground. The dump truck moved to the last dumpster and began to lift it. Moe’s song came to an end as the truck lurched side to side. “What the-” He stuck his head out of the window to see the mechanical arms were stuck, suspending the dumpster in the air. A terrible whirring sound came from the truck bed. Curly and Larry walked over to investigate. “What happened, Moe?” Curly asked. “What does it look like, knucklehead? It’s stuck.” Moe mashed the controls but the arms didn’t budge. “I think the gear is jammed. See what you can do.” Curly nodded, then gripped the dumpster from underneath to pull. Meanwhile, Larry climbed one of the arms to attempt to free the dumpster. Neither were successful. “Oh my! This thing is certainly dirty,” said Curly, unaware of the bloody ooze slicking down behind him from the back of the dumpster. “Oh really, Curly? I hadn’t noticed. Thanks a lot.” Larry responded, struggling to wiggle one of the arms loose. “You’re welcome. Larry.” Moe cursed the two and climbed out of the truck, “Are you two planning on getting anything accomplished today? We still got eight more streets to go down before we get a break.” Moe slapped Larry in the face, causing him to fall off the mechanical arm. He followed that with a double eye-poke to Curly, who hollered in pain. He backed away, intending to retaliate when he noticed that instead of backing into the brick wall behind him, he backed into something warm, wet, and putrid. “WHA WHA WHA” Moe and Larry were frozen with fear, mouths incapable of forming coherent words. They both stared behind Curly, who rubbed his eyes and turned slowly. “Wha--” “NAH AH AH!” Curly practically leapt out of his skin at the sight of the skinless Meat. A bloody mess of a man who towered over Curly with one eye intact and murderous intent. The three stooges shoved themselves back into the truck haphazardly. Larry screamed, “GET US OUT OF HERE!” Moe attempted to oblige but failed when Meat caught the driver’s side door before it closed. The trio screamed. Moe stepped on the gas pedal as Meat’s face burst through the window, ready to consume each of them.