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       The Hungry Customers

                by Don Urbanus

     Zorg and Zak, two pale green aliens from the planet Zuton, looked down on the western United States from their spaceship in orbit. Zorg fumbled with his earth atlas trying to make sense of it all.
     “Never mind the atlas,” complained Zak, “Don’t you have a guide on places to eat? Look in that.”
     “I would if I knew where we were,’ snapped Zorg.
     “What about that place – Kaleefornya?” asked Zak, pointing a wispy green tendril at a point on the map. Just then his stomach gurgled and groaned in protest. He sighed. He was so sick of eating creamed vegetables out of tubes. Surely a little visit to the planet couldn’t hurt, could it?
     “Wait! Here’s a place. It’s called Starbucks. Maybe they have food for interstellar travelers?” Zorg looked up, hopefully. “We’ll just make sure we stay away from any big cities. No sense attracting too much attention. Say, here’s a little town called Valley Springs. I’ll just dial in the coordinates.”
     “Sounds good to me,” said Zak, pointing the craft down toward the planet, “Anything will be better than that paste.”
     At about a thousand feet off the ground, the ship leveled off as Zorg peered down, trying to find the Starbucks. “There it is. Hey, cool, they have a drive-up window!” Zak zoomed silently down and patiently waited behind a car. The driver was reaching for a large Espresso from the cashier when, looking back, suddenly dropped it. The top popped off and the creamy liquid slowly gurgled out onto the street. The driver then gunned the engine and peeled off in a blaze of burnt rubber.
     “Bummer,” said Zak, “he dropped his cup.” He silently glided forward and opened the hatch eager to place his order. The cashier was looking down the street at the fleeing car, shaking her head, when she turned around and saw the spacecraft. Zak gave his most charming smile showing numerous rows of sharp black teeth. The cashier’s eyes went wide and her mouth hung open stupidly. Suddenly she let loose with an ear piercing scream and went running away with her hands waving in the air. Zak slammed the hatch and zoomed up into the air. “Man, I forgot the stupid disguises.”
     Zorg looked down again. “Wait a second. There’s a green patch down there. Maybe they have some food we could eat? Let me look at the atlas. Oh, that’s called Rising Sun Nursery. What do you suppose that means?”
     “I don’t know and I don’t care,” answered Zak, “as long as they have something we can eat. Go get the disguises. I’ll park the ship behind that hill and we’ll just walk over to the store.”
     Zorg quickly pulled out two trench coats, two wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, masks and gloves while Zak parked the ship quietly in the back field of the nursery. They looked at each other as they assembled their disguise. Satisfied, they opened the hatch and climbed out.
     Don had just finished helping three customers. One had a wilted leaf to show him and wanted to know what it was. Another one wanted to know if her husband had killed their almond tree after he had painted the entire trunk and branches with tar. And the last one wanted to know if rooting hormone would help a graft heal quicker. He turned around to see two short
customers wearing trench coats and dark sunglasses. One held a pale-green sickly vine of some sort in his gloved hand. Don grabbed it and looked closely. It was slightly dry and sticky. It obviously needed water and some nutrients whatever it was.
     “You idiot,” Zak whispered, “you’re hand is showing.”
     “I know that now,” answered Zorg, glaring at Zak as Don examined
     To Don, it sounded like a strange foreign language, so he did what every person does to someone who doesn’t understand English. He talked slowly and loudly. “It looks like you need more water for your plant. You know, water?”
     “Why is he yelling at me?” asked Zorg.
     “Maybe he is trying to tell us about food? He looks very concerned about your hand. Now that I think about it, you do look a little pale,” Zak said, shaking his head up and down as he looked at Don.
     Sensing that the one shaking his head understood, Don started talking to him. “You need to water every day when it gets hot in the summer. Water every day,” Don repeated slowly, pointing at Zorg’s hand and making a motion like he was drinking water. Zak shook his head up and down.
     “What did he say?” asked Zorg.
Zak frowned as he listened. “I don’t have a clue. I think he’s talking about food though.”
Don waved for them to follow. They shuffled into the store and glanced around at the high ceiling and numerous shelves of gifts.
     “Cool store,” whispered Zorg, looking at the puppets with interest.
Don showed them the Best Fertilizer Pills on the counter and picked one up. “You also need to fertilize. You know, fertilize?”
     Zak held up his hands showing ten fingers.
     “You have ten plants?” Don asked.
     Zak shook his head up and down.
     “What size are the plants?”
     Zorg held up the glove that didn’t have his hand showing.
     “It’s a five gallon size? Well then, you need three fertilizer tabs per plant. So you need thirty tablets.” Don grabbed a bag and started filling it with tablets.
     “Oh boy, oh boy,” said Zak, holding out his hands for the bag. Don handed it him and walked around to the register to ring them up.
“You did bring some money, didn’t you?” asked Zak, looking over at Zorg.
     “Me? I thought you brought it.”
     They both looked at Don.
     “Run for it!” yelled Zak as he dashed out the door. Startled, Zorg ran after Zak, loosing his hat as he ran through the door.
     “Hey,” yelled Don, “come back here!” By the time he got around the counter and out the door, Zak and Zorg were already headed over the hill running amazingly fast for two short people. As he got to the top of the rise, he saw a flash of light. There was nothing there but an empty field. Whoever they were, they were long gone. He went back to the store and picked up the hat. Nice hat, he thought, noticing the unusual weave. He put it on his head. It fit.
     Already far out into space and heading away from earth, Zak opened the bag and popped a fertilizer tab into his mouth and sighed contentedly. “Man,” he said, handing the bag to Zorg, “what we have to go through to get some decent food around here.”


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