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Mark Niemann-Ross on
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THE LOST CHAPTER FROM STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND
by Sean Thomas
“Because it’s fun!’ Jubal expounded.
Mike had not yet grokked the concept of fun. He was bewildered at the amount of effort that this race devoted to entertainment. As a nestling his sole concern was surviving the harsh Martian landscape. Once he was admitted into the nest, what free time he had after doing the Old One’s bidding and cleaning the nest of his water brother’s excretions was spent grokking the fullness of the universe. The idea of a fair baffled him, as Martians had no such events.
“Oh Mike,” Jill squealed, “it’s a wonderful place full of rides and games and sweet cotton candy!”
Mike digested Jill’s comment and did not grok sweetness. When he ate his first shirt whose primary material was cotton the primary sensation was not one of sweetness.
Duke threw in his two cents. “I hear this fair has a naked lady completely covered in tattoos from the neck down. And the only thing covering her is a big ol’ snake. Yowza.”
“Duke, he doesn’t need to see that!” Jill reprimanded. “Mike you just need to try the food. It’s a wonderland of stick-mounted edibles. You’ll then see how wonderful that carnival is.”
“It will be good for you to get out and see some of the real world, and meet some people other than this crusty old goat and his three lazy assistants,” Jubal said.
“Front!” Jubal bellowed. Dorcas came running in with the steno device, still dripping from the pool.
“Yes boss. What’s up?”
“Take this down,” Jubal commanded. “New hit show for the networks titled ‘Cletus: The Early Years.’ No, strike that. Title it: ‘…But you can’t take the Hill out of Billy.’ It will be about the amusing adventures of a hillbilly boy taken from the backwoods of Kentucky, who has never met anyone other than his family, dropped into New York City.”
“Boss that sounds an awful lot like The Beverly Hillbillies,” Dorcas pointed out.
Jubal looked at Mike and thought for a minute. Then he announced, “What makes this fish-out-of-water story different is it will break all sorts of societal taboos.”
Duke wondered aloud what kind of societal taboos an inbred hillbilly would break and if they really needed breaking.
Jubal continued to ponder. “It’s still missing something. What is it? I’ve got it! Cletus has two heads and an old Winnebago. It’s genius! Put out feelers to the networks and get a bidding war going.”
“Now let’s get back to the fair, Mike,” Jubal said.
“We’re going to the fair?” Dorcas asked with delight.
“Unless I decide that you and your two accomplices need to stay here and get some work done for a change,” Jubal chided her.
“Oh come on, you old fuddy-duddy. I’m going to go get the girls and get dressed. There’s a big ol’ pickle-on-a-stick calling my name,” Dorcas said.
Both Jubal and Duke thought of several particularly inappropriate responses to the pickle reference while Mike attempted to grok the brining process.
“Duke,” Jubal commanded, “bring the hovercar around. Jill, find Mike some clothes that will somewhat hide his identity. I don’t mind him getting pick-pocketed at the fair, but if they realize that The Man From Mars is there he’ll be mobbed by hordes of fairgoers wanting to see someone famous and dozens of unbathed carnies looking to hock their wares.”
Duke landed the hovercar carefully, avoiding Jubal’s roses. He had made that mistake only once. Jubal, Mike, Jill, Dorcas, and Jubal’s other two secretaries, Anne and Miriam, loaded into the hovercar. There was a sense of excitement in the air as Jubal Harshaw did not take flights of fancy like this very often. The conversation drifted back and forth between what skewered foods would be devoured and what rides they would take.
The Man From Mars marveled at the varied landscape of this planet. He saw great beauty in all the things his eyes took in. He was considering going into one of his trances to grok this landscape when his waterbrother Jubal spoke to him.
“Now listen, son. There will be people there willing to offer you water in a variety of flavors. Don’t partake. They are dirty carnie folk who want to make a quick buck. They know nothing of water sharing and would take advantage should they ever know what water sharing meant. Plus, they wash their underwear in the lemonade water.” Jubal added, “If you don’t grok, just ask Jill or me what to do.”
“Thank you Jubal,” Mike replied. “My water is your water.”
The hovercar landed at the Fair and the group unloaded. They quickly entered the fair and split up, with Jill staying close to Mike's side. They walked up to the softball toss. Mike saw that the circumference of the softball was large enough to prohibit any throw to go into the large metal milk containers unless it arrived in a very specific trajectory, and grokked that this was wrongness and made the containers disappear. The carnie operating the booth started screaming at Mike and Jill, deciding someone had to be blamed for his missing milk cans and it was dang sure not going to be him. He suddenly found himself in a cloudy place standing next to his milk cans.
Jubal wandered over to the food trailers and decided that his sweet tooth needed to be satiated. He ordered a deep-fried Snickers bar. As he bit into it, he was overcome with the need to express his feelings in poetry.
“Front!” he yelled, and Anne came up behind him
“Yes sir,” she said.
“Are you ready to take dictation?” he asked.
“Always sir,” Anne replied.
Jubal cleared his throat. “It’s a poem that we’ll sell to Harper’s.”“Dark lava flowing down.
Snow sprinkled over heart’s delight
The nuts of my love mingled in joy
Damn the molten nougat!
Damn the molten nougat!”
“That’s great boss, but is it Harper’s materiel?” She asked.
“Good point, Anne. It’s too good for that rag. Call up my buddy Bruce at Rampant Loon and see if he wants it.”
Meanwhile, Miriam had grabbed Mike and wanted to take him on the Gravitron. The line had been long which had bothered Miriam, but not Mike. She knew that he had patience greater than any person she had ever known. They loaded up and the ride started to spin. Mike grokked the machine and realized the machine’s capabilities. He wanted to make Miriam happy and began to spin the machine faster and faster. Not understanding the difference between screams of joy and screams of pain he continued building G-forces until eye balls started bursting and blood started flowing from the various orifices of his fellow riders.
Mike sensed injury in Miriam and healed her.
Miriam told Mike, “We need to get out of here and fast. Let’s go find Jubal.” As soon as the ride was over, they bolted out and past a fat sweaty carnival manager who was passing out carnival bucks to the bloodied patrons.
“Remember, all rides are at your own risk,” he barked out to no one in particular. “The signs are posted everywhere. You can’t sue us.”
Miriam and Mike ran to the food trailers and found Jubal chowing down on some Jamaican jerked platypus on a stick. “Mike, my boy!” Jubal yelled out. “Come on over and let’s eat. It’s time you expanded your culinary universe.”
The variation of food was another part of this planet that Mike had not yet grokked in fullness. Eating was viewed as a necessity on his planet, and other than the joy they received from grokking a waterbrother that had discorporated there was little happiness to found in partaking of the rectal excretions of the Nest Provider.
“I think we are going to start out slow. I don’t think you are ready for stick-based carnival food, so we will start with a nice plate of fish and chips.
This excited Mike to no end. He had read of these amazing creatures that lived in the water and was sure that they were his waterbrothers as well, and would relish partaking of their flesh. Jubal placed a large mound of fried fish in front of Mike, and Mike ravenously ate the deep-fried fillets. He did not grok these waterbrothers in fullness yet.
“Might I have more, a lot more?” Mike asked.
“You can have as much as you want,” Jubal laughed. Plate after plate of the fish was placed in front of Mike, who ate every last morsel until a funny feeling filled his stomach. He looked at the huge pile of empty plates and realized that he had achieved fullness, and felt he could discorporate at any moment from the sheer joy of it.
“I finally Grok,” Mike said.
“Thou art Cod.”
Sean Thomas is a mild mannered IT salesman by day and a fearless process server by night. Sean lives in Arizona with the love of his life and their three awesome children, where they try their best to survive the Mean Streets of Apache Junction. When he isn't selling, serving, or going to Church, he can be found discussing Arizona State Football with anyone who will listen.
Yes, that is an octopus on his head.