Poor Reception

This is the piece I entered into NYC Midnight‘s round two of the flash fiction writing contest. The genre I was given was sci-fi, the location was an all-you-can-eat restaurant and the object was a squirt gun.

Claude, looking for love in the vastness of space, makes his move on an attractive alien during a wedding reception at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

You know you can’t take your eyes off a girl, especially if she has four arms, three shimmering cobalt eyes, and is terribly attractive. I’m like that though; I like my women green and preferably within the same species. I know out in the farther reaches of the frontier, it’s hard to find intelligent life — or at least intelligent conversation — so when I saw her at the buffet sporting a T-shirt displaying a quirky math quip, I had to cut in line.

“Hi, my name is Claude. Nice shirt.” I cleared my throat, trying to be nonchalant. “So, you like Pi, huh?”

She looked up at me, a bit startled at my sudden appearance, but smiled. “I’m Marlene.” She looked down at her shirt. “And nope, I just like to eat and didn’t get the joke,” she replied, turning the corner of her mouth mischievously. This girl is quick! I’m in trouble.

“Ouch!” I exclaimed, feigning shock. “You cut me with your wit!”

Her blue eyes widened in surprise, but then became hidden when she tilted her head and laughed, releasing the tiniest hint of a snort. Someone help me.

“Are you here for the wedding reception?” I asked.

Marlene nodded. I tried not to look at her mouth, but you should have seen how the commercial lighting bounced off her indigo lips and how her pointed teeth interlaced so perfectly when she grinned. I tried to keep my attention on the buffet. I picked up a compact tray, looked at the wriggling mass of Nartubians under the sneeze guard, dropped a portion onto my tray and shut the lid clumsily.

“How do you know Daren?” I asked, trying to shut the container.

“Just met Daren. I know Delilah, though. I just started working at station headquarters about three months ago. We have office modules next to each other and swap water receptacle gossip.”

“Where are you from?”

“System 48, originally. My family unit moved around quite a bit.”

We transitioned from the natural food line to the seasonings and sauces. “That must have been hard. I was raised around here, but sometimes I get a bit stir crazy.” I tried to keep talking, but the conversation faltered as I was trying to locate the jalapeno juice while looking to see what combination she was using. She’s a garlic and teriyaki girl. “I’ve actually never been off station and was thinking about taking a vacation to the nearest star system,” I said.

“For sure. Just be careful not to go during the Farstian Festival if you travel around my old home system. Traffic gets a bit tricky to navigate through the various moons with so many ships out that weekend.”

“Thanks for the tip.”

“No problem.” She looked distracted while sorting through the dessert cart. “So, what do you do?” She asked.

“Cyber Optics.”

“Glass replacement coverings for Artificial Intelligence?”

“Yeah…sure.” I shuffled my feet uncomfortably, holding my tongue; I try not to correct people when I first meet them to avoid offense.

“People love their A.I.s. I couldn’t function without mine.” She shifted her focus from us and looked over the crowd. “Wedding reception at an all-you-can-eat restaurant? Talk about class.”

“Nothing says sophistication like a buffet. But I guess it is kinda them: totally cheap and insanely cheesy.”

“Speaking of cheesy, I helped Delilah with the wedding favors. I’m kind of in love. Not with Delilah,” she stuttered anxiously, “but with the favors.” I felt a kick of adrenaline. She’s nervous. I‘m doing well! Point for Claude!

“I’m intrigued. What are said favors and why the infatuation with them?” I asked.

“Well, I’ll give you some hints and see if you can guess.” Her eyes twinkled.

“Interesting! All right, Galactic Girl, what you got?”

Marlene reached into her bag with her gorgeous, tattooed tentacles and paused dramatically. “I have three of them with me: a toothpick…a cumberbun…and…”

“Wait! I know! It’s…”

We shouted in unison, a bit too loudly, “A squirt gun!”

“From episode 116! I love Surgeon How!”

She beamed excitedly at our discovered common interest. We had found the reserved reception table, and I sat across from her, staring at her face pondering what to say next. I was frozen in a panicked stupor until the alien sitting to my right gently tapped my shoulder.

“I’m sorry. I don’t mean to interrupt, but your Nartubians…well, they’re fighting with mine.”

I looked down at the table. My food had escaped my tray and was attempting to gnaw on my neighbor’s dinner selection.

“I’m so sorry!” I exclaimed and tried to shoo my invading food back onto my tray with a spork.

Marlene grabbed the squirt gun and said, “Here, let me help!” She sprayed water on the feisty Nartubians, which chirped in annoyance and began to focus their attack on Marlene. She shook the squirt gun in their direction hysterically, dancing and twisting in frustration as the puny Nartubians climbed on her flailing tentacles. She was a squirming goddess of chaos — a gorgeous, magnificent mess.

“Oh, my stars! A gun!” A shout rang out in the buffet, and the room burst into muffled screams as customers began to dive under tables. Marlene, instead of stopping her drastic movements, started waving her tentacles even faster. “Wait! No! Wrong idea!” Other aliens continued finding cover. “It’s just a toy!”

There must have been an Intergalactic Police Officer in the crowd because we heard, “Put the weapon down, and put your hands in the air!”

Both of our appendages extended to the ceiling, and I hurriedly whispered in Marlene’s direction, “Listen, I’m…you’re…” I cleared my throat. “You’re just flat out…stunning! When we get out of this, let’s grab some of that ‘pie’ you like.”

“I thought you would never ask.” Marlene’s face momentarily broke into her infectious smile as she briefly looked at me and then back at the I.P.O.

“On the ground! Now!”