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Today's Story by Travis Omernick

These aliens better be good tippers.

Starlanes Café

Howard’s augment Google Eye identified Sam as a Quarenth, but failed to yield any tips on getting a job from him. He should have gotten the deluxe version.

“Ever worked in a multi-species environment?” asked Sam, the owner of Starlanes Café. He wore a stained apron, but nothing else.

Desperation led Howard to drastic action. Rather than mouthing the usual job interview platitudes, he told the truth. “No, I mainly worked in upscale places back on Earth. Then the economy went over to the IOU system and I couldn’t make my mother’s deep freeze payments. Frozen Love, her cryogenics company, suggested I look for work at the local wormhole junction and, well—here I am.” Howard offered a nervous laugh. He hated interviews, especially when a giant bug was doing the questioning.

Sam leaned over the lunch counter that dominated the center of the café, surrounded by booths. His body shimmered an iridescent green, and the two large eyes with squiggly pupils that covered most of his head were fixed on Howard. “Been lots of Earthlings coming out here looking for work lately,” said Sam, running a critical eye over him. “Well, I still have some other interviews to do so-” He was interrupted by the crash of plates shattering.

Standing surrounded by aliens, was a human male completely covered in ropey internal organs. A deflated looking Space Cucumber cowered nearby.

“I can’t take it anymore! Screw you, Sam, and screw this place!” The waiter stormed out of the diner, trailing entrails. A roar of beeps, squawks, and farts, followed him out.

“Well, looks like a position has just opened up. Can you start tomorrow?” Sam’s tongue darted out, flicking over each eye.

Howard scanned the diner with its cheap linoleum floors and vinyl seats and wondered if he really wanted to work there. These aliens better be good tippers. “I’ll see you bright and early.”


The next day, Sam tried to partner him with Martha, the head waitress.

“No thanks, I’m not exactly new at this,” Howard said. And he didn’t need her taking all the tips, while he did all her side work.

“Your choice, but that’s what the last guy said.” Sam skittered back to the kitchen.

Martha showed him a motherly smile and continued filling the ion shakers. She looked like a human, but her body type was ‘beach ball’ topped with an enormous beehive hairdo.

Howard returned her smile coolly. It was the non-obvious ones you had to look out for.

The door sign flipped to open and his first customer, a Tilgarth, rolled inside.

“What can I get for you today?” Howard asked, after he wedged the Tilgarth into a booth.

The creature gestured with one of its many purple tentacles to a non-living, but uncooked selection on the menu.

Howard entered the order, but when he brought it out the Tilgarth split nearly in half, revealing a pulsating, pink maw. Maybe it wanted to be fed? He dropped the dead cat, plate and all, down the creatures gullet. It choked, then vomited the whole thing back up across the table.

Guess not. The Tilgarth rolled out in an angry huff and didn’t tip. Howard started cleaning up the table with the help of the rat-like busboy. He was off to a great start.

The next customers were a couple of indentured humans and he managed to get a small tip. Then floated in a nice fat pair of Ceriluin gas bags. They left a big tip for only connecting them to a hose.

Howard felt himself getting into the flow of the cafe; then the lunch rush hit. At first, he coped. Live, hard-shelled crulls to table four. Wood shavings to table six. Liquid helium to table two. Then a slug-like QuizMaster burned a hole in a booth because Howard hadn’t seated it in the non-reactive section. And two tree-climbing Perth jumped a grub-like Squigz, trying to eat it. The last straw was when a razor fanged Tyrex set fire to its booth trying to reheat its Leg of Man. Still hungry, the Tyrex had started to mentally dominate him.

All around, pulsing pseudopods, lurid scents, and complex ritual dances vied for Howard’s attention. A helpful, but blind, Chix smelling the fire, tottered over and emptied its mucus sack on him.


Howard lifted the tray above his head, preparing to hurl it across the room, when he saw that in the right light, the little skinless Chix looked a little like his mother. Frozen Love didn’t take IOUs, they had made that clear. They would toss her out into the street to thaw if he didn’t pay.

The café had stilled and as all sensory apparatuses were aimed at Howard. Setting down the tray as calmly as possible, then scraping mucus from his clothes he scraped up what dignity he had left, walked over to Martha and asked, “Could you please help me?”

“Of course, sweetie, follow me.”

Together they moved along at a sedate pace, helping customers while she gave out pointers like blood packets. Howard hung on her every word and jotted notes.

“Perth can’t sit next to Squigz, but you may have figured that out. And a Sororororo’s youth buds will bite your ankles, so rub a lemon on your pants to keep them off.” She gave him a wink. “Also, the Gurm defecate when they eat, so bring an extra bowl.”

The customers poured in. There was no way they could keep up at the pace they were going.

“Excuse me, hun.” Martha lifted up her flower print dress.

Four large, segmented arms came out from underneath and began to take care of the extra customers. Howard’s mouth fell open, but a small reptile that apparently lived in her beehive hairdo reached out and shut it.

“Careful,” it said, “you don’t know what might end up in there.”

Howard smiled, aliens were all right. He might be okay after all.


Travis Omernick is a full time college student with aspirations of either being a nurse or a writer of fiction.  He spends his free time writing or training a new Papillion puppy that may be secretly plotting against him. All while struggling against the all-consuming time-suck that is the–INTERWEBS.


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