by Jake Christie

U.F.O. TO GO.
a story.

Zeeb pushed a button on the overhead panel and his clear plexisteel window swooshed open. He leaned out of his craft slightly, examining the giant plastic cow head the seemed to be impaled on a stake as some kind of warning.

“Welcome to Cowpoke Corner,” said the cow. “What can I get for you?”

Zeeb held his intergalactic communicator in front of his closest mouth and said something like, “Xrglb kxzzk lymt agrixlomoria zambur rizt,” but it came out of the communicator like, “What is in your hamburger?”

“Our hamburger?” said the cow. “It's just a regular hamburger. Lettuce, pickles, onions, mustard, ketchup, and a beef patty. On a bun.”

Zeeb scratched what we might call his ear in thought. “Beef?” his translator said. “I'm not familiar with this.”

There was a long monotone gasp of static from the cow. “Ground beef,” it said. “Ground-up cow.”

Zeeb gagged, which his translator was unable to translate. “You eat your own species?” his translator said.

“I'm not a cow,” said the cow.

Zeeb paused and thought about this for a moment. “You are both mammals,” his translator said, “from this planet. Is that correct?”

“Oh,” said the cow, “you're one of those PETA weirdos, aren't you?”

“I am not a 'peta,'” said Zeeb's translator. “I just am a hungry Xewrfhsh.” The last word came out exactly as Zeeb said it, as this planet didn't yet have a word for his species.

“What does that stand for?” said the cow. Then, before waiting for a response, he continued, “Actually, I don't care. There's a Veggie Zone around the corner. You can get a lettuceburger with a side of water there.”

“Lettuceburger?” said Zeeb's translator. “What is in that?”

“Lettuce, pickles, onions, mustard, and ketchup. No beef. Maybe some fava beans.”

Zeeb and the cow gagged in unison. “You eat your fellow vegetation, too?” said his translator.

“I try not too,” said the cow. “At least not exclusively.”

“Is there any place around here where you can eat something that wasn't made from a living organism?” said Zeeb's translator.

“Food that wasn't plant or animal?” said the cow. “Like a stone quarry?” The cow laughed at his own joke.

“Or any kind of ore depository,” said Zeeb. The cow stared back in silence.

Zeeb used one of his hands to bring up a map on his viewscreen. There was another system with intelligent life nearby, but he'd need to refuel before he'd make it there. He'd also need to relieve himself. Perhaps he could simply use this cow's bathroom. His atlas seemed to be wrong when it told him that the barbarians here were intelligent, but perhaps they weren't completely uncivilized

 


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