“That’s the way Rick Royal eats ’em so that’s the way we serve it,” the fat, cheerless waiter explained to the tiny man. The waiter plugged his short pencil behind his ear and crossed his arms, waiting impatiently for the man to order.
Goosemander, the tiny man, was seated in the blinding vinyl yellow of the booth which was several feet too tall and also too wide to comfortably accommodate him. He quivered slightly, under the haughty gaze of the waiter and his trembling energy migrated up and through the enormous, laminated menu so that it wobbled a great deal in his hands.
“But what’s Neptune got to do with it?” Goosemander ventured. He fixed the waiter with a look, pushing up his glasses with the knuckles of his right hand. “Is Ricky Royal from Neptune or something?”
“It’s Rick Royal. Not Ricky. Come on, hurry up. I’ve got tables to charge.”
Goosemander licked his thin lips and looked out the megadex windows of the diner immediately adjacent to the parking flats. Beyond the parking flats was the horizon of the planet with an astonishing view of outer space including three attractive planets with their attractive magenta sun, a pirouetting refueling structure, and all around, the streak of travelers burrowing their ways through the unknown.
Goosemander could see his maroon vehicle still sitting in the parking flat. Space #26-J. He nervously bobbed his head around, checking the flats.
“If you’re looking for flat weevils, we don’t have that kind of problem around here.”
“What’s that?” Goosemander turned back to the waiter, knitting his brow.
“We’re a clean and family friendly establishment.”
“Such a relief.”
“So quit lookin’ out the window like that.”
Goosemander shoved his hands under his arms and scowled at the waiter. “I’ll look out the window however I want! I’ll do it backwards if I like!”
“What are you ordering?”
“I don’t care. Eggs Neptune. No salt.”
“It comes with salt on the side.”
“I don’t care!” Goosemander threw the menu down feebly on the floor. He tucked his head into his arms and began sobbing.
The waiter rolled his eyes and the enormity of his body rolled with them. With crucial force, he bent down his knees and picked up the menu.
“Eggs Neptune with salt on the side, no salt, coming up.”
Once the waiter had lumbered away, Goosemander stopped crying and looked around the restaurant.
His peevish face lit up as he examined the diners. Most were families clearly on their way to vacation spots. Ravenous fathers and pissed off wives with their space sick children. A few business people eating efficient meals of protein slips and caffeine cake were also present. In the middle of the restaurant, at the very long table, was a freight crew enjoying some R&R from some kind of dirty mining operation. They wore blue and yellow jumpsuits, ate loudly, and kept smacking each others’ heads in good humor. Their tremendous blast of a ship took up several spaces out in the parking flats.
Goosemander looked out over the top of his booth. He was on tippy toes. Like a peeping Tom with only his eyes and the top of his head showing, he scanned the restaurant. He was still licking his lips.
A touristy family got up to leave, touting their screaming brats like luggage.
“I won’t go! I won’t go!” one of their numerous children screamed. The father took the struggling child by the shoulders and began stuffing him into a child cooler. Overpowering his offspring, he pressed the child down by the head and zipped him up. Then the father put an arm around his wife. They both breathed a sigh of relief and heaved the rest of their children back out to the parking flats.
As this group passed by Goosemander’s table, he swiftly turned, slid down, and reclined back into a sitting position. Goosemander’s eyebrows bristled as he watched the family exit.
Once they were gone, Goosemander rose from his table like a breeze. With a gait that was neither fast nor slow, he made his way over to the table where the family had been eating. With glancing attention, he pulled the tip money off the table and pocketed it. He made a slow circle back to his own booth. Nobody noticed him.
Inside the booth, he furtively produced the money from his pocket and began counting it. He counted faster than a banking bot. It was two and 6-thirteenths credit.
“Bazingo!” Goosemander whispered and then he quickly pocketed the money again.
A relaxed mood came over Goosemander. He stretched out in the booth. He breathed in the scent of freshly frying oil. He gazed out the window at the three attractive planets. His ears perked up at the sound of the angry waiter returning to the front of the restaurant. Without turning around, Goosemander followed the man’s every step in his mind’s eye.
When he heard the moment he waiting for, it aroused him.
“Junk munchers!” boomed the waiter. The din in the restaurant dulled for a moment. Everyone — except Goosemander — turned to look at the angry waiter who was huffily stacking plates and emanating a series of boondock expletives that the freight team would repeat to one another for years to come.
“Oh, sir?” Goosemander held out his tiny, quavering hand so it stuck out from the booth like a little flag. “Sir?”
The waiter stormed over to Goosemander.
Goosemander’s head swirled around on his neck. “Do you have any champagne?”
Just then, out in the parking flats, a gleaming white spacecraft touched down in an empty spot.
“We do not serve champagne here you freakish, little rimmed-out nitwit. Bug juice or get the hell out of my restaurant.”
“Bug juice,” Goosemander repeated, as if it were his favorite card game.
Two persons stepped out of the white spacecraft. They wore reflective masks and carried long, roping, lassos. The stouter of the two produced a small silver box and began to make a pictorial survey of the parking flat.
Inside the diner, Goosemander was fixated on the waiter as he lumbered to the back bar and grabbed a wide ceramic mug from a collection of mugs on a shelf. He placed the mug under a gargantuan silver tank that stretched so far up that it may have touched the ceiling of the diner. The waiter pulled the tap and a jet stream of blue burbling liquid surged into the mug.
Outside, the masks with lassos were taking special interest in Goosemander’s vehicle parked in Space #26-J. They pointed at it. They pointed at each other. They pointed at the restaurant.
The waiter was coming back with Goosemander’s drink. Goosemander bounced up and down in his seat, his fists were balled up in silent, screaming anticipation. The waiter hesitated for just a moment at the booth, holding the bug juice and really seeing Goosemander for the first time. The excited little man was close to rollicking. The waiter decided he must be a mental case, slid the bug juice before him, and left again.
The masked persons entered the restaurant.
The bug juice steamed with sugary richness. Goosemander inhaled tremendously over the steam and then stuck a furtive, swirling finger into the bug juice. He stirred it thoroughly before downing the entire thing in a single gulp.
When he was done with the beverage, he looked up to find two masked persons towering over him.
The masks did not have faces. So when they spoke, it was from an electronic voice box located on the right shoulder. The leaner of the masks said, “Tiberius Ralpheinnes Goosemander, you are in violation of the 749 Time Travel Law of the Citadel. You are under arrest for crimes you have knowingly yet to commit.”
It was very loud, as if through a bull horn.
“No,” Goosemander surged out of the his booth and clambered over the heads of the people in the booth next to him, making them yelp out in pain.
“Stop,” voice boxed the stouter mask. “You will stop.”
But Goosemander did not stop. He raced and tumbled through the diner. The waiter, only too happy to assist, attempted to snag the tiny man and succeeded in catching him around the waist. Goosemander, however, was more muscular and frightened than the waiter had anticipated and he wriggled out of the larger man’s grip, causing the waiter to fall forward onto his stomach.
Goosemander sprinted for the door. He pushed it. The bell jangled. But just as he was heaving the mass of his small body against the weighted door, the stouter mask struck out, precisely, with their lasso. Goosemander was ensnared.
“Never! No! Not today! I’m innocent! Innocent I tell you!” Goosemander screeched and then he began jerking and hissing, baring his little white teeth.
“Your trial has been prescribed,” said the lassoer. “Guilty.”
The lasso lit up blue electric like a nebula.
Goosemander jerked and spat but this time without intention or control.
All over the restaurant people gasped. They dropped their forks and cups. Mothers covered up their children’s eyes.
Goosemander disintegrated into a pile of grey dust on the floor.
The lassoer retracted his lasso. With menacing slowness, the two masked persons calmly left the diner. The door’s bell jangled behind them. All present watched silently as they returned to their gleaming white vehicle, stepped inside, and jammed it directly out of there. Their white craft was visible for a few short moments as an arcing streak in the airless black of space. Then they were gone.
After a few moments of silence in focus, one of the freight crew absent mindedly slurped his bug juice. A few of his team nodded and they also began slurping their bug juice in solidarity.
“Order up!” a fry cook bellowed from a subterranean kitchen, unaware of what had transpired topside. “Eggs Neptune with salt on the side, no salt,” the fry cook specified as the dish slid out onto the serving bench.
The waiter stood back up again. He drew himself to his full height. Everyone in the restaurant turned to him.
“Rick,” said the waiter, addressing himself to the slurping freight crew, “is never going to believe this one.”
The freight crew laughed and saluted the waiter as he retrieved a broom from the corner. Rolling his eyes, the waiter brushed up Goosemander into a dustpan. With the dustpan in one hand, he made an easy glide to the serving bench, scooped up the order of eggs in his other hand and headed towards the back door.
He stepped outside the back of the restaurant. Here too was an astonishing view of outer space, a moon, and a murky purple asteroid belt. He made his way to the dumpster and unceremoniously dumped out both Goosemander and the eggs into the bin.