The UFOCon chose New Mexico as its site, and even though the City of Roswell declined to host the conference that year, citing safety hazards due to the number of vehicles and the willful drunkenness of the participants of previous years, Albuquerque was well-equipped with parking garages and hotels and was more than glad to welcome the thousands of people who wanted to be convinced that aliens from outer space had not only visited the planet Earth in the past, but were ever-present for those who were willing to search for them. Alien stuff was big business for New Mexico, and with the economy as it was, any big business was not to be sneered at. Let Roswell swelter and twitter about its own UFO Days -- Albuquerque would cash in on the international market with the 'Con.
The air-conditioned Williams Room at the hotel was an enormous space that easily held half the vendors of UFOCon. Nemison and his sweaty friend Harley Bein had every dollar they had ever saved in the merchandise behind the partition around their table. A large poster in front of their stall displayed the iconic fuzzy flying saucer against a pale blue sky, with the words, "I believe." A smaller poster leaned against it, with a gray-skinned, black-bug-eyed creature giving the finger to the viewer. A cardboard word balloon painted white drew the eye to the smaller poster. The white word-balloon said, "What, you don't believe?" The smaller poster with the alien said, "OFU."
"Does your sister have to hang around in front of our booth?" Harley asked, wiping sweat from his forehead. "Her friends and her are messing up our business."
"She's a mean old shit, but she drove the van here, so I can't tell her off. Get it, I make her mad, she just go drive off home and we get left to call our moms."
A couple of short geeks in gray alien-skin costumes stopped to admire the buttons, t-shirts, and bumper stickers at Nemison's booth, laughing soundlessly and pointing at the wares ... until they looked up at Nemison's sister and her friends in their short shorts, skirts, cropped tops and exotically made-up eyes.
Harley snorted in disgust.
Nemison tossed a cheese puff at his sister, bouncing it off her cheek. "Help us sell this stuff, Miz Overstuffed, or take you and your Charlie Angels somewhere else!"
"You little dump," she sneered, but moved on with her pals. The geeks in grayskin followed them.
A foursome in tie-dyed hippie garb stopped to chuckle at Nemison's booth. "Gotta have that for my cubicle," said one, and the group bought four buttons, one poster, and two bumperstickers.
"Yeah, I see."
One of the hippie foursome backed up after he'd reached the next booth to the right. "You know, you guys ought to have a Klingon doing that -- that'd be dynamite!"
The next booth was doing a rousing business selling whole-head latex Klingon masks and paperback Klingon dictionaries. "Damn Trekkies," Harley sputtered.
"How the hell do they get away without paying royalties, is what I'm wondering," mused Nemison, smiling at the next group to stop and look at their booth.
"Are you the guy from Galaxy Quest?" asked a woman in an embarrassingly tight Star Trek uniform, circa the late Sixties.
"No," Harley said evenly. "But he starred in Boat Trip. You ought to see him in that."
"Oh, I will!" the woman nodded enthusiastically, her elaborately braided blonde yeoman's wig shifting to cover her right eyebrow. She gasped, grasped at her wig, and then hurried away across the room towards the Ladies.'
Harley threw his hands in the air in disgust. "We've been here two hours and we've made what, thirty-five dollars? You told me we'd make a killing with this thing! We could have made that much standing on the corner of Fifth and Main waving pizza signs, and listening to music! We're just sitting here in this lame-ass booth smiling like a couple of dummies." He massaged his jaw. "My face hurts."
"Your face? That's because you got the slackest jaw most of the time anyone ever seen. You look like a carp with ADD. Anyway, it's only Friday afternoon, so shut up, dude. Nothing happens on Fridays at a Con."
"Go to hell, man, I got adenoid problems."
"You got breath problems, too, Mr. Bitchin.' Why don't you go back to the room and score some mouthwash if you want better sales?"
"Nemison, you're a total f--"
"Well, hell-O, ladies," Nemison crooned, rising from his chair to greet a pair of scantily-clad girls wearing green makeup all over and heavily made up eyes. "Now when those spacemen start making assumptions about Orionese women, don't you wish you were wearing these t-shirts -- they look great wet, too, you know!"
While the girls giggled and postured, Harley went back to their room to brush his teeth. He should have done that in the morning, anyway.
"There's two short geeks following us," Anndra said to DaJonah. "I thought you said we'd meet some hunky stuff playing starship captains."
"Nemison says that only the nerds show up on Fridays. Saturday is the hot day, when the cool folk come out."
"Yeah, well, your brother is a turd. He told me I look like a whore."
"Anndra, you have a leather skirt that don't even cover your cheeks, and blue sequined platform shoes, and a bikini top. Girl, what about that don't say 'whore' to you?"
"Oh, F U," said Anndra, and burst into laughter. "Okay, Nemison's right, we got to get those buttons from him."
"I agree, but you could have dressed like you weren't selling ass and underpanties," Audrey muttered around her braces.
"DaJonah, we're going back to get that button right now, you hear me?"
"Nobbih, do you see what I see?"
"Yes, Gim, I do. It is what they call on Earth 'Prime Real Estate."
"They're going back to that funny booth. Look, Nobbih, they bought buttons!"
"We shall buy buttons, too. Then we have common ground upon which to meet these nubile womens."
"You have much smartness, Nobbih. This is why I like having you as my co-worker."
Nobbih put down some paper vouchers and received some metal disks in return for two buttons. They pinned the buttons on the right side of their disguises (baggy T-shirts over even more baggy pants that they belted around their upper thighs, and held up with long suspenders from their shoulders, so that if they had to run, the pants would not have to stay behind) and turned away again to seek the attractive women who had disappeared from sight.
"Those short weirdos in gray masks are still shadowing us," Audrey said, putting a lip moisturizer across her mouth.
"You serious?" Anndra mumbled around a chicken wing. The three had left the UFOCon to find food, chipping in at a Chinese restaurant to buy a big platter of garlic chicken, chow mein, and wonton soup which the menu named 'Flying Saucer.'
"Yeah, they're hanging around out on the sidewalk, and keep looking at us."
DaJonah put on her sunglasses so that she could turn partway around and see them without seeming to see them. "What, are they in fifth grade or some kind of midgets? Why they shadowing us?"
"Anndra's purple underpants, probably."
Anndra wiggled the button on the strap on her top. "You sure you don't want this last wing?"
"God, no. That's all I need are shreds of chicken stuck in this junk. I'm enough of a freak already."
"You're not a freak, you just didn't get enough room in that mouth of yours for all that grin. Next year this time, you'll be all done with braces and never think about them again." DaJonah stood up, stacking cash on the bill, being sure to leave a decent tip in case they wanted to eat there again. "Come on, we're going out the back door of this place an' lose those little dorks."
After stopping in the Ladies' restroom to adjust eye makeup and lipstick, they slipped out the rear exit into the alley, laughing as they hurried back to the convention center.
"Is there anyone between the ages of eighteen and forty at this thing who isn't a total fathead geek loser?" Anndra demanded Saturday evening.
"Sure doesn't look like it," DaJonah acquiesced. "This was a waste of time, girl, I'm sorry."
Audrey said nothing, having signed up for about fourteen web forums on UFO sites, shaking hands and smiling around the metalwork in her mouth. Her future empty evenings would be filled by online communities, and not by worrying about which football player, or downtown hotboy she should be seen with.
"Hey, guys," she said to the short masked 'aliens' who still shadowed them, and had drawn near.
"You want to go for a ride in our spaceship?" said one in a buzzing voice.
"Take off," Anndra said menacingly.
"Yes, we take off, and get you cruise around the world before your friends notice you are gone," said Gim.
"Sounds good to me," said Audrey.
Nobbih pulled on the shirt of Gim's upper arm. "Do not agree," he said in their language. "See the prothesis on her mouth? She is defective."
"No," said Gim. "You must wait until the injury to your mouth heals." He nodded his head to her in acknowledgement of her infirmity.
"What?" Audrey sputtered. "You short shits are snubbing me because I have braces?"
"These others have no deformities and possess many human characteristics that are of interest to our species," Nobbih explained, trying to be ambassadorial.
"WTF does that mean, Short Stuff?" Anndra snarled. "Are you two little ones talking titties or ass?"
"Titties," said Nobbih. "Our females hardly have them."
"Or ass," said Gim. "I know of no female who has an ass so big as you carry -- "
He was cut short by Anndra's backhand across his face that laid him out on the sidewalk.
"Where have I been?" asked Gim, rubbing his face, pushing the cerebral scanner away.
"Knocked out, colleague. You said something to the female that was an issuance of a battle challenge." Nobbih helped his friend sit up.
"Did you take notes? We must update the dictionaries! Such violence, I am a martyr!"
"Gim, do not flatter yourself so. I am certain you are the victim of a mistake, no more. But you are also about to be a lucky being."
"Ow, Nobbih, my face still hurts. Why am I lucky?"
"Because while you were unconscious, I went back to that table and bought out the entire collection of buttons and papers that those creatures had of the "OFU."
"Why, Nobbih? They were not selling well, were they?"
"Not for them, Gim, my friend, but when we take them to the Magellanic Racing Convention, we will make a killing."
"You sayin' that one of those little short-shits bought all your stuff?" DaJonah demanded.
"Hell, yes, that what I'm sayin' to you," Nemison said from the back seat of the van. "We sold it all, Sis. We made it all back and more. We got a business."
"As long as Anndra doesn't get busted for manslaughter," Audrey said, sulking, her jacket pulled up around her ears. "You killed that little dude in the gray mask, looked like."
"Couldn't have been the same ones. If I killed the one, would his buddy have gone to buy stuff after? And there was no police thang happening."
"The little dude had one of our buttons on his shirt," Nemison said. "I know it was one of the two who stopped by on Friday. Bet the little bastards took it all to LA to sell for twice the price."
"Or New York," offered Harley bitterly. "Why couldn't we have gone to New York? Or Miami?"
"Look, look, Gim. Can you focus your eyes now? See the definition of OFU in the translator."
"Nobbih, you are a genius of commerce! We shall be rich!" Gim paused. "Do you think we will be wealthy enough to pick up some Gametean females?"
"Perhaps. Or maybe we shall return to this conference next year, and find once again the female with the blue shiny shoes ... "
Originally appeared 2010-01-11
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