The Same Question, Over and Over

by Richard Dysinger © 2002

“Great, here it comes.”

“Here comes what?”

The bartender, a hulking man with the build of a lifelong ore-miner and the matted hair of the typical earthling born under a unique gravity, dropped a glass mug of fermented, synthetic barley before the newcomer to the bar. Around them, many stared, several overtly, while others chose to use their peripheral vision to study the stranger.

“Here comes the same damn question you people always ask of me.”

The bar, located several parsecs south of the Human Federation border, reeked of stale bread, vomit and the heavy incense burned daily to ward off the pesky insects plaguing the outpost. Near silent music, an oldie from Earth’s heyday, played on a continuous cycle that many of the regulars could recite out of memory despite the mental impairments the artificial liquor inflicted in their frontal lobes.

“You people?”

“Don’t give me that deeply offended crap. The moment I stepped into this bar! , everyone of you judged me because of the way I look.”

“You’ve got to admit, mister, you look a little strange.”

“Maybe for you humans, but most of the species in the universe don’t look twice when I stop for a drink. It’s only at an Earth outpost that I get all the queer looks.”

The bartender wiped away the stray bits of condensation dotting the bar as the outsider to the establishment sipped heavily from the thick brew, his features foreign but familiar. Several patrons, third generation miners of the nearby orbiting asteroid field, lurched forward and sat on the barstools, straddling the stranger on either side. Pretending not to notice, he continued his conversation with the bemused bartender.

“Not only queer looks either, my friend. Its questions too. Actually the same question over and over. It’s some joke that you humans think is hilarious.”

“I know what question it is.” The man to the newcomer’s left, an ugly hum! an with several oozing sets of galactic warts lining his facial features, spoke in a hushed tone, his syllables clipped and hard as his weather-beaten skin. “Here it comes.”

“Why did you cross the road?”

The bartender screwed his face into a contorted smile that looked more of a grimace than a grin. Several hooting catcalls of laughter rang out from unseen sources behind the newcomer, but he ignored them, content to sip at his drink. The same routine, the exact same setup every time.

“Okay, you asked me. Now can I drink in peace?”

“Hey Reggie, get this, I just asked him why he crossed the road,” the ugly one yelled to a nearby friend, slamming his empty mug down on the bar.

The bartender cursed and took the empty cup from the man’s hand although the grotesque smile remained plastered across his countenance. The chuckles increased, drowning out the music, and the stranger began to fidget, his limbs twitching as the anger built ! within.

“Real funny. Ha-ha, okay. I look like a chicken. What a big joke. Hey everyone look at me, I’m a sideshow.” The room erupted in synchronized laughter, a torrent of giggles raining down on the outsider as the bar reverberated with choked guffaws from throats partially clogged with ore dust and foreign particles.

“You have feathers,” the ugly human croaked as he fondled the silky white skin of the newcomer.

“They’re not feathers. It’s fur. They just happen to look like chicken feathers to you humans.”

“And look at his beak.”

Breathing slowly, the outsider to the bar remained patient as several humans inspected his form, their eyes roving from one peculiar body part to another. From his miniscule mouth, shaped and hardened into a beaklike structure from eons of evolution on his home planet, to the spindly legs with three hooked claws scraping the bar floor, the humiliating examination continued unabated.!

“Oh my God, he’s really a chicken. A talking chicken.”

“Look I’m going to save all of you a whole lot of trouble. I have what you humans call feathers, I have a beak and, yes, my legs are lanky and yellow, but I’m not a chicken. I repeat, I am not a chicken. I just happen to look like one of your pet animals on Earth. That’s it.”

The laughter softened, the outsider’s words bringing pause. The newcomer finished his drink, the last bit sticking to the bottom of the glass mug before dropping down his throat. The faces of the human miners, twisted with thought, continued their inventory of his features.

“You’re really not a chicken?” A voice asked, cleaving the silence.

“No, I’m not a chicken.”

“What the hell are you then?”

“I’m a Draforian.”

“You look like a chicken.”

The ugly man sneered as he spoke, his mouth clogged with ill-colored teeth and a tongue painted black by the copious amounts of inhaled ! ore dust.

“No, I’m a Draforian.”

“What’s that?”

“A species of beings from the planet Draforia. It’s thousands of parsecs from the nearest human outpost.”

The ugly man’s face bent with a sudden realization, his features amusingly warped. “If it looks like a chicken, if it smells like a chicken, then it must cluck like a chicken. So come on and cluck, chicken. Cluck, and tell me why you crossed the road.”

Forgoing the intellectual dialogue between himself and the ugly miner, the Draforian pointed to his empty cup, his eyes flowing to the bartenders, ignorant of the funky body motions acted out by the men behind him. “Get me another drink.”

With a raised eyebrow, the bartender shook his head no and responded, “Not till you answer the man’s question.”

“It's a joke, not a question.”

“Now it’s a question.”

“Have mercy.”

“Answer it.”

His body sagging, the newcomer to the bar sighed, giving in to the perverse whims of the human earthlings once again.

“To get to the other side, okay. Me, a flipping chicken, cluck, cluck, crossed the road to get to the other side. You happy? Now get me my drink.”

x x x

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