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SNAKE OIL by Wendy S. Delmater




Animosity. That was the word. Although, for the life of him Ellwin couldnít figure why they seemed to dislike him so much. He could not understand most of what they said. Maybe they just didnít see the benefits of his product.

He checked his chronometer. There was enough time before he had to leave this planet for one last go at it. He still had a huge crowd of the fur-headed, long-limbed bipeds gathered. It was worth a try, he decided. He made one last adjustment to his translation device.

"Good State Fairians," he hoped the translation was accurate there, "Allow me to demonstrate the many benefits of this off-world technology." His robot heard the cue words and rolled out into position.

"Hey, how much for your robot?" shouted someone from the back.

"I still think the guyís in a stupid costume. Looks like a slug."

"I canít understand him. Can you?"


Ellwin left a dignified trail of slime as he glided toward the product. There was a murmur from the alien crowd. Good, he had their attention.

"Wait - maybe itís not a costume..."

"Eww - slime!"

"With this simple device," Ellwin continued, "it is possible to stop any disease that is caused by defects in your genetic material. Yes - thatís right - any encoded defect, my friends! My assistant here will demonstrate with a defective craydorn."

The bioactive cloak did not cure everything, of course. Like that poor snerk it fried last week. No more snerks! Heíd use a craydorn this time. Because heíd only singed a wing off a craydorn - once.

"So what the hell is that thing?" grumbled a biped.

"And whatís the robot doing to that weird bird, daddy?"

The craydorn fluttered its four wings anxiously, held in the robotís grasp. Ellwin, with what he thought was considerable flair, removed the cloak from the open bay of his ship with a closed eye stalk. "Observe, my friends." He took the healing cloak and theatrically covered the craydorn in the robotís pincers.

The bird-like creature gave a muffled shriek from underneath the device, and struggled wildly.

"Itís smothering that bird!" yelled one of the bipeds.

"Yeah, Iíve seen enough," growled another, looking around at the rest of the booths. His eyes rested on a nearby hamburger stand. They had to have some of what he needed. "Be right back, guys."

The aliens were talking among themselves and one had left. Good. Ellwin knew that if a being was interested, it would soon bring something to trade. While he waited, just for variety, he demonstrated the healing cloak on a defective ornitard water-breather. Restored to health, it screamed most effectively at the crowd, barely singed.

"Thatís gotta hurt pretty bad to make a fish scream. Someone should teach this freakiní guy a lesson."

They all agreed. "Really. The bastard."

Just then the missing biped returned, setting down a large, brown rectangular box. It opened this container and handed out some blue cylinders to the others - no doubt the local medium of exchange. Ellwin waited near his wares expectantly. Each of the bipeds opened some sort of metal spout on top of the cylinder and they all moved toward him.

A biped pushed through the crowd.

"Hey, let me have some salt, too! I hate slugs."

© Wendy S. Delmater, 2004
All Rights Reserved



BIO: Wendy S. Delmater is a construction safety engineer and mother, jobs which can be strangely similar. She writes fiction that is not always as bizarre as things she has seen in real life.