Gweeb had always loved earth junk. Way back when he was just a slugling, he’d adored the bright plastic toys the earth children got. He wished he could have them, tuned to earth media stations to see them despite his Layer screaming at him to smarten up and watch good Grongian media like he was supposed to.
It was the Selectivex multimedia system that made it all so accessible. He could watch Earth programs, programs from Antari, even ones from far off Heligobore. But it was the Earth ones that he liked best. When he saw in an advertisement that Archie McPhee, the Earth store with odd items in it, was relocating to the earthmoon, he just knew he had to go there.
“When can we go?” he asked his Spawner the next day.
“It’s too far! You know your Layer gets spacesick when we hyperfly.” His Spawner looked at him, eyestalks slightly tilted. “Don’t they have space order? Most of those places do.”
Gweeb glowed purple with excitement. He slipped to the interplanetary order machine and looked for a catalog. Sure enough, Archie McPhee was there. He immediately ordered bacon shaped bandages, a Devil Ducky for his bath, and some plastic models of earth people. The order was sent and within a few weeks, an exciting box arrived.
Gweeb was saddened about the bandages. They looked cool, but when he tried to stick them to his tentacles, his skinslick covering just let them slide off. The kids at school all snickered at him through their blowholes. It was embarrassing, especially when Meringa looked at him funny.
Gweeb loved Meringa. He loved the way she burbled through singing class, he loved the tiny flower she would wear behind her mantle, the way her tentacle tips were all painted light pink. She was an earth fan, too, he knew it. No one else had painted tentacles and Gweeb had seen something called nail polish on the Earth media. He had to find something to win her interest , so back he went to the Archie McPhee catalog. Scrolling through, he found an ad for a magic kit.
“Amaze your friends!” the ad said.
“Confound your enemies!” it cried.
Gweeb nodded his mantle thoughtfully. He needed to amaze his friends and confound his enemies. Fast.
He ordered it, and before long the interplanetary mail popped a box through the waterlock. There it was – the young magician’s magic kit! It came with card tricks, which became soggy as soon as Gweeb touched them. He crumpled them up and tossed them away. Better was a set of scarves that he practiced passing though various tentacle movements until he couldn’t imagine anyone being able to follow the motions. He even learned the coin tricks, using the fake plastic coins in the kit until they were slimy with tentacle juice.
Then he put on a magic show for his parental units. They sat on their rocks, confusion showing as they changed colors from red to green. But after watching him passing things here and there and pulling coins from strange places they admitted they were impressed. Gweeb finally went to bed on his cozy sandbag, happy he at last had a skill that could impress Meringa.
The next day at school, he handed out coupons for a magic show in his back living pod after school the next day. Lots of kids took them, most of them snorting gooey bits through their blowholes as they did. Gweeb didn’t care, though. His one hope was that Meringa would take a ticket. He went looking for her and offered her the plastic chip.
“Want to come?” he whispered, shivering blue.
She looked at him. “No silly things like those bacon bandages, right?”
“No. I promise.”
“Ok. Just don’t stick anything on me, okay?”
“Okay,” he burbled, shimmering purple.
The next day everyone at school was asking him about the magic show, but he kept his blowholes shut mysteriously and only waggled his eyestalks. “Wait and see, wait and see!”
Inside, he was jelly, which wasn’t a big change for him, only this time he really felt squishy inside.
He raced home after school and cleared out his performance space, making sure everyone could sit and see his tricks. The others gradually filtered in, snorting and waggling at him. Meringa was there, too, in the second row, watching him. She was giggling with her girlfriends and would turn an eye orb towards him, then away.
He cleared his blowhole and began with the text in the guidebook, which he’d memorized. “Welcome to the most amazing show on earth. You will gasp as I pull coins from the air, puzzle as I create beauty from nothingness. . . .”
“We’re gasping now. Get on with it!” one of the bigger boys gurgled.
So Gweeb started. He pulled scarves from his eating orifices, made them vanish into his tentacles and around his eyestalks. He twisted coins through his tentacles and made them hide. He reached over to Meringa and, holding his breath, pulled one coin right out of her ear orifice.
There was silence after he was done, and he bowed his form forward, waiting for some sign of applause.
“This was the stupidest thing I ever saw,” said one boy, schlepping out of the room making various dripping sounds.
“Yeah,” said a couple more as they went. “Lame.”
Gweeb looked up, wavering his eye spheres about on their stalks. What had gone wrong?
Meringa came forward and looked deep into his eye spheres. She smiled. “Silly, you’re transparent! We could see every trick you did. The coin in the ear thing was pretty cool, though. Have lunch with me tomorrow?” She smiled again and briefly touched his tentacle.
It felt wonderful.
DA Brown writes short stories, novellas and non-fiction, most of it involving existential angst and much of it with dark humour.