As a bartender, Dixie had seen his fair share of odd balls come and go through the door of his pub on the little ball of rock he called home. He chalked it up to an occupational hazard serving drinks in an out of the way… no, scratch that… middle of nowhere mining community. Hovering this close to the edge of nothing, on top of some strong surplus of natural resource, you’re bound to have run-into’s with all manners of folk. Mostly still just humans, but the occasional Efferin or Scrill, too.
But sometimes there’s this thing when a someone tends to not stand out too much. When they are so tidy and pure and right-as-all-rain that they just look… wrong. And here was just one sort of fellow, at the end of Dixie’s bar, getting quite particular about the flavor of his beer’s taste. Pining over a head wasn’t so much the thing, nor how he was going about it. No, it was more how he carried himself; how his clothes were just so clean, and had all the fasteners still intact and working. It was in how well-groomed his hair was with that just perfect smile when he made his order.
Or, maybe it was in how, though he was trying so hard not to obvious, he was obviously more interested in his surroundings than in his choice of refreshment. But he had reached the end of his mug, and Dixie had to make good on his apron to tend to his customers. So, he took to stepping to the end of the bar.
“Beer okay,” he asked.
“The beer’s mighty fine, thanks; “he answered with that near perfect, clean toothed smile. “Just what I needed. It’s nice to find a place like this tucked away out here. Very refreshing. It’s almost like a little piece of civil paradise in a dark, cold galaxy.”
“Thanks, I do what I can.” Dixie’s senses popped. He was sure what was coming next, but he was hoping he was wrong.
“In fact, you know what would make it perfect,” he asked, waving around with his hand to the small pub, “modernizing it up some. Have you thought about getting the latest in serving bar tech? Not just a bar bot or a servi-stand, but something nice like those fixtures they have in the core systems.”
Damn it, Dixie thought to himself. “Oh,” he said with just the hint of faked interest. “Like what?”
“Well, I just happen to know a guy who deals in the latest in repulse and hover serving surfaces. Probably get you a great deal on some three and four chair sets, complete with table center holo-tube viewers. You could have sports, news, and all the latest shows piped right to your customers while they eat and drink. Bet that would put a lot more butts through the door.”
More than any odd ball or drifter come through these parts adding to the heap of trouble town saw, from time to time, the traveling salesman was, by far, the worst. And here was yet another one, come to get his wares all up in Dixie’s face. He leaned in across the bar to meet the man face to face, a halfcocked smile across his lips.
“Say, tell me; about how long, you figure, it took you to get to these parts on your sales rounds?”
Dixie figured the salesman was unprepared, and very unhappy, to have been made, and made so quickly. He rocked back, sitting more upright on his bar stool. His face told Dixie that he was considering if he should keep beating this path, or step more truthful like.
“You know I’m not wrong, though. I could put a touch of something more modern in here and they’d be coming from two, three, maybe four towns over just to have a swig of something here.”
Dixie asked, again; “how long did it take you to get here on your rounds?”
“Not to see how it’s relevant, but about three months; give or take. It is, after all, the edge of territory out here.”
“Exactly the point; the folk out here like it that way. Nice, clean, and simple. They get in, do what they have to, or need to, maybe stop in for a brew and a chew, and then get to going. What am I to do with a whole plate of attention no one wants around here?”
The salesman looked like he had a counter thought to his question. Or, maybe another argument in rebuttal. Whatever it was, Dixie didn’t even give him the chance to offer it.
“More to the point; suppose I do fancy me a set of your floating holo-doo-hickey table and chair sets. What am I to do if it suddenly is less of a floaty table and more a crash to the ground table? Hmm? Wait three months for someone to come out and get me a new one while I’m down a table and, what; four seats ain’t no one gonna sit in now?”
Once again the lips of the salesman parted, as if to add or rebut. And, once again, Dixie saw to it he didn’t. “Now, lest I figure it don’t come down on one of my most loyal and quiet patrons, I’m not to suppose you’ll come straight out to my rescue, will I?” The salesman had no reply. “Exactly. See, out here we got no need for anything we can’t do for ourselves.”
Dixie scooped up the empty mug from in front of the salesman. “That one’s on the house if you can find yourself to the door in the next couple minutes. And I’d be obliged you a kindness not to be seeing you in here on any future date, sir. Good evening.”
The salesman adjusted himself on the stool. Maybe he had considered one last sales pitch before he realized it had become a little too quiet for this quiet, out of the way pub. Looking around, he could see some of the patrons had taken more than a passing fancy in their discourse. The sound of shuffling cards could be heard from the side room where a lone young lady sat with a deck. It became very clear it was time to cut his losses.
“Well, I thank you for the hospitality of the free drink, sir, and sorry to be a trouble.” Gathering himself up off the stool he made for the door, turning one last time to Dixie. “You have a lovely establishment, here. Have a good evening.”
Outside, on the makeshift dirt street, the salesman made a notation on a digital pad. “Hey, this looks promising,” he heard a voice say. Looking back he saw a mop headed man in a jacket was looking in through the doorway. The back of the jacket had some sort of patch on it in a language he didn’t read; a skull with fiery wings biting on what looked like a wrench.
“Nah," he said to the stranger in the jacket, “just another hole in the wall run down hick joint. Seen one, you’ve seen them all.” And he strode off into the night, thinking about his next stop.
“Perfect,” the jacketed stranger said to himself.