The spaceship dropped out of the clear blue sky above Marigold street.
John Sutter, kneeling to adjust the carburetor on his gas-powered lawn mower, noticed the flicker of shadow that crossed his half-trimmed lawn. He looked up, and the screwdriver fell unnoticed from his fingers.
Across the street, Margaret Wilson dropped her laundry basket and screamed. Soon, the entire neighborhood was watching, people pouring like ants out of their tidy suburban homes and gaping up at the sky. Dogs barked. Babies cried.
The ship looked insect-like, all strange angles and bulges, descending at a stately pace with no wings or rotors or jets.
The people gathered around in a wide, ragged circle as the craft hovered lower. It extruded a set of landing legs and settled down in the middle of Marigold street, hissing and venting gasses and steam.
A pregnant pause followed. The residents of Marigold Street began to talk in hushed tones, “Is it dangerous? Shouldn’t we call someone? How in the world…”
The alien craft shuddered, and the crowd once again fell silent. Then, as they all watched, it began to…unfold. Hatches hinged open, panels slid away, irises irised. Out came racks, shelves, tables, display cases, stuffed full of strange and wondrous objects.
From somewhere, jolly organ music began playing.
A door opened, and out stepped the alien: a six legged, bug-eyed, chitinous horror. Wearing a top-hat.
“Gentlebeings all, welcome to Mixmaw’s intergalactic travelling bazaar! I bring you unique and remarkable merchandise from around the universe, from the nomadic tribes of Kafazz, to the factories of Kranth. Wonders such as your eyes have never seen!
The alien stepped in front of the racks of clothing. He pointed at Margaret Wilson with two of his segmented arms. “You there, transporting your soiled garments. Never do laundry again!” With a segmented arm it held out a sky-blue blouse. “With your clothes made of hand woven Chiksa silk, the dirt slides right off! And it’s smooth as the underside of a Ganwellian cloud plant.”
Margaret ran her fingers along the cloth, sighed dreamily, and passed out with a smile on her face.
“And you sir, using that primitive machine to trim your photosynthetic ground cover! Try one of these, instead!” A boxy wheeled robot crawled out of a hatch in the spaceship and trundled towards the half-mowed lawn. “A tirelesss yard sentry, the Karvallian trim-bot never needs batteries, never stops working, and…it uses advanced Karvallian technology to convert your grass clippings into gold coins.” The little robot tore into the grassy yard with fervor, leaving a trail of shiny golden droppings behind.
“And that’s not all,” said the alien, pulling open a cabinet. “I have spices from the far mountains of Flandoor, the likes of which your terrestrial taste buds have never dreamed! Try this, sir, it’s a Taltanian garlic from the lowlands of Skrife.” He shook out a sample into John Sutter’s hand.
John cautiously tasted the powder. He gasped and fell to his knees, weeping uncontrollably. “It is the single most beautiful thing I’ve ever experienced!” he cried. “My greatest regret is that I’ve gone my entire life without tasting this, the perfect ambrosia, the nectar of the very gods themselves! I’ll never again enjoy lesser foods. My life is ruined.”
“Quite right, sir.” Said Mixmaw. “And this is only a small sampling of my wares. Find true love! Defeat your enemies! Cure diseases and live forever! That’s right, the finest and most unique wares in the wide universe are available to you, right now, at low, low prices.”
“Well good God, man, how much!” screamed John Sutter. “I’ll pay anything. Anything!”
“I’m not a greedy being. I provide these wonders practically at cost, for the simple joy of bringing fine products to the far corners of the universe. The spices begin at a price of only twelve Chaburi.”
“What’s a Chaburi?” asked Martha.
“You don’t have Chaburi? Oh, my mistake. I also take payment in Megars, Tandillos, or Kawillian trade certificates.”
“But we don’t have any of those things!” said John. “We only have dollars.”
“What’s a dollar?” said Mixmaw.
“Or, or pounds! Euros! Pesos! Loonies! Yen, baht, rupees, gold, whatever you want!”
“I’m…I’m afraid I don’t take those. And why would I want gold? I have a lawnmower that shits gold. Are you sure this planet doesn’t even deal in Klavix? The exchange rate is terrible, but I suppose it’s better than nothing.”
“No,” answered Margaret, “we don’t even know what those are.”
“Does anyone even have a credit account with the trans-galactic trust bank?” Met with blank stares, Mixmaw held his hat in his hands, sheepishly. “I’m afraid I’ve made a terrible mistake. Really must update these travel atlases. How embarassing. My mistake, of course. All my fault. Terribly sorry.”
The alien climbed into his spaceship. The stalls and shelves and racks and displays neatly folded themselves back into the ship. Irises irised. Panels slid shut. Hatches hinged closed. The ship lifted off the ground, up, up and away, and disappeared into the baby blue sky.