Author: Rick Tobin

Brief bright flashes of green light escaped through black worn rubber liners on the stainless steel restaurant freezer doors. The kitchen staff ignored it, staying at their posts, waiting for a new arrival. Initial coughing from the traveler announced the interdimensional portal had closed, delivering a migrant trainee assigned to Earth.

A dazed blonde teenage girl pushed open the freezer doors as she rolled in on her roller skates. She wore a red and white carhop outfit from the 1950s. Carole, the restaurant manager, looked aghast.

“This won’t do. Archaeologists messed up again. Erica,” Carole directed her attention to a teen waitress looking over orders and comparing them to the hanging slips from a rotating metal carousel. “Take this one to the back. We’ll call her Anna. Get her the right uniform. Get rid of those ridiculous shoes and that hat. It’s time to prepare the new temporary help.”

After closing hours, the diner’s mature manager sat across from the fresh intern wearing appropriate clothing for an initial briefing. The blonde girl’s eyes continuously dilated back and forth in synch with her heartbeats.

“In time your eye organs will adapt to this human lighting. Now that you’ve adjusted to our speech and voices, you can ask questions. I will guide you through the initiation span allowed so you can adapt and integrate into your new home.” Carole moved a holographic guidebook toward the recruit.

“What is this place and why was I sent here?” Anna asked.

“This is a place where humans risk eating food prepared by their servants. You learn more about a species if you study their feeding habits in an enclosed space. Besides, it is their holiday season and we need extra help. The others here will show you all you need to do in the back area where you’ve been resting since you arrived.”

Anna twisted her neck to relieve stiffness from her transportation. “This body is strange to me, but I can use it. I will assist as I learn, but what is a holiday?”

“Ah…that’s a bit hard to understand. This species designates times of special importance to them when they can quit working. They use this time to repair tribal bonds and sometimes become incapacitated with various chemicals.”

“Why would any species quit working? That is the joy of being.” Anna seemed confused.

“That is disturbing. Many adults in this race hate their work, so holidays relieve social pressure and anger.”

“Absurd,” Anna replied. “But, I will accept this. Why aren’t they like every being in the galaxy performing duties they love?”

Carole smirked before responding. “It is rare that anyone ever asks them what they truly love.”

“Then are they hostile?” Anna asked.

“Sometimes, especially during holidays. You’ll find out when you deliver their food orders, even if they are correct.”

“Do they avoid responsibility for their eating risks?” Anna replied.

“Not when they can blame someone below their station in life. Wait until you witness their females drive vehicles at high speed while holding a sharp pencil to their eyes. They often take senseless risks without considering outcomes.”

“How will I come to withstand beings that act so oddly?” Anna sounded concerned.

“Always smile, no matter what happens,” Carole answered, smiling back. “Whatever the situation, it seems to confuse them. It works every time.”