Saturday Storytime: The Key to Everything

Nina Kiriki Hoffman is one of those writers who isn’t supposed to exist. She both writes highly commercial contract fiction and wins awards for her novels. But it’s always funny where a job can take you.

My special talent was pissing people off. That wasn’t the technical term for it, but that was what I was good at. You would think there wouldn’t be much demand for this talent. That would be you, wrong again.

On a station like Confetti, where three different alien-to-each-other races came to celebrate their very varied holidays and religious rites, there was a lot of bumping into each other’s sore spots. People in the service industries needed to be difficult to irritate. If an administrator wanted to test an employee’s capacity to suck up the pain and keep on smiling, hey, enter me.

I dressed in my best I’m-not-going-to-be-here-long-enough-to-take-my-consequences tourist garb, and went to my next job.

The Rikrik were about to arrive in masses for Recombo Night. I went to the Lerva Bar, a place that specialized in Rikrik beverages, comestibles, and behavior-cushioning. Bypassing the hostess, who would have led me into the human section, I went right up to the serving platform, though Rikrik custom dictated that patrons, both human and Rikrik, be led to an exchange nest and wait for a server to approach. A server would only approach when every Rikrik in a nest raised the topmost appendage in unison or when every human in a party did the same.

The bartender didn’t flinch or otherwise indicate that she had noticed my bad behavior. I asked her to make me a fruit squash, and she whipped one up and presented it with a smile.

I sipped and grimaced. “This tastes too distil,” I whined. “I want the color a bluer green. The ploorberries are too ripe. Do it over.”

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Saturday Storytime: The Key to Everything
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