Thursday, February 8, 2024

“Chapter 7” • by Andrew Jensen

There was a community uproar when the Golden Sandworm closed its doors.

Well, for a given value of “community.” Comic book collectors were devastated. Fans of a dozen TV shows, past and present, were up in arms about it. And when those fans are “up in arms” they have a lot of weaponry to choose from, some of it quite sharp and artistically curved.

By rights, I shouldn’t have to worry about that. I didn’t make the money run out. I am a simple lawyer specializing in bankruptcy, and my job is to help small corporations in their time of need. Really! My life shouldn’t get more exciting than a tense confrontation with unhappy creditors. Yet for some reason, everyone hates me.

Fortunately, the crowd blocking the Sandworm’s door wasn’t too belligerent. The big guy with the Klingon collector’s blade had me worried for a bit, but one mention of the police took care of him. I didn’t even worry about the ones with their phasers set to kill, although one did hum in a disturbing way. The phaser, that is, not the guy holding it. I think.

The skinny girl with white hair, soft boots, green vest and a longbow caught my attention for a moment, but then I realized she was simply a fan. She reminded me of someone outside of the folk music store that went bankrupt last year. I almost got a restraining order against her, until I learned that she was the spirit of one of the flutes in the repair shop. She’d gone out to party, and came back to find the store padlocked. Once I let her rejoin her instrument she wasn’t a problem anymore.

But I digress. The real trouble was inside the Golden Sandworm, not at the door. Even then, I didn’t realize it until I was halfway through doing the inventory.

“Don’t you have people for such a menial task?” you ask. Yes, of course I do. But now you’ve discovered my weakness. I’m a fan. I couldn’t let anyone else take care of this one.

For example, I’ve wanted a Sonic Screwdriver for ages, but couldn’t justify it. It’s just a toy, right? As a respected businessman, I have to be disciplined and serious. Besides, I couldn’t decide between the thirteenth and fourteenth doctors’ Screwdrivers. Which would I want in my pocket? I knew I didn’t want Sonic Ray-Bans. I’m a bit of a traditionalist.

The display of Screwdrivers I was admiring wasn’t the problem. The talking alien was.

“Those things are a joke,” it said. “We’ve advanced far beyond glowing lights and funny noises.”

“I like the funny noises,” I answered with great presence of mind. I was peering around to see who was in the store with me. Had some crazy fan snuck in?

No, it was a little gray alien with big eyes: the classic Area-51 model, about two feet high. I was impressed with how life-like they’d made it.

“I’m actually alive,” it said.

“Can you read minds?” I asked.

It sighed a deep ‘why are these humans such idiots?’ kind of sigh. “Of course not,” it said. “But I’ve gotten really good at reading human body language. Besides, one of you always asks that one. You’re so predictable.”

“You shouldn’t be here,” I pointed out. “The store is bankrupt, and I have to sort through the chattels before the auction.”

“That’s why I spoke up,” said the alien. “We have rules against talking to locals normally, but I’m afraid I might be considered a chattel. I don’t want to be sold.”

“You’re a living, sentient being,” I said. “We’ve advanced beyond slavery here on Earth. You’d know that if you were local.”

“You don’t pay much attention to the news, do you?” I swear the little alien was sneering at me!

“Were you kidnapped by pirates or terrorists? Did the store’s owner buy you?”

“Are you stupid?” The alien looked angry, despite the huge, sad eyes we all know and love. “Of course not. But the man saved my life after my ship crashed here. He explained the rule that when you’re saved by someone, you owe them your life. Well, what could I do? I’ve been working for him in the back room ever since, repairing electronics that go bad.”

“That’s terrible!” I couldn't help myself.

“Eh, it’s not so bad. It’s not like you guys have anything advanced to fix. But I’m caught. I owe him my life. Unless I can somehow save his life, it’s a debt I can’t repay.”

“Wait, say that again,” I said. An idea was forming.

“Unless I can…”

I interrupted. “No, just the last bit.”

“You mean, ‘it’s a debt I can’t repay?’”

“Exactly,” I said. I’m sure my smile couldn’t have been any bigger. “Let me explain about personal bankruptcy protection…”


It all worked out perfectly. The alien got out from under its debt free and clear, and in seven years it’ll have a clean credit record.

Of course, it had no property and no income, so the store owner got nothing. And as for my fee, well, sometimes you have to get creative.

I mean, who wouldn’t settle for a fully functional Sonic Screwdriver?


Andrew Jensen lives in rural Ontario with his family and too many dogs and cats. He is the minister at Knox United Church, Nepean.

His stories have appeared in Canada, the USA, New Zealand, and the UK. His work has appeared in Stupefying Stories 24, Cosmic Roots and Eldritch Shores, and Best Indie Speculative Fiction IV. In addition, Andrew plays trumpet, impersonates Kermit the Frog, and performs in musical theater. You should have seen him as Henry Higgins…

If you liked this story, check out “Running Away With the Cirque” in Stupefying Stories 24. If you’re still not convinced, read “A Can of Piskies,” which by remarkable coincidence appeared here in SHOWCASE almost exactly a year ago.


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GuyStewart said...

This was TOTALLY DELIGHTFUL! Thank you for a morning smile!

Guy Stewart

Richie said...

Great fun!