Chatter at the Market

Submitted into Contest #228 in response to: Start or end your story in a bustling street food market.... view prompt

8 comments

Science Fiction

Another event in the desert where it’s 100 degrees in the shade and by shade he meant the canopy that he himself had struggled to put up. The website had shown a lot of chatter regarding that food market, so he had submitted his application and rented a booth.


It was an annual event, always blistering hot and always packed to the gills. He had been there as a customer many times over the years indulging in the comforting Tex-Mex cuisine, but this was his first time as a vendor. Being a computer programmer by profession and not actually in the food industry, he had called in a massive order at the bakery to create his inventory for the day.


Arriving at the market just after dawn, he was led to his twelve by twelve square marked off with colorful banners. Just enough room for his folding tables and chair, he noted. Hurriedly he set up the selection of cookies and cakes making sure to pull off any tags from the bakery before placing them behind index cards labeled with his logo and prices. He had marked everything up twenty percent so, according to his calculations, he would at least earn back the price of the booth. He wasn’t there to sell his goods or earn a profit. He was there for much more important reasons.


“Howdy, whatcha got there?” the vendor in the next booth called out from the center of his overflowing display of barbecue sauces. 


“Grandma’s cookies and cakes,” he replied keeping his back turned to his neighbor. He still had a lot to do and wasn’t going to waste time chatting. The camera had to be set up perfectly and that was a delicate operation.


Thankful that his rudeness offended the vendor he opened his laptop on the stool behind the table and adjusted the settings. After tucking the tiny camera between the blueberry muffins and scones he did a quick sound check listening back to the banter of the crowd. It was perfect. There had been more than the usual activity on the chaser website, and he was betting that this time he would get something recorded. It might just be his lucky break.


***


The morning went off without a hitch with his inventory selling quickly. He was relieved that he had decided on the baked goods rather than the chocolate lollipops which would have melted to puddles in the Texan heat. The sights and sounds from the other vendors were a bit overwhelming, each booth trying to draw the attention to themselves, hoping to entice the passersby to stop. He focused only on his immediate surroundings knowing he was capturing the entire event for an in-depth analysis after all was said and done.


A family of three was dawdling at his booth as it got closer to noon and his stomach was announcing it was lunchtime. He would have to take a break soon, perhaps indulging in the tacos from two booths away or the empanadas just further down the aisle. He could satisfy his hunger pains and still keep an eye on his setup. He just needed this family to make their purchases and move on.


The little boy rummaged through the colorful baggies of cookies while asking repeatedly “Can I have this one? No, wait, can I have this one instead?” to his mother’s irritation. The father stood by laughing good naturedly, playing good cop to his wife’s bad cop role.


Suddenly an exceedingly tall, thin man appeared out of nowhere making his heart rate quicken. He was quite pale despite the unrelenting beating of the sun. This was it, he thought, shaking with excitement. It was finally happening.


He glanced over to double check the camera’s position, relieved it hadn’t been jostled during the cupcake and muffin madness.


Trying his best to ignore the endless banter and bicker of the family of three he focused his attention on his discovery. 


“Hi, I’m Ken. How can I help you today?” He reached out his hand to the stranger, much to the chagrin of woman still undecided on her purchase.


“Howdy, Ken. I’m Russell. Just looking today, sorry to say. I’ll take your contact info to pass along to the guys at the office.”


“Oh, the guys at the office,” he thought, excitedly. That must be code for the mothership, this one was no ordinary guy going to the office. He was definitely “one of them”. The chatter on the boards was right for once. He was thrilled beyond words.


“Yes, take a few business cards and please enjoy some samples of our donut holes.” He reached for a bag and began to fill it slowly to prolong the conversation for as long as possible, knowing it was all being captured digitally. He looked forward to studying it in detail later, analyzing every move, every noise, then uploading it to the site for confirmation.


“How neighborly of you, Ken. I’m sure the missus will be delighted to try a sampling. Mighty grateful, Ken, mighty grateful.”


He handed Russell the bag filled with an assortment of donut holes wondering how he could get more information. “Oh, is your wife here as well?” Maybe he could meet the female version. So far they were unable to distinguish between male and female and quite curious about their interpersonal relationships. The theories were endless but still unconfirmed.


“No, Ken, sadly she’s not here today. Feeling a bit under the weather, she was. I’m here representing, gathering the goods for her. This is the first year she’s missed the market.”


Representing! Gathering the goods! Code words, no doubt about it.


“Do you have double chocolate chunk?” The woman asked, to his extreme annoyance distracting him away from his real work, his obsession. “Or anything raisin?”


“Anything with sprinkles?” The little boy asked, continuing to touch all the bags of cookies in the wicker basket. Why did these people allow this child to run amuck and do whatever he wanted? Well, look at his mother, the role model, spoiled and demanding. Any minute she was going to ask to speak to his manager. He laughed to himself. 


***


The family of three got into their car and drove through Main Street, away from the bustling food market. A short while later they reached the desert.  When certain to be totally out of sight they morphed into one shape and disappeared along with their car, evaporating into thin air. Back underground in their ship, the alien reviewed the data with its superior.


It had easily spotted the camera between the blueberry muffins and scones and had no issue whatsoever attaching its own device to it. The tall human couldn’t have come at a better time to distract the vendor, allowing easy access to the equipment. All of its previous attempts to livestream normal day to day activities undetected had been unsuccessful. Surely this achievement would finally bring the recognition it deserved. 


“Click hum clack …” loosely translated to “Great job. Let’s post some more chatter on the ‘Alien Chaser’ message board. Where shall we lure them to next?”

December 14, 2023 14:49

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8 comments

Larissa Freeman
07:01 Dec 21, 2023

Great read. I enjoyed the subversion. I was surprised when the family of three morphed into one alien and the tall thin man was the distraction! Lol

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Hannah Lynn
14:55 Dec 21, 2023

Thank you, Larissa, I do enjoy a good twist ending lol !! Thanks for reading and leaving feedback!! :)

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Julie Grenness
02:00 Dec 21, 2023

Intriguing storyline, well written. This reader was drawn in by the effective choice of imagery and word pictures. Great touch of humour, hope you keep on writing.

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Hannah Lynn
06:19 Dec 21, 2023

Thank you so much, Julie! I’m glad you enjoyed it. Yes I will most definitely continue to write. Reedsy is a wonderful community. It’s a pleasure to be here! 😊

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AnneMarie Miles
14:23 Dec 19, 2023

Such an interesting and unique topic, Hannah! Very amusing! And the way you structured it made me so curious to to keep reading. Thanks for sharing!

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Hannah Lynn
15:09 Dec 19, 2023

Thanks AnneMarie! I’m glad it kept your attention! It was definitely fun to imagine and write about! 😊

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14:49 Dec 16, 2023

Haha they were right there in front of him and he got it completely wrong! He got played! Fun story well written, i enjoyed!

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Hannah Lynn
23:05 Dec 16, 2023

Ahhhh I'm glad it was an enjoyable read! It was a lot of fun to write! :) Thanks for the feedback!!

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