* * * * *
"Gosh, no," Dan reassured the eye. "I'm crazy about--uh--"
"Vorplischers," the voice said. "From Vorplisch, or Vega, as you call it." The Bronx cheer sounded again. "How I long to glimpse once more my native fens! Wherever one wanders, there's no pad like home."
"That reminds me," Dan said. "I have to be running along now." He sidled1 toward the door.
"Stick around, Dan," the voice rumbled. "How about a drink? I can offer you Chateau Neuf du Pape, '59, Romance Conte, '32, goat's milk, Pepsi--"
"If you don't mind, I believe I'll have a Big Orange." The Vorplischer swiveled to a small refrigerator, removed an immense bottle fitted with a nipple and turned back to Dan. "Now, I got a proposition which may be of some interest to you. The loss of Manny and Fiorello is a serious blow, but we may yet recoup the situation. You made the scene at a most opportune time. What I got in mind is, with those two clowns out of the picture, a vacancy exists on my staff, which you might well fill. How does that grab you?"
"You mean you want me to take over operating the time machine?"
"Time machine?" The brown eyes blinked alternately. "I fear some confusion exists. I don't quite dig the significance of the term."
"That thing, ” Dan jabbed2 a thumb toward the cage. "The machine I came here in. You want me--"
"Time machine," the voice repeated. "Some sort of chronometer, perhaps?"
"I pride myself on my command of the local idiom, yet I confess the implied concept snows me." The nine-fingered hands folded on the desk. The beachball head leaned forward interestedly. "Clue me, Dan. What's a time machine?"
"Well, it's what you use to travel through time."
The brown eyes blinked in agitated alternation. "Apparently I've loused up3 my investigation of the local cultural background. I had no idea you were capable of that sort of thing." The immense head leaned back, the wide mouth opening and closing rapidly. "And to think I've been spinning my wheels collecting primitive 2-D art!"
"But--don't you have a time machine? I mean, isn't that one?"
"That? That's merely a carrier. Now tell me more about your time machines. A fascinating concept! My superiors will be delighted at this development--and astonished as well. They regard this planet as Endsville."
1. sidle to move slowly in a particular direction, usually because you are nervous or do not want to be noticed
2. jab to push something with a sudden straight movement, usually with your finger, your elbow, or a narrow object
3. louse up to spoil something; to do something badly