The Maltese Sparrow
By Douglas E. Gogerty
It was a dark and stormy night, but not like those puny storms on that planet earth. Oh no! This one was a real ground shaker. Back in the old days, people were afraid of hurricane force winds. Those fragile little babies! They did not have the 600 kph winds of the storms here. Also, there is none of that puny water falling from the sky. "Oh it may be a little acidic," cried the spoiled little children. No sir! We are talking about liquid methane rain here. So it was a balmy 90 K (-297.4 ºF) outside. Those infants would not last two seconds outside -- well neither would I. That is why I am inside.
You would expect a world where rocket fuel rains from the sky to be populated. At least, that is why my grandparents moved here. It was a chance for a better life for them. For me, it is just the place I call home. Most of the people here work in the rocket fuel business. It is a rough life on the fringes of civilization. People come here to refuel, and sometimes they cause trouble. Thus, there are those here to keep the peace, and there are those of us who live in the gaps between chaos and law and order.
My name is Dwayne Thompson. I have lived here all my life. I am a jack of all trades, and yes, master of none. I get by. Like many that live here, I did not choose this as my home. However, it is as good as anywhere, and I make a living as a freelance troubleshooter.
On this particular night, she walked in. She had long legs. They went from the ground all the way up to her chin. That is how these Larsentients are built. Their face is just above their legs with their arms coming out where there should be ears. They have a bit of a body above that with the rest of their anatomy. It is kind of disturbing looking at someones eyes that are where our naughty bits are. Furthermore, if you look at them where our eyes are, you are looking at their naughty bits. They will be all like, "Hey, my eyes are down here!" It is a wonder there has not been a war between our species over this very thing. Oh wait, we have had wars with them. Never mind.
Her name was Qx&M@x%lmmnwz^zppklIN3nnw9RL$#kkngfFF. Those Larsentients have completely unpronounceable names. In fact, it is almost impossible to even spell them. She walked into my office and the first thing she said to me was, "Hey, my eyes are down here!"
"You have recently lost something," I said looking into her baby orange eyes.
"It was very important to you."
"I'm getting an 'M' ... or ... an 'N' perhaps?"
"She's a Maltese Sparrow."
"A Maltese Sparrow? What is that? Is it some sort of jewel encrusted bird coated in an enamel to hide the fact that it is very valuable?"
"No it is my pet."
"You're here to see if the Great Thompsoani can get in touch with it using my incredible psychic powers! Is that it?"
"What? No. I am looking for Dwayne Thompson the Wingtip!"
You see, when they built this world, they did not want to be caught in the epidemic of obesity like earthlings are prone to be. Thus, if you walk out of your front door to visit your neighbor, you will have to walk at least a mile to get there even though the houses share a common wall. Since private detectives visit many places, they hitch rides by grabbing the wings of passing flying machines. Thus, they call those in the private investigation business wingtips.
"Are you sure that you are not looking for a psychic?"
"I am sure."
"My powers are remarkable..."
"I am sure."
"Good! You passed my test," I told her. "I am Dwayne Thompson."
"Test? Were you trying to be Sherlock Holmes or something?"
"Never mind. Will you find my Maltese Sparrow?"
"You mean those huge carnivorous flying monsters that chased humans off the earth? They haven't discovered space travel have they?"
"What? No! You are thinking of the Maltese Great Blue Tit. My Mable is much smaller."
"Are you telling me that the Maltese Sparrow has discovered space travel? Then it is only a matter of time before these huge man-eaters come after us! We must get ready!"
"Calm down! I bought my little sweetheart from a pet trader. He risks life and limb to obtain species from earth for earthlings and others to have as pets. I am sure these birds do not have the ability to leave earth on their own."
"Okay, but if an enormous Maltese blue tit comes to my door and kills me, I'll blame you and never speak to you again."
"Fair enough. So, are you taking my case?"
"I don't know. I never thought of myself as a pet detective."
"I'll make it worth your while Ace," she said with an alluring look in her eye.
"I bet you will!"
"My eyes are down here," she added.
"1000 credits a day plus expenses," I replied.
"12 credits a day plus a 30 credit per diem."
"Done!" a said victoriously.
"Here is a picture of Mable."
"This is a picture of a bird," I announced.
"Mable is my pet bird," she said in a I want you voice. "She is who you'll be looking for."
"Right. Just testing you again. So, when was the last time you saw her?"
"I left her in my hotel room as I went to the store to purchase food for the needy," she said as her eyes shifted right and left. "And, my eyes are down here."
"Go on," I urged, but not believing her story.
"This was Twosday."
"Do you know how the galactic calendar works?"
"Of course!" I insisted.
"Onesday, Twosday, Threesday..."
"Wednesday? Tuesday? Thursday? What are you talking about?"
"It was one day ago."
"All my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they're here to stay. Oh, I believe in..."
"Why'd she have to go? I don't know,"
"She wouldn't say? You said something wrong and now you long for..."
"Yesterday, after I dropped the food off at the local food shelf. I stopped for a sesame bagel and a schmeer. I saved some of the seeds for Mable, but when I returned to my room..." she said and began to cry.