Meat always tastes better fresh,” Poppa pronounced as we walked through the public market located out near where the wall of the pressure dome curved down and met the regolith. He held my hand in his, claws retracted so as not to hurt the tender skin on my palms. He could be uncommonly gentle for someone so big.

I know it can all be a bit overwhelming,” he continued, “the sights, the sounds and all the exotic smells. Don't forget, honey, we used to hunt for our food. That’s right. Eons ago on the Homeworld, if you couldn't hunt you didn't eat. Sadly, some might say, those skills have been lost ... what with technology and food so readily available these days. In any case, we can at least respect our traditions by continuing to skin, butcher and prepare meat in our homes. That’s in my opinion, of course.”

Judging by the crowds strolling through the aisles of the market, lots of others felt as Poppa did. I stopped in front of an especially large cage equipped with what even I was able to recognize as a high-tech containment field. The plasma bars that constituted the door rippled with energy. They obviously functioned to secure something rare, something fit, perhaps, only for a gourmand.

Those beasts are too expensive.” Poppa remarked, noticing my interest. He ran his serrated tongue over his razor-sharp front teeth. “I know some folks, those higher up in the Ministry, who have tried them, though, and they tell me they're very tasty. They ship them from that newly colonized planet. I've also heard they're a bit hard to control; so much so that some importers are killing and freezing them before transport. All the same, there’s something about those creatures. To me, they look almost too intelligent to eat.

I was fascinated by the animal in the cage. It appeared to be a bipedal primate of some sort. I noticed its opposable digits as well as its pale skin and general lack of fur. It had clearly been born in a place with a much weaker sun than either of the two around which this wretched outpost orbited.

You know,” my father whispered as we began to move away, “I've often wondered if those things might be domesticated? They appear to be able to use crude tools and the survey teams report that they even live in rudimentary dwellings on their own world. Rumor has it, though, that they're very aggressive, even dangerous. Their planet shows signs of constant warfare. We'd have to breed those tendencies out of them. Ah, well," Poppa sighed, “probably more work than it’s worth. We'll bring one home to the crèche for dinner once the prices go down. I'm sure someone at the Ministry has a recipe.”

Over my shoulder I glanced one last time at the creature in the cage. It looked up at me. Then, with an expression that clearly bespoke understanding – and maybe the beginnings of a plan – it winked.

"A Day at the Market"
Copyright: © 2009 James C. Clar

James C. Clar has published short stories in print as well as on the Internet. He hopes that, if the Earth is ever colonized by aliens, they're intelligent and peaceful. He also hopes they're herbivores!


  1. This was a great piece, very organized and unique story line! Very cool :)
    -Stacy Bolli

  2. Good story. That's one reason for the cons of meeting up with extraterrestrials, that's for sure!

  3. Yes, let's hope those aliens are herbivores! Great story!

  4. I really love this short story. I wish it was longer! Very unique!