A Deal Too Good to be True
By: James Rumpel

Andy Forsythe believed the strange man's tale. He wasn't certain if his trust was because the man's story seemed too implausible to be made up or because of the six-pack of beer Andy had consumed that evening. Whatever the reason, Andy listened intently.

"… and because I didn't have enough fuel to make the hyperspace jump, I had to look for the nearest planet which could sustain life. That's how I got to Earth. We aren't supposed to stop here. The planet isn't part of the Alliance and not on my sales route." The man talked extremely fast and had a strange accent. He stood barely five feet in height and seemed to have an orangish tint to his complexion. Again, Andy wasn't certain if the strange coloring was actual or alcohol-induced.

The little man had walked into Andy's yard uninvited and unannounced. He had simply emerged from the cornfield that was adjacent to the small plot of land where Andy's trailer home was parked. Andy had been sitting in his worn lawn chair listening to the ball game on the radio and decompressing from a hard day's work at the furniture factory. Andy had been startled at first, more so by the man's clothing than by his sudden appearance. The unexpected visitor wore a shiny purple jumpsuit and carried a large metallic suitcase.

Not wanting to stand up too suddenly and risk falling, Andy had decided to address the stranger instead of beating a hasty retreat as was his first inclination. The man had looked at Andy with no expression. After a brief moment, the visitor extracted some sort of odd contraption from his case and placed it against his forehead. From that moment on the man had launched into an incredible narrative about how he was an intergalactic salesman and had been forced to make an emergency landing on Earth.

"I really shouldn't be here," he continued, barely pausing to catch his breath. "And I definitely shouldn't be making any sales or deals, but I am willing to pay if you can help me get ahold of some fuel for my vessel."

"Well, I have about a gallon of gas in the mower can, but that's about it," replied Andy. He was still amazed that he was dealing with the entire incident in such a calm manner. Then again, he was quite sedated at the moment.

"My ship doesn't run on what you call "gasoline". It requires aluminum. Do you have any of that?"

A large smile materialized on Andy's face. "Now that I can help you with." He slowly stood and signaled for the man to follow him as he staggered to the small garden shed next to his trailer. With a touch of flair, he swung open the ramshackle shed's door. The hinges creaked loudly but the door obeyed and revealed the contents of the shed. Inside where six large garbage bags filled to overflowing with empty beer cans.

The supposed alien let out a high-pitched shriek. He, once again, took a strange device from his case and waved it over the pile of empties. He looked at the device and once again made the squealing sound.

"You must be a very wealthy man to possess this much aluminum. Two of these bags contain enough for me to be able to leave Earth's atmosphere and make the jump to hyperspace. I would like to make a trade with you."

"I don't know," said Andy. "I can get ten cents a pound at the Super-Valu."

"I don't have any of your currency. What I do have is some of the sales items from my ship. Let me show you what I can offer." The petite fellow opened his suitcase and pulled out a silver-colored sphere, about six inches in diameter. "This is a Breathing Ball. When activated it makes any atmosphere hospitable within a specific radius. It comes in very handy when exploring new planets."

Andy shook his head. "Naw, I don't think I would ever use that. I don't plan on going anywhere."

The man continued to look through his collection of gadgetry. "Oh, how about my universal translator." He held up the device that he had used earlier.

"Everyone around here speaks good English. I ain't ever gonna need that."

"There has to be something you would want. I can't give you any of the weapons; that would get me into more trouble than I want to think about. It has to be something that won't alert the authorities to what I am doing."

"You got anything I could use to show off to my buddies?" suggested Andy.

"I got it," proclaimed the alien salesman. He reached into his supplies and pulled out an oddly shaped visor. "This is perfect. This device lets the wearer experience the future. Once activated it lets you jump exactly 10 chrono-units. For a brief time, you see and feel what will happen to you."

"I don't get it. What's a chrono-unit?"

The alien consulted his handheld device. "Ten chrono-units is the equivalent of eight point two minutes on your planet."

"So, if I put that thing on it will let me know what I will be doing in eight minutes. Doesn't seem too exciting."

"But you can also see everything around you in the future. You will know outcomes before they happen. Think of how you could impress your friends by predicting the future." The salesman was very good at his trade.

"How does it work?" inquired Andy.

"You simply put the visor on and flip the little switch on the side. You will then experience everything that happen eight minutes from then." He consulted his translator one more time. "Your trip to the future will lasts for about fifteen seconds. After that, you will return to the present and time will simply move forward."

"That does sound sort of fun. I could probably use it to cheat at cards."

"You very well could. The one drawback is that you can only use it once a day. It requires quite a bit of power and the batteries need to recharge."

"Ok," said Andy and he nodded his head. "You have yourself a deal."

#

Twenty minutes later, Andy found himself sitting on his threadbare recliner inside the trailer. The alien salesman had left with his two garbage bags full of interplanetary fuel. Andy twirled the futuristic visor in his hands. He was beginning to have buyer's remorse.

"This is kind of stupid," he thought. "How does this thing know what's going to happen? I bet I could change what it predicts."

It was time for an experiment. Andy put the visor on. It fit snugly over his eyes and also covered his ears. He glanced at the clock that was on the wall next to the mounted deer head. The time was 8:14. With his right hand, he flipped the switch.

Andy was still sitting in his recliner. He looked at the clock which now read 8:22. He glanced around the room and noticed an open beer can on the small table next to his seat.

Everything went black. Andy removed the visor and examined the area. The clock, once again, said the time was 8:14. The table by his chair was cluttered with some random envelopes and newspapers but did not contain a can of beer.

"This will be easy to prove wrong," though Andy. "I just won't get a beer for the next eight minutes."

Andy grabbed the newspaper off the end table and paged to the comic section. Time seemed to pass very slowly. He found himself glancing at the wall clock every twenty seconds or so. Eventually, it was 8:20.

The door to Andy's trailer burst open and Andy's friend, Ray Howard, stormed in. "What are you doing just sitting around?" he shouted in a slightly slurred voice. "We need to celebrate. It's only three more days until the weekend." Ray pulled the remains of a six-pack from behind his back. "I drank a couple on the way over, but I saved one or two for you."

Andy started to protest. "I'm really not in the moo…"

"Nonsense. You are always in the mood." Ray cracked open a beer and set it on the table next to Andy. "I'll be right back; I have to use the bathroom. This stuff runs right through me." Ray quickly turned and went down the skinny hall which lead to Andy's messy undersized bathroom.

Andy regained his focus after the whirlwind interruption. He looked at the clock which now read 8:22. He glanced around and noticed the open beer can on the table next to his seat.

"Well, I'll be," thought Andy. "This might be interesting."

#

Andy sat at the far end of the bar: his preferred spot at Earl and Betty's Roadside Oasis. In the two weeks since he had acquired the future seeing visor, he had experienced limited success at impressing his friends. It seemed like every time he used the visor the future it revealed was boring and inconsequential. Tonight, he had a different plan in mind.

For the last couple of years, he had been exchanging beer induced flirtatious comments with Emily Brower. Emily was Big Bob Wilson's current girlfriend, but Andy didn't think she minded. Maybe, just maybe, she would not be opposed to the two of them spending some quality alone time together.

Emily, wearing tight jeans and a low-cut t-shirt, was sitting at the other end of the bar. In about five minutes, Andy was going to walk up to her and propose that the two of them go out. Big Bob wasn't around, so now was the perfect opportunity.

The genius of the plan was that Andy was going to know her answer before he even asked. If she did turn his offer down, he would be well prepared. He lowered his head, hiding from the rest of the patrons of the bar and put on the visor and activated the device.

Andy's eyes were closed. Emily was just pulling her lips away from his. He could feel her dirty blond hair brushing against his cheeks. "Of course," she said, "I've wanted to do that for a long time."

Everything went black. Andy smiled as he removed the visor. This was going to work out well. He stood up and straightened his flannel shirt before confidently strolling over to Emily.

"Hey, Emily," he said. "We both know we have a special connection. How about you get rid of Bob and the two of us see where things go?"

A look of shock, then anger appeared on Emily's face. Just then Big Bob strolled into the bar. She grabbed her boyfriend's arm and exclaimed, "Hey, Bob, Andy here just tried to hit on me."

"He what?" shouted the mountain of a man.

Andy had barely opened his mouth to explain himself when Bob punched him hard in the chest. As Andy doubled over from the pain, Bob's next swing, a powerful uppercut, caught him squarely in the jaw. Andy was unconscious before he hit the floor.

As consciousness returned to Andy, he could feel three quick compressions on his chest followed by three quick breaths being pushed into his lungs. Still groggy, he heard voices.

"I can't believe you were willing to do CPR to that jerk. Though, I'm glad you did. I don't want to go to jail over this."

Another voice asked, "Don't you think it would be a good idea to see if you can get a restraining order against this guy?"

Emily pulled her lips away from his. He could feel her hair against his cheek. "Of course," she said, "I've wanted to do that for a long time. Come on Bob, let's get out of here. He's breathing again. That punch to his chest must have stopped his heart. You are going to have to be more careful."

Andy simply laid on the sticky tile floor, unable to move.

#

Two months after the Emily incident, Andy strolled through the gates of Canterwood Downs, the horse racetrack nearest his home. He had every intention of using the visor to gain a big payday. The thing had caused him nothing but pain and disappointment since he had gotten it. That was all about to change.

The plan was very simple. He would use the visor to see the winning horse for one of the races and then wager all of his money on that horse to win. Andy had emptied his bank account and sold his pick-up truck to Ray. He had a roll of nearly twelve hundred dollars in his pocket. At the very worse, he was going to double that amount with a single bet.

He had checked and double-checked his calculations. The average winning time for a mile and a quarter race was around two minutes and fifteen seconds. If he put his visor on at slightly less than six minutes before post, he would be able to see the horses cross the finish line. He was not guaranteed of catching the actual finish, but he would be close. He only hoped there would be enough time to place his large wager before the betting window closed for the race.

After careful consideration, Andy decided to bet on the third race. He watched the first two races intently and his predicted timing to the finish was very close for both. Race three was scheduled to start at 2:12. He stood as near to the betting window as he could when he turned on the visor at exactly 2:06 and ten seconds.

He looked at the finish line but did not see any horses. Panicking, he glanced down the track and saw the number seven horse coming down the stretch with a significant lead. No other horses seemed to be gaining.

Everything went black. Andy removed his visor and raced to the nearest available betting window. An old woman was picking up her ticket when Andy pushed her aside.

"I want to put twelve hundred dollars on number seven to win," he proclaimed hurriedly. A glance at the monitor above the window showed the horse coming in at four-to-one odds.

"I'll try to get it in," said the teller. "No guarantee."

Andy looked on as the teller took his cash and slid it into the appropriate slot on the betting machine. To Andy's great relief, a ticket popped out of the side just as the announcement that all betting on race three was closed came over the loudspeaker.

"There you go, sir. Good luck." The teller handed over the wager ticket.

Andy glanced at his watch. The time was 2:11. The horses were almost all in the gate, though the final horse balked at entry. After a brief delay, the horse moved into position and the race started.

Andy watched as the horses circled the track. His horse was trapped in the middle of the pack for most of the first half of the race. Under normal conditions, Andy would be concerned to see his horse blocked in. Today, he simply smiled.

As the horses neared the final turn, number seven made its move. Trying to push forward, the large chestnut-colored mare found itself stuck behind the two lead thoroughbreds. Undeterred, it forced its way between the leaders. The number three horse stumbled slightly when seven brushed against it.

Andy's horse took the lead and sprinted to the finish. Andy grinned excitedly as the number seven quickly appeared on the race board in the winner column. He started to walk back to the window to collect his huge winnings.

"Hold all tickets," said a voice over the loudspeaker. "There is an inquiry."

Andy stopped; his heart began pounding rapidly. The board still showed number seven as the winner, but the "Official" sign remained unlit.

After a couple of minutes, moans and cheers erupted from the crowd. The numbers on the board flashed and changed. The winning horse was now number three. Number seven was nowhere to be seen on the board.

The red "Official" sign came on, mocking Andy with its brightness.

#

Andy sat dejected in his broken recliner. In the days since his betting fiasco, he had not spoken to anyone. He just sat silently in his trailer. He had no energy, no desire to do anything.

A knock at the door drew him from his brooding. "Go away," he yelled with a cracked voice.

"I must see you," said a strangely accented voice from outside. "It is imperative that we talk."

Andy realized who his visitor was and quickly moved to open the door. The undersized alien burst into the room without waiting for an invitation.

"I need to get the visor back from you," he said, talking at his usual rapid pace. "The Alliance says I need to get it off the planet or I am going to lose my license. I have fifty pounds of aluminum to pay you for it."

Andy scoffed. "You can have it. It has been nothing but trouble since I got it." He slumped back into his chair. The twinge of pain he had felt in his chest ever since the encounter with Big Bob caused him to gasp for breath.

"That is great news," said the alien. He then added, "not that you've had trouble, but that I get to have the visor back."

"Tell you what," said Andy. "Why don't you let me use it one last time? Then you can take it. I never want to see it again."

"Sure, that sounds fair."

Andy put on the visor and touched the switch.

Everything went black and stayed black.

END

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