“OrBo Zi-In III” by Gary Robinson

OrBo Zi-In III did not like being made to explore this strange planet with its hotter-than-hell temperatures, senior-citizen politicians, and reality TV Shows. When OrBo Zi-In II said he had to, OrBo Zi-In III hemmed and hawed and even crossed his eyes to make a bad impression, but OrBo Zi-In II knew what he was up to and threatened to go right to the top, right to OrBo Zi-In I, which would land OrBo Zi-In III in the doghouse for sure. So he had no choice but to accept the mission and get onto a spaceship and voyage beyond the galaxies, and if not for the drugs he had smuggled aboard, he might have gone completely crazy.

It was a peculiar evolutionary trait of the OrBo Zi-Ins that they could imitate any shape, which gave an advantage in a tight bind. For example, if they had to hide from a collection agency (the OrBo Zi-Ins were famous for not paying up) they could assume the shape of a cactus or a can opener so that the bill collector would come back empty-handed and frustrated, though he must have had his suspicions that the debtor Orbo Zi-in was camouflaged and snickering away. But what could he do about it?

In fact, the OrBo Zi-Ins were always turning into something else to get out of work or bad blind dates. One day their leader, the aforementioned Orbo Zi-In I, stood in front of 5,000,000,000,000 OrBo Zi-Ins (when they weren’t malingering or wriggling out of sticky situations, they were screwing like lunatics) announcing new measures to decrease absenteeism and boost productivity when a voice yelled out: “SHOVE IT UP YOUR ASS!”

When Orbo Zi-In I tried to find out who it was all 5,000,000,000,000 OrBo Zi-Ins (in a show of solidarity) changed into carrots.

Now OrBo Zi-In III was travelling in outer space, so stoned after months of smoking weed it was a wonder a Rastafarian singalong didn’t break out, when the ship entered the destined planet’s atmosphere and, after a turbulent descent, touched down in stealth mode at the programmed location.


Half Tex drank coffee inside Johnny Rio’s, a restaurant in Woody, a small Arkansas town of less than 500 people. Half Tex was the son of Big Tex, a local legend who had served in Vietnam and even volunteered for the Gulf War but was too old by then to go. Big Tex was a notorious bigot who disliked most minorities, hippies (though hippies were few and far between in Woody), and poets (fewer and more far between). When Big Tex was drunk you stayed out of his way, since he always carried a Colt .45 and would fire it in the air like at the rodeo or aim it recklessly, thereby terrifying anyone who chanced upon him.

Nobody knew why Half Tex was called Half Tex, seeing as he was six feet five inches while his father was barely five feet in his thickest socks. Big Tex Junior would have made more sense, everyone agreed, whereas Half Tex made it seem like he was weirdly truncated or missing something. A guy with his legs sawed off maybe, which was not the case at all. For fuck’s sake, he was six feet five inches tall!


Ed, Ted, and Zed were in The Blue Monkey bar, across the street from The Orange Monkey bar, where Big Tex drank every day. No one who wasn’t insane wanted to be in the same bar as Big Tex with his Colt .45 that was like a fateful prophecy just waiting to be told to some poor son-of-a-bitch. But it wouldn’t be Ed, Ted, or Zed who sipped draft beer as a fly swirled around the room like an erratic helicopter. This brought up an anecdote that was never far from their thoughts.

“Didn’t Big Tex once shoot at a fly in The Orange Monkey?” Ed asked.

“That’s what Rudy the bartender said,” Ted replied.

“The thing is,” Zed continued. “Did Big Tex hit the fly or miss?”

The anecdote never went past this, like a door they didn’t dare open and step through. They ordered another round of beer.


At that moment Big Tex lifted his head and stared in the direction of The Blue Monkey. “It’s because of homos like Ed, Ted, and Zed that we lost the Vietnam war,” he said to himself. On the table were three empty pitchers of beer. But if Big Tex was anything, he was generous with his criticism. He also blamed the military industrial complex, smartass politicians, dot-com millionaires, Ynternet providers and Twitter. Then in the grip of a memory, like a loop or a ghostly rollercoaster, one hand reached toward the Colt .45 as his eyes shut into evil slits and his voice became searching and furious as tinder: “NOWWHERE’STHATGODDAMNEDFLY?”


Half Tex stood at the front window of Johnny Rio’s. He was watching a wall that had mysteriously shown up in the middle of the street, dividing east and west. It had not been there one minute before, but now here it was. Half Tex believed this was pretty unusual. He drank his coffee and tried to make sense of it. The wall was familiar. It looked a lot like one of the outside walls of The Orange Monkey. It even had the same graffiti and piss stains. Who the hell would take a wall away and put it in the street?

“Hey, Max,” he said to the owner of Johnny Rio’s. “Come and look at this.”

“Holy shit, what’s that? Isn’t that from The Orange Monkey?”

“Yes,” Half Tex said. “That’s what I thought.”

Timmy Weedmark, the newspaper boy, came into Johnny Rio’s. Timmy had red hair and an irascible temperament because fewer and fewer people were buying the Woody Chronicle. “Nobody wants your fucking paper, Timmy,” they would tell him sadly. This made Timmy depressed, and more than once he considered buying an assault rifle and shooting up the hick town.

“Hey, Timmy,” Half Tex said. “Go to The Orange Monkey and tell us if it’s lost a wall.”

Timmy thought Half Tex was an asshole, but he went and looked.

“It’s not missing a wall or anything. It’s all there,” Timmy said before he left a copy of the Woody Chronicle with Max.

“Shit,” Half Tex said.

Something was up.


This was not what OrBo Zi-In III had in mind when he wandered into Woody. First, the heat was a killer, and he was still woozy from the drugs and the long journey. Then there was the practical consideration of aesthetics. If it hasn’t been mentioned yet, maybe now is the time: the OrBo Zi-Ins are really ugly. An OrBo Zi-In looks like an octopus with eight enormous bowed legs, which is bad enough, but there is also the matter of a long red thing on its head that resembles a dick. In their world it is considered rude to stare, and some OrBo Zi-Ins even put on hats to try and avoid any crude remarks. The ability to change their appearance is a godsend to the OrBo Zi-Ins, which is why if you visit their world you won’t see any, since they are ashamed of those things on their heads. The OrBo Zi-Ins prefer to be mistaken for boulders or furniture or corn on the cob, anything than their real shapes.

OrBo Zi-In III knew he couldn’t go around without causing a stir. Now this is when he stumbled into Woody and all the buildings began to worry him. He felt terribly exposed out here with his octopus features, eight bowed legs, not to mention the dick on his head. Just then he heard a sound nearby: “WHERE’STHATFUCKENFLYGONETO?”

A noise like an explosion, and OrBo Zi-In III panicked. Quickly, he glanced in the direction where it’d come from. Without thinking, he became the shape of the structure or what he was able to see of it. He kept very quiet.


A crowd led by Half Tex gathered at the wall that had appeared out of nowhere and was now blocking the main street of Woody. Ed, Ted, and Zed were among them. They all agreed that, yes, it was strange that a wall looking like it had come from The Orange Monkey was where it shouldn’t have been. They walked to the Orange Monkey, gave it a long stare, then tossed out some possibilities: a joke by college students too bored with their lives, an illusion brought about by a magician who was no doubt laughing at them right now (the son-of-a-bitch!), a government black ops to be used in urban warfare to confuse the enemy, or maybe it had come from a parallel universe, which meant somewhere, in another universe, a duplicate Orange Monkey was missing its wall and somebody was mad as hell about it.

As they went on OrBo Zi-In III had a hard time not cracking up. Humans sure were dumb bastards. He only hoped they would move along and allow him a chance to get out of here. He had explored this planet enough. If OrBo Zi-In II pressed him for information when he returned he would make it up. Just then a gunshot rang out. Big Tex staggered over, screaming, “THATGODDAMNEDFLYHASNINELIVESCOSHOWTHEHELLCANITTAKEABULLETLIKETHAT
TIMEANDTIMEAGAINANDNOTDIE!” Very carefully they moved away from Big Tex and his drawn Colt .45.


Half Tex explained to Big Tex that no one had any idea but it wasn’t from the Orange Monkey, that was certain. A glint twinkled in Big Tex’s eyes like a spark of divine madness. He smiled, drooled, then lifted his gun and shot at the wall. He shot a second time. “IT’SFROMFUCKENOUTERSPACENODOUBTABOUTIT!”

The afternoon was getting hotter and more humid in Woody. Sweat big as marbles rolled down everyone’s foreheads as Big Tex whipped them into a frenzy, and this was fast becoming a recipe for a lynching.

OrBo Zi-In III was shitting his pants.


Just then, like in a Medieval miracle, but without the swords and castles, an SUV roared into Woody. Out jumped several young women – huge tits and tiny skirts like probationary porn stars – and an older man with a Van Dyke beard and enormous retro bell-bottom jeans. In front of the startled townsfolk a display was quickly set up made of a stand with a colored sunshade and bottles of wine arranged in rows. Attention turned from the mysterious wall to the bearded stranger who sized up the crowd like a malicious dentist. As if on cue, the women thrust out their chests in a classic gesture of overkill. The stranger cleared his throat and began speaking with a French accent: “Americans, friends, how are you this fine day? My name is Jean-Luc LeCanard, and I am here to offer a sample of what is the greatest gift to civilization. And what is that, you ask? Well, simply put: French wine. The best wine in the world, my friends.”

A murmur started.    

“Yes, my friends, put away your American whisky and beer and California wine – so inferior, to be honest. Yes? But here is the best wine from the vineyards of France. Your tongues won’t just drink this wine, no, your taste buds will make love – l’amour – and your senses will know la petite mort, which we French experience every day. Come, try some. Who will be the first?”

“FRANCEYPANTS!” someone yelled out. Everybody laughed.

LeCanard went on: “My friends, I bring you not just wine but culture.”

“FRANCEYPANTS!” They laughed again.

LeCanard got a weird expression, a Zombie some would later say, though others swore it was more like he was in a Wagnerian opera. You could imagine him holding a trident or a lightning bolt, singing “La Marseillaise” as music crashed all around like the sound of wine bottles breaking. But when he finally spoke, it was almost in a trance-like whisper and so low you had to strain to hear: “French wine is better than American. A Frenchman built the White House. The Iraq War was immoral and illegal. Disneyland Paris is an abomination. André the Giant was never defeated!”

The murmuring escalated, and more than one voice cursed Jean-Luc LeCanard, who suddenly brandished out of thin air the French national flag, which prompted a few locals to run home, grab the Stars and Stripes, and begin waving it. LeCanard: “André the Giant was never defeated, you stupid Americans! Never defeated!”

At that moment shots rang out and everybody, including LeCanard, who snapped out of it, began running. Bit Tex was firing in the air and pointing his Colt .45 like he was still in Vietnam. There was hollering and cries of: “Stop, Big Tex, you might shoot someone.” But Big Tex kept on shooting and screaming: “WHERE’STHATFUCKENFLYIKNOWITSHERE!”


It was during the ruckus that OrBo Zi-In III saw an opportunity to ditch this place. A creature had landed by him for a second and the alien quickly copied it: a fly, it turns out. It wasn’t easy to navigate a flight path, but OrBo Zi-In III managed to return to his space ship and take off, avoiding detection. Without any drugs, the trip back to his planet was a long and boring one.