6

The story in question was in a hardback anthology which was published some time in the late 80's or before. The story itself may have been older. There was no them to the anthology other than good stories, and each story had a small black and white ink drawn illustration at the beginning.

The plot was that Earth and various alien civilizations, in order to test out if they could become allies, had an exchange program set up where a randomly selected citizen would have to go live a year in the other culture's society. Apparently this was generally quite rough on them. The main character was a human who was nearing the end of his year with a family of pterodactyl-like aliens, in which he played the role of their young son. Although the aliens were careful to treat him exactly as their son, such as pretending to not notice couldn't fly, he did run into issues with bullies.

The story was funny with a very dry sense of humor.

Some of the things I remember:

The aliens had a family unit parallelling a 1950's tv family, even though the man wasn't sure how many genders the aliens had, if any.

The man had to use a synthesizer to produce the sounds of the aliens' speech.

The mayor was a "true public servant" in that the voters ordered him around and treated him disdainfully.

The man has to sleep hanging upside from a pole like a bat, alien-style, because sleeping on the floor is too bizarre for the aliens to overlook. He feels a stab of sympathy for his alien counterpart on earth, who probably has to sneak out of his bed at night and hang upside down in the closet to get some rest.

The main bully challenges him to a flying contest, which makes the others nervous because it comes dangerously close to acknowledging the man can't fly. He bluffs the kid by daring him to go "all the way".

At one point he ran into a lizard that could speak, parrot-style, but wasn't very bright. He vented his problems to it, and it replied rather like an Eliza program by turning the man's rhetorical questions back onto him, and it was called a "rogerian lizard" after Carl Rogers's "person-centered" therapy. The lizard became so involved in talking to him, it didn't notice a predator creeping up behind and got devoured.

At the end, the man discovered he's been given a great honor - he has been randomly selected to represent the aliens in their exchange with yet another culture . . . oops!

7

"Trial Sample" by Ted Reynolds. There's a copy available on the Internet Archive, which I found by searching for "rogerian lizard". You apparently have a good memory for details.

The man has to sleep hanging upside from a pole like a bat, alien-style, because sleeping on the floor is too bizarre for the aliens to overlook.

Paul hated sleeptime worse than anything, even meals. His head swam with dizziness, his biceps ached abominably, and his hip-joints felt on the verge of parting. He couldn’t even balance his weight with his hands, as the family were still in halfsleep; if they opened their eyes and saw him clutching the sleeping bar, it would hardly bode well for trade and diplomatic prospects.

He’d just have to hold out for another half-hour till the others had entered deepsleep; then he could clamber down from the perch and spread out on the rocky cave floor for a couple of hours. Just as long as he was back suspended from the sleeping bar by his knees when the family woke up.

The main character was a human who was nearing the end of his year with a family of pterodactyl-like aliens, in which he played the role of their young son. Although the aliens were careful to treat him exactly as their son, such as pretending to not notice couldn't fly, he did run into issues with bullies.

"Beautiful day, a really gorgeous day,” he said at last, joining the family at their mornmeal. "Isn’t it your turn to flap over to Youoory for eggs, Wayuu?” He beamed affectionately at Paul.

A bit of underdone mork caught in Paul’s throat and he coughed helplessly. From where he sat, on the rim of the cliff, he could see the tops of the higher planted houses poking over the flametrees. A mere half mile as the bat flies, he thought. Two hours climbing for me, first down and then up. If I make it.

I’m not one of you, he thought desperately at the squatting family. I don’t have wings, I can’t fly, I hate breeir eggs. You know that, why do you pretend?

It was no use. They were letting Paul know that he was one of them, that they still accepted him. He should feel relieved and flattered. If they ever started coddling him, then he could really start to worry. It was just that all the members of the Mestoiwe family took their turns in shopping at Youoory village, and now it was his turn. As simple as that.

"Sure, Pamma,” he squeaked as expected, his fingers racing over the voder keys. "Oh, boy. Can I stay to see a flooel show?” He couldn’t abide the local entertainment, but the original Wayuueo, who loved flooel animations, would certainly have asked. Besides, it would give an easily accepted excuse for the extended time he would have to be gone from the family homestead.

He feels a stab of sympathy for his alien counterpart on earth, who probably has to sneak out of his bed at night and hang upside down in the closet to get some rest.

Paul wondered if Wayuueo had to sleep in the same bed with Marilyn. After Paul’s wife was asleep, Wayuueo probably crept out of bed and hung upside down from the coat-rack. Paul felt an abrupt surge of sympathy for his distant counterpart.

At one point he ran into a lizard that could speak, parrot-style, but wasn't very bright. He vented his problems to it, and it replied rather like an Eliza program by turning the man's rhetorical questions back onto him, and it was called a "rogerian lizard" after Carl Rogers's "person-centered" therapy. The lizard became so involved in talking to him, it didn't notice a predator creeping up behind and got devoured.

The fallen log was thick enough, but slippery with oozing sap, and Paul had to inch his way across it sitting down. Half way across it, he came upon a rogerian. The lizard lay lethargically half out of the water, its long tail streaming in the rapid current. Its tongue flicked meditatively as Paul approached.

"Care to tell me about your problem?” said the rogerian.

"I doubt you’d be any help,” said Paul.

"Oh, you doubt I’d be any help?” said the rogerian. "Why is that?”

"Because,” answered Paul caustically, "you have about as much intelligence as a tree toad, and you don’t understand a word you are saying.” He had reached the point where the lizard squatted, and remained straddling the log, waiting for the creature to move.

The rogerian lizard blinked sleepy eyes and regarded Paul stead- ily. "Is it because I have about as much intelligence as a tree toad, or because I do not understand a word I am saying, that you doubt I would be of any help?” it asked.

....

"You’re damn right I don’t. But I also don’t want to end up like that Ruwandan who clinched the relation with the Humdingers by serving out his whole term to perfection . . . and then died right after of acute radiation poisoning. He’s a human hero now, but he’s just as dead ... a martyr to human desire for Humding microfabrics and the electromagnetic dramas of Cliklick! All I want is to get out of here — ” Paul broke off suddenly, drew his legs high out of the water, and said, "I think you should consider your own problem first. There’s a mangleworm working his way upstream behind you.”

"We were discussing you, not me. What does the mangleworm working his way upstream behind me suggest about your prob ”

Paul sighed and continued along the fallen trunk, carefully keeping his legs well out of the water until he was past the point where small fragments of rogerian spun on the current. Less intelligent than a tree toad, he decided. Still, a pleasant break in an otherwise tedious day.

The main bully challenges him to a flying contest, which makes the others nervous because it comes dangerously close to acknowledging the man can't fly. He bluffs the kid by daring him to go "all the way".

Noowiioy took a sidewise step, blocking Paul’s escape. "We saw you climbing,” he said nastily, his face scrooching up in gray crin- kles. "You want to know something? You’re not a Shecklite after all.” The other five laughed mockingly.

Paul froze in shock. No one was ever supposed to say that; it could be the sign of the end. The adolescents had been taunting from the beginning, even cruel, but none of them had stepped across that line before.

Noowiioy’s face wrinkled again, with the humor of what he was about to say. "You’re no Shecklite,” he said again. "You’re some kind of rockcrab.”

....

"Rockcrab care to groundplunge?” the other asked bluntly.

Oh, Lord. Scratch one human being.

"Why not?” bluffed Paul. "If it’s the only way to stop your asinine yappings.”

"Okay. Here and now. I’ve been waiting months for this. Off the ravine right here, and the last one to lift wing wins.”

....

Paul pointed down the cliff. "Why lift wing at all? We’ll jump together from right here and go all the way to the bottom. If either of us lifts wing before striking bottom, that’s being a rockcrab and a mudworm.”

Noowiioy looked confused. "That’s ridiculous. I’ll go within ten lengths of the ground before I pull out. Bet you can’t do that!”

Paul shook his head disgustedly. "Noowiioy, you’re a bully and a boaster, but you just don’t have it when it counts. I’m sick of all your ten lengths, five lengths, three, half a length. If you can’t face going all the way, then stop bragging about your so-called guts. Put up or shut up.”

The mayor was a "true public servant" in that the voters ordered him around and treated him disdainfully.

As on Earth, the elected officials of Sheckley called themselves 'public servants.’ Unlike Earth, they behaved as such.

Paul gulped again and managed to respond, in a combination of vocal and voder, "When I’m good and ready, you lump of obsequiousness.” This also was standard format.

At the end, the man discovered he's been given a great honor - he has been randomly selected to represent the aliens in their exchange with yet another culture . . . oops!

Eventually the mayor continued. "It is a very important matter, the lottery system,” he said bluntly. "It is at the base of the life of all of us here on Sheckley. Without the economies and arts and sciences we have gained from Galactic contacts, our lives would still be short and narrow and miserable as they were before we reached the stars and joined the lottery exchange system.” He looked steadily at Paul. "If it is at all possible, if there is any hope at all, we shall do all in our power to make and keep relationships with the other creatures in the Galaxy. Every Shecklite knows the importance of this.” He cleared his throat, looking deeply embarrassed.

Paul considered saving everybody further embarrassment by two steps and a jump into the ravine. But the Shecklites would just catch him on the way down. It was useless.

Slowly the Mayor stretched out his leathery wings. "I know you will do well for us, Wayuueo of the Mestoiwe,” he was saying huskily. "Tomorrow you will be taken by webship to the world of the Dreffitti. You have been chosen by lottery as Sheckley’s representative to those beings.”

As the whole delegation and then his family stroked and hugged and ogled him, Paul could hear the mayor’s voice ricocheting on: ". . . live in chlorine bubbles under the waters of the muddy estu- aries . . . gourmet delicacies and temperature control techniques of huge value to our world . . . far the greatest honor that can befall a Shecklite.”

And, oh, were his Poms and Mops proud of him!

A little later, during the formal speeches, Paul did step off into the ravine, but they caught him before he fell fifteen feet. Nobody remarked on his awkwardness at such a moment.

After all, such an honor would fluster anybody.

  • THANK YOU!!!!!!!!! I have been searching for this story forever but I could never remember any details that would make it searchable! – Viergacht Aug 13 '17 at 15:53
  • No problem. :) As I said at the beginning, "Rogerian lizard" was the key. – FuzzyBoots Aug 13 '17 at 21:25

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