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I read this story before 1985, and it had a kind of 1960s-1970s setting. A very ordinary office worker would take a vacation every few months to exotic locales like Tahiti or Tibet, showing off pictures to his co-workers, who can't believe he could afford this on a salary comparable to theirs; when asked about this, he vaguely replies about finding special discounts which they can never find themselves. Some suspect that he's faking these trips, though the pictures look extremely real.

Annoyed, they finally rig up a faux "Martian vacation" which one of them takes, with pictures of obviously fake rockets, canal scenes, and cardboard cut-out "Martians" posing with tourists to try to "one-up" him. He takes this all seriously, however, showing surprise that he's never heard of this tour opportunity before; they vaguely explain that some (non-existent) tourist agency on some hard-to-find street handles it. A month later he disappears for a bit, then returns saying "I found that agency!" and thanks them for the tip as he shows them pictures of his real Martian vacation, posing by actual aliens and canals, etc., leaving everyone dumbstruck.

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    Sounds a bit Total Recall.
    – Jontia
    Jul 28, 2020 at 14:00
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    FYI, Total Recall was based on the Philip K Dick short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale @Jontia
    – Wossname
    Jul 28, 2020 at 22:53
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    It's better to leave the description as it was rather than correcting it after the fact.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Jul 29, 2020 at 12:16
  • Apparently I misremembered one point; in the story, the office folk talk about the fake vacation, but don't produce fake pictures. Also the traveler's original exotic locales are not foreign, but just distant parts of the US, suggesting that their common salaries are modest indeed. The story was written/set in the 1950s, before jet travel and interstate highways, so even out of state travel was apparently relatively exotic.
    – scottef
    Jul 29, 2020 at 12:25

1 Answer 1

45

"Two Weeks in August", a short story by Frank M. Robinson, first published in Galaxy Science Fiction, February 1951, available at the Internet Archive. The story is also available at Project Gutenberg. If you didn't read it in the original magazine, you probably read it in the paperback anthology Fifty Short Science Fiction Tales edited by Isaac Asimov and Groff Conklin.

ISFDB synopsis:

A normal fifties office has one guy who always manages to be better in everything. Especially his vacations are always better and in fancier places than anyone else's. One time his workmates make up a dream vacation in the Mars imagining that that one cannot be topped. They are wrong, of course.

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    Nice! Yet another one included in 50 Short Science Fiction Tales. Jul 28, 2020 at 14:21
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    Definitely the one--thanks for the quick answer!
    – scottef
    Jul 28, 2020 at 16:59
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    For your reading pleasure. Title: Two Weeks in August. Author: Frank M. Robinson. gutenberg.org/files/51008/51008-h/51008-h.htm
    – Rabi
    Jul 29, 2020 at 12:04
  • @Rabi I didn't think to check Project Gutenberg. Thanks for the link, which I've edited intbo my answer.
    – user14111
    Jul 29, 2020 at 12:37
  • Thank you yet again user14111. I've just reread and greatly enjoyed that one. Aug 3, 2020 at 2:00

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