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A short story I read at college, 1977-86ish. I think it was a side story from a bigger space opera series I never read, but it stands alone.

There was a interplanetary mining(?) vessel, the kind where a crew spend years away from home for big pay on return. There were quite a few men aboard and they had next to nothing to do on their down-time.

One of the guys was gambler and maybe a card-sharp. He would play any game, bet on anything and always won. As a result he had finagled most of the crew out of all the pay they were owed at the end of the job. Everyone was disgruntled about this.

The cook was an old hand from a poor, broken-down and obscure little colony. He never lost an opportunity to mention his home planet (I'll call it X) and praise it up. This made the men laugh because they knew he came from a real jerkwater planet.

At the end of the contract they were on their way back to their home system when the ship was contacted by an intergalactic diplomat needing a ride. They diverted and picked him up.

The diplomat was from a different Vulcan-like race, emotionally controlled and incapable of lying. This was why they were employed in interplanetary relations, trade negotiations and so on.

So the cook whipped up a celebratory dinner for their august guest and it was soon evident that the alien was haughty and exceptionally proud. The men took turns quizzing him about where he'd been and it seemed he'd been everywhere and knew the culture of every place. They asked his opinion on various subjects and he always replied truthfully, unable to lie.

Unlike the rest, the cook had hung on to some of his money. Sensing a way to get his hands on it all, the gambler suggested asking the visitor about X, sure that he would show the cook up. Fiercely loyal, the cook accepted the bet, all his remaining pay against all the gambler's winnings.

So the gambler asked the visitor if he was familiar with the cook's people. He replied indeed he had been to their planet. The next question was how would he describe X.

The visitor grinned and stated without any shadow of a doubt X was the most wonderful place in the galaxy.

The gambler and the rest of the men were dumbstruck, but they couldn't argue, the authority had spoken. And the gambler was forced to hand over all his winnings, which the cook returned to the rest.

So how had the cook won the bet?

Well, in the old cook's native language, which he knew the interplanetary diplomat was familiar with...

...X means HOME.

Now I'm sure that although the setting is original the story sounds like an old one. It's got an Arabian Nights tale ring to it. So there may be alternates but I'm wondering which space opera series this version may have belonged to.

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    I think this is by Fred Brown- I'll check my omnibus when I get home
    – Andrew
    Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 16:58
  • Doesn't appear to be Fred Brown - I know I read this one in the last couple of years; if I run across it, I'll let you all know.
    – Andrew
    Commented Apr 25, 2022 at 22:52
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    I just listened to Lulugomeena (because of this thread), and I actually like your description of the story even more than the story itself. Thanks for that.
    – aero
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 16:39

1 Answer 1

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Gordon R. Dickson: Lulungomeena (1954 - novelette)

Tensions at a deepspace relay station erupt over a veteran's claim that his homeworld, Lulungomeena, is the most beautiful in the galaxy. To resolve the dispute, they must rely on the arbitration of an alien Hixabrod, the most literal and honest race in the universe.

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    Hi, welcome to SF&F! Can you provide any details, like names or quotes, that would help the asker of the question recognize this as the correct answer?
    – DavidW
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 4:09
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    If you want to read it again, you can find it in old numbers of Galaxy Science Fiction. archive.org/details/galaxymagazine-1954-01/page/n71/mode/… Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 11:05
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    Ah. I heard this one on X Minus One! oldtimeradiodownloads.com/sci-fi/x-minus-one/…
    – Andrew
    Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 11:06
  • This definitely sounds like the right one, the title and the alien character particularly. I seem to have got the setting completely wrong but it's part of a series as I remembered. The radio broadcast linked to, by the way, is delightful. Thanks. Commented Apr 26, 2022 at 11:23

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