The oblong little spacecraft overtook the truck on the road and landed gently in front of it, scarcely disturbing the gravel. The driver of the truck, a Blazer from the previous decade, slowed and stopped and stared.
A hatch opened on the side of the spaceship and an extraterrestrial, all four-foot-five of him, stepped down to the ground, his iridescent green scales shining in the afternoon sun. He approached the truck’s driver, a stocky man wearing a brand-new seed cap.
“Good soil to you,” the alien said. He held a small, round device from which the English words flowed; nothing about his mouth seemed capable of producing those sounds.
The driver, being a quick study, nodded and responded in kind. “Same to you.”
“Thank you. I am Joe,” the translator said even as the alien’s mouth kept making noises that might have been his real name.
“What a coincidence,” the farmer said. “That’s my name, too.”
“We are obviously technologically superior to your kind,” Alien Joe said. “Yet we present ourselves to you, a representative of the most powerful class of your species, in common fellowship.”
“What was that about my being one of the most powerful?” Earthman Joe asked.
Alien Joe did a little kicking motion with his right leg that Earthman Joe would later decide was a shrug. “You grow food. That puts you in the highest strata of your species.”
“Huh,” said Earthman Joe, and he pushed his hat up on his head. “I guess Earth never got that memo.”
Alien Joe patted the back of his head, and Earthman Joe would later figure that for a sign of puzzlement.
“What do you mean?”
“Farmers are among the most overworked and underpaid and undervalued folks on this planet. Most of us, anyway. Some guys have figured out how to game the system and get paid lots of money to do nothing or next to it.”
“Across the galaxy, the growers of food are revered and honored for their work,” Alien Joe insisted. “Cultures with money bestow it freely upon the farmers. Cultures that no longer use money reward their farmers in other ways, such as special holidays, parades, prayers, and sex.”
“That’s awfully nice for them,” Earthman Joe said, “but this seed cap I got yesterday is one of the nicest gifts I’ll get all year on account of growing corn.”
Alien Joe made a noise the translator reproduced as an irritated squawk. “This makes no sense. Without the farmer, most would perish for want of food.”
“Most folks, in this country, at least, think food comes from the store. They don’t know anything about farmers or that their food is grown in dirt or used to be a live animal.”
“Such ignorance in a Level 3-g culture!” And Alien Joe squawked again. He consulted a little gizmo that had hung on his belt. “Your economy is calibrated in dollars, correct?”
“How many of these will you be given for your sacred work?”
“This year?” Earthman Joe pondered only a moment. “Oh, about 23, maybe 25 thousand.”
“And the wealthiest among you who does not grow sustenance?”
“A few billion, I guess.”
Alien Joe turned away and stared hard at the cornfield. Earthman Joe had the feeling the little guy was trying to contain an angry outburst.
“And there are lots of middlemen between me and the billionaires, all of them making more than I do,” the Earth farmer offered. “Not to mention the migrant farmers who earn a little bit of nothing.”
“This cannot be allowed to stand,” Alien Joe said at length. “I will inform my superiors of the necessity of a full planetary intrusion. We will take over your world until such time as the Workers of the Soil are revered here as they are throughout the civilized galaxy. I will be back within two of your months with my fleet. Perhaps at that time you will be gracious enough to show me your farm and I will assist with various improvements for growing crops.”
“That sounds just fine.”
“Farewell and good weather.” Alien Joe trotted back to his shuttlecraft. The hatch slid shut behind him and the ship moved off toward the heavens.
When it was out of sight, Earthman Joe looked at his watch. Two o’clock or no, he needed a beer. He turned his Blazer around and headed for home.
He had barely gotten inside when his wife came into the kitchen. “We got a letter from the bank today reminding us the note on the combine is coming due.”
Joe opened the fridge, grabbed a beer and popped it open. He quietly wandered into the living room. He landed in his recliner and absently poked with his free hand at the duct tape covering a hole in the vinyl of the left arm. He took a swig of beer and looked up at Mary, who was looking down at him in curiosity.
“Don’t worry about it, honey,” he said. “I’m pretty sure we’re not going to have to repay that loan. Or if we do, we’ll have lots more money to do it with.”
“And when is all this money going to be falling from the skies?” Mary asked.
“Oh, a couple of months. I think things may finally be changing for the better around here.”