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Story and Illustrations by:
Cousin Crystal Hill

Chapter One:
Two Tickets to Paradise

Larry Appleton lounged comfortably on the couch, his stocking feet up on the coffee table.  With the newspaper in one hand and a steaming cup of coffee in the other he was prepared to enjoy a relaxing weekend.

The apartment door abruptly flew open slamming against the wall with a loud ‘bang’.   Balki Bartokomous burst into the room like he had been shot from a cannon.  "Cousin!  Cousin!"  With one leap he cleared the back of the couch and landed with a bounce on the cushions next to his roommate.  "Guess what!"

Larry slowly lowered his newspaper with an irritated sigh.  "Balki, I really wish you wouldn’t jump on the furniture."

The immigrant paused for only a second, caught slightly off guard by his cousin's unexpected lack of enthusiasm.  "A great thing happ--"

"It ruins the springs."  The man from Chicago explained to his Myposian cousin for what seemed like the millionth time.  "Do you want to sit on a lumpy couch?"

"Well, no.  But I have to tell you--"

"Furniture costs money.  And with our income we can't afford to buy a new one."

Balki bowed his head with a defeated sigh, despairing of ever getting to tell his cousin the exciting news.  "I'm sorry."

"Now,” Larry said, finished with his lecture.  "What did you have to say?"

The man's enthusiasm instantly returned.  "A week ago I was in the supermarket and they have a big table set up by the door with a sign that says 'You Can Win'.  So I ask the man in the suit behind the table what kind of game this is.  So he says that if I write my name and address on a piece of paper and put it in the little box that I could win something.  So I sign us up!"

"Us?  You gave out my name too?!"

"Yes I did.  But--"

"Balki."  Larry crossed his arms and with one withering look conveyed all the irritation and disapproval of an angry mother.

The Mypiot dipped his head slightly and looked up at his cousin.  He knew exactly what was coming.  "Is this where you talk down to me?"

Larry nodded.  "Yes, yes it is."  Then he abruptly returned to lecture mode.  "I have forbid you to sign me up for things without my permission haven't I?"


Larry's tone became more insistent.  "Haven't I?"

"Yes, you have."

"If you give our address to every Tom, Dick or Harry who--"

"His name was Frank."  Balki corrected.

"My point is; if you keep giving people our address we are going to be flooded with junk mail."

Balki's eyes widened slightly.  "They will send us their garbage?"

Larry just stared at his cousin for a long moment.  Balki's knack for confusing even the simplest concepts never ceased to amaze him.  Sometimes it was just easier to agree than explain the error.  "Yes, they will."

Balki's frown deepened for a second as if trying to figure out why anyone would do such a thing.  Then he remembered the wonderful news.  "Well this sure ain't garbage, Buster Bunny!"  Triumphantly he reached into his pocket and with a dramatic flourish whipped out an envelope.

"And what, may I ask, is that?"  Larry was clearly unimpressed.

"We won!"

"Won what?"

"A cruise!"

"A cruise?"  He snatched the envelope from his friend's hand and pulled out two tickets and a brochure.

"Yes.  You know, a vacation on a boat."

"I know what a cruise is!"

"Well then why you ask?"

With one deep breath the irritation went away.  "Well, congratulations, Balki!"  He gave his Myposian friend a slap on the shoulder and handed him back the tickets.  "I hope you have fun."

"Fun, ha!  We're going to have a football!"

Larry shook his head, ignoring the slaughtered cliché.  "Not we.  Just you.  I can't go."

Balki looked as though he'd been slapped.  His voice turned pleading.  "Of...of course you're coming.  You are my cousin and my best friend."

The complete devastation in his friend's dark eyes made him feel like slime.  "I can't go, Balki.  I'm sorry.  You'll have to find someone else."

"Why you don't want to go?"

"It's not that I don't want to go with you.  It's just that I get seasick.  The last time I was on a boat I was so dizzy I could barely see straight, I threw up everything I had eaten for a week and I was so green it looked like my face was growing algae."

"You turn green?"  For half a second Balki looked surprised.  "What are you, the Hulk?"  The startled expression immediately turned to a knee slapping silent laugh.  Then his eyes and hands turned upward, imploring heaven.  "Where do I come up with them?"  He quickly turned back to Larry.  "But seriously, Cousin, there are medicine for this."

"And how do you know this?"

"I see it every time we go shopping.  It's on the shelf right next to the antacid."

Larry nodded, in understanding. 

"It will be fun."  Balki assured as he held up the brochure.  "We get to go to Florida, and the boat have a swimming pool and a night club and..."

"Besides," Larry interrupted again.  "We used up all our vacation time on the ski trip.  Twinkacetti will never give us the time off."

Balki's shoulders slumped.  "I never thought of that."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Monday at the Ritz Discount...

Larry stood at the counter, taking inventory while Balki folded sweaters on a nearby table. 

"Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty Bajoran noses."  Larry wrote the number down on a yellow notepad.

Balki's dark eyebrows furrowed slightly in thought.  He stopped folding and stepped over to the counter.  "But what if he does give us the time off?"  He asked, continuing the argument that had been running off and on all morning.

"I told you before, he's not going to."  Larry said as he continued counting.  "Seventeen, eighteen..."

"Maybe if we ask very nicely." 

Trying desperately not to lose count Larry countered.  "He won' how you...twenty-one...ask...twenty-two...The answer...twenty-three...will still be...twenty-four...'no'."  He picked up the pen and pad again.  "Twenty-four bags of marbles."

"We could appeal to his heart and..."

"Twinkacetti doesn't have a heart."  Larry insisted, finishing his writing and setting the pen back on the counter.  "He traded it for that ice cube he has beating in his chest."

Balki frowned, not about to give up.  "But...but if he did let us go would you come on the cruise?"

Larry let out a long exasperated sigh.  "Yes."  He said, finally giving in, in his desperation to end the long tiresome conversation.  "Yes, if Twinkie gives us a week off I'll go on the cruise with you."  He looked pointedly at his cousin.  "Happy now?"

A large smile broke across the Mypiot's face.  "Yes, very."

A bell sounded as the front door opened.  A short, stocky, weasel of a man stepped in and placed his fedora on the hat rack.

"Mr. Twinkacetti!"  Balki cried enthusiastically.  "How you doing today?"

"My life is none of your business, Turnip."  He snapped as he stalked toward the back of the store to his office.

"Oh, okay."  Balki followed him brightly across the room, seemingly oblivious to his boss's obvious irritation at the immigrant's mere presence.  "But Cousin Larry and I have a question to ask."

Larry rolled his eyes from where he still stood at the counter.  "Here it comes."  He mumbled to himself.

Mr. Twinkacetti opened the door to his office and turned to Balki.  "You want to ask me a question?"

Balki nodded.  "Yes."

"Let me think about it."  An expression of exaggerated concentration pinched his face for perhaps half a second then turned pointedly to Balki and said; "No!"  With that he slammed the office door, nearly taking Balki's oversized nose off. 

"But you don't even hear what I ask!"  The Mypiot insisted to the closed door, which remained smugly silent.  Balki turned away and walked dejectedly to the counter where Larry gave him a look that plainly said 'I told you so'.

"You were right."  Balki said, his whole demeanor a picture of disappointment.  "I guess we're not going to cruise after all."

Before Larry could respond the office door opened and Mr. Twinkacetti poked his head out.  "Oh, by the way.  The store's gonna be closed next week so don't bother coming in."

"What?"  Larry looked completely taken aback by the unexpected turn of events.  "Why?"

"I'm going somewhere for a week.  I...uh...gotta see a man about a dog."  Was his cryptic explanation.

"You're getting a dog?"  Balki clapped his hands excitedly.  "I am so happy for you!  What you going to name it?"

"But we could watch the store while you're gone."  Larry offered, knowing that if he didn't think of something fast he was going to be stuck on a boat for a week.  "I mean why close and loose money, right?"

"You think I'm going to trust my hard earned cash unsupervised in the hands of you two yo-yo's?  HA!"  Was his only reply as he reentered his office, once again, slamming the door behind him.

"You hear that, Cousin?"  Balki said, bubbling over with enthusiasm.  "We have next week off.  We are going on a cruise!!" 

Larry's stomach lurched as he imagined the ocean and the waves and the rocking and somewhere in the back of his head he could hear Balki burst into song. 

"Oohhee, oohee, baby!  Ooheee,  oohee, baby!  Oooeee, oooeee, baby!  Woncha let me take you on a sea cruise!  Feel like traveli’n, baby won't you join me please..."

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

One week later...

"Come on, Cousin!"  Balki urged, standing in front of the apartment door with a thin walking cane slung over his shoulder.  Around the end was tied a cloth bag.  The contraption looked like something a hobo would carry.  "You have been checking and rechecking all morning.  We going to miss the plane."

"I'm coming.  Don't rush me."  Larry stood in beside a pile of suitcases and traveling bags holding a clipboard and frowning in concentration.  He looked up at Balki indecisively.  "Do you think I packed enough underwear?"

"You have packaged everything but the bedroom sink!"

Larry glanced curiously at Balki's bag-on-a-stick.  "Is that all you're bringing?"  He asked incredulously.

"I got my toothbrush, a razor, a comb (pronouncing the 'B'), my swim trucks and an extra set of clothes and Dimitri.  What else do I need?"   

Larry looked down at his own pile of luggage for a moment.  Then, dismissing the question altogether he returned to his checklist.  "Ookay.  Stove’s off. Check.  Gas is off.  Check."

"Everything is off."  Balki insisted.  "Now we need to be off.  Look at the time it is."  Balki pointed at the clock but Larry was too absorbed in his checklist to notice.  "Cousin, LOOK!"  Grabbing him by both temples he turned Larry's head toward the clock.

"Oh, my lord!  It's time to leave already!" 

"You're so observant."  Balki said flippantly as he helped his cousin gather his bags before rushing out the door.

Continue to Chapter Two . . .