'There's got to be more to life than flipping burgers.'
This profound thought popped into Pete's head as he stirred a vat of French fries with one eye on Coronation Street playing on an ancient TV balanced precariously above the shop window and the other eye on the queue forming outside.
That was just before he noticed three little green aliens emerging from a shiny silver craft that could only have been a flying saucer parked near the bus stop on the opposite side of the road.
Except of course that no sane person would ever think this. It was far more probable that the 'little green aliens' were kids in alien suits. Or midgets maybe?
Pete would know all about judging probabilities, because prior to opening the Beano Burger Bar he'd completed his PhD thesis on the philosophy of probability. No jobs, of course. A banking career would have been more profitable but Pete liked the idea of being his own boss.
Pete observed that he would soon be in a position to verify his hypothesis because the little green aliens were heading for his shop with a sense of purpose.
The queue parted neatly in the middle. This could only happen in a place like Sheffield where you know something is wrong if you haven't been witness to at least one eccentric student prank in a day.
Well, it was almost time to open.
'Three quarter pounders with aioli sauce, if you please, with small fries,' said the first in a squeaky voice.
'Thank you my man,' added the second.
Pretty impressive, Pete thought. Especially the 'my man'. A stroke of genius. What was that accent? Posh Londoners to a T.
'Coming right up,' said Pete with a straight face. 'Will that be with onions?'
The queue had now moved inside the shop but no-one seemed to be interested in ordering.
Meanwhile the visitors chomped their fast food with a relish. Bearing in mind their small size that was a lot of burger to consume in under a minute.
The visitors began chattering with one another excitedly in what Pete assumed was meant to be 'alien speak' consisting of a rapid sequence of clicks and squeaks, rather like a fax machine. Evidently, whatever argument they were supposed to have been having had been amicably resolved.
'Will you come with us please?'
That was all Pete had time to say before he experienced something which he later described as being sucked up the tube of a vacuum cleaner and spat out. When he came to his senses he was behind his familiar counter, the French fries were still frying and Coronation Street was still playing.
But this was not Sheffield, or any place on Earth. He was in what appeared to be a vast exhibition hall thronging with little green aliens.
'We've chosen the very best from every planet in the galaxy. You should feel honoured!'
Pete's guests dabbed their mouth parts daintily with paper napkins from the counter. Behind them stretched a lenghtening queue of little green aliens.
Pete was incredulous. 'Hamburgers with aioli sauce? How long have you spent on our planet? Don't you know anything about human culture?'
'We've studied your species over many years. Do you think we just landed, just like that? We have the advantage of distance,' the first little green alien said.
'We can be much more objective then any human observer,' added the second little green alien.
'What about philosophy? What about Plato?'
'Not bad, but there are better philosophers on Zauron Prime,' said the third green little alien while its friends nodded sagely.
'What about art?'
'The Pandora system, obviously!' This provoked much hilarity.
'I don't get it,' said Pete, becoming increasingly desperate. 'You cannot tell me that out of all human culture and history, the very best that the Earth has to offer is a quarter pound burger!'
'Most assuredly, my man.'
Over the next forty minutes, Pete served burgers with aioli sauce, burgers with chile relish, burgers with french mustard, burgers with sun dried tomato, burgers with horseradish, until there were no burgers left.
Every burger paid for, more than handsomely. The notes looked real enough. He'd made enough money in one afternoon to buy a super size widescreen digital TV.
Another swoosh and Pete was back in Sheffield. No goodbyes, no ceremony, only a pile of cash and an empty fryer to prove that the entire incident had ever happened.
According to the wall clock, no time had passed. The same scene from Coronation Street was showing on the TV.
'Sorry, I'm shutting up shop for the day. Come back tomorrow and everything will be half price!'
As his disgruntled customers dispersed Pete pondered a deep truth about himself. He did feel a veritable glow of pride that his burger bar had been chosen, out of all the burger bars on planet Earth!
This was the essence of greatness.
The thought that there might be something better than making a better burger never entered Pete the philosopher's head again.
© Geoffrey Klempner 2012