“What is cereal?” asked Hitch.
“It’s a breakfast food for kids or adults who are too lazy to cook for themselves,” said Abby. “It claims to be rich in vitamins and minerals but typically contains far too much sugar and should be classified as a dessert.”
“The place with all the sand?” asked Hitch.
“No, that’s a desert,” said Abby.
“What’s the difference?” asked Hitch.
“An S,” said Abby.
“Oh,” said Hitch.
“No, S,” said Charlie.
“You don’t know the difference between dessert and desert?” asked George.
Abby folded her arms and scowled.
“Are you done with this tomfoolery?” asked Captain Grek.
“Tomfoolery’s that bloke who always says, ‘Tomfoolery!’ in that bizarre accent of his,” said Charlie.
“Look who’s talking about bizarre accents,” said Kip.
“This happens to be the accent of Her Royal Highness, the Queen,” said Charlie.
“You are going to be late to the 3G office,” said Captain Grek.
“What’s with all the Gs?” asked Kip.
“It stands for Great Globs Of Goodness,” said Captain Grek.
“That’s why we’re the ones for this mission,” said Hitch. “We’re great and good.”
“I’m an eyeball, pooch,” said Kip.
“Whoa!” said Charlie. “Dog is fine. Canine is even better. Pooch is not a word that can be used by one who is not of the canine persuasion.”
“I thought mutt was the bad one,” said George.
“That one’s even worse,” said Charlie. “Those are not words that are spoken except by dogs on the street.”
“What do you know about being a dog on the street?” asked George.
“Adopted?” asked Captain Grek. “I thought you were from Niibell.”
“She is,” said Abby. “She is. They’re just busting her tail. We all give each other a good ribbing… as bonding.”
“I could go for some good ribs right now,” said Charlie.
“There’s no time for ribbing or ribs,” said Captain Grek.
“What about just the bone?” asked Charlie.
“This cereal campaign is crucial,” said Captain Grek.
“It seems like we’re selling out,” said Abby. “Are you sure we want to use our images to influence kids to eat spoonfuls of colored sugar?”
“We are promoting positive alien/human relations,” said Captain Grek. “When a kid sees your faces on his or her box of morning breakfast cereal, they’ll think you’re cool and be more accepting of us as they grow. That feeling of acceptance will, in theory, spread to their parents.”
“So, we’re just going to be selling cereal?” asked Hitch. “I think we’re overqualified for this mission.”
“You’re just about perfectly qualified,” said Captain Grek. “Besides, America has never had a female cereal mascot. If this goes well, you could each get your own cereals, and Abby and Charlie could be pioneers.”
“It could turn into serialized cereal promotion,” said Charlie, always quick with her puns.
“Cereal pioneers?” asked Abby.
“Just don’t mess this up,” said Captain Grek.
An hour, twelve minutes, and thirty-four seconds later, Hitch and his squad were standing in front of a giant bowl of cereal. In reality, it was merely cardboard and foam, but it looked like a bowl of cereal… kind of.
“This looks delicious,” said Charlie.
“It’s cardboard,” said Leslie, the advertising executive in charge of their photo shoot.
“Yeah, I like to chew on cardboard,” said Charlie.
“What kind of alien are you?” asked Leslie, the advertising executive in charge of their photo shoot.
“I am a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel,” said Charlie, proudly.
“Isn’t that a breed of dog?” asked Leslie, the… You know who she is. Dang it!
“She’s Niibellian,” said Abby. “She’s from Niibell. She’s just goofing around.”
“O.K.,” said Leslie. “Let’s all stop goofing around and stand in front of the bowl.”
They formed an oblong glob in front of the bowl. George and Hitch were facing the bowl. Abby was looking at the cameraman with a startled look on her face. Charlie sat off to the side and was scratching her ear with her back paw. Kip stood front and center and stared straight ahead.
Leslie calmly walked over to the discombobulated mass of aliens. She gently took George by the shoulders and pulled him around to the left side. She did the same to Hitch but brought him to the right side. She positioned Abby and Charlie in the front. She took Kip around the left side and tucked Kip behind George.
“Am I going to be in the picture back here?” Kip asked.
“Brian’s the best,” said Leslie. “You can’t hide from his camera.” When she got back to her position behind Brian, the cameraman, she whispered, “Try to get as little of that weird eyeball thing as possible.”
“You won’t even know it’s there,” Brian said.
“Everyone say, ‘cheese,’” said Leslie.
“Whoa!” said Hitch.
“What?” asked Leslie.
“Cheese is highly revered on Zechisten,” said Abby. “’Cheese’ is not something one says lightly.”
“I’ll have some cheese,” said Charlie.
“What can we say that will make it look like you’re smiling?” asked Leslie.
“Fart,” said Charlie. “I always look like I’m smiling when I fart.”
“You are always smiling when you fart,” said Abby.
“Farts are funny,” said Charlie, “and it feels so nice to release that pressure.”
“All right, everyone say, ‘fart,’” Leslie said, disgustedly.
Everyone said, “Fart,” with a bit of a giggle.
Brian started snapping pictures. Leslie checked them on a screen behind Brian. In every picture, Charlie was looking away. In typical dog fashion, she would look at the camera until Brian snapped the photo. She would look away at the last second every time.
“Charlie, you’re looking away in every picture,” said Leslie.
“No, I’m not,” Charlie argued.
“Yes, you are,” said Leslie. “Please, look at the camera the whole time.”
“I am,” said Charlie.
“I have the pictures in front of me,” said Leslie. “You look away every time.”
“We’ll have to agree to disagree,” said Charlie.
“No, we won’t,” said Leslie. “I have photographic evidence.”
“Those pictures have been doctored,” said Charlie.
“They were taken less than two minutes ago,” said Leslie.
“You look fine,” said Leslie. “Get back in position.”
“May I see the proofs?” Kip asked, moving toward Leslie.
“No!” said Leslie. “Uh… Just get back in position, please.”
Charlie jumped and started barking. She ran toward the fallen light stand, then ran away from it. She ran toward it, then away from it. Leslie stomped her feet and started yelling words that couldn’t possibly appear in an ad for cereal. Charlie turned and started running around the bowl, still barking.
Charlie stopped. “Treat? Yes, please.”
In her hurry to get to Abby and the promise of a treat, Charlie ran into another light stand, knocking it over. The light fell on the cardboard bowl of cereal. The bulb broke, and the cardboard caught on fire.
Less than 10 minutes later, they were back in Grekquarters.
“It was a photo shoot,” said Captain Grek. “All you had to do was stand still for five minutes.”
“Does this mean we don’t get our cereal serial?” Charlie asked.
“This is not a time for puns,” said Captain Grek, flagitatedly.
“It’s always time for puns,” said Charlie.