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Saturday, October 23, 2021

Deliverance

This morning I grabbed a cup of coffee and headed into my room. I saw a familiar sight and spun around to leave. Too late.

“Come in my child.”

There at my computer was The Galilean, one of the favorite shapes of the Alien C.W. my more or less permanent houseguest. I dreaded our conversations like a prostitute dreads a police interview.

“Come and sit.”

What could I do? I sat. “What the hell are you up to?” I wasn’t going to go gently into this good fight.”

“Be calm,” he said. “Have you said your morning prayers, yet?”

Let me explain. The figure before me had long, greasy black hair, a stringy beard, glassy black eyes and robe that smelled of long days’ wear. And he was quizzing me on prayer.

“No,” I said. “You know I quit praying while I was still in high school.”

His dark eyes bore into me and I shivered. “Tell me, exactly what did you pray for then?”

I knew he wouldn’t stop, so I might as well go along. “I prayed to be tall enough and big enough to be a football player.”

“And what exactly happened?”

“Nothing. I walked through graduation at five-foot-ten and 130 pounds.”

“And for that you quit praying?”

“Yes. Wouldn’t you have?”

He ignored me. “How much do you know about prayer, my son?”

Oh crap. Here we would go. “Just that it didn’t work for me.”

“Is there what you call a … ,” He paused and I heard his Galactic Universal Translator hum. He studied some notes he had on my desk, “a ‘statute of limitations’ on prayer?”

“A what?”

“Do your entreaties and pleas evaporate over time like a thin fog on a spring morning?”

I hate it when he gets poetical. “How the hell should I know?”

“Don’t blaspheme, my child. Think of what I asked. It may be hard, but think.”

He resorted to one of his favorite tricks, a challenge tinged with an insult. “Okay, I’m thinking.”

“If faith is eternal, shouldn’t the requests of faith-based prayers be eternal?”

“Beats me.”

“Let me answer. Yes, my child. Prayers are eternal. There are no expiration dates for them.”

“If you say so.”

“I do. But we’re talking about you.” He paused, for dramatic effect as much as anything. “Not tell me how tall you are this morning and how much you weigh.”

I heard the trap door slamming shut and didn’t answer.

“I know the facts anyway,” he said. “Now aren’t you as tall and large as many successful football players?”

“But I’m …,” I began. He cut me off.

“A prayer response delayed is not a prayer request unanswered.”

My mind twirled and a bell rang in my head. “But what about the few in Germany in the 1930s who prayed to avoid war?”

He grimaced. His GUT hummed. It was his turn to stammer. “Is there any more of that coffee?” he asked.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

FAIR AND BALANCED

 There was a loud, “Achtung” and I heard a hand slap on a table. I had to check it out. Went in and who should be all outfitted with lederhosen and other accoutrements than C.W. in a perfect imitation of the WWII German Minister for Armaments and War Production Albert Speer. He was busily pounding my laptop.

“What the …?”

“Shhh, he said. “Have a paying job going on.”

“A what?”

“A paying assignment. For money. Just for writing a novel.” I heard a hum. "Mucho Dinero."

“A novel? Who’s paying you for writing a novel?”

“A state government. This,” he pointed at the computer,” will be required reading for every student in the state.”

“What state government would pay you to write a novel?”

“Not at liberty,” he said, “but tell me something.”

“What?”

“What would be a good name for a beautiful commandant of women at a Nurture Center for displaced war refugees during World War Two? She’s a little bit headstrong but well-intentioned and basically loving. The men all chase after her. The women there all adore her, except for the other commandants. They are jealous of her.”

“At what kind of center?”

“You know. Where they keep abandoned women until they are … until their families unite with them.”

“Where are these centers?”

“Mostly in Poland. Some in Germany.”

“And the centers are designed for care and protection?”

“Yes. Our heroine watches over her charges with the assistance of a portly, but kind-hearted assistant named Oma-Greta. She’s always telling our heroine ‘Nicht Richtig’ when our heroin does something untoward.” He grimaced. “Wait a moment,” he said. “My Galactic Universal Translator is acting up.”

I waited. In a moment, he said, “Nicht Richtig: That means ‘It isn’t acceptable,’ or ‘It’s not proper,’ or ….”

“Tain't Fittin’?”

“Yes,” he said. “How did you know what my GUT was telling me?”

“Guessed. Are you writing a novel about Nazi Germany?”

“We don’t call it that.”

“What do you call it?”

Gutemenschenland.”

“Do you know what that means?”

“The ones who hired me say it means ‘holy’ or ‘righteous’ depending on the context.

“What does your GUT tell you?”

“I haven’t consulted it yet. Anyway, sometimes my GUT misleads me.”

“Tell me,” I said. “How is this novel going to end?”

“Our heroine, I’m thinking of calling her Scharlachrot Harren, her boyfriend Rolf Spieler, and Oma-Greta lead all the inmates of the Nurture Center safely back to their homes amidst great rejoicing. There well be this grand scene at a trainyard where they all unite. And they all live happily ever after.”

“You’re not going to tell me who’s paying you to write this?”

He looked around as if to see if anyone was listening. “Let’s just say, in your parlance and between you and me, it’s from somewhere people are large with cash but a little lacking on other things.”

Friday, October 15, 2021

PRIORITIES

 The Alien C.W. doesn’t use profanity often, but I swear I heard him growling “What the [something] from my office/music room. I went in to see.

There he was, shaped like a confederate army officer or some such getup. I stared.

“Hello Big Dope,” he said.

“Morning, What’s up?

“Shtoopdbool++scheat”

“Say what?”

His Galactic Universal Translator hummed.

“Communal insanity.” He glared at my computer screen.

“What’s your GUT telling you?”

“Have you seen this?” He pointed at the screen.

“What?”

“All three of your so-called major news outlets.”

I sipped my coffee. “What?”

“The widows and orphans of my homeland weep.”

“Why?”

“Our fatherland falls, and nobody cares.”

“Elucidate.” He hates that word.

“Would you care to know what the major news of your species is today?”

“Of course.”

“Would you think starvation of our abandoned families?”

“Maybe.”

“Alas no. Those in our ruined cities facing homelessness?”

“Maybe.”

“Alas no. Our veterans coming home to a parched landscape?”

“Sounds possible.”

“Alas no.”

“What then?”

“A fat old washed-up actor flying a wee bit above the ground.”

“A wee bit? What the …?”

“I learned that term somewhere. Has a nice ring to it, wouldn’t you say?”

“So, what did this, uh, actor do?”

“Some rich man flew him into the air a negligible distance.”

It dawned on me. “A negligible distance? They called it going into space.”

He turned and shook his head at me. “I walked farther to get on my spaceship bringing me here than he went into space.”

“Did you make the newspapers back on Falloonia?”

He failed to see my humor. “Is your species totally incapable of ranking … .” his GUT hummed. “Prioritizing what is important?”

I thought. “Not incapable as much as not inclined.”

He sighed, turned of the computer, and said, “And you wonder why they call Earth a third-universe planet.”

Thursday, September 16, 2021

INVOLVEMENT

 The Alien C.W. was très upset. I could hear him from the next room.

“Shtoo++pitdazoles+,” he said, loud enough to be heard outside. I walked in and found him shaped much like a middle-aged Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

“Say what?”

“Foul increment,” he practically screamed it at me.

“Bitte?”

“Listen to my GUT,” he said. I heard his Galactic Universal Translator begin to hum.

“Never mind,” I said. “I think I get the picture.”

“What is it with your species?” he said, aiming the question at me like he thought I might answer.

“¿Qué?” I like to screw with him when he gets like this.

“What does it mean,” he said, “when one of your leaders talks about waging a war with ‘no boots on the ground’ in some foreign country peopled by your own species.”

“It refers to using war to settle international differences with another country without actually having our military personnel involved in that country, so to speak.”

His GUT hummed and he listened. “And how is this accomplished?”

“Remotely,” I said. “We can send planes from ships and unmanned drones from Iowa, wiping them out like cleaning a windshield.”

“To settle differences?”

“Yes.”

“And if that doesn’t work?”

“Then we send troops.”

“And who comprises these troops? Do they hunt down individuals to conduct these ‘boots on the ground’ operations?”

“Uh, no. They rely on volunteers now.”

“Such as the children of the leaders?”

“Uh, no. Others.”

“Like you?” he said. “No, I remember now. You actually volunteered for war, didn’t you?”

“Kinda sorta.”

His Gut hummed. “Elucidate.”

“I reluctantly volunteered for what I thought would be an assignment that wouldn’t involve my boots being on the ground, i.e. naval forces.”

“So what happened?”

“They sent my boots and my ass to be on the ground.”

He thought for a moment. “Can you see why Falloonian Elders think your species might need recalling?”

Sunday, September 12, 2021

A HOME

 The Alien C.W. and I were walking about the farm talking, he in his best impression of Albert Einstein and I as, well, I'm stuck with myself. We were taking bets on whether we could solve the pressing crisis in the availability of affordable housing.

He had been silent for a spell, but then turned and began to speak. “Someone once said that ‘the poor will be with us always.’ Is this not true?”

“What? That someone said it or that we are stuck with the poor and huddled masses that Lady Liberty welcomes with such graciousness?”

“This is no time for levity,” he said. “Did someone say that?”

“Yes,” I said, “the Galilean is credited with that bit of wisdom.”

“Was he correct?”

“I don’t know. Maybe he missed it this time. Or maybe he’s changed his mind during the last two thousand years.”

“You are familiar with this Abraham Maslow and his so-called ‘hierarchy of needs’ are you not?”

“A passing acquaintance,” I said. “We’re not joined at the hips, or anything like that.” I forgot about his beloved shape of Lefty and Lucky, the conjoined twins.

“You know… you are still being pissy.”

“I think you mean ‘pithy’ don’t you?”

His Galactic Universal Translator hummed. “I’ll stand by what I said.”

“You always trust your Gut, then?”

“Consider the need for basic shelter,” he said. “That was one of Herr Maslow’s most basic needs, am I right?”

“So far so good.”

“I’ve done some research,” he said.

Oh hell. I hate it when he does this to me. “And?”

“The places that currently have affordable housing available are those where many people do not want to live.”

“To a large extent. Some neighborhoods in pre-Katrina New Orleans broke the pattern, and ‘pre-gentrification Greenwich Village. A few still exist.”

“And the places that need affordable housing are the places where many want to live.”

“One might say so.”

“Ostensimately in order to have homes that appreciate in value along with basic retail and services?”

I think you mean ‘ostensibly’ but yes.”

He consulted his GUT. “Ostensibly, they want services, but don’t want the service workers nearby.”

“One might say so.”

“ And if we could  build affordable housing in those very places to which people are fleeing in such droves …,”

“That’s not a likely prospect.”

“Why?”

“Another day. Another walk.”

“If we could place said affordable housing there on the free market, experience indicates that it will not remain affordable for long.”

“That seems to be the case.”

“Then why does a new study indicate that if we just made it easier to build low-cost housing in high-growth cities, the problem would solve itself?”

“Because the study was done by east-coast grads of ‘Ivy-League Schools’ and not by people who need basic shelter or those who profit from housing.”

He stroked his chin and drew on his pipe. After exhaling a dense, choking cloud of smoke he said, “That doesn’t make any sense. Helping the poor from a comfortable room on a full stomach doesn’t actually scream empathy, now does it? Clichés will not solve the affordable housing crisis, only bold action that has, to this point been only voiced by prophets, philosophers, and penniless preachers. Am I correct?”

“Let me get back to you on that.” He was on a roll but I was wearying of our talk.

“I mean, wouldn’t that be like appointing a group of women to create laws addressing this sexual addiction among the males of your species? Is this how you seek the truth?”

I turned to look at him. “Hey,” I said. “Let’s go check on the football scores.”