“Don’t let my wife catch you doing that,” I said.
“You know. Smoking in the house. She’s warned you before.”
“I’m not afraid of her. Are you?”
“Hell yes,” I said. “I recommend it very highly.”
“What? Fear or Mrs. Big Dope?”
“Both,” I said. “Or don’t Falloonians experience fear?”
“Anxiety,” he said. “We sometimes experience anxiety.”
“Oh really? Like when?”
“Like,” he said and stopped to think. “Like when we worry that the illogic that pervades your species might clean, polish, or manipulate by the application of pressure and friction off on us.”
“That our illogic might rub off on you?” Then I decided not to rise to the bait, as he took a long drag from his cigarette and exhaled. “You’re going to die,” I said.
“Did you know,” he said, “that the Victorians in England used the word ‘die’ as a euphemism for a sexual orgasm?”
I was pleased at his vocabulary and the fact that he was doing outside research. I nodded and asked, “And did you pick up that bit of trivia there?” I nodded toward the newspaper.
“Oh no,” he said. “I read that in one of Mrs. Big Dope’s books.”
“My wife doesn’t read books like that,” I said.
“How do you know what she reads? You’re always asleep and snoring away by the time she begins to read. You might be surprised.”
I quickly moved to change the subject. “So is there anything interesting in the news today?”
“Illogic and contradictions, unless you understand what you people call evolution.”
“Most of the articles are stirring up fear,” he said. “Fear of the food we eat on the left, and fear of the people we meet on the right. Fear of everything else in the middle.”
I nodded. “So where is the illogical?”
“Here,” he said, motioning at the front page. “Seems that even in your largest city, the crime rate is dropping.” He motioned again. “There’s not a country in the world that wants to invade yours.” He opened the paper and nodded. “You are living well past any expectations, given the poor care you take of your bodies.” He lowered the paper. “Yours is one of the safest places on the planet.”
I sat thinking of all this. “Then why,” I said, “all the fear?”
“Evolution,” he said.
“We fear evolution?”
“Some of the least of those among you fear the concept,” he said, “but no, I mean your so-called evolutionary process creates the fear and anxiety.”
“Elucidate,” I said. He paused, and I could almost hear the whirring of his Galactic Universal Translator. “Your GUT giving you problems again?”
“My GUT is fine and I trust it,” he said. “Now, where was I? Oh, I remember.” He paused again. “You asked me to make something that is hard to understand clear or easy to comprehend.”
“Quite so,” I said, enjoying his discomfort. “Evolution and fear.”
“Imagine,” he said, “you are Australopithecus afarensis, one of your ancient cousins, roaming the savannah with your pals.”
I closed my eyes. “Okay,” I said.
“All of you are as tense as a mouse in a cat food factory,” he said, “watching for things that love to eat you, and those things are legion.”
“Except one of you is not tense, afraid, or nervous,” he said. “You are so laid back you could listen to a Jennifer Hudson song without flinching.”
“That’s pretty laid back,” I said
“My point exactly,” he said. “Now which of you do you think is going to be eaten first?”
I opened my eyes. “You mean the value of anxiety has lingered with us?”
“Stuck in your DNA like stink on …”
A voice exploded from the next room, “What the hell is that I smell?” I turned toward it. When I turned back, C.W. was gone and, by my hand, the cigarette burned in an ash tray, its smoke rising to curl in the form of a noose.