It is one of C.W.’s most contemplative shapes, sort of the face of a famer and the grooming of a fop. He exhibits a cross between hard-earned understanding and devil-may-care insouciance wearing a John Deere hat and stockbroker suspenders. Weird.
“Come in” he said. That was a strange thing for him to say for I was already in and partway through a cup of coffee, sitting across from him. It was his way of telling me that he had only just noticed me.
“What’s up? You look pensive this morning.”
“The Falloonian Elders are concerned. Very concerned.”
I looked at him. Sometimes, usually when he has been preparing reports to transmit back to his home planet, he assumes an annoying but alarming air of flippancy. Not today.
“Concerned, you say?”
“I think I said ‘very concerned’ if you happen to have been listening.”
“Okay. Very concerned about what?”
“The continued drift of your species toward a loss of its grip on reality.”
“They are very concerned.”
He leaned back in his chair. “Where shall I begin?” he said. He rubbed his chin and moved the bill of his cap an inch or two up upwards. “We know,” he said, “that intellectual progress does not occur in a straight line.” He waited for this to settle. “Remember the abyss that sucked the daylight from Europe following the introduction of your favorite religion? It was known as the ‘approaching black in shade era’ if I remember correctly.”
“The Dark Ages, I think you mean.”
“Whatever,” he said. “At its lowest point, your panspermian sponsors revisited and made some minor genetic adjustments and ‘viola,’ the light emerged.”
“I think you mean ‘voila’ if you don’t mind.”
“What you now call the Renaissance,” he said, ignoring me.
“Yes. I think that’s what happens. Our progress is up and down, hills, valleys, and plateaus.”
Like a roller-vehicle that moves easily without using power.”
“That’s roller-coaster and you need to have you Galactic Universal Translator worked on.”
“All GUT repair is postponed until after this unstable situation of extreme danger or difficulty.”
“And this crisis is what, exactly?”
“First, let’s kill all the reporters. I think one of your famous writers said that.”
“I think he said ‘lawyers,’ and what has that to do with us?”
“Scientists are next, don’t you see?”
“Then teachers, to be replaced by preachers.”
“Reason must go, to be replaced by political opportunism. Have you read about the long period of darkness between 1914 and 1946?”
“Many times,” I said. “I actually have known people who lived through it.”
“Would they have wanted you present leaders to have guided you through it?”
The thought of that stunned me. “You really are concerned,” I said. “Why? You can go back to the safety of your own planet at any time.”
“Scheduling,” he said.
“We had your planet scheduled for shutdown in accordance with current trends and now we must re-slide the cards over each other quickly and set a new schedule. We’re thinking of swapping you with Cedsuphucadhair. It has worse leadership than yours, but it is less prone to destruction.”
“So we are in real trouble, you think? That’s ‘re-shuffle’ by the way.”
“You’re not taking this seriously.”
“Oh, I am,” I said. “But we are a resilient species. We overcome things, even weird and strange things. Have you ever heard of Joseph McCarthy?”
He leaned back and exhaled. “He was sent as a test,” he said, “and things just got out of hand.”
“Will you help us?”
“We’ll try,” he said. “But we have to hurry. There are other issues awaiting you.”
“Oh? What issues?”
“I’ve been reading one of your books,” he said, shifting the conversation.
One by James Baldwin.”
“Something about someone’s room.”
“Would you tell me what issues?”
“Want to hear my favorite quote so far?”
Please, please … the issues.”
“I think it is either ‘The world is mostly divided between madmen who remember and madmen who forget. Heroes are rare,’ or another, ‘Nobody can stay in the Garden of Eden.’ Aren’t those great?”
“And what is our next crisis after we attend to the problem of our politics?”