Sunday, November 4, 2018
It was my time to ask C.W. questions. For once, he cooperated. I must have caught him on good day. He had assumed the shape of a learned professor after all. A few minutes before, I had been talking to what seemed like a reincarnation of Liberace. He left for few minutes and returned as a Carl Sagan clone. I was confused, and said so to him.
“How do you manage all this shape-shifting? Can all Falloonians do it so seamlessly? How do you make the changes?”
“You must have fallen asleep in your psychology and anatomy classes,” he said.
That hurt my feelings. “No,” I said, “I paid attention.”
“To what?” he said, making a mocking smile. “Was Mrs. Big Dope in your class?”
“Are you going to taunt me or teach me?”
“You probably think,” he said, “that you are seeing my shape now, right? You think that little rays shoot out from your eyes … little emissions so to speak … land on me and send back what they find.”
I tried to think back. “Not really,” I said. I think my eyes are just receptors, or something like that.”
“Maybe you’re not totally stupid,” he said.
That was a relief.
“Suppose,” he said, “that I don’t change shapes at all.”
“But I see you.”
“Shut up and listen,” he explained.
“Suppose that, because we are a superior species in so many ways, we Falloonians have perfected the relationship between our beings as senders and your beings as receptors. For sight, that would involve how we control information that strikes your retinas, triggering the signals that are sent to a region in the back of your brain. There, they are translated, in the words of your scientist James E. Alcock, into “colors, textures, and forms that are then compared with past experience.”
“Then the process constructs an image.”
“Actually, a construction. Does that explain how you see me in different forms?”
“But I can touch you.”
“And hear you.”
“I guess I could taste you if necessity demanded it.”
“And smell you. Lord I can smell you sometimes.”
“Same question. Do you want to learn or be cute?”
“Do you mean to tell me that your shapes are merely constructions that you signal?”
“Keep trying. You are on the right path but walking wobbly.”
“You could signal something evil or non-productive.”
“Only for weaker minds. I may be programmed for periodic mischief but not for creating evil. I couldn’t if I wanted to. Remember, I’m a mental construction designed to promulgate belief, and various belief systems demand specific levels of cognizance.”
“You mean belief systems exist in a hierarchy of sorts?”
“I mean, in the parlance of your species, that dumb is as dumb does.”
“But what if a renegade from your planet came to earth with evil plans to energize the masses in revolt against a stable society?”
“That could cause a cause a problem. Won’t happen though.”
“The shapes involved would be so strange and weird that even the most perceptively challenged among you would find them repellent.”
“Wait,” I said, “Didn’t you imply that our creation of these so-called constructions depends on preciously held beliefs?”
He looked at me sharply, thought, and said. “I’m tired. Have you learned enough for today? I think I’ll go watch the news.”
Sunday, October 28, 2018
“What do you mean? And stop whining.”
“She needs to be taught a lesson.”
Jeez. C.W. was in a dreadful state. Remember how Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker looked when they got caught? Put their faces on Steve Buscemi’s body and you would have it. We were out on the patio and he had just interrupted my evening reading.
“It’s not my fault,” he said, wiping his nose.
“What is not your fault?” I said.
“What Mrs. Big Dope is going to tell you about.”
I put my book down. “What have you done now?”
“I didn’t do it.”
I cocked my head like I do when I know he’s lying, which is most of the time when he is in this shape. “You didn’t do it?”
“Well, maybe I did but it’s not my fault.”
“You are confusing me.”
“She trapped me into an innocent mistake. I would never think to do something like that on my own.”
“You’ll buy her a new one, won’t you?”
“A new what?”
“Oh no, C.W. What have you done now?”
“I was taking care of things. Cleaning the kitchen like you told me to.”
“She laid this trap for me. It’s her fault.”
“What kind of trap?”
“Recipes. Food. You know, ingredients. How could I resist? I just happened to walk by.”
“She obviously wanted me to learn to cook Earthling food.”
“She told you that?”
“She didn’t have to. She just left all the things out like she wanted me to.”
“I knew she would get angry if I didn’t try. I was just following orders.”
“Like written or oral orders?”
“More like implied orders. She’s good at those.”
“What happened to the microwave?”
“Just a small incident. The controls weren’t working properly. The unit must have been bad from the factory.”
“A small incident?”
“And not my fault at all. I’m blameless. I’m the best person on Earth at operating machinery. It couldn’t have been my fault.”
“But you were involved.”
“I was a victim. Pure and simple.” He started with the crying again. We heard a scream from inside the house.
“She’ll be coming out here now,” he said. “Quick. Let’s decide how we’ll punish her for the awful thing she did to me.”
“Are you serious?”
“She is to blame because you destroyed something?”
“She should have known better. I’d lock her in her room for a day or two.”
“And what reason would I give?”
“Making me a victim. Poor innocent me.” He resumed whining and crying.
We heard footsteps.
“Got to run,” he said. “Lock her up. Please. Lock her up.”
And he was gone. Where does he learn such things?
Sunday, October 21, 2018
C.W. was getting bored so I decided to take him for a ride. It’s not good for my marital condition when he gets too bored. Trust me. I told him to take on a shape that wouldn’t attract attention. He left for few minutes and came back as Richard Nixon. I sent him to try again. He came back this time as a thirty-something wearing khaki pants and shirt with a pith helmet.
“Take me to the zoo,” he said.
“Ditch the helmet and I will.”
He protested but gave in and off we went. I usually enjoy these trips since it keeps him interested and I usually learn something. After all these years, he still finds the incarceration of animals a strange entertainment venue, but it gives him data for his incessant reports. Besides, it allows him to study something besides me for a while. As I say, it allows me to relax.
I have a bad knee, so we hadn’t walked long before I needed a rest. “No problem,” he said. “I’ll be right back. He wandered off to a large wildlife enclosing a collection of chimpanzees. As he stood by the enclosure, a couple of them walked as close as they could to where he stood. Strange as it may sound, they appeared to be conversing. Two shapely teenage girls walked in front of me and I ignored C.W. until he plopped beside me on the bench. “Odd,” he said.
“The chimps. They are bored out of their minds.”
“Yeah. They’ve been planning an escape for years, but haven’t come up with a workable plan.”
“They want to leave here?”
I shrugged. He said, “Years ago the handlers were teaching them some sign language but they quit.”
“I only have their opinion, but it seems they began to converse with some of the hearing-impaired visitors, looking for sympathizers.”
“That’s when the keepers decided that they were educated enough.”
We reversed directions. For some reason, he always insists on moving counter-clockwise when we visit supermarkets or exhibits of any sort. Don’t ask why.
“I want to talk to the big cats,” he said.
We walked to the exhibit. I sat while he talked, first to a male lion with a magnificent main blowing gently in the breeze. As the conversation became animated, the lion motioned to a sleek lioness who wandered up and joined the conversation. Since the conversation seemed mostly to consist of facial gestures, passers-by didn’t notice the exchange of information. I watched until C.W. shook his head and walked to where I sat. “Strange,” he said.
“Old man lion is the edgy one. He says there ain’t enough babes to keep him happy.”
“That sounds familiar.”
“His ‘old lady,’ as he calls her, says she never had it so good. She did all the hunting, childbearing, and such back on the savanna while he sat around and looked for new chicks to grab. Now they just throw her food and she only has to bring it to him. Says she’ll put up with this as long as they feed her and he leaves her alone.”
And so it went. Each animal had its story. The rhino was lonely. The eagle was ashamed. The polar bear was confused. The birds sang, but not as energetically as their brothers and sisters in the free world. The monkeys tried to lure us closer for some reason. The elephants thought C.W. was funny. All the animals were different. All were the same.
This brought us to the reptile building. I chose to wait outside while he went in to visit. Gone for a long time, when he returned he was shaking his head.
“What’s up?” I asked.
“You wouldn’t believe it, but the King Cobra has the others cowed.”
“Bragging about how many innocent people he killed before they caught him in India. Threatening to kill other snakes. Has the rattlers and the cotton-mouths on his side. Outlining plans for escaping and going on a murder spree.”
“He’s that unhappy?”
“Oh, he’s not unhappy at all. Has the best of everything. Biggest cage. Best food. Best care. First in everything. They call him ‘Ophiophagus Blowhardus,’ but only behind his back.”
“And he’s not satisfied?”
“No, the others claim he is faking friendliness with the handlers so they’ll get careless when they feed or care for him.”
“He’ll zap them, say the others, and then take extra food.”
“Why? If he has everything, why would he want more?”
“I asked them that very question.”
“They just looked at me and shot out their tongues. One finally answered.”
“What did it say?”
“It said, ‘Well after all, he is a snake,' as if that explained it all.
Sunday, October 14, 2018
C.W. walked in yesterday in one of the strangest shapes yet. I would say he looked like a cross between a TV evangelist and a clown. Yeah, I know, but even for him this looked strange.
“I need money,” he said.
“Money. I need a car.”
“Why do you need a car? You aren’t supposed to be driving.”
“I need more money then,” he said.
“I'll need a chauffeur, too.”
“And you need a car and chauffeur for what reason?”
“So I can travel around teaching folks how to get rich with my prosperity gospel.”
“Your prosperity gospel?”
“Yeah, I’ll even preach a sermon for you.”
“I have a better idea,” I said. “Why don’t you preach one to yourself? Then you could buy a car yourself.”
“I did,” he said. “But I spent it on a new airplane. Your friends, by the way, are very generous.”
“Yeah. All I had to do was tell them that you needed an operation to save your life and didn’t have the money for it.”
“And you used the money to buy an airplane?”
“Now I need something to get me to the airport.”
“Are you crazy?”
“Certainly not. Everyone loves me. But the rising costs of salvation never cease,” he said. “Every time you fill one need, you need another.”
“Have you talked to the Galilean about this?”
“Nah, he’s stuck in the First Century, still thinks about all that goodness, mercy, and grace junk. Besides, he thinks airplanes are getting a little too close to home, if you know what I mean.”
“Have you thought about earning your own money?”
“When there are so many people around already earning money than they spend, or sitting on savings they may never need?”
What about a job?”
“What happened to your job helping the police?”
“What job helping the police?”
“You were going to use your psychic powers to help them solve crimes.”
“I was not. That’s something you just made up. I never was going to do such a thing.”
“Oh yes you were. I have a stack of letters terminating you for not producing results.”
“Did you know I’m going to sell your Gibson ES-335 S to help pay for my car?”
“And I have two of Mrs. Big Dope’s antique Singer sewing machines on the market.”
I ran from the room to check. He hadn’t of course. But by the time I returned, he had stolen my wallet and my cell phone, including the telephone numbers of all my friends. I couldn’t find him anywhere.
For the life of me, I can’t imagine where he learned such tricks. He must have brought them with him from Falloonia.
Sunday, October 7, 2018
One day this week C.W. and I had a nice talk while sitting on the balcony of our condo in Little Rock. He seemed a little fidgety, so I let him lead the conversation. He had taken on, at my request, a rather innocuous shape so as not to alarm the other residents. I would say he looked a bit like Sean Connery toward the end of his James Bond Career. We talked of a number of things before he suddenly took a sip of wine and looked at me funny. As I say, he seemed nervous about something.
“Tell me,” he said, “about this legal concept called ‘statute of limitations.’ I am terribly curious.”
“Statute of limitations?”
“I … uh … just find it interesting, … yeah, I need to make a report on it.”
“It’s a legal term,” I said. “It’s a law, as I understand it, that forbids prosecutors from charging someone with a crime that was committed more than a specified number of years before.”
“A specified number of years?”
“How many years?”
“I think it depends.”
“The particular crime.”
“Oh.” We sat in silence for a few moments and enjoyed the view. Then he turned to me and said. “Why would they set a limit on prosecuting a crime?”
“Jeez,” I said. “I’m no legal scholar. But I suspect they may want prosecutions to begin in a timely manner while evidence is still available.”
“Well,” as with any aspect of public administration, funds are limited and perhaps they believe that suspects who live open, public, and so-called "reformed" lives, should be allowed to live free from the fear of capture.”
“So, it involves the concept of mercy?”
“I suppose so. Why are you asking me all this?”
“I, uh … no reason. Just interested.” He sipped his wine. “So all crimes sort of have an expiration date?”
“No,” I said. “Some enjoy no statute of limitations: murder, rape, treason, crimes against minors, those sorts of things. It varies, as I understand it, from state to state.”
He went silent. I said, “You seem awfully interested.”
He ignored me. “In other words,” he said, “some crimes have no forgiveness limitation?”
“Correct,” I said. “Say you are married and have a beautiful young daughter. Someone viciously attacks her and rapes her when she is 16. She becomes pregnant as a result.”
“That’s awful to contemplate,” he said.
“It certainly is,” I said. “The legal system forces her to raise the resulting child on her own. At what point would you assume the assailant committed no crime?”
He said nothing. I continued. “Maybe when your daughter turns 18? Maybe 20, 25, 30? Maybe the day she turns 40 and her daughter has a daughter of her own. You see the assailant walking the streets in the open, free and clear as of that date, maybe by now a successful member of society? Your own daughter has lived in poverty as a single mother and has never escaped the mental trauma the rape produced. On what date would you absolve him of the crime?”
“Mrs. Big Dope,” he said, obviously trying to divert the conversation, “being a highly intelligent and educated person, would understand all about this statute of limitations thing?”
I set my wine on a table and looked at him. “What did you do now?” I said.
He fidgeted. “Oh nothing,” he said. “I’m just trying to understand your species. That’s why I’m here, remember?”
“Spill,” I said.
“This murder thing, would it apply to plants? We regard them as living things on my planet.” Far away, on the western horizon, dark clouds began to form.
As I watched the clouds, I said, “My wife doesn’t necessarily operate, in terms of forgiveness, under a strict rule of law. Women sometimes remember things longer than men do. Legal statutes would be a lot different if they wrote them.”
He sighed. “Don’t I know it,” he said.
Sunday, September 30, 2018
“Just what is it that your women want?”
“What’s it to you if I want to hang out with real he-men?”
“What the hell?” The figure seated across from me was a new one for C.W. It was a well-configured man in a business suit, handsome in a boyish way and smiling as he asked the question.
“I’m counting on you to tell me,” he said.
“Tell you what?”
“About the females of your species, your women.”
“I’m not sure I would be talking like that in this house.”
“First of all, they aren’t ‘my’ women. Second, you’re on pretty thin ice with one who lives here.”
“My point exactly.”
“And that point is?”
“Don’t we take care of her?”
“Take care of her?”
“Are you crazy?”
“No, I graduated from the best learning center in Falloonia. I can’t be crazy.”
“How did you get into the best learning center in Falloonia?”
“On my merits. It had nothing to do with the fact that a member of my Formation Team sits on the Board of Falloonian Elders.”
“Is it difficult to be allowed to study in the best learning center?”
“Not if you are a Phorchunataseid.
“What is that?”
“Hard to explain. But back to these women of yours.”
“Hold it. I told you that they are not my women.”
“Anyway. What is it that they want exactly? It seems they want to rule over us men. It’s like a Falloonian Uoondierfut wanting to sit on the Board of Elders.”
“A Falloonian species used in Formation Teams. Don’t worry about them. Just tell me about your own lesser gender.”
“Where on Earth did you find that descriptor?”
“In that book you gave me to read.”
“And didn’t I tell you not to take it literally? Even the Galilean warned you about that.”
“Yeah, He also warned me that you get a little carried away at times.”
“Carried away? How?”
“With all your concern about everyone having ‘a seat at the table’ as he puts it, even though he told you that rejects are going to be around for ages to come. Is that what your lesser gender wants, a seat at the table?”
“Among other things, I imagine.”
“Well they can’t have mine unless they can take it forcibly. They aren’t much into taking things by force the way we are, are they?”
“You know what, C.W.?”
“You’ve chosen many shapes and forms since we’ve been acquainted, but I think this is the most despicable.”
“Now you’ve hurt my feelings,” he said, wiping a tear from an eye.”
“You’re going to have more than your feelings hurt if you keep talking that way.”
“I knew you would take their side. You’re just not fair,” he said, reminding me of a young child who’s just been told no. His face changed to a stark visage of rage.
“Who have you been hanging out with?” I asked.
“None of your business.”
“Have you been sneaking off to that hunting club again?”
“None of your business.”
“No wonder you came in here hating women.”
“What’s it to you if I want to hang out with real he-men?”
“Who don’t like women?”
“None of your business.”
“Remember the talk we had about being on the wrong side of history?”
“Don’t worry about history. We’re going to control it, and you might better decide which side you want to be on. Our side will get what it wants no matter how we have to take it.”
“And then what will you do?”
His face turned blank. His eyes struck for something far way. Veins in his temples throbbed. He sniffed, refocused and stared at me, his eyebrows forming an M.
“What do you mean, what are we going to do then?”
Sunday, September 23, 2018
What can you do on a rainy day when you are cooped up with a restless alien who is in deep trouble with a third member of your household? The alien is nattily attired man of maybe 23 who looks like he just left a fraternity party at some expensive private college. The third member is my wife.
“I have no recollection of doing it.” he said. He was lounging on a couch drinking a beer.
“You say you didn’t break her priceless heirloom practicing your golf putt?”
“Isn’t that what I just said?”
“No,” I think you said you didn’t have a recollection of doing it.”
“There you go,” he said. “If I had done something that thoughtless, I would have remembered it. I have a photographic memory you know.”
“You always remember?”
“Like the time you used her grandmother’s photograph to practice with your air rifle?”
“That’s ridiculous. I’m not going to honor that hypothetical question with the truth.”
While he seemed to be considering whether that sentence had turned out he way he intended, I broke in. “I seem to remember that’s what she claimed.”
“That was a long time ago and I hadn’t been here but a short time.”
“That excuses things?”
“Falloonians like to experiment when they first arrive on your planet. I was just having fun. Inipurtseeastrms will be Inipurtseeastrms. You can’t blame them for that. You would never allow us membership on your planet if you didn’t allow us a lane at sea that is a regularly used route for vessels. I am a man, after all.”
“I think,” I said, “that we allow you a good deal of ‘leeway’ as you tried to put it, man or no man.”
“Then you understand I was just trying to learn Earthiness by having a little fun.”
Earthiness? I would have to remember that. “Mischief is okay if you are just having fun?”
“I think so. Don't you?”
“Were you just having fun when you sold her battery-powered drill to the junk man?”
“Women aren’t supposed to have those kinds of things. They are supposed to have feminine things that keep them in the kitchen and bedroom. Your country would run a lot smoother if they did.”
“If I were you I wouldn’t let her hear you say that. She still remembers the time you and Rodney used her best colander to pan for gold in Bayou Meto.”
“A little adventure never hurt anyone. Why is she so sensitive?”
“I don’t know. Why don’t you return the ZZ Top CD you stole from her and ask her then?”
“It was someone else who did that. I have a witness.”
“And who might that be?”
“My counterpoint in Mississippi. He could vouch for me.”
“Why doesn’t he?”
“He had to return to Falloonia for a, uh, … conference. Yeah, a conference. But he definitely saw that it was someone else.”
“And who might that have been?”
“How should I know?” He sat up and looked at me with as serious a face as I’ve ever seen on him.
“Look,” he said.
“Look,” he said.
“Us men got to stick together.”
“And if we don’t?”
“And if we don’t, it’s going to be hell to pay. What if Mrs. Big Dope forms a gang?”
“A gang of what?”
“Other pissed-off women.”
“Pretty soon, they’d be wanting to speak out loud in church.”
“You don’t even go to church.”
“I heard one of those guys on TV say it, so it must be true.”
“You believe TV preachers?”
“When they say things I can profit from.”
“I can tell you something you can profit from.”
“Don’t bother,” he said. “Mrs. Big Dope has given me three things already. I’m supposed to master them within three days or else.”
“Or else what?”
“She didn’t say, but it sounded bad.”
“And what were those three things?”
“Repentance, reflection, and remorse. She said they might, just might, lead to a fourth ‘R’ if I tried hard.”
“And that would the fourth be?”
“Redemption,” he said, “but that’s going to cost me a bundle.”