11.25.2003 by , every Tuesday.
I found time to write this week. As always, comments and guest work are wonderful things that you should send to me.
They came from outer space and landed in the park behind my house, between some spruce trees and next to the jungle gym. I was barbecuing in my back yard: two nice juicy steaks. Maybe they were tempted by the thick barbecue smell, because next thing I know they were standing in front of me, waving their spindly hands a little and looking curious.
I tried not to look nervous. Pulling up a corner of my apron ("BORN TO GRILL", it says), I wiped my sweaty forehead, sort of casual-like. "What brings you fellows to our neighborhood?" I asked.
The tallest one, who was the skinniest and also the most purple, replied, "Curiosity. Mere peaceful curiosity, sir, I assure you."
"Would you mind to show us around?" asked the shortest one. His voice sounded like it echoed twice in a metal tube before it came out.
I put down my barbecue fork, as slowly and calmly as I could manage. "Timmy," I yelled, "come watch the barbecue, OK? I'll be back in a couple minutes."
A youthful holler of assent came from inside the house. I looked briefly into the shimmering eyes of the visitors, trying not to stare (nothing says it ain't impolite on other planets, too), and then ushered them around the house towards the road.
"What do you want to see?" I asked.
"Everything," said the tall one. "Those moving vehicles, for instance. They are?"
"Cars," I said.
"Are they good?" asked the short one. "Are they good things?"
I thought a little. "Hum. Yeah. They're a great invention. They make going from place to place pretty easy. Shopping... work..." I was surprised. I'd never really thought about cars too much before; not more than does it need fixing, and how much does it cost, and does it look hot. "I don't know how we ever got around before cars."
"But why are not your places closer? Your food and work places?" asked the tall one, clearly puzzled. He made gentle swirly gestures with his hands.
I scratched my chin. "Well, I guess cars let us live far from those places," I said.
"So before cars the places were close?"
"Yeah, maybe, and maybe people had the time to walk a little far," I said.
The short alien made a grindy noise, the sound my son's computer makes when it's thinking hard. "So before this invention, back in the old time, the places you needed to be were closer, and people had more time."
"Uh, yeah, maybe."
"And cars made it so people could build these places farther away?"
The creature raised a long finger."But what if someone builds a building that is too far?"
I thought about it. We were walking down the sidewalk, under the shadows of the sycamores, and a few cars passed by, their windshields glinting in the sun. "Maybe then we'll build faster cars," I said. "Ones that can go farther. And me and my neighbors'll buy them."
"I see." The tall alien nodded in a strange sort of weaving way. "These cars, and places, they are like partners that live off each other. Independent of ordinary people, such as you."
"Uh..." I felt confused. I wasn't afraid any more, I was too busy trying to figure this out. "Yeah," I said slowly. "Maybe so."
"And they get farther and farther and faster and so."
Suddenly there was a sort of watery popping from a triangular device on the short one's shoulder. The creature turned to his companion. "Vaxxic," he said, or something like that. There were a lot of xx's anyway. "I am afraid that we have a meeting to attend, and must now take our leave," he said to me, very politely. "Thank you for the tour. It has been most interesting."
"Most interesting," chimed in the tall creature. "Good luck to you. Farewell." They nodded, and I nodded back, awkwardly. Then they went back towards the park. They had long legs so they could make it doubletime.
I stood there for a while, then started walking back to my yard and the grill. That's one thing I know a lot about. Barbecuing. I make a great steak.