Ian Anderson 5 p.m., Oct. 27
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- The Abnormal Width of Normal Heights
Homeless Alien Kept a Diary (a short story)
(Editor’s Note: all surviving pages from this diary were found by nine year-old Jiffy Krondinkle of Prairie Doom, Oklahoma, and they appear here with the permission of Jiffy’s parents, Kinky and Darfinia. Though their names might suggest that the Krondinkles themselves are aliens, DNA testing has thus far proven inconclusive. They remain, as far as we can prove, fully human and deserving of our thanks for discovering, and so generously sharing, this groundbreaking piece of extraterrestrial narrative and commentary.)
* * *
My name is Phil. I loathe December. Everything smells like pinecones, and all the inhabitants worship an obese burglar who seems to have a fixation with other people’s children. And his uniform, also, is in dire need of redesign. He would frighten our offspring to the point of catatonia. (Edit: redact this sample text; may offend hosts.)
* * *
A neighbor in the alley recently told me, “Sometimes you will be making love to a beautiful woman when you will notice that she has a huge dry booger sticking out of her nose.”
This is magnificent art.
* * *
Mona implores her friend, “You don’t understand, Diane. He’s a sex addict. If I don’t f-ck him on the first date I’ll have no chance of marrying him!”
* * *
“The booger may be shaped like Florida or California, but never like Colorado or Utah. West Virginia and Hawaii yes, but certainly not Arizona and Wyoming.”
This is natural geometry.
* * *
That night, Diane’s husband, an otherwise tolerable fellow, will spend twenty minutes dissecting a Burgertown commercial, claiming the only way they can be serving Angus beef for a buck ninety-nine is if they are spraying regular discount beef with some kind of cheap, watered down, ten percent Angus juice. He asserts that all regulatory loopholes operate like this.
“And that’s why the average working person has no chance.”
“Because of junkfood beef?” Diane asks.
“Exactly because of that. You see what I’m saying.”
“I don’t, but I’ll pretend I do.” This she resents.
As such, she will not have sex with him, in any form, until the following Valentine’s Day, four months in the future, when he will send her flowers at work and leave chocolates under her pillow that night. Though the chocolates will melt and ruin her favorite sheets, he will also leave her a card, featuring a photo of an impossibly jovial creature, and inside he will write desperately, genuinely, “Please. I love you. Let me in.”
* * *
Telling the beautiful woman, the one with the gargantuan booger shaped like Italy protruding from her nostril, actually voicing to her that she has a peninsula of crud jutting out from one of her facial orifices, this is a delicate and conflicting matter. If that hanging crud should detach itself and fall away from her face on its own, all the better; in that case, one should feel that the grace of Divine Providence hath bestowed on them an extra bounty.
* * *
When I use free public Wi-Fi for retrieval of probe data^, it can result in temporary signal disruptions and a secretion closely related in substance and texture to latte foam. Subjects have not been overly affected so far. Personal: the barista at Starbucks reminds me of her so much; for a moment I felt congested by it. I am clear now and expect no further impediments.
(^Conversion of data has thus far proven more accurate with spinals than with cranials or rectals.)
* * *
The aforementioned Angus beef obsessive had, a year before, overheard his son from a previous marriage (a recently discharged Marine) say the following to someone in a bar, possibly a woman but they were all extremely intoxicated and he can’t be sure:
“I put the cock in Caucasian!”
Dad swelled with more pride than he ever had, even more than when they’d killed a bear together at the zoo, or the circus, or wherever it had been.
His son’s transformation had been a quick one, while at the same time having never actually occurred. In third grade, the boy was caught by his father trying on a pair of his sister’s underwear. By fourth grade, the boy was playing tackle football, torturing classmates with butane, and hunting defenseless animals in public parks. To this day, however, he wears a bra underneath his ammo vest, and his father is none the wiser.
* * *
Two women – one with eyes as big as apples (Mona), the other too skinny to eat a grape (Diane) – approach the Xanax gumball machine in the employee lounge. Mona puts a quarter into the machine, then turns the knob. Commerce ensues.
Mona: “I’ll probably have to give him a hand-job under the table at dinner just to get a second date!”
She takes her blue gumball from the machine and pops it into her mouth, chewing eagerly.
Diane: “Mona, listen to yourself. Please call one of those radio shows. The kind with the nice therapist who talks like the tough-minded friend I’ve never been to you.”
Mona: “There isn’t any radio anymore.”
Diane: “Online then. There’s shows they do on the computer.”
Mona: “Online radio. I’d rather play a porn theatre in Peoria. I need legitimacy. I need to f-ck him, marry him, get pregnant and be done with it. Life I mean. We have to get moving, all of us. The sun is burning out as we speak. Do you know how many of your cells die every day?”
Diane: “Listen to yourself, it’s not healthy.”
Mona: “I agree. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest that listening to oneself is not even possible.”
Diane: “That’s not what I mean.”
Mona: “Well, too bad, that’s what I mean.”
* * *
Panty-boy the ex-Marine, his soul now older than his father’s via the war, sits with his dad for hours in the woods (so that is where they do it!), waiting for a deer or a Volkswagen, or something to shoot. He fingers the bra under his ammo vest.
“What are you doing?” his father asks.
“Adjusting the strap, it’s digging into my shoulder.”
“I believe it, those shells can feel pretty heavy.”
“Mostly it’s my bust. I need a professional fitting. Bloomingdales is good I hear.”
* * *
If – for reasons of physical dysfunction, embarrassment, or hygienic concerns – one gets to the point of having to say something to that beautiful woman grinding on top of you, the woman with the booger so expansive that it has its own planning commission (his words, not mine), then it is recommended that you do so in a foreign language, preferably French or Spanish, or one of the languages of Romance, while gently wiping away the crispy and crinkled impediment with a well disguised motion of your knuckle or thumb or smallest and least hairy toe. If questioned about it, one should answer in mumbles of pleasure, concluding with the line: “You’re so breathtaking, it makes me want to smush our bugs together.” Be aware that here she may appear confused, or possibly sickened. At this point, the use of technique 16G-27, as illustrated in the manual, is highly recommended.^
(^Note to self: for random or unplanned probes, always use Temp-Skin Ultra with auto-eject.)
* * *
Panty-boy the ex-Marine’s father ignores his son when the young man speaks about bra straps. Two nights earlier, however, in the fitness room of their condo complex, and for the first time in his life, he – dad – had found another man sexually attractive. Still surprised by it, now he was having a realization: that his son is not real but is only an illusion of his own other self.
Parenthood is such a learning experience, he thinks.
Thus, for Halloween, Diane’s husband dresses up as Lady Gaga. He wears a silver afro wig, seven inch heels, and pants so tight they shove his diminishing “manhood” (their quotes) up into his churning abdomen. He looks like a woman down there now. Their son has been missing for seven months. His father still questions his existence. His mother, however, knows that their son has gone to New York City, run off to the bright lights of Broadway, to be a substitute ballet teacher in the jail system, a variation on his life’s dream. One must always adapt, this is a philosophy all of their creatures must adhere to.
* * *
Mona is married now, pregnant with nonuplets, all boys. Nine of them. It turns out this man wasn’t a sex addict after all, just a very keen shot, with ambitious little fish, and with dimples to factually die for. But he is poor, not at all the wealthy man he makes himself out to be. He tried to live inside her with their babies, but Mona evicted him and obtained a protective order from the Bureau of Wooden Hammers and Black Robes.
Last week, that new cable channel placed a camera crew inside her uterus, in order to film what they call A Reality Show, and the proceeds will pay for diapers and a torso transplant for their unfathomably engorged mother.
* * *
It has come to my attention that, somehow, they cannot transplant full torsos here yet. They seem to have enough trouble with tomatoes and flowers, and useful thoughts
* * *
Diane, one evening not too long ago, turned into a book, just as that blessed Lot’s Wife had turned into a pillar of salt, in one of those stories in their most popular book, the really long one they make us read in training. She was so “human,” as they say, Lot’s Wife, that’s what I remember the most from our studies, and they couldn’t even be bothered enough to give her a name, just Lot’s Wife. Wodknuckers, all of them. It is my opinion that she deserved an award: who wouldn’t want to take a last look at your lifelong home as it perished? Especially if you are like them, creatures who run on emotion as much as, if not more than, reason. How could you not look back? How could anyone? Even planetary strangers can recognize this quite easily, but the Almighty apparently could not. It must be emphasized that this Higher Power of theirs seems petty and thinly drawn in too many chapters, a two dimensional character at best, as they like to describe these things. A complete and comprehensive rewrite would be recommended.
Diane’s pages, however – Diane who turned into a hardcover commemorative edition – her pages are gilded and smooth, her spine more sturdy and stiff than ever. Even her dust jacket is a winter coat for the new CPU in her organs. Though I later learned that this, like her husband’s Gaga outfit, was only a Halloween costume, I nonetheless found something permanent in it. A meta-4 they might call it. She wore the book for several weeks after Halloween. When she finally stopped wearing it, she told her husband that she had only done so because, in her words, “This bookmark is killing me.” Her husband had helped her remove the outfit, had embraced her for fifteen minutes when she was finally out of it, and her unbathed odor was delightful to him. She loved him for it, more than she ever had, but she extracted a concession.
“Just tell me you remember our son. He teaches ballet to shoplifters.”
“Of course I remember him. Who do you think taught him to wear that tutu?”
“Isn’t that the other way around? Who taught who?”
On her husband’s face: a smile so faint only a dog could hear it.
“I should send that big sonofabitch a nice leotard,” he says, a stubborn lump in his throat.^
(^Not a probe reference; file under “emotional anatomy.”)
* * *
Everything about their Love, which is most of their being, is nearly impossible to graph, not the happiness when it is obvious, nor the opposite when it is so. Numbers do not capture this intangible, nor do symbols. Often they distort it. This will always be our problem. And the portion of their computer, the brain they call it, that controls their bodies is the same portion that controls their dreams. The overlap is profound and unwieldy, and generally is not even appreciated by them. As a result, in my opinion, this project is doomed. I recommend a termination of all research in this area. It is a fruitless tree, as the humans say. Unless we are prepared to replant the entire orchard. And I never heard any discussion of this, in any committee, as being the end goal.
* * *
Those jerks at the Department are probably never going to process my transfer request. They are just going to ignore it. Someone doesn’t like me there.
I really hate the water here. Even their pets are ugly. (Edit: redact previous three lines; may offend Department and hosts.)
I must acquire chocolate today.
* * *
I miss the rings around home.
I miss the feel of her shadow on my face. The real her, that is, and not the barista at Starbucks, who has since resigned her position.
* * *
Do we have a thing like Love back on our sphere? I do not precisely recall. But I am certain it would never get past the Ideas & Options Committee. Whatever the merits, I do believe it could be useful in the development of similar but less irrational secretions and outcomes. Or perhaps more than similar.
* * *
I do miss her shadow so. Even more than the food.
This is unprecedented.
* * *
But what about the story of the ravishing woman and her hanging nose crud? I must consult the manuals again after trying to locate dinner. I am not certain of my previous remedy, and I would not want to end up in that position without exit commands.
My neighbor in the alley, the man who told me the booger tale, no longer wakes up. This is also a position I do not aspire to.
* * *
I know those bastards back at the Department are laughing at my transfer request. Soon it will simply disappear. Like me. I never should’ve filed that complaint last year. And I will not redact this.
* * *
Oh to see those glittering rings in the morning sky!