Not Quite E-T
New Fiction, By Darcy Moline
MY MOTHER has sort of adopted
this short, out-of-work foreigner who's about half her age. He
sleeps on our broken-down couch in the living room which proves
that either he's as destitute as I'm afraid he is, or else that he
likes us so much he can't bear to part with us, even to find a better
place to sleep. Worst case: it's both.
I've no idea who he is or where he came
from. I don't even know his whole name, just that my Mother calls him
Georgie. He just sort of appeared at our back door about five months
ago, right at supper time, and he looked so skinny and pathetic that
Mom offered him something to eat.
He never said a word, just came in and Mom fed
He ate like he was starving, and
afterwards, he got up and did all the dishes not cringing and
creepy, but sort of dignified, like he was a nice person and grateful
and wanted to help. So she let him.
now he lives here. Cleans the house during the day, sits down and eats
dinner with us, and then does the dishes. Afterwards, he sort of hangs
out with Mom and me and watches TV. And when I go to bed, he curls up
on the couch and goes to sleep. He never talks. Not a word. But . . .
he's just really really nice to have around. He even helps me pick up
my stuff when Mom gets after me.
Mom likes him.
And I like him too. So no prob
right? He looks at Mom like he really cares about her. Kind of
pats her when he goes by her. And she likes that. She's always worked
really hard, and she's never had anybody but us kids. And that used to
show in her face, and the way she acted. And now she looks younger and
happier than I don't know than I can ever
Of course, Veronica, my
beautiful-but-stupid big sister, can't stand Georgie. She says you
can't keep a human being like a pet, and his living with us is probably
immoral and dangerously bad for our family's image. She's very
conscious of image right now, because she's going out with this
extremely handsome, important, richguy.
Victor and Veronica are made for
each other. They're both first-class
Although I have to say that it's
just possible that Victor is truly interested in my sister, because he
asked her (and imagine that me also!) to this big,
wonderful, gorgeous party that the rich important company he works for
gave a few days ago. And we went.
were a whole bunch of bigshotty congressional aides there and maybe
even some Representatives, for all I know. And I also saw somebody that
was on TV one time. Where? Don't know. "Meet thePress" maybe? Anyway,
what I remember most is that the other guys who were on it made
dog-meat out of him, asking him
At the party, I went and
listened to that dog-meat guy talking to somebody, and he was even
stupider in real life than on TV. Typical guest for a party Victor was
Of course Veronica loved
every minute of it.
But anyway, what I
was going to tell you about is how that party ruined my
The way it started was that Victor
came over to my sister and said, "He's here!" And about that time, the
biggest of the bigshots that were giving the party came out and said
something like, "Ladies and Gentlemen, our guest of honor has arrived."
And everybody got extremely quiet and a couple of the really
superannuated old biddies wearing slinky beaded dresses got really
excited, and one in a purple lame' dress, looked like she was going to
cry or something.
So in walked a bunch
of secret service types with phones in their ears, walking in a kind of
box-formation with their backs to somebody. Or maybe I should say to
Something. Yes, Some
That's a better word. Okay. Along
with them was Some
that was really, really . . . um what
can I say? Remarkable. I guess that'll
He (it?) looked like a . . . well,
like a Wogglebug! Yes, like that book character, H.M. Wogglebug, T.E.
He was a big, nasty ,magnified bug!
course, he's not a bug, really. He is a big, bug-like alien with a
buggish head, and compound eyes, and mandibles that go sideways instead
of up and down. (Reeeeealy creepy, trust me!) And you probably never
even heard of him because he is a truly tippytop secret of the Gov.
Unless of course you're grossly rich and important, in which case you
get to have him come to your parties!
also forgot to say he has six legs (or maybe four arms and two legs?)
with little forked pincer-thingies on the ends of them. And he's
all-over some kind of shiny armor-like stuff, especially on his back.
So just to sum it up in a word, he's a bug and he's ghastly!
And when they saw him, the grannie that
had looked like she was going to cry started looking like she might
Meanwhile Veronica and her
creepo boy-friend were whispering like mad. She was asking questions,
and he was telling her (and I was listening) that the Ambassador
(that's what the bug is supposed to be, ferpetesake, an Ambassador.
Only from Where, I ask you!). Anyway, Victor says he can't make speech
sounds or write, or even see the way we see. (Like who would be
surprised with those eyes!) But he is able to communicate some
by "symbolic language."
I said "What's
that," and Veronica said, "Don't interrupt," and the creepo said, "Look
We all turned around, and
sure enough, the Bug was performing. Sort
The Host-guy had handed him a book
with a bunch of pictures in it, and the Bug began whisking throug the
pages very fast I mean VERY fast, like he was some kind of
bug-computer and stopping for a nanosecond here and there to clip
something out with his little pincer-hands, and stuffing it in his
mouth (ugh, disgusting mouth!) and
sticking the pieces of paper on
the wall with bug-spit!
stood there watching, not making a sound, just absolutely horrified and
fascinated both at the same time.
the Bug was all done, he kind of bowed, and everybody clapped and the
Secret Service types whipped out cameras and took bunches of photos of
the stuff the Bug had stuck to the wall and then went off again,
probably to download it. And Victor-the-Jerk was just then telling
Veronica that the Bug always did this, every time they let him out. And
they took pictures so they could give them to some Linguistic
Scientists they have on the payroll, so they can analyze their
symbolism & try to figure out his language. Pretty interesting.
Meanwhile, the secret service
bodyguards (or maybe they were just guards how do I know?) moved out a
little bit and the whole crew began easing over to the refreshments
table. Ididn't notice if the Ambassador ate anything. Probably not. No
fly-canapes that night.
Government photographer had finished, several guests pulled out their
own cameras and took their own pictures of the wall, but mostly the
crowd just followed the Bug. (They all kept at a safe distance, I
noticed, maybe thinking that since there were no flies available for
him to snack on, he might be willing to have a try at a couple of human
arms and legs! Or at least that's what I would have been thinking, if
I'd been them.)
But I stayed put,
because I was wild to get a look at those pictures, and as soon as
Victor and Veronica began looking deep into each other's eyes, I
sneaked over here.
Well, it was
disgusting! The whole wall was just gleaming and dripping with slimy
dangerous-looking bug-spit, and something in the goo was already
dissolving the bits of paper and the wall right along with it. But I
got a good look as it dissolved. So here's the skinny: For one thing,
it was huge. Took up the whole wall. And for another thing, as could be
predicted, it was weird!
was what looked like a picture of a black flag with some dissolved
white symbols on it. Then there was one ofthose really great NASA
photos of the earth from space, which was still holding up pretty well.
Then there was something that could have been almost anything, because
it had already dissolved so much. And then came the main part. Dozens
of little bitsy bits of paper arranged in a three-character pattern. At
least it looked to me like a pattern, although it crossed my mind that
it could have been almost anything else,because all the separate bits
were so slobbered that youcouldn't see any pictures on them at all.
The first design was like a big
polka-dot with a hole in it.
item was sort of like two upright parallel lines joined at the top and
in the middle.
The third one was a
meandering almost-circle, open at the right
I looked at it some and said,
"It looks like a rebus."
up, very quick and intent, and said, "What's that!What's that!"
And then, as an afterthought, "Don't
touch that wall. The substance hardens into a rather handsome plastic,
but while it's fresh, it's highly
stupid Victor! But I was polite. "A rebus is one of those code-messages
they have in little kids' magazines, where you have words and pictures
mixed up together, and you're supposed to figure out what it means. A
simple one would be a picture of an eye and the letter C and the letter
U, which would mean 'I see you.' Only these pictures on the wall are
all dissolving, and the word-part is something like O-H-C, so who knows
what itsays." I tried to pronounce it: "Oh-huck?"
Well, I must have been talking louder
than I thought, because all of a sudden, there was the Wogglebug
itself, towering over me! Whoa! Was I petrified!
It grabbed me with two of its creepy
pincer hands and dragged me closer to the wall, and with a third pincer
it pointed hard at the big letters (if that's what they were) on the
wall,while it waved the fourth pincer around like a windmill! Horrible
sight, believe me.
When that all
started, the secret service guys began getting all excited, although I
don't know whether they were trying to protect me from the bug, or
protect the bug from me. Maybe they didn't know themselves, but it was
a panic! One pulled his gun, and one got on a cell phone, and one ran
and used the host's phone, and the rest just loomed around and looked
But what came of it was, I
never got to go home. And all of a sudden, now, I'm a ward of the
Government (no school, that's a plus!). The downside is that I have to
sit around with the Bug all day every day watching him do his
whizzing-through-magazines-and-chewing-up-paper routine, so I can tell
everybody what I think the message means.
Yes, it's a message. As soon as I got a
look at the photo they took of the first one, I knew I was right; It's
definitely a rebus. Before that first one dissolved, it read
Pirate-flag, earth, O-R-G.
makes me a new mural every day, and so far we've
All extremely huge and all made of
They're about to run out of
walls for him to glue stuff on.
course, everybody had already figured out that those first two pictures
are supposed to mean "Danger! Earthlings!" But nobody gets that last
part, and it's driving them all crazy, not knowing what's so
Except me. I do get it. And I
don't want it.
So I sit here like a lump
and try to look like I don't get it
But once you're onto it, it's a
no-brainer. Read the words: Org, Rrj, Ior, Rjee. Make the "G" in that
first one into a "J" sound.Make that "I" in "Ior" into something like a
"Y" sound. Now pretend you're a bug that doesn't hear human sounds very
well, and imagine that you keep trying to come up with the
over and over again! Figure it out. Say the words. Run
a bunch of them together. What does that sound like to you?
does it cast a light?
Does for me. And I
don't like what it lights on. He's trying to say, "You earth guys had
better watch out for somebody named
And that's driving
crazy! Because Whoa!
Georgie. Somebody who lives in my house. And my Mom really likes him
and she would not want anything to happen to
Okay, so now. You're with me? What
if the Wogglebug means our nice buddy Georgie. Creepy, but it fits,
doesn't it: Doesn't talk? No job? Doesn't know anybody else and stays
in a lot? Could it be he doesn't feel entirely
Here on earth?
So it's all very
upsetting to me. Because . . . what IF?
But when you think it over . . . No.
Just can't b . Our Georgie doesn't contribute a lot to our household,
but he's extremely sweet, and does all the housework, and just having
him around makes my Mom really happy. He's good for
So now what do I do? Because this
Bug-Ambassador is really only . . .a bug, you know? And that spit-stuff
is simply disgusting.
While Georgie a
real human being.
At least he looks
Still . . . destroy the
world? That's heavy. And you have to wonder . . .
Okay, I have to give you the fact that
he doesn't talk but that could even be an advantage, you
So anyway I made up my mind that
The Bug is the bad guy.
And our Georgie
is not the bad guy.
And the whole time,
I keep sitting here, telling myself I'm
And it's probably not
So I really
I really . . . hope I'm
Yes, I AM right. I really am.
And I'm going to keep my mouth shut.
. . . am I right?
Of course, I'm
And the Bug chose
strictly by accident.