Adult Children of Alien Beings

BOOK: Adult Children of Alien Beings
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My parents weren't like your parents, okay? The ones in the Mother's Day cards and the Father's Day cards. Who are those people?

My mother never drove. I never took lessons in anything. She told me as a child it was important to spend as much time alone as possible, preferably in the woods, maybe up in a tree or on a hilltop, while I was still open to the overwhelming mysteries of the universe. She didn't start there; she worked up to it gradually. “Go outside and play” became increasingly ambitious and nuanced. The alternative was to be constantly underfoot. Mom needed her space before everyone said that. She started smoking because my older brother and I said it would make her look cool like the other younger mothers. Next day she bought a pack. She alternated between regular and menthol, pack a day.

My dad never had trouble showing emotion. He loved me like nobody's business. I learned from observing him that at the end of sappy movies, if your face isn't wet with tears, you haven't been paying attention or you don't have a heart. Not to have a heart was the worst. He asked me once if I wanted to learn how to fight, and I said no, and he said that was good because he didn't know how. He was big and strong though he never worked out or did any exercise and ate anything he wanted. Mom was the same.

Dad loved to tell dirty stories. He did voices and everything. Mom loved to hear them. He made her laugh so hard, you could barely make out what she was saying: “Not … in front of the … k-k-kids … Bob!” Put that in a Father's Day card: Thanks for all the smut. Knowing filthy jokes was every bit as useful as knowing how to fight, and Mom was definitely right about that treetop.

They taught me how to cook by smell. They both did it. The spice rack covered a wall, the spices in alphabetical order. They loved highly seasoned food. They never used recipes. You put your ingredients together, sniff out the spices for a dish, and cook. They didn't believe in cookbooks, though I've dedicated the several I've written to them. They would find this amusing, laudable. The message I got from my folks loud and clear? The kid who's just like his mom and dad? You have to wonder about that kid. You have to adapt, evolve, sniff out your own way in this world if you hope to prosper.

They're both dead. They fell down an abyss while vacationing in New Mexico the year I graduated college. I only bring them up because at sixty-six, what I call semiretired, I've been digging into the family history, trying to unlock the secrets of my past like those celebrities on television. The thing is, Mom and Dad don't have any. History. Now you see them, now you don't. The entire family history narrated to my brother and me when we were little was a complete fabrication. They seem to pop into existence the year before my older brother was born. That's when they started paying utility bills. They claimed to come from Colorado, but Colorado never heard of them.

I make the mistake of calling my brother with this information. He doesn't see the big deal. Dad was always a bit of a storyteller. Maybe he didn't get all the details right.

Their birth certificates are phonies, all their papers before my brother was born, even their marriage license. I had them examined by an expert. I'm back living in the house my brother and I grew up in, and all their stuff's still up in the attic.

My brother moved away as soon as he thought I could handle things on my own, marrying and moving to his new wife's town. He's done that a few times since, different wives, different towns, while I've just moved all over town with different wives.

Mostly, the house has been rented out over the years. I didn't want to sell it. I lost my last wife when it happened to be vacant, so I moved in. Lost, as in, she left. That was four years ago.

“What kind of expert?” my brother said. “Who believes experts?”

I gave up on my brother. I kept looking for our past.

Which led me to this guy, Dr. Deetermeyer, another expert. He's looked over all my documents regarding my parents, as well as examined surviving articles of clothing belonging to them—my mother's favorite scarf and one of my father's cardigans—if you want to call snuffling them like a hound dog an examination. His office at the university is cave-like with six-inch pipes crisscrossing the ceiling, thick with yellow paint like lemon chiffon. The bookcases are crammed chaotically with books, papers, sandwiches, soda cans, videotapes, and tiny hand-painted soldiers from ancient armies. There's a Rousseau print of some colorful craziness in the jungle and four or five framed degrees from prestigious universities. His first name is Simon. His middle name is Emmanuel. He's at the end of a long, narrow, buzzing-fluorescent-lit basement hallway with no other doors. There's nothing else but a bulletin board with band flyers from 2004 and numerous opportunities to study abroad. I almost didn't knock. It smells like burnt coffee and rotten citrus and the faintest whiff of pot. The lone window is ancient frosted safety glass, tilted open a crack to reveal a hurried blur of student legs moving by, mostly bare. It's a warm October day.

“Your parents were aliens,” he says. “Part of an exploratory expedition that arrived in the United States shortly after the outbreak of World War II and departed in 1969.”

“Aliens.”

“That's right.”

“And that makes me and my brother?”

“Aliens.”

What to say to a totally tenured nutjob? I'm trying to remember who sent me to this guy. That weirdo at the Department of Historic Resources? Odd, to say the least. The past seems to do that to people. I should've left it alone.

“Ice cream,” Deetermeyer says.

“What about it?”

“They loved it, all year round.”

“So what? Lots of people love ice cream.” I start to rise. I have a hungry parking meter waiting. I gave my last quarter for this nonsense.

“Peppermint.”

That stops me. For my parents there was only one ice cream flavor, peppermint. Since it's not readily available all year round, they stocked up every Christmas, loading a big box freezer full to overflowing in the basement. Dad, who did all the grocery shopping since Mom didn't drive, sometimes took me along to help load up the cart. We both wore gloves for the occasion, like cartoon characters.

“With chocolate sauce,” Deetermeyer added with a little nerdy gotcha smile.

“How did you know that?”

“It's an alien delicacy. They love peppermint and chocolate together. They love all the mints, but like peppermint the best. That's what they found of greatest value here, mint and chocolate.”

“This is stupid. I'm human. I've been to doctors my whole life—my parents too. Somebody would've noticed if I was an alien.”

“Your form is human; your essence, alien.”

“What the fuck does that mean?”

“Your parents' bodies were alien adaptations of the human form using human DNA. Certainly, to the medicine of the time, they would've seemed perfectly normal, as would their offspring, but they preserved and passed on their alien nature to you in a thousand subtle ways—their legacy. They reproduced at a somewhat higher rate than the general population. They were, after all, far from home and lonely. They were always deployed in male/female pairs. Clearly the pair bond is exceptionally strong among them.”

He seems absolutely serious. “Clearly. This, uh, alien essence you spoke of? How might that manifest itself in the, uh, offspring?” I try to keep a neutral expression. I notice that what I took to be ancient armor on the tiny soldiers might be their limbs and torsos; their weapons, household appliances from distant worlds.

He tilts his head back, aligning his trifocals to draw a bead on me. He's used to skeptics. “Just you and your brother?”

“That's right.”

“You're the younger, I imagine, the Quester?”

My brother won't even look for his car keys. “I guess you could say that.” I am the one who came down a narrow hallway to discover this loon, not exactly the quest I had in mind.

“Indeed. Gender and birth order are highly determinant in alien families. Stop me when I'm mistaken: You and your brother are four to five years apart, widely divergent in your views. You live in separate cities and prefer it that way. Presidents you hated; he loved—political polar opposites, you can't seem to agree on anything. You share some telltale traits, however. You're both inordinately fond of animals—dogs, cats, birds, any animal really. Alien males almost never hunt, though the elder is likely to own several guns. You're both cynical about most things, but sentimental in love. You're typically serial monogamists. Your wives—”

I hold up my hand. “Enough. So you want to tell me
why
aliens came here and what I should do about it?”

“As for why, you'll have to wait for the aliens to return. There's no shortage of competing theories to occupy you in the meantime.” He smiles like this prospect is supposed to cheer me up. “To help you deal with this startling discovery you've made about yourself, there is a support group, ACAB, that does lots of fine work. Much, if not all my research, is based on in-depth interviews with its members. Perhaps, when you're ready, we might conduct such an interview.” He sifts through the detritus on his desk to unearth a slender pamphlet.
Adult Children of Alien Beings.
He staples his card to it, like he's handing out an assignment.

I snatch it from his hand and flee his office, but he leans out his office door and calls after me, “Email me with any questions. Stop by anytime!”

I sprint up the narrow stairs into the street. I examine the card. His name and information, the university logo. The Department of Secret History. There's a sign by the basement stairwell that reads the same, looks like all the other signs up and down the street. I had no idea the university had such a department. Makes sense, I suppose, that I wouldn't. These houses used to be the mansions of the idle rich. They've seen their share of séances and crackpot rituals. That their basements now house such mysteries seems appropriate somehow. Who else has time for them but the rich and universities?

BOOK: Adult Children of Alien Beings
2.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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