Plucky said she wasn’t feeling well so Susan and I offered to walk home with her and Princess. On the way home, Princess asked Plucky why she didn’t want to go with her father and her on the boat. “We’ve never done anything as a family before. Dad’s getting better, and you’re withdrawing. What’s up?” Plucky repeated that she had too much work to do, and Princess replied: “Mom, I know you better than that.” The enemy once tied a rope to Lmao’s spaceship. He says: “What a jerk.”
“We caught these over by the sandbar,” said Lmao. “I’m thinking about having a fish fry.” When Princess asked what a sandbar is, Plucky said to Deadpan: “Why don’t you take Princess out in the boat and show her the sandbar?” Deadpan thought for a moment, then replied: “Why don’t you come too?” Plucky looked surprised, even embarrassed. “I don’t think so,” she said. “I have a lot of work to do.” When Lmao and I were reminiscing about a wild game dinner, he said: “We split a gut.”
“And you might fail,” Plucky continued. “You might put a lot of effort into writing a treatment and find that you’re in over your head. Or the agent might say this isn’t what she had in mind or a producer might say this will never make a good movie. But as bad as failure is, it isn’t bad enough to use as an excuse to talk yourself out of trying to succeed. It just means that you would have an opportunity to revise or to use a different approach.” Deadpan has a picture of a llama that looks very realistic. He says it’s a spitting image.
“When I hear my father’s voice telling me I’m going to fail, I feel like I don’t deserve success.” Plucky sat down facing me. “You don’t,” she said. “We only deserve what we’ve earned. I think there’s another reason you’re trying to talk yourself out of replying to the agent. I think you’re trying to compensate for your fear of failure. Because of your father’s criticism, you think you’re going to fail. And then your reasoning is that as long as you’re going to fail, why not just undermine yourself.” Deadpan found dust mites on Mars; he says he’s still scratching his head.
“A movie about us sounds exciting.” Plucky came over as soon as I forwarded her the email from the agent. “Are you going to write her back?” “I don’t know,” I replied. “Right now, all of this has me overwhelmed.” Plucky thought for a minute. “A movie about us is the opportunity of a lifetime. Let’s talk about your doubts.” We both knew what she was getting at; we had discussed it many times. Anyone who has read my posts knows that my father used to tell me I would never amount to anything. The agent’s request for a treatment was presenting an opportunity, and once again my father’s voice was holding me back. I asked Deadpan why someone would become a storm chaser; he said it puts a roof over your head.
Susan and Plucky headed toward the scene of the argument and I followed. “I hate you,” the boy said to his sister. “He pushed me down,” the girl said to Susan. Susan started to say something to the boy but Princess stepped between them and faced the boy: “I wonder if you feel hurt because your sister wants to be my friend.” The boy looked surprised and some of the anger drained from his face. Princess continued: “I know you’re mad but we don’t push. We all get angry sometimes but we can work things out.” When the tiger got angry, Lmao said: “You don’t need to bite my head off.”
Susan texted me from the daycare area saying she had forgotten her tote bag. Upon arriving I observed about a dozen children playing with sand pails. Two of them, I have learned, are a twin boy and girl the same age as Princess. These are the children of the captain of the king’s cruise ship and they’re here regularly. Princess and the girl have become friends but I’m not so sure about the brother. Today I’m watching as he stands over them, looking upset. I can’t make out what he’s saying except for the last word, which he shouts as he stomps his foot: “Alien.” The parents knew it wouldn’t be easy: they saw the writing on the wall.
“After breakfast,” Lmao explained, “I’ll perform a fifty-minute comedy act in the pavilion. When the tourists emerge after the show, the afternoon will be half over. They will have traveled forward in time three hours, and anyone wearing a watch will need to reset it.” Princess rolled her eyes: “Borrrring,” We laughed. “For us, yes,” her mother told her. “But Earthlings have never done anything like that.” Deadpan’s building a three-legged robot; he says it’s two steps forward and one step back.
“Deadpan and I have an idea,” Lmao said. “Promise not to laugh.” Everyone laughed. “You tell them,” Lmao said to Deadpan. “I enjoy time travel,” Deadpan replied, “And I think the tourists would enjoy it too. What if we added an after breakfast program for the tourists to send them forward a few hours in time? Do you think they would like that?” When Deadpan said he wanted to make a miniature flying saucer, Lmao said it sounded like a pie in the sky.
Deadpan continued: “I have an app that might provide a compromise solution.” I averted my eyes; I didn’t want to make him self-conscious. This was Deadpan’s online therapy in action. According to Plucky, the solution to his loneliness was to acquire social skills, and he was just now, at this moment, taking his first step by joining our conversation. What pleased Plucky even more, I knew, was that his contribution dealt directly with an issue that had arisen between her and their daughter. When the robot claimed to be stereo, Deadpan said it was talking out of both sides of its mouth.
What happened next surprised everyone. Up until now, when we all got together, our conversation would follow a familiar dynamic: While the rest of us talked, Deadpan would remain on the sidelines, looking at his phone or occasionally speaking off-subject about his latest project. But today, as Plucky and their daughter went back and forth about Princess losing her phone privileges, Deadpan watched interestedly, then said: “I have an idea.” I asked Lmao if he still remembers his school song: he says it was only yay long.
“You’re too hard on me,” Princess said to her mother. “If sharing things with friends is so bad, then why do all their parents allow it?” Plucky pulled a chair over and motioned for her daughter to sit down. “I was your age once,” she said, “And I know things that you don’t know. When you make mistakes, they follow you around forever. Especially nowadays. You ask someone for a job and they say you’re the one who passed that trash around on the internet, and I’m not going to hire you.” Lmao never did jump off a cliff; he says it was just a bluff.
Princess ran out of the room and Plucky dragged a chair to our table. “I don’t know what I was thinking,” she said. “I shouldn’t have given her a phone in the first place. I had heard stories of kids passing trash back and forth but I thought Princess was smarter than that.” Princess crept in behind her mother. “You don’t need to tell the whole world, Mom,” she cried. “Funny you should say that,” Plucky replied. “Because when you throw things out on the internet, that’s exactly what you’re doing.” I asked Deadpan what he thinks about audiobooks; he said he’s heard horror stories.
When breakfast is over and the tourists have boarded their ship for the return trip to the king’s island, Lmao’s Bar and Grill becomes our clubhouse. This evening Deadpan, Susan, and I were sitting at a table when Princess stormed into the room. Plucky followed close behind, and the two faced off. “I hate you,” Princess said to her mother. “Then you’ll just have to hate me,” Plucky replied. “You’re not getting your phone back.” When I asked Deadpan to use a cuss word in a sentence, he said: “Right now my mind is a blank.”
Deadpan invited me to observe him in communication with lifeforms on an exoplanet. “Come over any morning,” he said. “Around 5 a.m. I’m always in the laboratory because that’s the best time to reach them.” This morning I took him up on his offer, and made my way through the shack and stepped into the laboratory. Deadpan was clearly talking to someone, although I didn’t hear a reply, or even static. I looked a little closer, sighed, and told him: “Deadpan, it isn’t plugged in.” When Lmao said that ground control didn’t answer him, Deadpan asked if he was talking down to them.
One of Deadpan’s projects over the years has been to communicate with lifeforms on exoplanets. I’ve always thought that if anyone were to make such a breakthrough, it would be Deadpan. Before arriving here, he lived in an alternate universe, which gives him a broad perspective on the cosmos. And his mindless dedication has resulted in success in other projects he has undertaken. Still, I was surprised when he showed up this morning at my door, out of breath, and announced: “I did it. I communicated with lifeforms on an exoplanet.” When Lmao didn’t get funding for his underground research project, he said he was thinking about just crawling into a hole.
“I don’t want you to become your father’s psychologist,” Plucky said to her daughter. Over a game of chess Princess had asked Deadpan why he kept so many things. “It’s called hoarding,” she said when he didn’t reply. “And it means you’re lonely. It means you form attachments to physical objects.” Plucky explained to Princess that a licensed psychologist would be able to figure out why her father was distancing himself from others and could work with him on strategies to change that behavior. Deadpan’s working on a radar project and asked if he could bounce something off me.
“Our daughter needs your attention,” Plucky said to Deadpan. “And shouting through a window isn’t going to work.” Deadpan sat listening quietly after joining our conversation in response to a terse text message from Plucky. Deadpan agreed to allow me to come over and help him move things around so that he and Princess could once again play chess. “This won’t solve his problem,” Plucky told me later. “But when it prevents him from interacting with our child is where I draw the line.” When I told Lmao that the ants want to come to the birthday party, he said: “Let them eat cake.”
“Mary, what’s come over you?” Susan’s mother was finishing up a spreadsheet when I led Susan’s father into the control room. She didn’t notice him at first, then jumped up as soon as he approached her desk. He took her hand but stood staring at the computer screen. “We don’t know anything about the Earth’s internet,” he said. Susan came to her mother’s rescue: “Papa, we’re living in a different time now. The internet helps us all lead better lives.” He frowned. “Maybe you,” he said. “But not us. C’mon, Mary, let’s go.” I asked Deadpan how astronauts got into space. He says they stood on the shoulders of giants.
The inhabitants of Susan’s planet are known for their mathematical ability. Susan showed her mother the computer buttons, and by the next morning her mother had produced an inventory spreadsheet for Susan’s Machetes. In the afternoon one of my pigeons arrived with a note from Susan’s father. He said he was almost finished with the roof and would be dropping by here soon to bring his wife back home. When I asked Lmao how many arithmetic classes he attended, he said he could count them on one hand.
“Mother and I stayed up late last night,” Susan is telling me. “She said she had a revelation. She said she now realizes that I have a right to live my own life in my own way. Plucky says that Mother changed because I put on the dress. She says I finally took myself out of child mode where I was always trying to keep my mother from being mad.” Later in the day, Susan was sitting at her computer when her mother walked in and looked over her shoulder. “Would you do something for me, Susan,” her mother asked. “Would you show me how that works?” I asked Deadpan if he thinks he might become a fortune teller someday. He said he doesn’t have a crystal ball.
Susan ran out of the room, and I followed her to Plucky’s spaceship. Plucky let us in and Susan burst into tears. “Go get the dress,” Plucky instructed me. When I returned, Plucky was talking to Susan about boundaries: “You will need to maintain your position no matter what your mother says.” Plucky helped her put on the dress and Lmao added some makeup and jewelry. When we all returned to my ship, Susan’s mother looked surprised. “The dress will have to do, I suppose,” she said. “But just look at those earrings.” I told Lmao that I would like to be a drummer but I don’t have rhythm. He said: “Listen to your heart.”
I’ll be glad when Susan’s father finishes their roof and Susan’s mother can go back home. I like her mother, but living with both of them is tense. Today everything came to a head. The king’s ship arrived with a dress that Susan had ordered. I thought the dress looked nice: it was somewhat high-fashion but would complement Susan well. When her mother walked into the room and saw Susan holding the dress, Susan’s face fell. In an all-knowing tone her mother said, “You don’t really mean to wear that, do you?” I told Deadpan that I don’t know what anyone sees in impressionism, and he replied: “Different strokes.”
“Did you really need to paint these walls lilac?” Susan’s mother arrived this morning and Susan showed her to the guest room. Susan said to me: “Just wait until Deadpan gets here; he’s bringing me a load of steel. Mother doesn’t think a wife should work.” When Deadpan brought the boxes into the living room, Susan said: “This is steel for my machetes, Mom.” “Oh really, Susan,” her mother replied. “Must you?” I asked Lmao if the bug spoiled his paint job; he says that was just a drop in the bucket.
The king’s supply ship brought sheets of steel, lengths of wood, and modern cutting tools. “When I made my original machete,” Susan said, “I used metal remnants from our spaceship and worked day after day forming it with rocks.” Susan and I received some news today. Her father stopped by and said he was putting a new roof on their house. He asked if Susan’s mother could stay with us for a few days. “Of course,” I replied. I didn’t notice that Susan remained silent the whole time we spoke. To observe a moment of silence is a solemn event; Lmao says it’s nothing to sneeze at.
Susan reached down beside her chair and brought up her machete. “I’m glad you love me,” I joked. She smiled, then said: “See how nice this is?” She slid her finger along the blade. “I spent a year making this machete. I used it to carve my bower from the thicket. Now I want to make more, a lot more. And I want to sell them over the internet. Will you help me get started?” Aware of the pitfalls of mansplaining, I replied: “Just tell me what I need to do.” I told Lmao that his new knife is very nice. He said thank you but it’s a double-edged sword.
After Princess went out to play, Plucky analyzed what the child had said: “Princess has learned that a girl’s relationship with her father is the source of her self esteem. The way a father acts toward his daughter demonstrates to her just what she does or doesn’t deserve. But it’s not like a magic spell that can’t be broken. If the child is smart like Princess, and if her mother or a therapist can make her aware of the dynamic, then the child can use her power of will to set her own path.” Lmao got lost once and forest rescue couldn’t find him. He says he was up a creek.
Princess pointed to herself. “And this is where the cycle ends.” She looked at Plucky. “You’re the smartest mother in the world. If you didn’t know psychology, I would be walking around in the dark. Dad’s emotional distance feels like rejection but I’m going to avoid the trap that you fell into. Someday I’ll look for a husband who’s capable of loving me, in spite of the risk that I’ll be rejected again.” I told Lmao to imagine if we recycled everything. He said it would be dog eat dog.
When Plucky joined us in the living room, Princess said to her: “I think I’m starting to see the difference between you and Dad versus Aunt Susan and Uncle Coy. It has to do with that post you wrote last year.” Plucky turned to Susan and me and said: “She’s referring to a post I wrote about Deadpan when I was subbing for you on the Alien Resort website. I explained that my father, like Deadpan, was emotionally distant. As a child I interpreted this as rejection. Determined not to be rejected again, I chose men where closeness, and therefore rejection, was unlikely. Ironically my life became one of rejection. And I ended up with men just like my father.” I asked Lmao if he ever thinks about the past and he replied: “Do you mean up until now?”
I couldn’t help but wonder what Princess was thinking when she asked her question. “Aunt Susan and I are kind to each other,” I answered, “because that’s how you act when you’re in love.” Susan added: “I learned about getting along by watching my mother and father. While they didn’t always agree, my father listened to my mother, shared what he was doing, and asked for her opinion. My mother admired my father, asked him for advice, and took an interest in his work. This is the example I learned from, and this is why I’m good to Uncle Coy.” Princess thought for a minute, then replied: “When my father comes over, he doesn’t stay very long.” When I asked Lmao about his new scuba partner, he said he seems nice on the surface.
“Right about now,” Deadpan said to Susan, “Your father is escorting your brother to his ship. If he ever returns, the king will send men and they’ll put him on trial.” Susan protested: “But what if you made a mistake?” Deadpan replied: “He entered through the thatched roof. He used this to cut a hole.” He reached into the cloth bag. Susan gasped: “That’s my machete. How did he get that?” She gazed at the machete, then dropped to the couch: “He was in our closet.” Lmao says that when they told him the price of the cookie, he coughed up some dough.
I let police chief Deadpan in and Susan joined us in the living room. “I was making the rounds,” Deadpan said, “and I observed Lucas exiting the gift shop at a time when the gift shop was closed. I called out and he started to run. I demobilized him with my mini static electric generator and then I cuffed him. I secured the items he had dropped, including this cash box.” Susan began to cry, and I put my arm around her. But at that moment, Deadpan was the one I really wanted to hug. Lmao says a robber once gave him some advice; the robber said to reach for the sky.
This is where things stand: Susan’s brother Lucas is living in an outbuilding near the edge of our property. On most days, he does nothing but play video games. He tells Susan that the whole world is against him, and she hangs on his every word. Needless to say, our marriage is strained. Yesterday she showed him around the gift shop, and today I don’t know where he is. As I’m recording this, somebody’s knocking at the door: it’s police chief Deadpan. In one hand he’s carrying a cloth bag and in the other he’s holding what looks like the cash box from the gift shop. When Lmao was asked what a policeman does, he replied: “Search me.”
Susan’s brother Lucas told her that he has dedicated his life to helping people. She says he travels from island to island bringing people things that stores aren’t allowed to sell. “That’s called smuggling,” I told her. “And taking your father’s komodo dragon–that’s called stealing.” According to Susan’s father, Lucas steals because he feels entitled to have whatever he wants: “His mother let him do as he pleased, and stood in the way of my efforts to raise him into a responsible adult.” When I told Lmao I wanted to play cops and robbers, he said: “Don’t let me stop you.”
A rift has developed between Susan and me, and I don’t know how to fix it. Her father and I would like nothing more than to escort Lucas to his boat and see him off forever. Susan says he’s her long lost brother and that regardless of his faults, he doesn’t have anyone to love him and he deserves a chance. I could easily tell Susan that I’m the one in charge here and Lucas has to go, but I understand the world well enough to know that my life would become unbearable. I therefore consented to a short-term arrangement where Lucas would set up quarters in the outbuilding. When the enemy attacked during lunch, Deadpan said they ordered it to go.
Susan looked at her father, then at the stranger: “Are you Lucas?” “My dear sister,” he replied. “You were beautiful as a baby. And 60,000 years hasn’t changed that.” He looked at me. “And you must be the man of the house.” He laughed. This is going to be a problem, I said to myself. “My name’s Coy,” I told him. “Don’t man of the house me.” He blinked, then quickly regained his composure. “Okay, all right. No hard feelings there.” He turned to Susan’s father and grinned: “Why don’t you have a seat, old man. We’re going to be here awhile.” Deadpan doesn’t know if his new toy will sell; he says it’s a cat and mouse game.
Susan’s father stood in front of our table, his eyes fixed on his son. “I caught him stealing one of my komodo dragons. There’s nothing wrong with his boat. Which is where he’s headed right now, and then he’s leaving the island.” My father-in-law thumped his stick. “Are you coming with me or do I have to drag you?” Lucas smirked, folded his arms, and leaned back in his chair. “Not so fast old man,” he said. “Let’s find out what my sister here has to say about that.” When a thief asked Lmao for his date of birth, Lmao said he wasn’t born yesterday.
“My name is Baron von der Clere.” I had regained my composure and led the stranger to a chair on the patio. Susan brought masks along with a basin and towels to attend to numerous scratches on his face and arms. “I lost both engines and arrived adrift on the windward side of your island.” He said he owned a shipping company and had been attending to his fleet. Just then I heard a sound behind me: Susan’s father, stick in hand, walked up to us and said: “Don’t believe anything he tells you. My son is nothing but a crook.” When Deadpan said he used to own a tennis court, Lmao asked: “What was your net worth?”
Alien Resort island has eight residents: the four of us, Princess, my wife Susan, and her parents. In our wildest dreams Susan and I could never have imagined that a surprise visitor would come knocking on our door. When someone knocked this morning, my thought was that Lmao had returned from fishing and was bringing back my poles. When I opened the door and saw a muddied and disheveled stranger standing on the patio, my mind went into crisis mode. When I told Lmao that he spends a lot of time in the woods, he said: “Bear with me.”
We live on the leeward side of Alien Resort island, and the weather here is beautiful. The opposite side of the island, on the contrary, faces a stiff and unrelenting wind. Due to the weather there, and a shore lined with jagged rocks, the area is charted as unnavigable. Nevertheless, a review of last week’s radar history has led Plucky to believe that a boat may have come ashore. Deadpan will dispatch a drone to confirm what we believe is probably a derelict ship. When I asked Lmao how his boat ride went, he said he had to bail.
“She must be put in boarding school; home schooling just won’t do.” We were gathered (distancing) at the pier waiting for the ladies to embark. Princess had remained with her father, or so everyone thought. She popped up from behind Plucky’s dress and said to the lady: “I agree. If I stay here, I might trip over a light saber or receive excess quality time. It’s better that I go off somewhere and enjoy the benefit of dumbing down and classroom structure and become the subject of peer group pressure and girl bullying. Then they can give me drugs to make me docile.” Lmao figured graffiti was coming back in style; he said he saw the writing on the wall.
“This just won’t do.” The other ladies in the child welfare group nodded in agreement. We were taking them on a tour of our non-restricted areas and we were standing in front of Deadpan’s shack. One of them shrieked and pointed to the side yard. Deadpan had built a virtual reality headset, a metal box with flashing lights that he wore on his head. He had just come out the side door and begun running around the yard slashing with a metal stick. “That’s my Dad,” Princess said. Lmao thinks lasers are educational; he says that’s how he cut his teeth.
I contacted the king about the email Plucky received from the child welfare agency. “They’re just a bunch of busybodies,” he wrote me back. “They can’t do much except get everyone riled up.” When I asked what we should do next, he wrote: “Why don’t you let them see for themselves?” I brought the news to Plucky and Princess that a contingent of administrators wanted to visit Alien Resort. Princess listened thoughtfully, then said: “My next post on Living in a Spaceship will be called: The Invasion of the Busybodies.” Deadpan once thought about staying at an underwater hotel but he decided it was too much of a dive.
Plucky called Princess into the living room: “Somebody sent me an email about your blog.” Princess jumped up and down and clapped her hands. “Goody goody hooray,” she said. “They’re going to buy a souvenir from my store.” Plucky sighed. “Sit down,” she said. “This message came from a welfare agency.” Princess turned serious, then brightened again and asked: “Is this the part where the mean old witch comes and takes me away?” Deadpan asked a witch for cooking lessons; he says he stirred up a hornet’s nest.
Somebody on the king’s main island looked at Blog by Princess and became concerned. Plucky received an email from a welfare agency stating that they have a number of questions concerning the “environment in which the child is situated”. No child, they said, should be living in a spaceship. They added that they were especially concerned about education, since their records showed no enrollment by a child who lives in a spaceship. When Deadpan’s robot complained about being obsolete, Deadpan said it was just letting off steam.
I’m looking at the internet’s newest website; it’s called Blog by Princess–Living In a Spaceship. The About page says: “I’m a real princess and I live in a spaceship with my mother and my uncle Lmao. My father was a prince in an alternate universe and now he lives in a shack by the lagoon.” Plucky is supervising the effort, and the account and email are in her name. I just got a text from Plucky wanting to see me right away. Lmao still hasn’t written his autobiography; he says that’s the story of his life.
“There’s no stopping her.” Plucky dropped by the next day and told us that ever since they left here, all Princess has talked about is starting a blog. “She didn’t even know what she was going to write about so I asked her what she was interested in. She said she knew she needed a subject that would keep her motivated but it also had to be one that would interest her readers. ‘Mom,’ she said finally, ‘I’m going to write about living in a spaceship’.” When I asked Lmao if he had any ideas for his spare time, he replied: “I could write a book.”
My wife’s family landed on Alien Resort island sixty thousand years ago: a father, mother, adult son, and the infant Susan. Because of animosity between father and son, and thanks to a spaceship whose design for water landings rendered it a seaworthy craft, the son set sail out over an unknown ocean. “He made landfall,” the anthropologist Heather told Susan and me. “And his genes became part of the human genome.” Deadpan once invented a heat shield; he says it never caught fire.
“This might not make any difference,” Susan’s father said to the anthropologist Heather. “But I‘m going to give you some family history.” He looked at Susan. “You were too young to remember your brother. And it was easier for us to tell you that you had a brother that died. But the truth is that he and I had a quarrel, and he set sail across the ocean. We never heard from him again.” Susan gripped my hand. Then finally, Heather broke the silence: “I have work to do,” she said quietly. Lmao says that if he ever goes on an ocean cruise, he would like to play bridge.
“We never had any contact with humans,” Susan’s mother said to Heather. We were inside the grass hut where Susan grew up. Heather looked all about, wide-eyed. The room contained nothing more than handmade household items, but I imagine that as an anthropologist, she must have been fascinated to be looking at a decor that no one on Earth had ever envisioned. “There’s one thing I should probably mention,” Susan’s father added quietly. Lmao says he learned how to make furniture so he would have something to fall back on.
The anthropologist Heather stopped by our spaceship this morning, doffed her pith helmet, then stood just inside the door taking notes. She commented on a plant we had in the window sill, stating that it looked South American. Susan replied that the seeds for the plant came from Alpha Pegasi: “My parents have grown these plants in this island’s mountains for as long as I can remember.” Heather added some notes, and without looking up, said: “Next will be a trip to the mountains.” Deadpan knows how to bind pages together; he says he learned it from a book.
Susan and I met her father at the barrier and told him about the results of the DNA test. “It sounds like somebody made a mistake,” he said. “We’re not Earthlings in any sense of the word. Your mother and I never saw an Earthling until the day of your wedding.” I emailed the king and he recommended we meet with an anthropologist. Susan’s family agreed, and a few days later, we went down to the pier to welcome Heather. Lmao once hid from a rescue party because he heard they were out to get him.
“Your DNA is about what I expected,” Deadpan told me as he flipped through a ream or so of paper he referred to as the summary. “A mish-mash of ancient galactic civilizations.” Then he turned to Susan. “I don’t know what to think about yours. Some similarities to Coy’s, but…” He looked at me. “Go on,” I said. He turned to a page nearly covered with highlights, then said to Susan: “Your DNA is part human.” When I thanked Lmao for testing my new suntan lotion, he said it was no skin off his back.
Plucky, holding Princess, led Deadpan into the control room. “The master control’s emitting a warning,” Plucky said. “I’ve tried everything.” Princess raised a finger. “Check the secondary thermistor.” Deadpan grunted. “It sounds like the secondary thermistor,” he told Plucky. Princess sat and watched as he made the repair, handing him tools that he reflexively accepted. As he was leaving, she said: “Daddy, I’ll bet I can beat you at chess.” When I told Lmao that I liked how he fixed my roof, he said he nailed it.
Plucky told me she gave up trying to make Deadpan love her a long time ago. However, she’s determined he isn’t going to ignore their child. She texted him that a system on her spaceship had gone into overload and he needed to come right away. She was holding Princess when she answered the door. “Is that my Daddy?” the baby asked, and Plucky nearly dropped her. Deadpan shrugged. “On my planet,” he said, “Baby talk means the baby talks.” Lmao didn’t want to visit the baby chicks because he didn’t want to have to walk on eggshells.
Susan and I headed toward the lagoon to tell Deadpan about his daughter’s birth. When we knocked on the door of his shack, a siren went off. He opened the door then pulled down on an iron lever and the siren stopped. He invited us in but we were only able to stand just inside the door, as the floor was strewn with pizza boxes, empty bottles and electronic parts. When we gave him the news, he asked if we wanted to go to the bar and grill and get something to eat. When I told Deadpan that his house was messy, he said: “That’s rubbish.”
At 3:10 a.m. PDT the baby girl called Princess arrived into the world. The name Princess was suggested by the father Deadpan because he was a prince in his alternate universe. Plucky told him that a name should identify who a baby is rather than what she is, but assented anyway because the idea for the name came from Deadpan and because she likes the name too. As she held the baby, her question to Susan and the queen’s midwife was: “Where’s Deadpan?” I asked Lmao if he ever gave a baby a pacifier and he replied: “Yes, for crying out loud.”
“You’re fortunate,” Plucky says to Susan. “Your father was strict but he was able to relate to you on a personal level. And Coy loves you. When I was on my home planet, I spent my time trying to make guys love me. And they, like Deadpan and my father, were the type that never could. Our daughter, born an Earthling, will someday go out on her own, and I’m worried that the cycle is going to continue.” Lmao’s family was in the cement business but he didn’t want to follow in his father’s footsteps.
For as long as I’ve known Deadpan, I can’t say that we’ve ever become friends. We’ll engage in long, friendly conversations but they’re always about some project he’s working on and never about any of us. For me this is okay because I’m open to different forms of engagement. But a father needs to be able to relate to his children, especially a daughter, because this is the bond that becomes the source of her self-image. Deadpan says we need to look for new ways to entertain ourselves but we keep kicking the can down the road.
“My baby’s gestation period will be short, a matter of weeks,” Plucky said. “And I already know that it’s going to be a girl.” She sighed. “I’m not worried for myself; I can figure out what I need to know about raising a child. I’m thinking more about the girl’s future.” She closed her eyes. “Deadpan, you mean,” I replied. A tear ran down her cheek. “He’s just like my father.” When Plucky asked Lmao for tips on raising a newborn, he said maybe there’s a secret formula.
“Thanks for coming by,” Plucky said as she let me in. “I haven’t been doing so well lately.” Gloomy is a word I have never associated with Plucky, but I can’t think of a better way to describe her as she motioned for me to have a seat. “What’s wrong?” She sighed then replied sardonically: “What could possibly go wrong when I have Deadpan as a lover?” She paused, as if looking for words; then she wiped a tear and stated: “I’m pregnant.” When Lmao witnessed a birth, he said it was a once in a lifetime.
Deadpan and I visited Marco in the jail beneath the pier. Marco admitted he was making gunpowder, and told us he intended to use it for fuel to power my spaceship. I replied that if he could get that to work, then he must be some kind of rocket scientist, because I’ve been stranded here for three hundred years. He said he was desperate; he states that if we sent him to the mainland, they would lock him up for being delusional, and he would never get back to his own dimension. He agreed to allow Plucky to conduct a psychological exam. I told Deadpan about my idea for a miniature flying saucer; he said it sounds like a pie in the sky.
“Marco’s in jail,” Deadpan said. “I arrested him.” I invited Police Chief Deadpan in and he told me how he had discovered Marco at the beach campsite stirring a large kettle. Beside the kettle were piles of ground match heads, charcoal, and cat poop, which Deadpan recognized as ingredients for making gunpowder. He then arrested Marco on suspicion of threat to public safety. I told Lmao that I can’t ever win at violent video games. He said stop beating yourself up.
The king emailed me to say that he was unable to come up with a missing persons report that might shed light on the identity of our guest. Marco didn’t seem bothered about not knowing his own name but instead he was interested in finding out exactly when the king’s ship would arrive to pick him up. The mystery deepened this morning when Deadpan knocked at my door, early and out of breath. Lmao says they once had a new guy who never said anything; they wondered if he might be a plant.
Because Marco had become such good friends with Lmao, Plucky invited him to stay with her and Lmao. I emailed the king and received a disappointing response: the naval fleet was tied up in a mission and wouldn’t be able to pick up the delusional human for another week or two. In the meantime we were forced to listen to how he had always wanted to be an astronaut and how he volunteered for the secret mission to visit another dimension. When I asked Lmao what it was like being cloned, he said at first he was just a bundle of nerves.
“I’m an astronaut,” Marco began. “I was part of a secret mission. I blasted off from Earth but that was in another dimension. I splashed down, and ended up here, in this dimension.” I looked around at the others; they appeared to be hanging on his every word. My thoughts were: “Come on everyone, he’s either a nut job or a con man.” I couldn’t wait to notify our landlord the king and have him picked up. When I told Deadpan that my carrier promises unlimited voice calls, he said talk is cheap.
Marco stood up as we approached his campsite: Plucky, Lmao, Susan and me. He had the look of a sailor: muscular, tanned, and coarse. He didn’t seem at all surprised and motioned toward some rocks for us to have a seat. “Lmao told me there were others.” He looked at Susan. “Are you human?” I thought the question sounded personal, and my response, for me, was curt: “We’re the ones asking the questions.” I asked Deadpan what he would do if he were rich and he replied: “That’s the million dollar question.”
“Tell us about the Earthling.” It was around noon and Lmao had just gotten up and stepped out onto the patio. Looking a little surprised, he glanced at Plucky, then nodded to Susan and me. “We’re such good friends,” he began dreamily. “He’s from another dimension. I named him Marco, because he doesn’t remember his name. I found him bobbing in the ocean. He was in a life jacket.” Lmao used to wear an expensive suit; he says he had it made.
Plucky asked Lmao about his nightly disappearances and he told her that he was out getting exercise. “I’ve known Lmao for two thousand years,” she said to Susan and me. “Getting exercise is at the bottom of his list.” We decided to follow him, just to make sure nothing was wrong. He headed for the dunes, and just beyond the dunes we spotted a campfire. He stopped, and I rubbed my eyes. In the light of the campfire an Earthling was waving for him to approach. I asked Deadpan how the exercise class was going; he said he hasn’t learned squat.
We’re gathered backstage at the pavilion. Susan, flanked by ladies-in-waiting sent by the queen, is talking to her father, and Lmao is giving me honeymoon advice. Best man Deadpan, accompanied by canines Jett and Toby, pulls out his police chief handcuffs and offers them to Susan. “In case he tries to flee,” he joked. Susan laughs, then looks inquisitively at me, and then everyone laughs. The music begins.
My groomsman’s name is Dan Rosandich, the owner of Dans Cartoons. You may remember last year when Dan helped Alien Resort out of a tough jam. The Beacons of Night had intimidated our newspaper editors into withdrawing our comics, and Dan stepped forward to offer us a spot in his extraterrestrial cartoon section. The editors followed his lead and we became prosperous again. Dan says he’s honored to be in the wedding, and everyone at Alien Resort is humbled by the visit of a legendary figure. When I asked Lmao how his art class was going, he said: “I won’t paint you a pretty picture.”
Tonight Susan and I are sitting on the patio of Plucky’s spaceship where we just finished a great dinner that Susan cooked. Yesterday I proposed to her on bended knee. I began by saying I loved her at first sight but that I’m no prize. I told her how I negligently crashed my spaceship, an event that sometimes still leaves me with feelings of unworthiness. She replied that Plucky already told her about the crash; then she hugged me and said she wants nothing more than to love, honor, and obey me. I asked Deadpan if he ever thinks about the stars at the edge of the universe. He said they’re the furthest things from his mind.
I met Susan’s father at the barrier and asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage. He looked me in the eye and said that Susan’s well-being was a great concern of his. I replied that in this marriage, Susan’s concerns are the only ones that matter to me. He blinked; then he sighed and extended his hand, which I shook. He confided that he may have been overprotective through the years, and added that he’s thankful that his daughter’s happiness has fallen into the hands of someone so capable and loving. I asked Deadpan why he wasn’t at the solstice party; he said it had been a long day.
We told the king that the government wants us to have id cards and work permits. He made us these really nice id cards. He said that if the government wants work permits then the government will have to come and talk to him. When he asked if we were engaged in commerce, Deadpan said it sounds like he means business.
The island that Alien Resort sits on is part of a kingdom. The king has a crown and a robe but he only uses them during ceremonies. He likes ceremonies because people hand him everything on a silver platter.
Our writer David Davis received a letter from the government asking if we had id cards and work permits. He thinks the Beacons of Night want to cause us trouble because they say we’re stealing jobs from Earthlings. Lmao says let them hunt us down; he’s game.
I called a meeting and we met in the conference room of Plucky’s ship in the middle of the island. By now everyone had heard about the Beacons of Night and how they invented a story that we were hiding secret messages in our comics.
Plucky thinks the Beacons don’t like us and they’re just trying to get other Earth people to join them. Deadpan asked if they were robots and said they might have a screw loose. Lmao said the cat might know more because he stays on top of things.