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.
While everyone here contributes to the operation and maintenance of Alien Resort, nobody works harder than Plucky. Nearly every day, Susan and I visit Plucky’s spaceship and sit with Princess while Plucky works on various projects. For us this isn’t a chore but rather a delight: Princess is the smartest child there ever was, and she asks us an endless barrage of questions that we’re glad to try to answer. Today she asked: “Why are you and Aunt Susan so good to each other?” Lmao used to like sitting around in the back yard; he says it was right up his alley.
“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.