a strange sort

[The formation of a united front between Sunnis and Sheites reminded of what fantastically stubborn buggers us humans can be when someone’s trying to take our stuff. This was one of the first stories I wrote for a short story class ages ago, so it’s kind of fresh but maybe that’s a good thing.]

They knocked on Bob’s screen wire door last Thursday. He was rearranging his furniture.
‘Come in, come in, whoever you are,’ he chimed toward the hallway absent mindedly.
‘Good day, citizen.’ The voice came from behind, and significantly above, Bob’s shoulder. Reluctantly he withdrew from staring at the positioning of a furry, faded, floral-patterned armchair.
‘Pleased to meet… erm, have we met before?’ Without his glasses, he squinted at the blurred faces.
‘It is unlikely,’ the first said. They wore the uniform of a dark blue, vinyl jumpsuit with padded shoulders. Their eyes were hidden. Large, wrap-around sun-glasses shaped neatly into rounded red helmets that were adorned with gold racing stripes.
They weren’t smiling. Bob thought offering a cuppa might cheer the poor fellows up.
‘No. Thank you, all we require is your attention. We have come from the star you know as Sirius. We require information as to who you are.’
Bob located his specs and as he sat down, he beamed intensely at them.
‘Yes, yes marvellous! The news people have been jabbering ceaselessly about you and that rocket ship of yours. Long trip I suppose! Funny that you look just like us.’
‘Yes,’ said the second, blankly.
‘Well, any way I can help you out is fine with me. In fact I’m flattered that you thought of me.’
‘Every adult is required to make a statement, Mr. Faustus,’ the first said, checking the name off the envelope they were delivering. He placed it on the coffee table in front of Bob.
‘Instructions are included,’ said the second.
‘Good-oh,’ Bob replied and wondered vaguely if they were staring at him.
‘Good day citizen.’ They left as they came. Bob thought again of the furniture. It now appeared to be positioned perfectly. He sat in another chair, but again, it looked all wrong. Engrossed in this trivial confusion, he remained there for sometime.
Saturday morning, Bob was humming the anthem of a football team that he didn’t barrack for. He opened the envelope and read.

       Dear Terran,
We are giving you the chance to explain a little about a subject you know plenty about. Yourself! It is entirely up to you as to what you think is important. However you will be assessed on what you include and what you omit.
In the interests of a succinct completion of liaison between your species and ours we request that you return the attached notice and questionnaire to your community collection point as soon as possible.

Bob hummed on and touched the tip of a pencil to his tongue and wrote:
Well, as I say to Mrs. Percival from next door, the best place to start is at the beginning. Grew up here in Rosemont. Beautiful place, this. I used to run around the neighbourhood ringing door bells and hiding in the bushes.
Our Prime Minister said it was imperative that young men of our country should fight to defend it. That’s what I thought too, so when I was 18 I joined the army and spent 4 years overseas as an Engineer. Mainly I dug trenches. Back breaking work but I enjoyed it at the time.
When it was time for him, my younger brother, Jim, didn’t want to join up and somehow got out of it. War just wasn’t for him. He stayed here in Rosey and worked in a factory making guns. Worked his little heart out too, fell down dead right there on the production line.
Everyone thought it’d be over in a year, ended up as eight. We stuck it out though, for the good of our country. It was the right thing to do.
I came back to Rosemont with a foot shot off. ‘Little Bobby Wood-foot,’ that was my nick-name when I got back. Times were fairly hard then, most of the businesses had closed down.
I spent the days wheeling around the place delivering what groceries there were to old folks who couldn’t get out. Walking was a bit painful but I rigged up a little trailer to the back of this funny tricycle that I could peddle with my hands.
Life was a bit more difficult compared to when I was a nipper but we all still got by. The sun came up in the morning and birds chirped.
The Gipple family had a piano and I’d pick up a couple of the oldies and wheel them over. We’d have a merry old singalong. Bert would bring milk fresh from his cow and we’d have cocoa.

These days I mainly spend in the backyard or at the park. I photograph insects – magnified, of course. Folks say I must be awfully patient, suppose I am. I sit in the warmth and breeze and wait for a bug to land on the right leaf. They are suprisingly pretty little things.
I’m a bit creaky now and my race is almost run but I sit out there and it’s like I’m having the most beautiful dream. Regards,
Bob Faustus

Weeks later a message zapped through space towards Sirius at the speed of light.
Scout Captain to Command Central:
Re: Annexation of Terra:

Upon further investigation I recommend the abandonment of our mission indefinitely. The nature of this species is riddled with paradox. Individually their method of reasoning is skewed and unpredictable, yet when threatened, innate qualities of cohesion and resolution come to bear against their aggressor.
They are suspicious of each other while, seemingly, devoted to one another’s well being.
The younger generations even appear to have been expecting our arrival, yet treated our questionnaire with scepticism.
We are currently preparing the vessel for relaunch to continue our search.
YÁѵùV!

– me, 1998

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