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Alien at Home

Brooks Mendell writes and runs a forestry business in Northeast Georgia. He has published books on forestry and baseball, and his stories and essays have appeared at Daily Science Fiction and 365tomorrows, among other venues. Visit him at: brooksmendell.com.

Daniel, our nine-year old son, walked his cockroach out to the edge of the driveway where I stood reading the newspaper. "Full frontal assault in the kitchen, Dad," he said. "I've got even money on Mom. She's battle-tested."
I turned the page to scan headlines about aliens invading the country, our national labor shortage and a spate of violent cyber-attacks. Then I looked down at Daniel holding tight as Richard tugged its leash. And I thought about the alien in our home.
"Mom should just use those psychology 101 tricks that she uses on you," said Daniel, crumbling an Oreo cookie onto the ground. "How much longer is this going to last, Dad?"
"Well, son," I said, "Your sister just turned twelve. Your mother read the tea leaves and thinks we should count ourselves lucky if it gets better before college."
"If she gets into college."
"Be nice. It only takes one overworked admissions officer," I said. "Want the op-ed page?"
"Sure," said Daniel, stepping on Richard and taking the paper to wipe the sole of his combat boot. Then we turned and walked back to the house.
"Mom, I'm sorry I was rude," said the alien who favored my daughter Katina, "but I still don't forgive you for looking at me and that does not mean I should have been rude to you. Also, please don't talk to me. That will make me feel better."
"Hey, Honey," I said to my wife. "Saved you the coupons."
"Fuck you, Charlie," said my wife.
"That was ballsy," whispered my son.
"Don't say ballsy, Daniel," I whispered back, walking to the fridge. I opened the door and pulled out a beer.
"Jesus, Charlie, it's 7:30 in the morning," said my wife.
"No worries," I said, holding up the bottle. "It's a Summer Shandy. Fruity!"
"What's a shandy?" asked Katina.
Everyone froze. The alien had asked a perfectly legitimate, appropriate, and polite question. The mass of gelatin filling my daughter's flesh suit had morphed in the moment, losing the slouch and snark, and gaining the quizzical look of a middle-school child.
We stared at the alien silently, breathing in the calm, afraid to break the spell.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019

Author Comments

As humans, we live with the curse of the big brain, which challenges us both as parents raising children, and as adolescents dealing with clueless moms and dads.

- Brooks C. Mendell
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