Xhillokhgshk forced his krpeds into the human suit, filling his many xhippendages into the toes. It took a while to distribute them among the five toes comfortably. He pligxkhed his displeasure.
“Stop sulking, Bobby,” said his mother. She held the upper half of the suit for him.
“Why are you calling me that now?” asked Xhillo. He slipped his upper limbs into the armholes. This was the most unpleasant part. His mother slid the switch and the costume squeezed his huge arms to human size, elongating them and forcing them into the fingers.
“You have to be used to it before you infiltrate the humans, Bobby.”
The pain in his arms subsided. After his mother slipped the costume’s head over Xhillo’s, she insisted that he use his costumed fingers to zip it up and activate the sealer.
“I don’t want to do this,” he whined. “The humans smell bad, and I want to fly spaceships.”
His mother took on that creaky, warbly tone that their species used to admonish. “Every pilot anywhere near this sector had to infiltrate humans before aging into a real job. There are only three species of aliens that can manage a human disguise, and we’re one of them. It’s our duty to figure these human beings out. They’re the most perplexing mix of rational and irrational we’ve ever known, and every alien philosopher agrees they have something mysterious to offer that no other species does.” She excreted onto a xhippendage and wiped some schmutz off his human face. “Enough whining. You’ll do your part, and that’s the end of it.”
Xhillo stuck out his lower lip.
His mother laughed. “That’s perfect. A very human expression.” She helped him into some casual but nice clothing to find his first job.
“To maximize your social interaction we’re starting you in food service,” she said.
“What about a surgeon?” he asked.
“You’re too young. Remember, dear. This is just your teenager job. It’s temporary.”
“What about that place called ‘Chuck E. Cheese’s?’”
“Oh, no,” said his mother. “You’re not ready for such horrors. You’re going to a place called iHop.”
Xhillo interviewed at an iHop close to their hive and told the manager what his mother instructed him to. “I will work hard. I will be nice to earthlings. I will name every french fry.” The manager laughed at something, but went on.
“Where would you like to be in five years?” the manager asked.
“I would like to be… piloting my own spaceship in the Drshrikki sector.”
Again the manager laughed. Xhillo thought he’d messed up, but the manager said, “I like you,” and hired him as a bus boy.
The first few hours of his first shift agitated him because the patrons kept eating the fries before he could get to naming them. Did they not understand? When Xhillo pointed this out to the manager, the manager just barked at him to get busy.
The rituals of the place were fascinating. Earthlings flowed in, they sat and gabbled. Humans called waiters—who didn’t ever wait—brought them food ingredients that had been mutilated and corrupted, which they ate happily. Then they made some exchange involving paper, or metal chips, or a magnetized strip on a rectangular wafer. Often the paper was left on the table, and he was to leave it when he cleaned. None of it made sense, but—if he read the human emotions accurately—there was a cheerful air that he enjoyed.
It turned out Xhillo was an excellent bus boy. Not only did he clear tables when customers left, he cleared anything they weren’t using. It only seemed natural, and it helped track the fries. The waiters became very friendly, and at the end of the shift, one of them gave him some of the papers.
“What do I do with these?” Xhillo asked.
“Anything you want, pal,” said the waiter. “That’s the cool thing about money. You get enough of it and you can do anything.”
This notion excited Xhillo. Enough money would allow him to become a spaceship pilot in the Piphshix sector, back with all his friends.”
When he got home he struggled with the earthling suit, but his mother insisted he had to learn how to do it.
“It went pretty well?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said. He pulled at the neck, trying to get a better angle.
“Would you like to go back again tomorrow, or would you like to try something else, like Game Stop?”
“How much do they pay?” asked Xhillo.
“Oh, my dear Xhillo.” She unzipped his earthling suit and stripped it away. “Too human, too fast.”