While Georgetta worked with Slippy to determine terms for meeting world dignitaries, I cleaned up the house so the alien wouldn’t trip over anything and go for another tumble.
“Where are your histories, Victor?” asked Slippy.
Georgetta tweaked his tentacle. “Honey, we’re not done here. Not even half of these busybodies have an appointment, and the last thing I need is for you to go off on one of your obsessions.”
“Human history is a primary constituent of my mission.” The wibble held three tentacles steady and flicked the fourth, an expression I understood as stubborn resolve. “It is overtly prevalent in most species, but I perceive it very little among earthlings.”
Georgetta sighed and closed her notebook.
“We can go to the library.” I stacked a few dozen pizza boxes by the front door. “Or visit the professors at the university.”
Slippy’s prune-like body jiggled in a way I took as dissatisfaction. “I’ve read many of the storybooks you call histories, but they are not histories. They are commentary and cajolery.”
I stuttered, trying to make sense of his characterization. “So, maybe you need to read more of them to fill in the missing details?”
“No. That would only make the commentary and cajolery more comprehensive. Perhaps we should speak to these professors.”
As luck would have it, the first history professor we found, Dr. Flock, was enthusiastic, hands on, and had a reputation for being a bit of a maverick. His office was a huge jumble of books and artifacts on shelves, a chair, his desk, and the floor.
“It’s all a big puzzle,” he said. “Written histories have their problems, but it’s sort of how we define history.”
“That is counter to reality,” said Slippy.
Dr. Flock laughed. “Well, maybe. That’s part of the adventure of it. We’re still discovering so much about ourselves.”
“It’s the best we have, right?” I said.
Slippy’s middle puffed up, then shrank a little. “You take unreliable texts, filter them through minds who have lost connection with history, and presume to understand the ancients.” By the way Slippy’s tentacles swayed in unison, I could tell he patronized the man with a mirth that was not unkind.
The professor chuckled. “You are a sticky one, aren’t you? But, you see, we cross reference many kinds of sources to validate each other. The Egyptians, for example, wrote their histories in stone, and we can use that to validate the old parchments and clay tablets.”
“These are the same Egyptians who’s later generations often chipped away the stone to rewrite their history?” asked Slippy.
“Aah… yes, that’s true. I see what you mean. How can we validate one text with another that is suspect?” Dr. Flock shrugged. “It’s not perfect.”
“But it’s the best we have,” I said. “Isn’t that enough?”
“It is not your history,” said Slippy. “It is your eulogy.”
“Uh-huh.” The professor’s eyes narrowed and he angled away from the alien. “Then what is our history?”
“I don’t know,” said Slippy. “The rest of the universe lives their history and it is easy to see. Earthlings seem to hide it or reject it or pretend it’s something else, but I cannot see it. It’s as if they sent their legs out into the world and left their bodies behind.”
Dr. Flock seemed genuinely curious and thanked the alien. “If you ever figure it out, let me know. I’d love to pursue it.”
For a few weeks, Slippy turned everything we talked about to how it might relate to history. We talked about how music might carry the heart and soul of the people through time. We discussed games that brought communities together in common experience. We looked at human organization, building roads, enforcing law, pretending to educate. We examined family trees, family reunions, and holiday gatherings. Nothing seemed to penetrate the alien’s mysterious objective.
I sipped a beer at Darwin’s Pub—yes, it’s really called that—and chatted with a gruff, black-bearded neighborhood cat named Jerome. Sam the bartender browbeat me into trying a new beer called Klotzhausenmeisterbrauen. It was sweet and robust, the flavor alone sending me into euphoria.
Jerome fancied himself an expert on beer. “The Klotzhausen family has a long tradition going back to the original European brewers.” We each drank several bottles as he went on and on about the methods and lessons learned that were handed down from generation to generation. Something about his depiction struck me, and I had to see Slippy. I bought a six-pack of bottles to take with me.
I was slurring my words, so I had one of the waitresses take me home. I ran up to our guesthouse and stumbled through the door. Slippy was busy setting up some contraption that was supposed to spray news reporters with goo that smelled like skunk if they came to our door.
“Shimpy, I’ve got it. Here’sh our hishtory.” I set the six-pack on the coffee table with a flourish. “Beer.”
Slippy hesitated, then wrapped a tentacle around a bottle, twisting the top off. “I guess it’s a start.”
“Itsha besht we got.”