I knew the biggest challenge in Slippy the Wibble’s first meet-and-greet picnic would be to keep the annoying people away from him. You’d be amazed the volume of goo the alien can produce when he’s irritated.
It turned out easier than I thought at first. Families of every stripe turned up for grilled chicken, Italian sausage, and every side dish imaginable, even that green ambrosia stuff I can’t get enough of.
It was the kids that helped. They flocked around him, just happy and fascinated to see him. Slippy enjoyed the heck out of them.
“Their words have a purity I rarely get from adults,” he said.
For a while I stopped worrying about who saw him, but when the caterers uncovered the troughs, most of the kids stormed the food line, the rest forced to eat by their parents. Slippy withdrew to a private tent we’d set up to get away when he wanted. Now that I knew about it, this shyness of eating was pretty obvious. I brought him a plate—extra ambrosia.
The activity tables opened after the food. It took some doing, but Georgetta coaxed the alien out of his tent to mingle. It helped that Bill Murray arrived, whom Slippy was eager to meet. I kept my eyes peeled for anyone I thought might annoy the wibble. I deflected the mayor, a lawyer offering his services, and Shia LaBeouf.
One fellow in particular persisted in his attempts, a balding man dressed in a three-piece suit—at a picnic! He clutched a parcel with an air of superiority. Slippy couldn’t stand pretentious people. I thought he might be a bishop of a church or an insurance salesman or maybe a sartorial rights representative. Something was off about him.
I could see this guy pontificating with Slippy about morality or going on about his financial future. I could even see him extolling the importance of formal wear for aliens. Whatever the case, I could see him irritating the hell out of the wibble.
I’ve never seen Slippy so excited as when we visited the crafts tables where kids used construction paper, straws, toothpicks, and egg cartons to make models of him. A boy made origami balloons for the others to use as the alien’s body, and one girl used an actual prune. Kids folded strips of construction paper back and forth to make his tentacles, and one inventive little cuss used eight pieces of scrunched up straw paper, then hit it with a spray bottle to watch the tentacles squirm.
I held my hand up to a reporter trying to get close, apparently an informed one because he wisely held back—they tend to walk away covered with goo when they’re uninvited.
I held one of the models made with clay and Tinker Toys. “Talented bunch of kids, no?”
“These are so warm and full of life,” said Slippy. “There’s such delight in the making of them.”
“If you think these are nice, let me show you something.” I led him to a far corner of the activity tables. Along the way I distracted the mayor by pointing out the reporter, I diverted Jim Gaffigan by showing him the doughnut table, and confused an anti-alien activist by asking him which table was Area 51.
“I like Jim Gaffigan,” said Slippy.
“I know, but he looked hungry.”
The suit with the parcel strode toward us. In my mind I could just see him carrying on about some political drivel or the rights of the human race to conquer the galaxy or the proper way to mince peas.
“Slippy, check out that end table,” I said. “I’ll catch up with you in a minute.”
I stepped in front of the suit. “Sir, please don’t approach Slippy while he’s visiting the crafts tables.”
The man tightened his lips. “When shall I approach him?”
“He’ll give a final farewell with a Q and A after the kite flying contest.”
“My good man, I’d like to see him person to person.”
I looked him in the eye and tried to sound resolute. “You’re going to have to see him at the farewell like everyone else.”
“Like everyone else who’s been blocked, sent away, pushed back, cut off, and diverted several times?”
He was right, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles. I shrugged. “Sorry.”
The man’s words stuck with me, and I couldn’t figure out what nagged me about them. I don’t give a crap about fairness, so it had nothing to do with that.
I caught up with Slippy. He watched a sculptor put the finishing touches on a marble statue of the alien.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“Cold and lifeless, yet… bold and strong.”
“I thought you’d like it.”
We took a break in the beer tent reserved for special guests, where Bill Murray, the local zookeeper, and our hotel maid argued over who was the best accordion player of all time.
The suit tried to get in, but the police officer did his job and kept him out.
I was pooped by the time we got to the kite contest. Parents helped their kids get them off the ground, those that could, and the sky filled with every crazy shape that approximated my alien friend.
Slippy stopped at each one.
“I’m no judge for these kinds of things,” he said. “You choose the winner, Victor.”
“Ugh,” I said. “Not exactly what I do either, but I’ll give it a shot.”
At the very end we came to the man in the suit flying a plain old diamond-shaped kite that looked like a three-year-old made it. But it flew.
“Well, here you are, mister.” I scowled. “You found a way to see him, so I guess you can get on with it.”
“Slippy Wibble, I’m Doctor Kaiser, headmaster of the Medieval Academy for Children. On behalf of the Academy, our young students, and the human race, I would like to present you this gift in appreciation for showing friendship toward men and in recognition of the wibbles being persons created by God, with all the dignity that entails.”
The doctor handed Slippy the parcel, which Slippy opened to reveal a finely bound book full of pages ranging from scribbled crayon to written poems.
“My students did all these works in honor of our friendship.” He made a subtle bow.
“Thank you,” said Slippy. “Such a gift affords me much needed hope for humanity and your place in the galaxy.”
“Hm,” I grunted. “I didn’t see that coming.”