“Where do you go for learning, Victor?” Slippy the Wibble’s tentacles swayed, which I’d come to understand as him being contemplative and… less judgmental. He was never non-judgmental. Part of his charm, I guess.
I set down the automatic corndog maker I fiddled with.
I dropped out of high school and got my GED, but I didn’t think that was what the alien was angling for.
“I mostly learn by doing and ask Floyd at the hardware store. I was a fix-it man in Fredericksburg, and I never knew what a customer would ask for next. One time I fixed an automatic dog washer. Never seen one before in my life, but I got it working.”
“It cleaned the dogs?”
“No, but they stay out of the hamper now.”
“Floyd is a wise one?” Slippy snapped a tentacle like the tail of a cat. A sign he’s getting serious.
“Sort of.” I picked up the corndog maker. “He’s just a guy. We figure things out together.”
The circling of a tentacle meant he approved. “Learning as common human experience. Very good. But what do you do when you wish to become a master?”
“Get your PhD?”
“Not a master ego, a true master.”
“You mean like a marksman? A craftsman? A balloon animal maker?”
“All noble things,” said Slippy. “Not what I mean.”
“What do the wibbles do?”
“Human’s have no equivalent, which is why I’m asking. We engage in a comprehensive experience to know what it means to be wibblish.”
“You mean like charm school?” I hadn’t needled him about anything that morning, so it was due.
“Sometimes you are a singularly disagreeable creature, Victor.”
“I’m trying to help, but we mostly just learn to be ‘humanish’ by osmosis.”
“I understand that,” said Slippy. “But who are the masters?”
“You mean the authorities?”
I knew he understood the authorities, so I was grasping. Slippy twisted all four of his tentacles together, squeaked, and went to his room.
I tried to help. Seriously gave it a lot of thought for a few days, but anything I suggested just vexed him.
I took him for an afternoon walk through town to alleviate his doldrums. “What about a master of ceremonies?”
He squeaked his disapproval.
We ambled by the park. A number of people walked dogs or jogged. Kids threw a Frisbee and played on the jungle gym. Most of the people were used to him.
“If you could just identify some relevant subject matter, it might help,” I said.
Slippy rocked in his excited way, which told me he thought that might work. “Mastery is the subject.”
I stared at him. “You narrowed down learning to be a master to ‘mastery?’”
I shook my head.
“You don’t understand,” he said.
“How do you master mastery?”
I shook my head.
“You still don’t understand.”
“I’m sorry, no.”
“It’s okay.” He bent a tentacle down to scratch a labrador under its chin. “We are truly alien to each other. There are bound to be things that simply don’t transmute between our species.”
I admit I was disappointed. We always seem to come up with something to satisfy his various and sundry curiosities.
A few days later pounding on my bedroom door woke me.
“Victor. I found a master chef class online. We should sign up.”
“Really?” I sat up, pretty irritated with the fellow—it was three in the morning. “All this time you were looking for a master chef? Are you kidding me?”
“Don’t be silly, Victor. Cooking is a wibblish thing to do at any level.”