Christmas Day, 2009, 6:34 PM, Central Time Zone, GMT
You must login to vote
Jack's House, Anaheim, Saskatchewan
'Yelina!' Tina began pounding on the door once more. 'Yelina! You little bugger! Give it back!'
'I'll give it back in a minute,' Yelina said distractedly as she operated the controls.
'You'll give it back right now!' Asta shouted. 'We were on Level Ten! Level Ten! O-o-h, we are going to pound your guts into the ground when you come out of there!'
The two girls stood aside, arms crossed, as Jack joined them.
'What's up, kids?' To his unsurprise, they said nothing, their expressions cross. 'Okay . . .' He put his face close to the door and tried the knob. 'Yelina? Yelina! C'mon! Put down whatever it is you're doing and come to supper!'
There was the sound of Yelina doing something, getting off the bed, crossing to the door and removing the chair that barred it. She opened the door, and handed something to Tina-
'What the hell did you do to my game?'
Scooting past her with alacrity, to the relative safety of where the adults were, Yelina said, 'I had to borrow it.'
'Borrow it?' Tina accused incredulously, holding up the duct-taped ruin as evidence. 'What the hell! Just look at this! You wrecked it!'
'It works better now,' Yelina said evasively, sitting at the table and reaching for any food that was within arms' length, only to be headed off by Jack.
'Sit tight. We'll start by passing things along,' he raised his voice for the benefit of Jason and Carly who had just come in by the front door, both carrying an armload of firewood, 'just as soon as Carly sits here, and Jason sits there- hang your coats up please, kids . . . Mike, you can sit at the head of the table, John, Rose (Mary and Penny's parents), you can sit next to Mike on that side, Knut, Tanya (Asta's parents), you can sit on the other side . . . and if you kids don't stop fighting, we'll have to split you up-'
'Yelina started it!' Tina and Asta said loudly together.
'You can punch her lights out after supper-' Jack said with a straight face, sitting beside Yelina.
'Yes, Yelina? Remember what I said about using that whiney tone of voice? Here, have some mashed potatoes-'
'Yucky! I want some stuffing, and some cranberries-'
'You'll get plenty of that, too. Here, stick some black olives in your mashed potatoes and slather lots of gravy over it-'
'Here, look! Stick 'em all in a row . . . like this . . . and you've got a mouth . . . and here's some eyes-'
'That,' said Jack, rescuing the tiny bottle from her, 'is something you will most definitely hate.'
'What is it?' she persisted covetously, wanting at least a little of everything on the table.
'It is very hot mustard, for those of us who prefer ham,' he told her judiciously.
'I want some!' she pouted.
He gave her a look. 'How 'bout you have a little taste, first?'
Before he could stop her, she dipped in her finger, and . . .
From across the table, Tina and Asta watched with relish as her eyes began to water, her expression turn to scandalised horror.
Jack sighed and shook his head, and to her empty and overturned chair, said, 'You just can't do things half-way, can you?'
Arley chuckled at the sight of the little blonde alien girl as she ran a continuous stream of tap-water into her mouth in the bathroom sink. On the counter in front of her, looking for some opening to somehow make a game of it, Boom-Boom Kitty watched in fascination.
'You've got some guests.'
'Bleh,' Yelina said, examining her tongue in the mirror for damage.
'You'll live,' Arley told her, turning the girl about and propelling her from the bathroom. 'Matthew and his brother and a cousin are here. I set up a card table and put your dinner on it with theirs-'
'Ith my thungue goith to be burtht?' Yelina asked, pulling on her tongue, trying to look at it.
'Mashed potatoes and gravy is the best thing for a burnt tongue,' Arley told her as they reentered the living-room, somehow managing to remain deadpan.
Arley separated the girl's fingers from her tongue. 'Really. Now go sit with your boyfriend and eat your supper.'
'Thanks,' Jack said when Arley reseated herself.
'You need a wife who knows about kids, Jack,' she replied matter-of-factly. 'You're doing okay . . . but . . . you need help.'
Jack squirmed. Arley's advice, as always, was right on the money, and she always seemed to know more about him than he did himself.
'It's been so long since I . . . you know . . . even went looking . . . I just don't know where to begin any more. Especially not with my life the way it is now.' He looked to Mike for help.
Mike shrugged. 'Don't look at me, buddy. It's really tough for guys our age- and don't try telling me it's not, Miss Smarty Pants-' he cut Arley off, 'I live inside this body, so I know a few things you don't, such as how women act around guys with half-grown kids! A lot of the time, it's not a pretty sight.'
'I was going to agree with you,' Arley conceded. 'I was just going to add that the same is true for women. Having kids makes forming relationships very difficult. I have an older sister who's in the same boat. Her asshole husband ran off to the States with his secretary, leaving her with two teenaged kids, and he's never paid a nickel of child supp- sonofabitch!' She put a hand to her mouth and fled the table.
'I told her it wasn't Dijon,' Ian offered, carefully schooling his features to be free of any trace of "I told you so". 'Wow, this stuff sure is hot! Really cleans out the sinuses.'
'Explains how she's able to relate to Yelina,' Jack said, pretending to concentrate on his sweet potato.
Ian stuck his fingers in his ears. 'La-la-la! I hear nothing!'
Mike grinned and clapped the younger man on the shoulder. 'Son, you've learned the first lesson in "how to have a long and happy marriage"!'
Mary, Penny, Tina, Carly, Jason and Kiko almost spewed their food across the table as Asta showed off her new contacts. Their huge size made her eyes look like a manic Anime cartoon character. For added effect, she'd chosen blue, and tied her hair into pigtails like Yelina. And she was deliberately chewing with her mouth full-
Without turning around, Yelina gave them the finger.
'She does look really funny,' Matthew said, laughing. He paused for a moment to marvel yet again at Yelina's appetite. The boys had loaded up yet again, but that was nothing compared to the pile of food on the little blonde alien girl's plate. 'I thought you didn't like mashed potatoes?'
Yelina shrugged. 'I like 'em with olives 'n' gravy.'
'So-o-o-o . . . you wanna tell us about the monsters?'
Yelina paused to chew a moment, looking from Matthew to Hank to Tom. 'Maybe.'
Matthew gave her a look. 'What were they? A hologram or something?'
Yelina shrugged, began shovelling stuffing and gravy. 'Maybe.'
Hank breathed a sigh of relief. 'Man, I thought maybe you had monsters on that ship!'
Matthew gave his brother a warning look. 'We don't talk about the ship. Remember?'
'Why is that?' asked Tom. 'Everybody talks about it, all the time.'
'Yeah,' Matthew told him, 'except nobody knows anything. Nobody except . . . some of us.'
Tom gave him a look. 'So why not me?'
Yelina, Matthew and Hank gave him a disparaging look.
'What you looking at me like that for? I can keep a secret-'
Their renewed disparaging look had its effect.
'Okay, so I blabbed just that once . . . okay, okay, maybe twice-'
'By the way,' Hank interjected, talking to Yelina, 'how come you turned down that cat food ad?'
'Because,' Matthew answered for her, as her mouth was full (she, doing a pantomime play-by-play, fork in hand, as he spoke), 'the plans for the new concert hall are so expensive that the only way to raise enough money for construction is if all the cat food sponsors get together and pool their money. Besides, Yelina doesn't want to commit to any one company because Boom-Boom Kitty is a four-legged walking garbage-can- OW!- I mean, he'll eat anything- OW! OKAY!- he likes everything!'
'-anyway,' Asta said, removing the second contact and putting it back in its case, 'these are the only ones that got approved, and we have to make sure only ophthalmologists or optometrists are in control of them.'
'I wish we'd thought of it ourselves,' Mary said, becoming serious. 'It's so obvious that when kids saw Kiko's and Yelina's eyes that they'd want their eyes to be the same. But then all those crooks started making them, and that poor little girl in Maryland! Her parents still haven't been able to get those guys into court.'
'Like the lawyers told Jack,' Penny said, 'this isn't something you can patent or even control. You sort of can, but they'll just get around by creating other looks. And that means the crooks will stay in business, and kids will buy them because they're cheap, and we're get more cases of little kids' eyes being hurt.'
'The fund Jack created is helping some,' Jason said. That girl in Maryland got the best team of surgeons money can buy. Still,' he sighed, 'it doesn't change the fact that it was an awful thing to happen.' Kiko put her hand on his as he said this.
'Have you guys tried out the Boom Floor at the lab?' Tina interjected, changing the subject.
She was answered by knowing grins from both sides of the table. 'Like, Mom and Dad had to practically drag us out of there!' Penny said.
'I almost peed myself at first!' Asta burst in excitedly.
'I know!' Mary seconded. 'It's like you're going to fall if you look down, and it goes down forever! Carly did pee herself-'
'I did not-!'
'Ha! I was beginning to think you'd forgotten how to talk!'
'It is scary at first, though, until you start bouncing, 'cause . . . I don't know, it's like you're bouncing off the lights-'
'It does look like that, doesn't it?' Tina agreed. 'Although,' she added thoughtfully, 'this is probably old stuff to Kiko and Yelina.'
Kiko said nothing, but her responding look was non-committal.