A To Z Challenge: Charlie

So, this sucks. I’m not going to lie. This was rushed and is really just a retelling of Charlie’s Profile. I’m really tired and have been distracted all day. My mind is mushy. I did a post earlier about why. Things have actually gotten more stressful since. I’m having a hard time focusing. I wanted to prepare these ahead of time to avoid this but only made it through the first two. I am a little embarrassed about posting this. It should be much better, but it has to be up today. I would normally do a few rewrites. I only gave this a quick read through. That’s the A To Z Challenge. I might not make it through this successfully. Last month would have been fine. The timing is not working in my favor.

Charlie

Captain Grek, the head alien in charge of the refugees, didn’t have any rules against pets. The idea of a refugee alien having a pet never crossed his mind. He had a lot more urgent matters on hand, like escaping LambaBad, formerly Nasga, finding a safe planet to hide and regroup, escaping the ship of Lambads that pursued them across galaxies and through wormholes, the fate of the ship that crash-landed at the same time they did, the well-being of the aliens in his charge, getting the humans to release them from quarantine… The list goes on ad infinitum. When the refugees were finally released from quarantine, his list grew even longer. Abby decided it might be best to keep her pet a secret.

Following their release from quarantine, Abby spent most of her time researching pets. She decided that a fish would be the easiest to keep secret, but the least likely to be fun or provide companionship. The most fun would be a kangaroo, kangaroo rat, giraffe, koala, monkey, or dog. Rabbits looked too Yamfennian to be a pet. She decided a small dog would be the most fun, provide the best companionship, and be the easiest to conceal. Following her meticulous research of dog breeds, she decided on a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Having a puppy turned out to be a lot more work than Abby’s research led her to believe. Charlie loved to tear asunder whatever she could find. She also expelled waste wherever she wanted, and it was an unpleasant waste. Abby worked with her continuously. She studied every training technique she could find. It would be a lot easier if they could communicate. Abby found that no one had ever learned to translate dog language into English. Abby had an epiphany. She would resume work on her anthropomorphizing device.

Her first experiments were on inanimate objects. She had early success with a towel. It just screamed a lot and talked about its horrible life drying butts. Abby took it out into the Canadian wilderness and released it into the wild where it would never have its face shoved into a butt again.

Her successful experiment encouraged Abby to try living creatures. She gathered up any other animal she could find and hold secretly. No animals were harmed through the duration of Abby’s experiments. She started, like any clichéd scientist, with a rat. Ratchet, Abby was not good at naming things, got very large for a rodent. That was it. She released it into the wild where it became the king of rats. It ruled over them with iron whiskers it had made. The anthropomorphizing device may have had some weird side-effects. She followed that up with a turtle, named Turt, that failed to grow or gain any apparent intelligence but loved pizza and an ant, named Anty, who would only communicate via Twitter. Various other mutations came along before Deertorious, which was, yes, a deer with some variation of a faux ancient Roman name.

Abby was walking Charlie in the woods around the crash site/refugee alien compound with her device. They were supposed to take their blasters anytime they were outside of the compound. Abby inadvertently grabber her device since it was the main thing on her mind at the time.

When a deer jumped out of the bushes and ran straight for them with his antlers looking particularly dangerous, Abby pulled out her device and blasted him. She grabbed Charlie and dove out of the way. The deer stumbled and rolled into more bushes. The deer stood up on his hind legs and gave Abby a peculiar look. It was almost as peculiar as the word ‘peculiar.’ If there’s any word that should mean what it means, it’s ‘peculiar.’ ‘Whimsy’ is another one.

“Hello,” said Abby, tentatively.

“Hey,” said Deertorious.

“What’s your name?” asked Abby, with growing excitement.

“I’m a deer. We don’t have names,” said Deertorious.

“How about Deertorious?” Abby asked.

“Sure,” said Deertorious.

Abby asked a series of questions before excitedly returning to her workshop. She wanted Deertorious to come back with her for further tests and inquiries, but he wanted to remain in the woods where he belonged. In the end, it was his decision. He was a lot bigger than her and had antlers.

When she returned to her workshop, or Ab’s Lab as it had become known, Abby couldn’t resist the excitement of a successful anthropomorphization. She looked at Charlie who looked back at her with her big, loving eyes. Abby held her breath, closed her eyes, rubbed her foot, and zapped Charlie. Abby heard a cough. She opened her eyes, but all she could see was a cloud of smoke.

A voice emanated from inside the cloud. “I’m glad I didn’t end up like those other blokes.”

“Charlie? Charlie, is that you?”

“That’s my name. Don’t wear it out,” said Charlie. “You know because your name’s Abby, and if you try to wear my name out there, it won’t go over well.”

Her first attempt at a pun wasn’t a winner, but it was a precursor to the pun machine she would become.

Abby and Charlie talked all night. Abby was elated to have someone to talk to. Charlie was happy that Abby could finally understand what she was saying. Most of it was requests for food.

In the morning, Abby brought her best friend, Hitch, into her room.

“Who is this?” asked Hitch.

“I’m Charlie. You must be Hitch,” said Charlie. “I’ve heard ever so much about you.”

Hitch looked at Charlie, confused. “I haven’t heard anything about you.”

Abby explained Charlie to Hitch.

“Captain Grek can’t find out about this, Abbs,” Hitch said.

“I have a plan,” said Abby.

Abby hacked into the computer system. It was easy for her. She was one of the lead designers and programmers of the system. Within minutes, Charlie was a Niibellian from the planet Niibell and assigned to Hitch’s squad. Hitch informed the rest of the squad.

The next day, when the squads were lined up for training exercises, Captain Grek stopped by Hitch’s squad.

“Something’s different,” said Captain Grek.

“We’re lined up correctly,” said Hitch.

“That is unusual, but it’s not what I meant,” said Captain Grek.

“We’re prettier than usual,” said Charlie.

“You,” said Captain Grek. “Who are you?”

“Charlie,” said Charlie. “Who in blazes are you?”

Abby tugged on Charlie’s tail and whispered, “Charlie, quiet.”

“I’m the Captain of the Refugee Alien Defenders,” said Captain Grek. “How are you here and don’t know that?”

“She’s cranky today, sir,” said Abby, shoving Charlie behind her.

“Who is she?” Captain Grek asked, again.

“She’s Charlie, from Niibell,” Abby said, nervously.

Captain Grek tapped on his wripter and brought up Charlie’s profile. It was all there. Abby added every necessary detail and some extra information to flesh out her back story.

“Hmm…” said Captain Grek. “Why does she seem so unfamiliar?”

“I don’t know, sir,” said Abby. “You’ve been very busy with making sure we’re all all right and forming the Refugee Alien Defenders and our training.”

“That’s true,” said Captain Grek, “but I made these squads. I am intimately familiar with everyone’s skills and weaknesses.”

“You have been known to forget a face or two,” said Hitch.

“Have I?” asked Captain Grek. “You might be right. Carry on.”

As soon as Captain Grek turned his back, Charlie saw a rabbit hopping through the grass. Charlie was in pursuit of the rabbit before Abby could say anything. Captain Grek turned around, glared at Abby and farted.

Charlie 

A To Z Challenge: Batimus

Continuing right along with the A To Z Challenge. Today’s letter is B. B as in boy, boom, barbecue, bagel, barn, barf, bacon, broccoli, bunions… There are probably more words that start with B. In case you missed my dramatic A To Z Challenge Theme Reveal, I’m trying to focus on my sci-fi creations, The L Squad & Norman Normalson & The Normals. You can also follow along with my A To Z Challenge by following that link. I’m already regretting the path I chose for this. I’m going to want to go back an rewrite everything.

I’ve been meaning to write up a PolleeAnnuh bio but haven’t yet. For now just imagine a really cool alien version of conjoined twins. P might bring more details.

Batimus

Batimus, or Bat for short, practiced her martial arts at night, in the dark, where she couldn’t be seen. The refugees weren’t allowed anything that could be used as a weapon, even martial arts.

Batimus was named after the home world she’s never seen, Batimus Prime. Batimus Prime was home to the Batisian people. When Batimus Prime was invaded most of the Batisian survivors fled. Some went on to other uninhabited worlds and founded planets like Batimus II, Batimus The Third, and such. Some Batisians fled to established planets that would accept refugees. Batimus’s parents stayed to fight the invaders. It wasn’t until the battle was lost that they gave up their planet and escaped to Nasga. It was on Nasga that Batimus was conceived and born and given the name Batimus as a reminder of the world that was lost, the world she would most likely never see.

Batisians are furry, usually in a brown, white, and black combination. Batisians have large, piercing eyes that can actually emit light and illuminate the darkness. It’s kind of like a flashlight that can be turned on or off.

Batisians have extraordinary climbing abilities. They’re a very nimble, acrobatic species. See what I did there? AcroBATic. This gives them a natural aptitude for martial arts.

Bat’s work-out was truncated by a tall thin alien, slightly resembling a celery stick with a huge afro, running around yelling, “Tomfoolery!”

PolleeAnnuh came running behind.

“Sorry,” said Pollee.

“That’s just Tomfoolery,” said Annuh.

“He’s very interesting,” said Batimus. “What’s he doing?”

“He wanted the job of telling everyone the good news,” said Pollee.

“Is that how he’s doing it?” asked Batimus.

“Yeah, that’s why he didn’t get the job,” said Annuh.

“That makes sense,” said Batimus. “What is the good news?”

“Oh, Tomfoolery didn’t tell you?” Pollee said with a chuckle.

“I got the gist but would like a little more detail,” said Batimus.

“We’re free,” said Annuh. “Humanity has finally lifted the quarantine.”

Batimus listened as PolleeAnnuh explained the details of their emancipation. Batimus thanked them profusely. PolleeAnnuh pointed her to the person she should be thanking, a Yamfennian who was currently at work in her workshop.

Bat knocked on the door. After a few seconds of silence, she tried again. This time the door opened to reveal a small, fluffy, pink, and yellow Yamfennian with a white blaze down the middle of her face with two short swirly antennae on the top of her head. She looked like Easter, a holiday Batimus learned about mere moments ago, and smelled of cotton candy, something Batimus wouldn’t learn about until later.

“Hi, Abby. I’m Batimus.”

“Right,” said Abby, squinting and shielding her eyes. “You’re one of the Batisians.”

“Sorry,” said Batimus. “I forgot about my lights.”

Bat blinked a few times dimming the lights emitting from her eyes.

“Thanks,” said Abby.

“Yeah, I’m Batisian. My friends call me Bat. I just came by to congratulate and thank you.”

“For what?”

“Haven’t you heard?”

“I don’t hear much. Not many people talk to me. All I’ve heard recently was someone running around yelling, ‘Tomfoolery!’”

“We’re free. The humans have finally decided to end our quarantine.”

“Finally! Does this mean I can get my computers and equipment back?”

“I don’t know.”

“Why are you thanking me?”

“You were the deciding factor,” said Batimus.

“Me? Was it my essay on the cruelty of captivity?”

“No.”

“Was it my plea to humanity to see us as equals instead of animals to be tamed?”

“No.”

“Did they finally accept that our ship was destroyed, and we’re stuck here?’

“No.”

“Did they find evidence of the Lambad ship that followed us here and realize they need us to protect them?”

“No.”

“Was it my warnings about the probability of The Tyrannical Tyrannosaurus Gregory LambaDambaBottom following us here and the need for global preparation?”

“No.”

“Then, how the glaurf was I the deciding factor?”

“It’s because you remind humans of something called Easter. It’s a holiday that’s coming soon.”

“I remind them of a holiday.”

“Yeah. Apparently, Yamfennians look a little like colorful rabbits, a cute, furry animal native to Earth.”

“Humans think Yamfennians are cute?”

“They think you’re especially cute amongst the Yamfennians. So, thanks.” Abby just stared at Batimus with a shocked expression and drooping antennae. Uncomfortable with Abby’s stare, Batimus searched for something else to say, “So, what are you going to do when they finally let us out of here?”

A look of curiosity and contemplation came over Abby’s face. She distractedly said, “I’m going to get a pet.”

Abby disappeared back into her workshop.

“A pet?” Bat said to herself, perplexed. After her experiences with slavery and all her talking and writing about the atrocity of one species holding dominion over another, she wants a pet? “Yamfennians are strange creatures.”

Poetry Prompt: Broken Wings (L Squad Style)

The first thing that comes to my mind when I read these poetry prompts is not in any way related to The L Squad or Norman Normalson & The Normals or farts or cheese or robots or aliens. I like to try to redo them so they fit in with that style. The promotion of The L Squad, Norman Normalson & The Normals and whatever else comes up in that vein is the purpose of this blog.

This is from the point of view of Chuckinstuf, which seems natural since he has wings. It also seems unnatural since he’s not introduced until The L Squad: Phase Two. I haven’t been able to get The L Squad published, yet. This would take place around the middle of The L Squad. It’s a point of view not explored in the book, which makes it interesting. Of course, it’s not a point of view explored in the book since Chuckinstuf isn’t introduced until the second book. I mean in general. It’s also somewhat of a teaser.

The prompt is, again, courtesy of Cubby. She’s the only person I follow who does prompts and challenges. Though, I have been informed her cat could actually be the one in charge.

Chained

Tread lightly on my broken wings,
Now pitiful but once were proud

These once powerful things
Are now withered and cowed

I must find the strength to fly again
Stretch my wings, ignore the pain

Then emancipate my friends
Free us all from our chains

I need to fly. I need to soar.
We have to break through that door

We need to fight, even the score
Defeat the tyrant we all abhor

The planet we’re sworn to protect
Is now the planet we have to save

Our escape he couldn’t neglect
With us, he found a new world to enslave

 

Apparently, I can’t find anything better to rhyme with “wings” than “things” that fits into the context.

R.A.D. Profile: Chuckinstuf

This is more of a description than a biography. Chuckinstuf isn’t introduced until The L Squad: Phase Two where he plays an important role. It may be necessary, in the near to distant future, to have some background on him.

Chuckinstuf is a Xellwamian from the planet Xellwam. Xellwam is a planet of fur. All Xellwamians are ridiculously hairy. Even the plant life on Xellwam is hairy instead of leafy. The Xellwamian who invented the Xellwamian vacuum is the richest and most famous Xellwamian in Xellwamian history. His name is Largsnof Suckitup.

Chuckinstuf is slightly larger than the average Refugee Alien Defender. Under his thick coat of redish brown fur, he has eight tentacles that extend from and retract into his belly area. They are excellent for hand-to-tentacle combat or hugging Dave, the insurance salesman. Also hiding under that plethora of fur is a pair of wings. Chuckinstuf can soar like an ostrich or a chicken. What? They don’t fly? How about a penguin? No. What kind of bizarre birds do you have on Earth? He flies like the Guianan cock-of-the-rock or the critically endangered California condor. If you think bird poop is bad, you don’t want to be under Chuckinstuf when he’s flying.

As a member of the R.A.D., Captain Grek assigned Chuckinstuf to the J Squad as its captain. He has an aversion to blasters and prefers throwing things. His weapons of choice include flash grenades, stun grenades, or dropping monster doodies as he’s flying.

Rondeau Challenge: L Squad Style: Another New World

I started this last week, last year, even, hahahahahahaahahahaha… dumb. The end of the week and through the weekend got chaotic, and this was lost in the debris. I’m back to pick it up and make it brilliant or at least complete.

I tried out Cubby’s Rondeau challenge. You can view my attempt here. I said in that post that I would try to “revisit these and try them in a style more befitting of this blog, meaning aliens and farts. Maybe robots and space pirates. Cheese? That would be fun.” The other being the Terza Rima, which I redid from the point of view of Norman Normalson. This time, I’m going to retry the Rondeau with an L Squad theme. Let’s see how it goes, shall we?

 

Another New World

On another new world, the third for most
Humanity’s a less than gracious host
We hoped that they would protect refugees
But the humans locked us up hastily
Their hospitality’s no cause to boast

We were quarantined, and the guards watched close
Captain Grek was the one who led the toast
When humanity finally set us free
On another new world

We’re set to defend every land and coast
On every continent, we set a post
We have to be ready for Gregory
He’ll come here to resume his tyranny
Since he turned Nasga to a world of ghosts
On another new world

It’s hard to work these into existing storylines. I didn’t include robots, space pirates, or cheese. What’s the deal?

A Nearly Norman Christmas. In Prose. Being An Alien Story Of Christmas.

I’ve been hyping this for a little while. Don’t believe the hype. It does not live up to the hype. It’s better. Dang it! I did it again. If there are things about Norman Normalson’s world that you don’t understand, click here to acquaint yourself with Norman and the happenings on Epatrus. If you don’t get the Earth Christmas references, that’s on you and/or your parents. With only a small amount of ado, here is A Nearly Norman Christmas. In Prose. Being An Alien Story Of Christmas. I got a little case of the Dickens in me as I was preparing to post.

A Nearly Norman Christmas

In Prose. Being An Alien Story Of Christmas.

It was Norman Normalson’s first year on Epatrus. Norman was miserable on Epatrus. He was homesick and missed his friends. He was one of the few people who didn’t have a mustache or a tail. He was the sole human in his school. The only friends he made was a group of outcasts who get mocked and continuously bullied. To make things worse, Norman Normalson was about to miss Christmas. The calendar on Earth was creeping close to the month of Odysseus, which used to be the second half of December. All Norman wanted for Christmas was to go back home, to Earth.

There is no Christmas on Epatrus. They’ve never heard of Christmas, Hanukkah/Hanukah/Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, or Saturnalia. They don’t even have Life Day. Don’t pretend like your traditions are the only ones that are important. That’s ignorant and arrogant.

On Earth, the Normalsons celebrated Christmas, mostly because Victoria liked the smell of tree in the house. Ned wanted to keep the tradition alive and help Norman adapt to his new home and new life. Ned started planning the best Christmas ever. Unfortunately, Ned had recently started at his firm and had a lot to prove. There was skepticism among his Epatrusian coworkers that a human was capable of the job. He didn’t even have a tail. How good of an accountant could he be?

Not only did Ned not get time off for Christmas, but it also happened to coincide with tax season on Epatrus. He had to work overtime every day. Uhoria wanted to help her new husband and make a good impression on her new stepson. She volunteered to be Holiday Cheermeister and Chairperson Of Festivities. She had no idea what either meant.

Uhoria spent weeks learning all the Hanukkah traditions she could.

Following some early research, Uhoria asked Ned, “What’s the difference between Hanukkah and Chanukah?”

“A C and a K,” Ned replied.

“What does that have to do with Christmas?” she asked.

“Nothing,” said Ned. “Hanukkah is a different holiday that takes place around the same time as Christmas.”

“Hanukkah seems far superior,” said Uhoria. “It’s eight crazy nights of presents and lights. Christmas is only one day, and it’s far too commercial.”

“Technically Christmas is only one day,” said Ned, “but it’s somehow extended to two months.”

“Oh, that is better than eight nights,” said Uhoria. “Don’t you get tired of it by the end of two months?”

Uhoria spent the next week learning all the Christmas traditions she could. She learned about Santa and Rudolph. She learned about the Grinch, Mr. Potter, Ebenezer Scrooge, and Scrooge McDuck. She studied Krampus and the New Year Goblin. She learned about stockings and presents and coal and mistletoe and Charlie Brown. She learned about candy canes and Christmas trees and Christmas songs.

She learned about Trick Or Treat and the rabbit who hides colorful eggs and fireworks and lighting menorahs and stuffing stuffing up a dead turkey’s butt. She may have expanded her research beyond Christmas.

She learned all the lyrics to “Santa’s Roasting On An Open Fire,” “Have Yourself A Very Little Christmas,” “Jingle Smells,” “Rudolph The Red-Headed Corgi,” “Mr. Hankey, The Christmas Poo,” and so on. She may have learned so much so fast that things got scrambled in her brain.

Holidays and traditions are weird. Once they become tradition, regardless of how bizarre they are, they become normal and are accepted as such. People don’t often step back and say, “Wait. We cut down a tree and cover it in toys and weird stuff Mom likes so an old bearded guy in a red suit who gets around on a sleigh powered by flying reindeer who watches and judges everything we do all year, even though he’s the one who invites children to sit on his lap in exchange for gifts, will break into our homes to trade us presents for cookies? Well, there are presents. There’s an odd stalker vibe and breaking and entering, but there are presents. We wait in line, so our children can sit on a stranger’s lap in the mall, but there are presents. Yeah, I’m fine with that.” Sorry. Holidays are weird. Don’t you ever look at your holidays and traditions and say, “That’s weird!”?

Uhoria did. She could not get a grasp on Christmas. Her need for acceptance by her new stepson drove her to keep trying. She watched every Christmas special that was available to stream on the intergalactic interweb. It should be no surprise that they all came from Earth. Though, none came from Africa. Do they know it’s Christmas?

Isn’t that a horrible song? It sounds post-apocalyptic as if Africa only exists in some dystopian future like it’s the setting for Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Now, I want to watch those movies. I think I’ve seen one of them. I bet PolleeAnnuh have them.

Band Aid? Seriously? You’re going to form a supergroup and call it Band Aid? Charity is about helping people, not bad puns. Actually, it may have been the perfect name. Everyone who contributed to that is now old and soggy, just like discarded Band-Aids.

Charity and awareness are good things, but could you try not to be insulting about it? “Hey, your continent’s a desolate wasteland. Here, have some money we made with this song about how horrible your home is.”

That song bothered Uhoria. It made her concerned about life on Earth. It also hurt her feelings that Norman wanted to go back there.

Norman wanted to go home more than anything. He wanted to go back to Earth so much that he tried to write Santa a letter. He remembered that Epatrus not only doesn’t have paper but has no mail service. Norman had never been so grateful for the intergalactic interweb.

Norman logged in to his FloBloLoSo account and found a page for Santa Claus. He eagerly typed a message.

“Santa,

My name is Norman Normalson. I am 8-years-old. I have been good all year and will continue for the rest of the year. I only want one thing for Christmas. I want to go home. Please.

My dad went crazy after my mom died and moved us to Epatrus so he could marry an alien woman with a mustache. I hate it here. I am the only one in my school without a tail or a mustache, except for my friend Algernon. If you came to get me, I would be good for the rest of my life and never ask for another thing for Christmas. Thank you.

Your friend,

Norman Normalson

P.S. How old are you? My dad said you were old when he was a kid.

A few hours later, Norman got a response.

“Dear Nerman,

Thank you for your message. I’m glad to see that you’ve been good all year. I’ll have to check my records to confirm that. Every letter I receive starts with “Dear Santa, I’ve been good all year.” I used to take kids at their word, but that created quite the quagmire. Every time I’m wrong, it makes more work for the New Year Goblin. He gets cranky with me when he has to retrieve presents from bad boys and girls. You don’t want to know what he does when he’s cranky. Just don’t make him cranky. You won’t like him when he’s cranky.

Your request is original. I’ll give you that. Unfortunately, I can’t possibly take you away from your father. Some people consider my present delivery technique to be contrary to certain laws. I don’t know how it can be breaking and entering when the chimneys are unlocked. I can’t add kidnapping to the list.

I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll send you a gift for next year. It’s far too late to get something to Epatrus by Christmas this year. How about a nice football? Or a stick-on mustache or tail?

Merry Christmas,

Santa

P.S. It is very impolite to ask a gentleman how old he is.”

Norman started entertaining thoughts that perhaps the bigger kids were right and there was no Santa. At the very least, this wasn’t the FloBloLoSo page for the real Santa. Was Nerman a typo? Or did Santa think his name was Nerman? Norman felt even worse about his situation, and it showed in his demeanor.

Uhoria noticed the change in Norman’s countenance. He was more sad than usual, which was hard to do. If Christmas specials taught Uhoria anything, it’s that there was no problem that couldn’t be solved with presents. I think Uhoria was forming a very pessimistic view of Christmas.

This is the worst Christmas story ever. Remember A Christmas Story? That was good. Presents saved the day.

Come on, Uhoria. Stop being a Scroogy Grinch. Come on, Norman. Stop being a Grinchy Scrooge. Come on, kids, let’s help Uhoria and Norman find some holiday spirit. Let’s sing them a special Christmas song. Here’s a song I wrote called “A Special Christmas Song.” I made it extra horrible just for Christmas. It’s a Christmas special. There has to be at least one song, and it has to be terrible.

“It’s Christmas
It’s the happiest time of the year
Because it’s Christmas
It’s only one time every year
Because it’s Christmas
Even on leap years
There’s only one Christmas
Which is kind of a ripoff
We should get two Christmases every four years
Because Christmas
is the Christmassiest time of the year
We can sing A Special Christmas Song
We can all sing along
Because it’s Christmas
The most Christmassiest time of the year
And Santa and Rudolph and stuff
Especially presents
The best part is the presents
Every day should be Christmas
So we get presents.”

Then there’s the Rap verse:

“My name is Christmas, and I’m here to say
That I should be here every day
I bring you love. I bring you gifts
I check off your Christmas list
You want a good time you want some fun
Call your boy Christmas ‘cause I’m the one
In summer I’m lost, in winter I’m found
Christmastime should be all year ‘round”

Yeah, that song is dreadful. It’s even worse than “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” What do you expect? It’s a Christmas song. Name two good Christmas songs. I’ll spot you Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas” and John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over).” All right, there are some goods ones, but there are a lot of awful ones.

Rejuvenated by the special Christmas song you just sang, Uhoria was more determined than ever to give Norman a very special Christmas special. She couldn’t do it alone. No one should be alone on Christmas. She needed help.

“Ned!”

“Yes, Dear.”

“Why is there a song that says there are 12 days of Christmas?” asked Uhoria. “First, it was one day. Then, it was two months. Now, it’s 12 days.”

“That goes back to its pre-Christmas origins when it was called Saturnalia,” said Ned. “Saturnalia was a 12-day celebration of the Winter Solstice. The traditions live on in the current celebration of Christmas.”

“Never mind,” said Uhoria. “I’m still having a problem separating Christmas and Hanukkah.”

Ned was trying to help, but he was only making things more confusing. Santa Claus! He made Christmas special for most of a whole planet full of kids. Uhoria decided she would ask Santa for help. She wanted to send a letter to Santa but had no idea what a letter was. Instead, she posted a long message to his FloBloLoSo page.

“Dearest Santa Claus,

I have been a very good girl all year… most of the year. I’ve seen all your movies and many of your television specials. I really liked that movie you were in where you replaced the Santa who fell off the roof. It was humorous. (That part of her message wasn’t true.) My favorite has to be the one where you worked at Macy’s and helped a little girl by giving her your cane for Christmas.

I am writing you today not for myself but for my stepson, Norman. This year will be his first Christmas away from Earth. He has moved with his father, my new husband, Nedrick, to live with me on Epatrus. I am trying to make a special Epatrusian Christmas just for him. I believe that will help him acclimate to his new home and, on a selfish note, help me to earn his love and respect.

We don’t have Christmas on Epatrus. As such, I am ignorant of the customs associated with the holiday. My ignorance is a great impediment to the implementation of the Christmas traditions in my home. I have been studying Earth’s endless supply of Christmas specials and ditties. However, I feel my knowledge is still woefully deficient. My husband works long hours and has been unable to assist me.

My plea to you, Father Christmas, Saint Nicolas, Mr. Claus, is that you will bring Christmas to Epatrus. It would be ever so helpful in my cause and mean ever so much to Norman. You could light up our world like you light up yours.

Thank you ever so much,

Uhoria Jhakurus-Normalson”

Uhoria liked Santa. His beard was almost as impressive as her mustache. She eagerly anticipated his reply.

While we wait with Uhoria, I’ll tell you about FloBloLoSo. FloBloLoSo is the most popular social media site on the intergalactic interweb. It was designed by a former employee of the Shliplestein Corporation and is ironically one of the few higher technologies not owned by Gargamel Von Shliplestein. FloBloLo, as you may know, is a computer genius-o. He’s also a pirate.

FloBloLo is the nickname of Flower Blossom McLotus. He was a self-taught computer programmer turned hacker. He created FloBloLoSo, Flower Blossom McLotus Social, which he named after himself, with his robot, RDRR. Captain Mauve Oyster, captain of the pirates, saw how it played off people’s incessant need for attention and to share every detail of their lives with others.

RDRR and the Space Ship Stuff Stealer’s computer watched and gathered all the information they could. The pirates knew when people were going on cruises, where the cruises were going, and when people wouldn’t be home. FloBloLoSo made it too easy for the pirates to pick ships and homes to rob. Yeah, space pirates, space pirates in a Christmas story. Take that A Christmas Story.

Somehow, no one made the connection between what they were posting on FloBloLoSo and their stuff being stolen. I think sometimes people get too caught up in their own lives and forget there’s a universe out there. FloBloLoSo continued to grow and get more popular. Within a few megamonths, it was the biggest thing on the I.I.

Megamonths are months spent in space. Sometimes, they seem like forever. An extended voyage through space, away from friends and family and loved ones, can make regular days, weeks, months, and years seem like weeks, months, years, and decades.

FloBloLoSo became so popular that FloBloLo made more money from it than he did pirating. It made him rethink his life. Was there still time to escape the criminal path down which his life had led and live a legal life? Could someone who had been a pirate so long acclimate to life as a regular person? Could he do some good with his life and make up for all the wrong he had done?

FloBloLo… Oh. There’s Uhoria’s response.

Uhoria received a message alert on her FloBloLoSo home page. With bated breath, she opened her inbox. The message was from Santa. Uhoria eagerly clicked the link that read, “Re: A Normalson Christmas.” The message popped up.

“Dear Uhoria,

I’m happy to hear you enjoy my movies. The revenue from those helps me pay the elves who make the toys I give the children of the world. Without them, it would be virtually impossible for me to spread the joy of Christmas to every little girl and boy. Some people think the elves are my slaves, but that’s just a nasty rumor.

You seem like a good person. Stepchildren often have a hard time accepting their stepparents. You have added difficulty as I’m sure Nerman is holding you responsible for his relocation from his homeworld to another world. Moving isn’t ever easy on children, but a move across the universe to a new world will make the adjustment much more difficult. Give it time. I’m sure Nerman will grow to love and respect you.

It is with the most profound regret that I must inform you I will not be able to assist you this year. I know your stepson, Nerman, is a good boy. I remember him from his years on Earth. What we have here is a simple logistical issue.

Every year, it gets harder for me to traverse the globe in a single night. There are always more children being born. Even if my sleigh were equipped for space travel, the journey takes megamonths. I couldn’t make it to Epatrus in time for Christmas. Much less make it there and back. I cannot forsake the entire planet of Earth for one little boy on Epatrus. That doesn’t even take into consideration the time it would take away from my movie and television work or my mall appearances.

I extend to you and your family my sincerest apologies. I wish you a very merry Christmas and the best of luck in providing Nerman with a special holiday season.

Ho, Ho, Ho,

Santa

P.S. You have a really nice mustache.”

“Nerman?” Uhoria said to herself. It occurred to her that she had never seen Norman’s name in print. Could his name be Nerman? Nerman? Norman? Norman? Nerman? No, his name was Norman. Probably. This holiday thing was stressful. Uhoria was so frazzled that she even doubted her stepson’s name. “Ned.”

“Yes, Dear,” said Ned, from the other room.

“How is Norman’s name spelled?” She slurred her pronunciation of Norman in an attempt to hide her uncertainty.

“N-O-R-M-A-N, why?” said Ned.

“There’s a Y on the end?” asked Uhoria. Now, she was even more confused.

“No, I was asking why you want to know how to spell Norman,” said Ned.

“Oh, for presents,” said Uhoria. Ned came around the corner and gave her a confused look. “For the tags for the presents.”

“Of course,” said Ned. “I am so happy you’ve immersed yourself in our tradition. Norman’s going to love this Christmas. It’s going to be the best Christmas ever.”

Uhoria felt as if Ned just dropped a ton of pressure on her. What made her think she could do this? A month ago she didn’t even know what a Christmas was. Now, Ned was counting on her to make the best Christmas ever. She didn’t realize that humans say and expect that every year. She should simply tell Ned she can’t do this and let Norman hate her for life. She didn’t want Norman to hate her. She screamed internally. It was silent but loud.

Yeah, being a stepparent is hard. I should know. I’ve watched sitcoms.

Uhoria went back to watching sitcoms. She desperately searched for some wisdom in the special Christmas episode of… everything. On The Simpsons, Homer lost all his family’s money gambling on dog races, but he brought home a dog. What’s a dog? On Community, Abed saved Christmas by turning all his friends into Claymation. How could she turn Norman into Claymation?

Uhoria spent the majority of the next two days watching Christmas specials. I won’t go into further details because it would require far too much research. I’ve already done a ridiculous amount of research and rewriting for a Christmas special that appears solely in print on a blog.

Uhoria gave up when she stumbled onto something called A Christmas Prince. I have not seen it. I will not. I have not seen a trailer for it. I will not. The mere fact that I know it exists offends me. How can I possibly be so against something I haven’t even seen? Isn’t that prejudice? It is not prejudice. The title tells me more than I ever want to know about it. A woman meets a prince and falls in love just in time for Christmas. No, that’s not a spoiler. There are no spoilers for this movie. It doesn’t need a synopsis. That’s all clearly spelled out in the title.

Precisely 34 seconds in, Uhoria had had enough. She was done with A Christmas Prince, and she was done with Christmas specials. She was exhausted. She went to bed and slept for hours.

It wasn’t a restful sleep. Uhoria’s dreams were haunted by large men in red suits and flying reindeer. In one dream, a fat, bearded man invited her to sit on his lap. He promised her presents in exchange. He had terrible breath and something living in his beard. It was a goblin that said he was the New Year Goblin. He warned, “You better not be faking being good. If you are, I will come and take back all your presents. Muah ha ha ha ha.”

In another, she was in a modeling show. She was yanked off stage by a giant candy cane. Everyone in the audience pointed at her and started chanting, “You don’t understand Christmas because you’re a weird alien creature from a planet far away from Earth that doesn’t even have Christmas, so Norman will never love you or even like you and either will Nerman.” Yeah, it’s a long and awkward chant, but they did it anyway. That’s why it’s a bad dream.

Uhoria jumped up with her hearts racing and her tail shaking. According to Ned’s Earth calendar, there were only 12 Earth days until Christmas. That was only 9 Epatrus days. Never do the math on these conversions. These stories are about words and feelings and people, not numbers. Besides, the math is Epatrusian math, which is vastly different from Earth math if you do it wrong.

This Christmas was going to kill her. Uhoria had to find someone to help. Santa failed her. Mr. Hankey was literally a piece of poop. She wasn’t that desperate. She needed a Christmas miracle. She knew what to do. She knew the only other person who could help her make Christmas Christmassy. Her research turned up one other possible Christmas figure who could help her.

Uhoria’s next plan was to appeal to Jack Skellington for help. She searched FloBloLoSo but couldn’t find a page for him. She couldn’t find any contact information for him anywhere on the entire intergalactic interweb.

“Seriously? Who doesn’t have a FloBloLoSo page?”

Thwarted again, Uhoria sat down, took a deep breath and screamed. With that out of her system, she tried to refocus. She was trying too hard. She had to slow down and come up with a plan. The first thing she had to do was decorate. Of course. Why didn’t she think of that earlier? With so much to do and so much new information crammed into her brain, she forgot the only way to go about solving such a problem is to take it one step at a time.

Epatrus didn’t have Christmas decorations, so she had to make them. She went to Shlip-Mart and bought all the supplies she could find that she thought she could use to make Christmas decorations. After she picked up Ned from work, she enlisted him to help her put it all together.

Over the next week, Uhoria worked her tail off. Not literally, but it was sore. Ned helped as soon as he got home until he fell asleep in a pile of decorations. They strung together lights. They made socks into Christmas stockings. They used Uhoria’s since all of Ned’s and Norman’s were stolen during their voyage to Epatrus. They got a computerized robotic sculpture thing that almost resembled a tree. It sang and danced and gave out candy. At first, Norman was apprehensive, but, once he learned not to get close enough for it to bite him, he almost liked it.

Epatrus doesn’t have pine, spruce, fir, or ugly plastic bottle brush trees. Yes, I’m mocking your gross pink, white, and so on wiry, stored-in-a-box-for-11-months-at-a-time artificial tree. Fake tree equals fake Christmas. Of course, that’s not nearly as bad as cutting down, torturing, and humiliating a tree every December. How would you like it if someone decorated you with lights, fragile glass balls, and plastic figures of SpongeBob SquareButt, Wreck-It Ralph, and Spider-Man? You know trees provide the oxygen you breathe, right? Your planet would be uninhabitable without plants. Maybe Santa’s not that nice of a guy if he demands you sacrifice a tree to him every year to get him to bring you presents. Yeah, that is an odd rant. Thank you for noticing. The holidays are odd times.

With a little help from her Ned, Uhoria had all the decorating done by Christmas. She decided to throw Norman a special Christmas party. She wanted to invite all of Norman’s special friends, but she wasn’t sure he had any. She asked his tutor, Schlitzie, to invite all of her friends, which worked out because Schlitzie’s friends were the closest things Norman had to friends on Epatrus.

Uhoria bought everyone presents and got a piñata. Norman loved Star Wars, so Uhoria had a specially made Yoda piñata. Because if you love something, it only makes sense to hit it with a stick until candy comes out. That’s called sarcasm. Don’t go hitting your sister with a stick until candy comes out and say it’s because you love her. Candy will not come out of your sister unless she’s a piñata. If your sister is a piñata, your family is bizarre.

Unfortunately, for Uhoria, her only experience with Star Wars was The Star Wars Holiday Special and the equally unfortunate Christmas In The Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album. Yeah, sorry humanity, those both happened. No take backs. I’ve actually heard the latter, which was also Uhoria’s only exposure to Jon Bon Jovi. Yeah, that also happened. No take backs, Mr. John Bongiovi. We know who you are. It’s on Wikipedia.

We all make mistakes. I hope no one ever reads the first draft of The L Squad: Phase 2. It was not pretty. The first draft of this was even worse. It was pretty much just a rambling collection of references to Christmas I found on the interweb. I’m Eereeenían. What do I know about Christmas?

On the evening of the party, Uhoria had the kitchen computer replicate cookies and cocoa for Norman and friends. They both tasted off. The cocoa and cookies, not Norman and the Normals. Nobody tasted Norman or any of his friends. The tree tried but failed. They weren’t terrible, but they weren’t quite right. The cocoa tasted like mocha, and the cookies tasted like fudge, only they didn’t taste like fudge. It was more like brownies. Having no point of reference for cookies or hot chocolate, the computer did the best it could. Norman appreciated the effort.

Next, Uhoria hung the piñata. She passed out blinding goggles and gave Norman a whacking pole. The others used their tails as nature intended.

“Piñatas are for birthdays,” said Norman.

“Yeah, isn’t Christmas a birthday thing?” asked Uhoria. “The snowman on the cartoon kept saying, ‘Happy birthday!’”

“Oh, that’s Frosty The Snowman,” said Norman. “He’s not quite right. He has snow for brains.”

His puzzlement at the appearance of a piñata at a Christmas party didn’t stop Norman from enjoying it. He felt like a Jedi Knight when he whacked Yoda. It helped that Yoda was made of leaves and didn’t fight back. Strong with the force that one was not. He was perplexed by the gwatuchorazz cheese-flavored candy treats.

Yes, leaves. They don’t have paper on Epatrus. Everything is digital.

“Cheese-flavored candy?” Norman asked.

“Gwatuchorazz cheese,” said Uhoria. “It’s good.”

Norman popped one in his mouth and said, “It tastes like butt.”

“That’s cheese,” said Uhoria.

“Isn’t learning about each other’s cultures fun?” Ned asked.

“It tastes like butt,” Norman reiterated.

Schlitzie put on a Santa hat. Due to the unfortunate shape of her head, the hat completely engulfed it. Everyone thought that was hilarious, with the sole exception of Schlitzie.

“I fail to see the humor,” said Schlitzie.

“You can’t see anything with that hat over your eyes,” said Algernon.

Next, they went caroling. Uhoria made a song list, which featured such delights as, “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” “Up On The Rooftop/Housetop,” “Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “Santa Baby.” The capper was Uhoria’s adaptation of the James Brown classic “Santa Claus Go Straight To The Ghetto,” which she altered to “Santa Claus Go Straight To Epatrus.” It consisted solely of changing “the ghetto” to “Epatrus,” and the lines “Tell him Hank Ballard/James Brown told me so,” to “Tell him Uhoria told me so.” It wasn’t nearly as funky.

She sent each of them lyrics and ran a pair of rehearsals before leaving the house. The first few performances were shaky, but the group improved as they got into the groove. Uhoria streamed the event live on her FloBloLoSo page.

Caroling is weird on Earth. How did the custom of interrupting people in the middle of dinner to have them stand on their porch in the cold while strangers sing bizarre songs to them get started? Even more perplexing is how is it sustained?

Keeping in mind how odd it is on Earth, imagine how Epatrusians reacted to it. They had never even heard of Christmas. It was weird when a group of people came flushing at dinner time. The appearance of the group was more disconcerting. Two of them were strange-looking aliens. Another was a cyborg. One had an oddly-shaped pinhead. Strangest of all, one of them didn’t have a mustache. No one noticed Ylna.

The songs were even more perplexing. Was Santa Claws a beast or alien of some sort? Did Santa Claws tear off that one kid’s arms and legs and the other’s mustache? Some took the repeated theme of Santa Claws is coming as a warning or threat. Would it eat those who cried or shouted or pouted? Many wondered what a chimney was and how to keep this beast from coming down it. A few asked Uhoria to sign her modeling pictures. Most called the police.

When the police finally apprehended the choir, Uhoria explained what they were doing and why. When they arrived at the psychiatric hospital, she explained again. While she was sitting alone in her padded cell, Uhoria posted about a gigabyte of selfies to her FloBloLoSo page. It wasn’t until someone recognized Uhoria’s mustache and Uhoria as the famous mustache supermodel that they were allowed to go home. He asked Uhoria out three times before they left. He refused to believe she was married to Ned.

Everyone was pretty tired when they finally got home. Uhoria decided to make spirits bright by handing out presents. She excitedly rushed toward the tree. She was so excited that she almost got too close to the tree. She stopped before it could bite her.

Uhoria took a step back. She stopped and gave the tree a mean look. Then, she took six to eight more steps back. Let’s say seven. When she paused again, she noticed something looked wrong. There were no presents. Where were the presents? Christmas was about presents. With everything that had gone wrong that night, Uhoria was counting on presents to save the day. That’s how this works. In every Christmas special ever, everything goes wrong and presents save the day.

RDRR was constantly scanning FloBloLoSo for ‘employment opportunities.’ That meant it was looking for people the pirates of the Space Ship Stuff Stealer could rob. It just so happened, perhaps in what was a Christmas miracle, that the Space Ship Stuff Stealer was on Epatrus. FloBloLo was doing some work for Gargamel Von Shliplestein, his former boss, who had completely forgotten FloBloLo had worked for him before and the details of his termination.

RDRR’s scan found Uhoria’s live stream of their caroling. Further research showed Uhoria’s fancy house and all the presents she had purchased for the party. It alerted Captain Mauve Oyster. Captain Mauve Oyster rounded up first mate Stinky Leg Steve, Yllop Karatpeet, Guy Pach, Swollen Tommy, HoYoYo, Bottluh Rumm, Walker Plank, Shivermee Timbberz, Aiy Maytee, Pirate McPirate, Traysure Buhtypants, Badd Punn, and the rest of the pirates. Some of those names lead me to believe they were born to be pirates. Did Pirate McPirate’s parents think he was going to grow up to be a lawyer?

Captain Mauve Oyster and his posse of pirates arrived at the Normalson-Jhakurus household while the carolers were sitting in their cells. They stole as many presents as they could without getting bit by the tree. They stole stockings and cookies. The pirates plundered pounds of plums. They looted the lights. They took all Ned’s wigs and tap shoes and Uhoria’s mustache creams and beauty supplies. The point I’m trying to convey is that the pirates stole a lot of stuff.

“Oh no,” said Uhoria. “It must have been the New Year Goblin.”

“The what?” asked Norman.

“The New Year Goblin,” said Uhoria. “The goblin who comes on New Year to take away all the Christmas presents from little girls and boys who were only pretending to be nice so that Santa would bring them presents.”

“Oh, that,” said Norman. “That’s not a thing.”

“It’s not?” asked Uhoria.

Norman watched horrified as a creature, the likes of which he had never seen, burst in through the front door. It was carrying a bag and smelled of stink. The creature reached into its sack and pulled out a steaming handful of poop. It threw the poopball at Norman. The poopball hit him in the face and splattered all over him.

“Happy New Year, Poop Face!”

It wasn’t even New Year on Epatrus.

WHAT?

Ned called the police. When they got there, he explained that someone broke into his house and stole all his family’s Christmas décor and presents. He described the creature that threw poop at Norman. Ned was immediately arrested. He was taken to the police station and charged with making a prank call to emergency responders, which is a severe crime on Earth and Epatrus, and being dumb enough to give his real address.

It took Ned’s lawyer, Pirate MacPirate, seven hours to convince the police that Ned was not crazy but human and had no malicious intent. That gave The Shliplestein Automatic Body Scrubber And Clothes Washer 4,901 ⅜ ample time to clean the poop off Norman’s face and clothes. Uhoria had her Shliplestein Clean Machine Cleaning Bot clean the rest of the splatter from the living room.

See? An A makes all the difference between being a lawyer and a pirate. Stay in school. Study hard.

Who said, “A lawyer’s just a fancy pirate?” You’re right. Most lawyers have both legs and eyes, though. Think about that.

Uhoria made the most of the time she spent waiting for Ned and Norman. She was so determined to make up for the six hours they spent in the psychiatric hospital that she braved the tree. She knew the tree had been eating presents. Uhoria fought her way to the back of the tree and turned it off. She reached into its mouth with her tail and dug out all the presents she could reach.

Meanwhile, Norman’s friends played L Squad. That was Ylna’s favorite game. They each picked a member of the L Squad to be and tried to solve the mystery of who broke into Norman’s house and stole all their stuff. They unanimously decided not to go after the poop-flinging creature. They had no clues and made no progress, but they did have a lot of fun.

Ned got home just as Norman was getting out of his 12th shower. On his first shower of Christmas, Norman washed off loooooots of poooooooooop. On his second shower of Christmas, Norman washed off eeeeeeven more pooooooooop. On his third shower of Christmas…

Uhoria cheerfully passed out the presents. “Here’s one for Norman.”

“Did your stepmom just call you Nerman?” asked Cy.

“I’m not sure,” said Norman.

They all gathered around the tree, but not too closely, to open their presents. The packaging was pretty mangled and battered, but the gifts inside were only slightly abused. Most weren’t even broken.

Ylna got an L Squad game. Schlitzie got a digital encyclopedia. Cy got a Blobby Blobberson action figure. Tasha got a Catsby Connage dress-up doll. Uhoria didn’t know Tasha was a boy. Algernon got a stick-on mustache, which was offensive. They all got a few other toys and treats, but those were the big ones.

Norman got a dreidel, a menorah, and some chocolate gelt. Yes, Uhoria got Christmas confused with Hanukkah, again. He also got other gifts that weren’t Hanukkah-themed. It didn’t matter to Norman and his friends. They all lit the menorah and played dreidel. They used their gelt for prizes. The tree serenaded them with an endless stream of Christmas songs and both Hanukkah songs it pulled from the intergalactic interweb, while they celebrated.

Norman and Uhoria learned a valuable lesson that year. Christmas is totally not worth it. That wasn’t it. Ultimately, Christmas isn’t about trees, decorations, songs, sappy specials, menorahs, religious interpretations, ham, yule logs, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, mistletoe, lights, log fire videos, Santa Claus, spam, gender-neutral snowpersons who oddly resemble Menacusians from their carrot noses to their stick arms to their beady little eyes, cartwheels, flying reindeer, socks, underwear, ugly sweaters, getting mad at people for not celebrating exactly how you think they should, family, or even presents.

Christmas is a celebration. The only meaning Christmas or Life Day or life, for that matter, can have is happiness. The meanings of things like Christmas or Life Day or life or whatever you choose to celebrate can only have the meaning to which we each, as individuals, assign to them. Let their meanings be whatever makes you happy, whatever you choose to celebrate. No one, or Christmas special, can tell anyone else what or how to celebrate.

So, as Charles Dickens observed in his classic story A Christmas Carol, “Humbug!”

Indeed, Humbug, everyone.

A Nearly Ready Christmas

So, I said A Nearly Norman Christmas would be posted today. It won’t. I’m a hopeless constant tinkerer, and I’m never satisfied. I’ve been working on it today. The more I read through it the more it changes, which tells me it’s not ready. I’m hoping tomorrow. The wait will be worth it. I hope. Until then read up on Norman. The Christmas special will make more sense with that background information.

Here’s a snippet of A Nearly Norman Christmas:

It was Norman Normalson’s first year on Epatrus. It was rapidly approaching the Earth month of Odysseus, which used to be the second half of December. Norman was homesick and missed his friends. To make things worse, he was about to miss Christmas. All Norman wanted for Christmas was to go back home, to Earth.

Oh my goodness. You want so much to read more. You can’t wait. Are you feeling sleepy?

Norman Normalson: A Biography: Part 4: Freaky Friends

Catch up Norman’s Bio here.

Norman was assigned a guide who the school labeled a buddy. Norman was more embarrassed about being assigned a friend than he was to have no friends. His buddy was odd looking, even for an Epatrusian. He? She? Norman wasn’t sure. His buddy had a pointy head and spoke robotically.

Through the magic of conversation, Norman learned that his buddy was a girl and her name was…

“Hey, Pinhead, who’s this? Your new pet,” taunted Langle Dodger, the school bully, and all-around not nice person.

“This is Norman,” said Pinhead. “Norman is a new student. I am Norman’s buddy and guide.”

“Pinhead has a buddy,” said Dangle Hartzakk. “That’s sweet.”

“What is it?” asked Langle Dodger. “It’s weird looking, even weirder than you, Pinhead.”

“It is a human from the planet Earth,” said Pinhead. “You may recall learning about humans in our alien species class earlier this year. They are technologically deficient but are an interesting species.”

“They’re gross,” said Dangle Hartzakk. “Look Langle, it’s beige and doesn’t even have a tail.”

“Or a mustache,” Langle Dodger added. “What’s wrong with you? Did someone cut off your tail and mustache and bleach you in butterscotch?”

“What?” asked Norman.

“Humans typically range in color from dark brown to off-white,” said Pinhead. “They lost their tails due to an evolutionary anomaly. Though, I am fairly certain they are supposed to have mustaches, except females. It may be a female.”

“I’m not a female,” said Norman. “We don’t all have mustaches, especially not at 8-years-old.”

“Why not, human?” asked Langle Dodger. “Can’t you grow one?”

“No,” said Norman. “I’m 8.”

“Hey, Langle, look at me, I can’t grow a mustache, ’cause I’m only 8,” said Shmelton Smelzlykbhut, another of Langle Dodger’s cronies.

“I’m 8, and my mustache is yelpsnig,” said Dangle Hartzakk.

Shmelton continued in his mocking tone, “I can’t grow a mustache, ’cause I’m only a girl.”

“What’s wrong with being a girl?” asked Kjhyu Rohtijhok. “I’m a girl, and I have the best mustache here.”

Another girl who was walking by was offended by Shmelton’s remark. “Seriously, Shmelton? You are so ignorant.”

“I mean human girls,” said Shmelton. “Human girls are gross. You’re wonky yelpsnig, KAI.”

Kjhyu smacked Shmelton with her tail. “What about me?”

“Why are you guys always picking on people?” KAI asked. “You’re so immature.”

“It’s the immature one,” said Dangle Hartzakk. “It can’t even grow a mustache.”

“Humans mature at an exponentially slower rate than Epatrusians,” said Pinhead.

“Yeah, humans are extraspelantially slow,” said Shmelton.

“Exponentially,” Pinhead corrected. “It means we mature much faster than them.”

“Humans abduct people, you know,” said Shmelton.

“No, we don’t,” said Norman.

KAI said, “You better get to class before the doors lock.” She shook her head as she walked away.

“Come on, you guys,” said Kjhyu. “I’m not spending another period with the Splajargón.”

“Yeah,” said Langle Dodger. “See you later, Pinhead, Human.”

“I am certain you will as we are in the same class,” said Pinhead.

“Who were those guys?” asked Norman, when Langle Dodger and his cronies were safely out of sight.

“Langle Dodger, Dangle Hartzakk, Shmelton Smelzlykbhut, and Kjhyu Rohtijhok,” said Pinhead. “They are bullies. They like to pick on my friends and me. They call us The Freaks.”

“You have friends?” Norman asked. He immediately blushed as he didn’t intend for it to come out sounding so mean.

“Of course,” said Pinhead. “Do not you have friends?”

“I did on Earth,” said Norman.

“I see,” said Pinhead. “I will be your friend. I will ask my friends if they would also like to have you as a friend.”

“Thanks, but I’d like to try to make my friends myself,” Norman said. He was wary of starting his new life on Epatrus as one of The Freaks.

“That is understandable,” said Pinhead. “My offer will remain open to you should you fail to make friends of your own.”

“Uh, thanks,” said Norman. “Is your name really Pinhead?”

“No,” said Pinhead. “My name is Survey Schlitziholtz. I am often referred to as Pinhead due to an unfortunate physical feature of which you may be aware.”

“Yeah, I noticed,” said Norman.

“My friends call me Schlitzie,” said Pinhead. “It is an affectionate truncation of my surname, Schlitziholtz.”

“I get it,” said Norman. “My name’s Norman.”

“I am aware,” said Schlitzie. “You said you are not a female, despite your complete lack of mustache. Is that correct?”

“Yeah, I’m a boy,” said Norman. “What about you? I hope that’s not a rude question. I’m new to Epatrus. I can’t always tell. On Earth, a mustache is a good indicator. On Epatrus, everybody has mustaches, even the babies.”

“I am a female,” said Schlitzie. “I also hope it is not a rude question. I cannot always tell. I often offend people with my blunt, direct questions and statements.”

“It wasn’t intended to be rude,” said Norman.

“That is what counts,” said Schlitzie.

“So, if we’re not on time, we can get locked out of class?” asked Norman. “I might be late a lot.”

“I would not recommend it,” said Schlitzie.

“It was a joke,” said Norman.

“Not only do the doors lock, but the floors open,” said Schlitzie.

“What now?” Norman asked, incredulously.

“It is a security measure that acts as a deterrent for truancy,” said Schlitzie. “It keeps students from being late or escaping classes.”

“Escaping?” asked Norman.

“Some people do not like to learn,” said Schlitzie. “I do not understand it. I desire to know everything.”

“Is that possible?” asked Norman.

“No, but I will do my best,” said Schlitzie.

“What’s a Splajargón?” asked Norman.

“The Splajargón is a creature that lives under the school,” said Schlitzie. “When the floors open, anyone who was standing on them will drop into its pit.”

“Does it eat them?” asked Norman.

“It used to, but parents complained,” said Schlitzie. “I do not know why. I guess parents even love bad children.”

“Wait, the creature doesn’t eat kids because parents complained?” asked Norman.

“That is correct,” said Schlitzie. “Here is our class. Ms. Chartel is a good teacher. She is tough but fair.”

“Who was that girl?” asked Norman, pausing at the door.

“Which?” asked Schlitzie.

“The one who was talking back to Langle and them,” said Norman.

“That was KAI,” said Schlitzie. “Are you attracted to her? Most of the boys in school are.”

“No. I… I don’t know,” said Norman, embarrassed. “She’s an alien with a mustache.”

“Here, you are the alien,” said Schlitzie.

“Oh yeah,” said Norman. “She’s nice.”

“I concur,” said Schlitzie, as she opened the door.

Norman and Schlitzie entered. The doors locked behind them.

“You’re cutting it close today, Survey,” said Ms. Chartel.

“That is correct,” said Schlitzie. “I have been placed in charge of the new student. I was showing it… him around.”

“You must be Norman,” said Ms. Chartel. “Norman Normalson.”

“I am,” said Norman.

Ms. Chartel extended her tail toward Norman. She paused awkwardly when she realized he didn’t have a tail to shake.

“Class, this is our new student, Norman Normalson,” said Ms. Chartel. “Norman is a human. Does anybody know from where humans come?”

“Uranus,” said Dangle Hartzakk.

“You’re very close, Dangle,” said Ms. Chartel. “Good try.”

In the back of the class, a small girl whispered to a boy beside her. The boy wagged his tail in the air.

“Yes, Algernon,” said Ms. Chartel.

“Earth,” said Algernon, last name withheld.

“Excellent, Algernon,” said Ms. Chartel. She added semi-sarcastically, “Good answer, Ylna. Good teamwork.”

Ylna, the girl who gave Algernon the answer, slunk down in her seat.

Schlitzie took a seat in the back next to Ylna and Algernon and their friends. One of whom didn’t have a mustache. The other looked like he or she, Norman still wasn’t always sure, had robotic arms and legs. Norman followed and sat by Schlitzie.

On the way to his seat, Norman saw Langle Dodger, Dangle Hartzakk, Shmelton Smelzlykbhut, and Kjhyu Rohtijhok. They were in a section, whispering to each other and smirking at Norman. He also saw KAI who smiled as he walked by. Norman blushed and looked away.

The first half of the day seemed to last forever. Even during recess, Norman had to stay in and talk to the teacher. Ms. Chartel wanted to talk to Norman and get a feel for how he was feeling about his new school and where he was with his education. Norman tried to explain as politely as he could that he felt significantly out of place and that school on Epatrus was nothing like school on Earth. Ms. Chartel assigned Schlitzie to be Norman’s tutor. Norman tried to resist, but Ms. Chartel insisted.

Norman could either accept Schlitzie as his tutor, take the bonus school courses during breaks, and study like knowledge was water and he was lost in the desert or go back to preschool and start from the beginning. Norman already had two strikes against him. He was human, and he wore the same clothes every day. It was hard to find clothes that would fit a human on Epatrus. All the pants had holes in the butts for people’s tails. Starting over in preschool as an 8-year-old would make his status as an outcast permanent. Norman accepted.

Schlitzie was happy with the assignment. She was brilliant and loved to put her wealth of knowledge on display. She also liked the idea of having someone to study with and the possibility of a new friend.

During lunch, Schlitzie dragged Norman along to meet her other friends.

“Norman, this is Ylna Aleny, Tasha Rhokzmisox, Doebee Kazkah, and Algernon, last name withheld,” said Schlitzie.

As Schlitzie said their names, they each reached out their tails to Norman. Realizing Norman didn’t have a tail, they all patted him on the back while muttering some form of greeting.

Norman thought they looked pretty normal, for Epatrusians. None was as odd looking as Schlitzie. Ylna was pretty small. Doebee was the one with mechanical arms and legs, but that was kind of cool. Algernon didn’t have a mustache, but he could have shaved it. Maybe it was a fashion statement. Tasha looked completely normal. She was also the only one he knew for sure was a girl.

“Ylna, Algernon, Tasha, and Doebee, this is Norman,” said Schlitzie. “He does not come with a tail.”

“Of course not,” said Doebee. “Humans have neither tails nor hearts.”

“Humans have hearts,” said Ylna, “but only one.”

“’Cause they eat the other one, right?” said Tasha. “They’re unusual.”

“No, they only have one,” said Ylna.

“They don’t have mustaches,” said Algernon. “It’s nice not to be the only one for once.”

“Some humans do,” said Norman. “I just can’t grow one, yet.”

“That’s what my mom says about me,” said Algernon. “It’s just something nice people say to people with disabilities.”

“I’m not sure not being able to grow a mustache counts as a disability,” said Norman.

The others looked at him like he just said, “My sister is a lobster, and she’s going to marry the Prince of Egypt in a special ceremony inside an active volcano on the moon.”

Epatrusians have never heard of lobsters, so that would make no sense to them.

“Hey look, the human’s right at home with The Freaks,” said Dangle Hartzakk.

“Yeah, it’s Norman Normalson And The Not So Normals,” said Langle Dodger.

“It looks like you’re still the only girl in the group, Tasha,” said Shmelton.

“I’m not a girl,” said Tasha.

“You’re not?” asked Norman.

“I’m a girl,” said Ylna.

“I am female,” said Schlitzie.

“It is funny, I would think the cyborg would be the one to talk like a robot,” said Kjhyu, mimicking a robotic accent.

“Get his arms,” said Langle Dodger.

Shmelton and Dangle each got on one side of Doebee, grabbed his arms, and pulled. His arms detached. They ran around chasing each other with Doebee’s arms. Doebee chased them. His robotic legs caught up quickly, but he couldn’t do anything without his arms.

“Come on, Norman,” said Tasha. “We have to help Cy.”

“Who’s Cy?” asked Norman.

“Doebee,” said Algernon. “It’s his nickname. It’s short for cyborg.”

“I wish I had a nickname,” said Tasha. “Anything would be better than having a girl’s name.”

“Ha ha! You’re a girl,” said Gonyul Squompfus.

Gonyul wasn’t officially a member of Langle Dodger’s group, but he liked to come around when they were picking on people. In typical bully style, he couldn’t bully anyone by himself.

“Very original, Gonyul,” said Tasha. “You’re such a goofus.”

“I’m gonna tell. That’s hurtful,” said Gonyul.

Bullies love to be mean to others, but can’t take any reproach. Gonyul ran off crying.

“Ooh, you made Gonyul cry,” said Kjhyu. “You guys are gonna get it.”

“Why would you get in trouble for Gonyul making fun of you?” Norman asked Tasha.

“Gonyul’s Principal Exsor’s pet,” said Tasha.

“Yes, Principal Exsor always takes his side,” said Schlitzie.

“That doesn’t seem like appropriate behavior for a principal,” said Norman.

“Let’s go, everybody,” said Langle Dodger. “Gonyul’s crying again.”

Langle Dodger’s posse reformed like an evil Voltron and ran off. On their way, Shmelton and Dangle threw Cy’s arms into a nearby recycling chute.

Everything on Epatrus is recycled. There is no waste. Even waste gets recycled. There’s more about that in Norman Normalson & The Normals. The recycling chutes automatically separated all recyclables. The foodstuff was composted to assist in growing more food. The containers were sterilized, broken down, and made into fresh, new containers. So on and so on.

Things that weren’t supposed to be recycled were separated and sent to the recycled and retrieved. Cy’s appendages ended up there often. The recycled and retrieved attendant knew Cy was coming every time a robotic appendage wound up in her stack. Cy missed a lot of classes due to recovering an arm or a leg or two. On those days, he stayed in there and helped Sindee, short for Sindularia, sort through the items. He got to know what belonged to whom pretty well.

“Don’t you guys know it’s not cool to bully people?” Norman asked.

“It’s way cooler than getting bullied,” said Shmelton.

“Bye, freaks,” said Dangle Hartzakk.

“Bye, normals,” said Langle Dodger, sarcastically.

“Normals,” said Kjhyu. “That’s a good one, Langle.”

“Dang right,” said Langle Dodger. “That’s why I said it. Norman Normalson and the Normals.”

With that, Norman was officially one of The Freaks.

Cancer! Death! Boom!

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