#FFFC: Not For You

This was written for Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #33. It’s based on the photo prompt below provided by alexlibris999 at DeviantArt.com. This one is much less dark than my previous contributions. What does the dark mean without a little light?

Not For You

“No! This book is not for you, ” said the creepy bookseller in a timbre that matched his demeanor.

“What do you mean?” Ellie asked.

“There’s a power in that book, a power you can’t handle,” said the bookseller.

“Why do you have it out here if it’s not for sale?” asked Issa.

“It’s for sale, ” said the bookseller, “but not for you.”

“That’s racist, ” said Ellie.

“Sexist?” said Issa.

“Agist?” said Ellie.

“Why not for us?” Issa finally asked.

“Its power is too great for you,” the bookseller said with an invigorated emphasis.

The girls took a few steps back and huddled.

“What do you make of this guy?” asked Issa.

“I think he’s gone,” said Ellie. “He really thinks this old book of spells has powers.”

“Do you still want it?” Issa asked.

“More than ever,” said Ellie. “I mean, I don’t think it has powers, but just because he’s so adamant that I can’t have it.”

“I know,” said Issa. “I thought it was silly that you were going to buy it before. Now, I want it.”

“How do we get him to sell it to us?” asked Ellie.

“We could charm him,” said Issa.

“Ew,” said Ellie looking over at the bookseller who was roughly 65. “He’s like 90.”

“We could run,” said Issa.

“That’s stealing,” said Ellie. “I’m not a thief.”

“Do you want the book?” asked Issa.

“Yeah,” said Ellie.

“Do you have any other ideas?” asked Issa.

“We could probably find it on Amazon,” said Ellie. She looked but couldn’t even find a title on the book. She stared at the ground for a few seconds. “Go,” she yelled and ran out of the store.

As the bookseller watched the girls leave, a smile grew on his face.

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.

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!

Norman Normalson: A Biography: Part 3: Bathroom Adventures

Catch up on Norman’s Bio here.

Once FloBloLo deactivated the security system, which took him a lot less time than it took you to read his bio, the ship was easy pickings for the pirates. They went from room to room taking everything of value. There was a constant stream of goods being teleported back to the Space Ship Stuff Stealer. They hit the jackpot when they found the cargo hold.

When they couldn’t find anything else to steal, FloBloLo reactivated the security systems and two Radbots. They weren’t completely evil. They left the two to make sure the ship was piloted to its next stop, and everyone was awakened when they arrived at their destinations. They were pirates, not monsters. They didn’t want anyone to die. They just wanted to take all their stuff. They took the rest of the Radbots.

The monsters, I mean pirates ‘ported back to the Space Ship Stuff Stealer. They unclamped their clamps and set off for the next adventure in thievery. They left the Flying Vessel Christopher Columbus under the control of its autopilot, Jake, to fly on its way to its predetermined destination.

That was pretty much the only thing of note to happen during the voyage. Well, there was this one thing… Never mind. You don’t want to read about how the ship passed dangerously close to the planet Splajara Prime, which was being held by the dragon people of XeXat and was almost confiscated with all passengers being taken for slaves. It was only an almost anyway. A small band of rebel Splajargóns saved them. It’s not that interesting.

When they reached the Ventayen System, home to Epatrus, Norman and Ned were brought out of stasis.

“…on this stupid trip, anyway.” Norman opened his eyes and looked around. “Are you going to freeze me or do I have to stay awake for this whole trip?” He was a still little cranky about leaving his home and moving halfway across the known universe. It didn’t help that people usually woke up grumpy from stasis. They called it stasis sickness.

Ned took the decompression much better. He sat up and looked around. “Are we here already?”

“We’ve just entered the Ventayen system,” said Captain Cornopolous.

It was part of Captain Cornopolous’s duties to greet all passengers upon their awakening from stasis. On this trip, given the unexpected dearth of bots, he also had to clean up their vomit, if they vomited. They usually vomited.

Captain Cornopolous led Ned and Norman to their shuttle. Teleporting to a planet is possible and not uncommon. Though, most Earth ships don’t have sufficiently reliable teleportation devices to send people with their luggage. It’s been done, but there have been occasions where luggage has been lost. That’s not as bad as when people get lost, but they don’t like to talk about that.

Ned, being a naturally cautious person, except in the decision to move across the universe to marry a woman he met online, chose the safer option of the shuttle. In such cases, the protocol is as follows. The people to be delivered to the planet board the shuttle. The ship’s bots preload their luggage. The shuttle leaves the ship upon entering the solar system. It flies ahead to the destination planet, drops off the occupants, and rendezvous with the ship around the planet’s orbit. This particular case went a little bit differently.

Norman and Ned were the only passengers disembarking on Epatrus. Upon landing, Norman and Ned exited the shuttle. Everything was normal so far. They went around the shuttle to the cargo hold. This is where things got weird.

“Where’s our luggage?” Norman asked.

Ned immediately hailed the ship and demanded, or the accountant equivalent, to speak to Captain Cornopolous. “May I please speak to Captain Cornopolous, please?”

“This is your captain speaking,” Captain Cornopolous said, imitating of every airplane captain ever.

“Captain, we seem to have left our luggage aboard the ship,” Ned said. “I was under the impression that the ship’s bots were going to load it.”

Captain Cornopolous said two words. “Sorry, pirates.” He then cut communications.

“What does that mean?” asked Norman.

“I think we’ve been robbed,” said Ned. “Though, I’m not sure if the ship was boarded by pirates or if the company we hired to bring us here is comprised of pirates or if he thinks we’re pirates, and our luggage is stuff we’ve stolen.”

“All our stuff was on that ship,” said Norman. “I don’t even have clean clothes to wear.”

“This could prove to be a catastrophe of the worst magnitude,” said Ned.

As they stared at the empty cargo hold, a small disc came out of a slit in the control panel. Ned picked it up and inspected it. Printed on it were the words, “We’re sorry for your inconvenience. Please accept this flight voucher. Good for one free one way trip for one passenger on any Intergalactic Space Voyages passenger voyage. Thank you for choosing Intergalactic Space Voyages for your intergalactic space voyage.”

“A one way trip for one?” Ned pondered aloud. “There are two of us.”

“Dad, I think the important thing here is that they lost all our stuff,” said Norman.

Ned’s name echoed through the spaceport in a familiar timber. Ned’s heart started racing as he looked around. His eyes settled on a yellow, blue, and purple woman with a thick black mustache wagging her tail in his direction.

The lost luggage left Ned’s mind faster than it left the Flying Vessel Christopher Columbus. He ran over to Uhoria as briskly as he could, which wasn’t very swift. Ned was not a physical specimen. Nor was he accustomed to the slightly lower gravitational pull that was present on Epatrus. Third, and possibly worst of all, Ned hadn’t used his body for months. The stasis chamber has a muscle stimulator that keeps the body from atrophying, but he still hadn’t been in control of his body since he left Earth.

The scene was like something out of a YouTube video. It resembled a baby giraffe running on the moon toward a giant lizard monkey creature. YouTube has a plethora of baby giraffes on the moon and giant lizard monkey creature videos, right? When they met, Ned went in for a hug while Uhoria brought her tail around for tail wrap. The result was Uhoria slapping Ned in the face and knocking him to the ground.

Norman followed slowly behind. He approached his fallen father with the tenuous steps of someone who would rather be anywhere else in the universe. Norman was embarrassed by the spectacle his father was making, but, to be honest, even if they didn’t make a scene all eyes would still be on them. They were the only humans in the entire spaceport. They were only the sixth and seventh humans to ever pass through any spaceport on Epatrus.

When Norman could no longer avoid reaching the epicenter of the spaceport’s focus, Uhoria wrapped her tail around Norman and ruffled his hair with its tip. It was an awkward attempt to emulate the Earth custom of hugging. It went far better than the greeting she shared with Ned, but it was still an uncomfortable moment for the pair. She immediately wished she spent the time they were en route learning more about Earth and its customs instead of sleeping in a stasis chamber. At least, she didn’t call him Kiddo. That was the worst.

Uhoria brought her new family back to her home. She planned to take them on a tour of the new town in which they would be living, but they were still weary from stasis and the shuttle trip. Uhoria’s home, which was now Ned and Norman’s new home, was a lovely, two-story abode. It had four bedrooms and three bathrooms. The kitchen was huge. The dining room had a retractable sunroof. There was a room for entertaining and a separate room for all Uhoria’s awards and framed photos. That mustache modeling money was good to Uhoria. Even Norman was impressed. It still wasn’t Pacifica or even Earth, but the house was a fart of a lot nicer.

The first thing Norman wanted to do, following the grand house tour, was to go to the bathroom. He hadn’t made a doodie in a few months. It was time.

He went back to the first floor to the bathroom that was his. With three bathrooms for three people, they could each have their own. Anybody who has ever had to use the bathroom closely following someone who’s recently made a particularly stinky deposit, or has had to share a bathroom with a teenager, can appreciate the desire for a personal bathroom.

Norman entered the bathroom and looked around. There was no toilet. There was no shower. There was no bathtub. There were a mirror and a sink. During the grand tour, Uhoria called it a bathroom, “despite the fact that only the most retro homes still have bathtubs.” It had to be the right room. What was he to do? He could not go back out and ask Uhoria for help in the bathroom. He was 8-years-old. He hadn’t needed help in the bathroom since he was 3. Besides, once he figured out how to close the door, he wasn’t opening it again until he finished his business. First, he had to figure out how to start.

Norman assessed his options. There was a sink. Pooping in the sink was probably a no-no, even on Epatrus. There was another thing that looked like an escape pod. That might not be a bad idea. Norman wondered how far he could get in it. Could it possibly take him back to Earth? Probably not. It was most likely in case of emergency and would only carry him down the block or, at best, a few kilometers.

There was a long enclosure that looked like a hallway or a decompression chamber. Norman wasn’t sure what its purpose could be, but it was intimidating. He imagined the possibility that it could be a portal to somewhere. Anywhere it would take him had to be better than where he was. He decided to try it.

Before entering, Norman paused briefly. The thought occurred to him that it could lead to another bathroom. That could be embarrassing. On the other hand, if it led to another bathroom and someone was in that bathroom, he might be able to learn how to poop on Epatrus. Norman would love to poop on Epatrus.

Norman cautiously entered the chamber. It only took him 12 minutes and 32 seconds to figure out how to open the door. For the door to open, it required commands for the usage of the chamber to be programmed in. Norman pressed buttons at random.

The door opened. Norman entered. The door closed behind him. Norman turned and tried to open the door again to no avail. Mechanical arms extended from the walls and seized Norman and stripped off his clothes. Don’t look. He’s naked. Yes, he does have oddly small kneecaps. Norman wiggled and squirmed, which are basically the same thing, but couldn’t break free of the metallic grasp of the clamps at the ends of the arms. The clamps released Norman, and the arms retracted.

Slots opened on the walls, and little spigots protruded. Each valve emitted a mist of warm water. When Norman was wet, soapy brushes came out of the ceiling and scrubbed him. Another pair of arms came out of the ceiling, grabbed Norman by his ankles, and flipped him upside down. While Norman was suspended from the ceiling, the brushes took another pass at the under places they missed the first time.

Norman was set back on the floor. He stood there wet and soapy waiting for the next phase. The next phase began. The spigots sprayed Norman. This time it wasn’t that nice warm mist that got him ready for the soap phase. This was a powerful rinse-off spray. It was still a pleasant temperature.

The Shliplestein Automatic Body Scrubber And Clothes Washer 4,901 ⅜ gave Norman the most rigorous washing he had ever had. Then it dried him, clothed him, and spat him out the other side. It even washed and dried his clothes.

Norman felt cleaner. He hadn’t bathed in months, either. It felt good to be clean.

He still really had to doodie, though.

Norman checked to see if there was a way he could flush the sink. He didn’t see one. Maybe there was an invisible flushing mechanism like how the door opened. He wasn’t nearly a bad enough person to doodie in the sink, walk out, and say, “I left you a nice deuce in the sink. You’re welcome.” The thought of doing so made him chuckle, though. Of course, he’d never want to use that sink again.

Norman’s reverie was interrupted by a tap on the door. “Are you all right in there, Normy?” Uhoria asked, with a little too much sweetness in her voice.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” said Norman. “Doing well.”

The last option was the escape pod. After his experience in The Shliplestein Automatic Body Scrubber And Clothes Washer 4,901 ⅜, Norman was not eager to enter another enclosure in this room, but his bowels were.

This door opened easily. Norman was wary about entering. The ease of access made him nervous. There was a seat. It could still be an escape pod. Norman sat. The door closed and locked. Restraints enclosed around Norman. The whole pod flipped upside down. Norman suddenly wished he had an escape pod to escape from the escape pod.

Three minutes later, Norman emerged from the Shliplestein Fecalmatic 3,817 Automatic Fecal Extractor. He was clean, refreshed, and 12 pounds lighter. It had been months, remember?

Norman had successfully taken his first shower and first doodie on Epatrus. It was also Norman’s first bathcast.

Every mirror and video screen on Epatrus could be used for video chats or video streaming. Uhoria recently used that bathroom mirror for a live streaming commercial for mustache cream. She broadcast to the known universe and forgot to cut the transmission. It didn’t matter before because she hardly ever used that bathroom. Norman didn’t know about the mirror’s transmitting capabilities or how to use the controls. Norman had a lot to learn about using the controls for things on Epatrus.

Norman emerged triumphantly, 17 minutes later. He still had trouble getting the door to open.

“Did everything go O.K.?” asked Ned. “We were getting worried about you.”

“Yeah, everything was fine,” said Norman. “I feel much better.”

“I was going to give you a tutorial on what was in there and how it all worked,” said Uhoria. “You ran in there so quickly that I didn’t get a chance.”

Maybe, if you’re ever famous, someone will write a detailed biography for you and include lots of details about your bathroom foibles. That’s why you should keep a bathroom journal.

“You keep a journal of all your bathroom experiences? What’s wrong with you?” asked someone who saw your bathroom journal.

“It’s in case I’m ever famous,” you said. “My public will want to know everything about me.”

Norman had many other growing pains to go through in adapting to his new home. None were as embarrassing or ridiculous as his bathroom experience. There was the time he walked in on Uhoria while she was changing. It was confusing. We won’t get into that, though.

Norman wasn’t nearly used to his home life before he had to start school. He enrolled at Gargamel Von Shliplestein Elementary School. He was placed in the fourth grade with the other 8-year-olds. He was immediately the worst student in school. Norman wasn’t a bad student. He just didn’t know anything. It’s more accurate to say the things he knew, and the things he was studying on Earth, didn’t translate to school on Epatrus.

Math is math. That’s a universal constant. Science is science, but it’s much more advanced on Epatrus. History and social studies were completely different. Norman knew nothing about the history of Epatrus. He knew even less about the social conditions. Where were George Washington and Abraham Lincoln? Earth wasn’t even mentioned. Norman didn’t have an alien species class on Earth. Suddenly, humans were an alien species. Norman was an alien species.

Being lost in the curriculum is one thing. Being lost socially is something else. On Earth, he always had Paul and Julio at the core of his circle of friends. On Epatrus, he didn’t even have anybody to ask what a Squeechian was or in what year mashed potatoes erupted from Mount Spudnik. Norman wasn’t even sure what year it was on Epatrus or how they numbered their years.

Norman Normalson: A Biography: Part 2: Pirates In Space

Catch up on Norman’s Bio here.

Norman started his healing process by spending more time with his friends. Norman spent a lot of time with Julio in his family’s Shliplestein 4242Pac Holodeck. Arnold and Reginald let them have all the time in it they needed. Norman even got frequent hugs from Rosie, which was goofy yelpsnig. That means good. None of it was worth losing his mother, but it helped him heal.

One evening, Norman returned home later than usual. It was Burgerfest, so he didn’t have school the next day. With a new calendar comes new holidays and seasons. Burgerfest was named after Tom Burger who discovered a way to grow vegetables on the moon. Now, every year during the month of Rama everyone sticks to a strict vegetarian diet. Fortunately, the months are really short. Rama starts with the Harvest Moon, which is toward the end of what used to be September and lasts for 16 days.

Don’t overlook these little details. You never know what’s going to be on the test.

Norman was surprised to hear voices coming from his father’s room. At first, he just assumed his dad was watching television. As he got closer to his father’s door, Norman was positive one of the voices was Ned’s. He put his ear to the door and heard what he was sure was a woman’s voice saying, “Oh Ned, you’re so sweet.” He had to be watching an old video of Victoria. He couldn’t have a woman in there with him. That was his dad. His mom was dead. It couldn’t be her in there with him. That even wasn’t her voice. As far as Norman knew, Ned hadn’t even been dating. There’s no way he would have a woman in his room at 21:18.

Humans finally got rid of that ridiculous 12-hour clock that makes no digital sense. How do you have a 12-hour clock for a 24-hour cycle? The day doesn’t start over in the middle. Why does the clock? If you need a translation to your archaic mode of telling time, subtract 12. If you can’t subtract 12 from 21, get a calculator. If you can’t get a calculator, you have serious issues because every phone, computer, and tablet has one. If you don’t have a phone, computer, or tablet, you’re probably not reading this. The answer is 9. It’s 9:18 pm.

Norman rang the doorbell. Yes, every room has a doorbell in the year 112 N.C. Knocking was outlawed when people started becoming offended by what they perceived to be a violent gesture. The issue was compounded when doors started to sue people who were knocking on them for assault and battery. They had to be removed from the edifice and sequestered during the trials. It was easier to install bells for every door. Who wouldn’t prefer to press a button than hit a door with their knuckles? Especially the metal, sliding doors they use in 112 N.C.

The voices stopped. The door slid open. Norman entered. Ned was watching TV. On the screen on his wall was the face of a multicolored alien with a thick, black mustache.

“Hi, Dad,” said Norman. “I just wanted to let you know I’m home. I had veggie burgers at Julio’s. I’m going to bed.”

“Normy, will you come in here for a minute? There’s someone I’d like for you to meet,” said Ned.

Norman stepped into the room and looked around. He didn’t see anybody. His dad had officially gone crazy. Norman was going to have to have him committed. He was going to have to go live with Julio’s family. That wouldn’t be too bad. Actually, he’d probably have to go live with Aunt Nickie. She lived all the way over in Antioch. He could still ‘port over to see his friends. That might be all right. He would have to live with his annoying cousin, Nestlé.

Nestlé was named for a Swiss food company, best known for its chocolate products. In the 20th century C.E., Humans started this bizarre convention of naming their children after things, fruits, vegetables, numbers, directions, and so on.

“Normy? Norman? Are you still with me, buddy?” asked Ned.

“Uh… Yeah,” said Norman, with a slight shake of his head.

“Norman, this is Uhoria,” said Ned, gesturing to the screen.

“Hi, Norman,” said Uhoria, from Epatrus. She continued with the extremely clichéd, “It’s so nice to meet you finally. Your dad has told me all about you.”

“Uh…,” Norman said. “Hi, I’m Norman.”

“I know,” said Uhoria. “I’m Uhoria.”

“Um… It’s nice to meet you,” said Norman.

“I can’t wait to meet you in person,” said Uhoria.

“In what now?” asked Norman, incredulously.

“I haven’t told him, yet,” said Ned.

“Nedrick Neil Normalson, how could you have not told him yet?” asked Uhoria. “What are you waiting for?”

“A good time,” said Ned.

“When would be a good time? When you’re on the ship?” asked Uhoria.

“What ship?” asked Norman. “What’s going on?”

“Great news, Normy,” said Ned. “I met somebody.”

“You haven’t even told him about me?” asked Uhoria.

“I thought this was the best way,” said Ned. “I didn’t want him to be nervous about meeting you.”

Ned and Uhoria already have way more dialogue in this brief biography of Norman than they do in all of Norman Normalson & The Normals.

“That’s great, Dad,” said Norman. He patted his dad on the elbow and moved toward the door.

“That’s not all,” said Ned, with a timbre of excitement. “We’re in love.”

“Um… That’s weird,” said Norman. “She’s an alien with a mustache.”

“She can also hear you,” said Ned.

“It’s all right, Norman,” said Uhoria. “Ned and I have already worked out all the weirdness of interspecies dating. Well, most of… a lot of the weirdness of interspecies dating. We’ve talked about it.”

“O.K.?” said Norman. “That sounds like it’s probably gross, and I don’t want to know any details.”

“There’s nothing gross about accepting what one may view as physical anomalies and loving someone for who they are inside,” said Uhoria.

“That’s beautiful, dear,” said Ned. “It’s also true, Norman.”

“Oh,” said Norman. “O.K., I’m going to bed.”

“There’s one more thing,” said Ned. “We’re moving to Epatrus, so Uhoria and I can get married and live together.”

His dad had officially gone crazy. Norman was going to have to have him committed. He was going to have to go live with Julio’s family. That wouldn’t be too bad. Actually, he’d probably have to go live with Aunt Nickie. She lived all the way over in Antioch. He could still ‘port over to see his friends. That might be all right. He would have to live with his annoying cousin, Nestlé. She was four and always ran around singing this song from the ancient times. It went, “N-E-S-T-L-E-S, Nestlé’s makes the very best… Choc’-late.” Then she would say, “That song’s about me. I make the best chocolate.”

“The only chocolate you make is poop,” Norman said once. Then he mockingly sang, “D-O-O-D-I-E-S Nestlé makes the very best… Doo-dies.” That got him in a little bit of trouble, but it was well worth it.

Norman could hear his dad’s voice, but it sounded distant. It seemed as if his dad were in the other room talking to him through a paper towel roll, even though humanity hadn’t used paper towels in generations. Ned’s voice slowly grew clearer.

“Norman? Noooooormaaaaaan,” said Ned. “Are you still with us?”

Ned was kneeling over Norman, who was lying supine on the floor.

“Dad?” Norman asked. “What happened? I had the craziest dream.”

Before Norman could recover from his shock or anger, he was boarding the Flying Vessel Christopher Columbus, oddly named for an explorer most famous for getting lost.

Norman had a small amount of time to say goodbye to the only home he’d ever known. He had had friends he wasn’t sure if he’d ever see again. Julio had been his best friend longer than he could remember. Rosie was the love of his life. Fortunately, he was 7, and he would have, hopefully, much more life ahead of him in which to find love. Norman didn’t even know if there was soccer on Epatrus. For all he knew, the most popular sport on Epatrus was called eurgensplurgenflargus, which revolved around tying one’s hands and feet together and crawling around blindfolded picking zhartstinkquaf berries. He didn’t even know what zhartstinkquaf berries were or if there were any on Epatrus or anywhere else in the universe. He didn’t have much time left on Earth, and he fudge dang sure wasn’t going to spend it researching a planet to which he didn’t even want to go.

Norman wanted nothing to do with this trip and went straight to a stasis chamber on the spaceship where he was virtually frozen for the long trek to Epatrus. Even with ships that could travel at nearly the speed of light, the multi-parsec voyage to Epatrus took awhile. Most passengers and even crew members traversed the majority of such trips in stasis, which allowed them to view the months-long journey as if it were nearly instantaneous. One could only enjoy the splendor and awe of being in space for so long. Computers and Radbots did the majority of flying and maintenance while the biological beings slept.

Time passes much more slowly on Epatrus than on Earth. Uhoria chose to spend the time in stasis. That allowed her to skip being nervous as the man she loved was traversing the universe to be with her. It also assured she wouldn’t age during the intervening months. Ned was happy about her decision, as well. It gave him a feeling of solidarity with the woman in his life. It also meant that she couldn’t meet anybody else while they were in transit.

Were the months the journey took measured by Earth time or Epatrus time? Now, you’re getting way too technical on me. Yamfennian time. How about that?

Norman didn’t even realize he was asleep before he was revived. They had arrived. He lay down, closed his eyes and said, “I don’t even want to go…” He was unconscious and frozen for the rest of the trip.

The voyage was pretty uneventful, at least for those who were in stasis. The ship was boarded by space pirates from space. They probably weren’t actually from space. I’m pretty sure they would have to have originated on a planet somewhere… somewhere in space.

The pirate ship, SSSS or the 4S, short for the Space Ship Stuff Stealer, spotted the F.V.C.C., Flying Vessel Christopher Columbus, on their radar. Captain Mauve Oyster immediately recognized it as a passenger ship. Passenger ships were the third best picking when it came to loot. The best was, obviously, cargo ships. The second was cruise ships. Cruise ships usually had rich people who insisted on bringing their riches into space. I guess they wanted to show off if they met an alien. “This is my golden eye patch. It’s made of 100% pure uncut gold. I don’t even need an eye patch. I just wear it because it’s gold.” Ms. Notimpressed, of the planet Golddirt, was not impressed. Apparently, Mr. Braggington didn’t know that gold is dirt and utterly worthless on planet Golddirt.

The worst ships for loot were warships. That was mostly due to the inability of the pirates to take over such ships.

Captain Mauve Oyster ordered his crew of scoundrels, thieves, and that one nice guy who got caught up with the wrong crowd to pursue that ship. The ship was pursued. The SSSS easily caught up with the F.V.C.C. Passenger ships are not nearly as swift as pirate ships. If they were, pirates would go out of business. Pirates can’t go out of business. It’s almost impossible to get another job after pirate. Who looks at a résumé and sees pirate and says, “You’re hired.”? Nobody.

The 4S hovered above the Chris for a few Zechistenian seconds before clamping onto them. Once the ships were hooked, it was impossible for a passenger ship to break away. Cargo ships had defenses for moves like that. They could cut the clamps with lasers. Passenger ships had no such defensive or offensive capabilities. Someone somewhere decided it was best if passenger ships didn’t engage in battles. It’s probably better that way.

Encountering other ships in space was an anomaly. Encountering pirates in space was even scarcer. Pirates usually depended on getting flight plans from a spy who worked for whichever company they wanted to rob. The SSSS had a secret method for finding targets. More on that later.

Once clamped, the pirates could ‘port over to the other ship without any worries of losing their ship or the targeted ship escaping. Before the pirates even clamped on, the computer was aware of the threat.

The Chris attempted evasive maneuvers. As I mentioned previously, passenger ships aren’t equipped with many defensive capabilities. The ship was easily overtaken.

Once aboard, the pirates were inhospitably greeted by a force of Radbots. The security force was armed with stun blasters and nets. The pirates were armed with blasters that were specifically designed to disable bots. They expected to meet bots of some sort. Bots were standard security on the majority of passenger ships.

Following their effortless victory over the Radbots, Flower Blossom McLotus, the one nice guy who fell in with the wrong crowd, was free to hack into the computer.

Flower Blossom McLotus never wanted to be a pirate. He wanted to be a ballerina ninja. They have those on Mantarius, his planet of origin. They’re sneaky and graceful and potentially deadly. He only planned to use his powers for good, to stop the evil forces of evil. Sadly, however, for the Mantarian his only source of gracefulness was in his fingers.

After flunking out of The Lexi P. Lodeham School Of Dance, Martial Arts, Chicanery, and Silent But Deadly Farts, Flower Blossom McLotus, or FloBloLo for short, resigned himself to working with his hands. He became a repairman. He got a job at Tony’s. Tony was one of the best repairmen on all of Mantarius, which was fortunate because he was horrible at naming businesses.

Seriously? Tony’s? Tony’s what? That name doesn’t tell anybody what he did. Did Tony make pizzas? Did he sell antiques? Did he wrestle crabs? Did he train dancing earwigs? Was he a cobbler? No. Not that kind of cobbler. I know he wasn’t a pie. I meant the type who makes and repairs shoes.

FloBloLo’s nimble fingers made swift work of any project Tony assigned to him. He could fix anything. Toasters, microwaves, blu-ray players, watches, cars, cameras, dogs, anything. Well, he could if Mantarius had any of those things. The point is, he was good with his hands.

Repairing was so simple for FloBloLo that he got bored with it. He started taking things apart to learn more about them. He began with uncomplicated things and quickly moved on to computers and robots. It didn’t take long for FloBloLo to start building computers and robots. It was only a natural progression that led him to learn to program.

FloBloLo respectfully resigned from Tony’s and got a job with the Shliplestein Corporation. The Shliplestein Corporation coincidentally was founded and had its headquarters on Epatrus.

For years, FloBloLo designed and programmed computers and robots. He was the happiest he had ever been or would ever be.

The Shliplestein Corporation, headed by Gargamel Von Shliplestein, paid him handsomely. The money on Mantarius is very attractive. He had four girlfriends. She was actually one girlfriend with multiple personalities. They were all nice, though, so FloBloLo was happy to date them all. He had an expensive apartment on the rich side of town. Then, it was all blown away like a fart by a fart.

FloBloLo was demonstrating of one his new inventions for a high-ranking Shliplestein executive when he farted. You’re probably thinking, “So? What’s the big deal? Everybody farts.” One of the many things FloBloLo partially learned at The Lexi P. Lodeham School Of Dance, Martial Arts, Chicanery, and Silent But Deadly Farts was, yeah, silent but deadly farts. He learned the art but not how to control it fully. The executive was dead in seconds.

FloBloLo was arrested. After a short trial, he went to prison. His defense of poor flatulent training was flimsy at best. He was sentenced to four years in a maximum security prison for the crime of involuntary Mantarian slaughter by way of flatulence. He lost his job. He lost his apartment.

FloBloLo spent most of his sentence in solitary confinement. No one thought it was a good idea to allow anyone around the Mantarian who could kill with his farts. He was locked in an aroma-free cell. I can think of a few people I’d like locked in one of those, at least sometimes.

Only one of his girlfriends agreed to wait for him while he was incarcerated. One of his girlfriends started dating one of the correctional officers, which was awkward. It caused some problems for FloBloLo when the guard got jealous that one of his girlfriend’s personalities was frequently visiting FloBloLo.

The officer took advantage of every opportunity to make FloBloLo’s life difficult. He would withhold rations, fart in his food, stick his tongue out at him when no one was looking, say mean things about his mother, and restrain him to the wall and tickle his feet. FloBloLo was miserable.

Upon release, FloBloLo vowed never to fart again. He made it five hours before his stomach hurt so much he had to release his pent-up flatulence. The time he abstained from expelling his gas compounded its potency. This fart killed seven people and a potted plant.

His last remaining girlfriend refused to wait for him this time.

During his subsequent stay in prison, FloBloLo learned to control the potency of his flatulence. From then on, he only used his farts to render people unconscious. A few more plants died before he perfected it.

Following his release from prison, every time he applied for a job, Flower Blossom McLotus had to confess that he had been convicted of a felony. The potential employers always wanted details. Farting felonies were the worst. He was unemployed and homeless when Captain Mauve Oyster found him.

Legends of the Mantarian who could kill with his farts spread far and wide, as well as near and narrow. Captain Mauve Oyster immediately offered FloBloLo a position in his pirate posse where he would be paid in plundered prizes. FloBloLo hated the idea of stealing from people, but his employment options were sparse.

FloBloLo accepted the pirate’s offer. He soon found himself flying around in space for megamonths at a time. Megamonths are boring months in space that seem to last forever. During his downtime, FloBloLo did what he loves. He tinkered and learned.

FloBloLo only had enough parts to make a single, short robot. He named it RDRR. FloBloLo and RDRR were best friends, mostly because that’s how FloBloLo programmed RDRR. Still, something was missing in FloBloLo’s life. He needed to create.

FloBloLo and RDRR spent most of their time in transit at the computer. They improved all the ship’s systems and upgraded all its software. When they were out of things to do, they started making programs.

FloBloLo was FloBloLonely. See what I did there? I made a dumb pun out of his name. The other pirates were already friends and relatives. They weren’t happy about Captain Mauve Oyster inviting in another guy. They were also afraid of him since he could kill people with his farts and farts can sneak up on anyone at any time. They immediately outlawed beans aboard the SSSS.

When he and RDRR weren’t working, FloBloLo spent a lot of time on social media. He made a lot of virtual friends but didn’t like the sites. The interactions were too limited. He wanted to express more of a range of emotion than like, and, for some reason, all the sites smelled like cheese.

RDRR suggested they make a social media site. FloBloLo had the skills. RDRR had the stamina to stay up all night programming. Together, they were a stoppable force, but no one stopped them. The result was FloBloLoSo. Yes, he named it after himself, Flower Blossom McLotus Social. RDRR only received credit in the fine print. FloBloLo didn’t program sensitivity or narcissism into RDRR, so it didn’t care.

FloBloLoSo slowly became the most popular social networking site in the universe. Even the pirates of the SSSS joined and shared, except Captain Mauve Oyster. He just watched the madness.

Captain Mauve Oyster monitored his pirates as they obsessed over the social network site. He started asking Flower Blossom a lot of in-depth questions about it. He saw a plethora of people on a plethora of planets socially oversharing. They posted their every move to FloBloLoSo. Every person on the site was easily traceable.

As the owner, creator, and supreme overlord of FloBloLoSo, FloBloLo was automatically connected to every user. He had all their information. Captain Mauve Oyster convinced FloBloLo to share all their sharing with him. The pirates used their new knowledge of when people all over the universe would be away from their homes to rob a ridiculous amount of people. They also knew the schedules of every company’s cruise ships and which were carrying the most booty. Then all his pirate pals loved him, as they shouted out with glee, “Ahoy, matey.”

FloBloLo hated it. It made him feel terrible. He didn’t even want to be a pirate. He didn’t want to steal from people. Maybe, if he stuck with it a little longer, he’d have enough money to retire soon if the pirates would let him.

What does that have to do with Norman? Nothing. I got carried away with the tragic legend of Flower Blossom McLotus. The point of all that was that FloBloLo was recruited by the pirates as a computer hacker. He hacked into the Chris’s computer and disabled the security system.

You’re just jealous because your biography isn’t nearly that cool. Can you kill someone with your farts? I didn’t think so. I know of very few who can.

Norman Normalson: A Biography: Part 1: Pacifica

Norman Normalson is a normal nine-year-old boy. He hates to brush his teeth. He hates to take a bath. He hates school, especially math. He can’t stand his younger half-brother. He’s not a big fan of his step-mother, either. He has a crush on a girl he’s sure doesn’t know he’s alive. He likes sports, especially soccer. He thinks his parents are the weirdest people in the universe.

Even with all this normalcy, Norman never feels like he belongs. He is not accepted among his peers. He’s ridiculed and bullied for being different. He is different. He doesn’t fit in. He doesn’t belong. Norman Normalson is an alien.

Norman Normalson was born to Nedrick “Ned” and Victoria “Victoria” Normalson on a quaint planet in the little galaxy called the Milky Way. The planet’s a pale blue dot called Earth. Earth is divided up into continents, countries, states, counties, boroughs, territories, cities, and towns.

Norman was from the North American city of Pacifica. Pacifica is on the coast of a state called California. Norman grew up, to the age of 8, going practically across the street to Linda Mar Beach. If you think fútbol, or soccer, is fun on grass, try it on the sand. It’s almost an entirely different game.

Norman Normalson and his friends would frequently walk the couple blocks to the beach, cutting through Linda Mar Shopping Center. When he wanted to play on real grass, he would ‘port, or teleport, across town to the schoolyard with Paul and Julio. They could almost always find enough kids to have a game.

Of course, there were plenty of indoor activities. Julio’s family had the top of the line Shliplestein 4242Pac Holodeck. Norman’s family only had the Shliplestein 3117Yot model. The grass in Norman’s felt like Astroturf and smelled more like pine than grass. Fortunately, Julio lived down the block. Norman scarcely even ‘ported there.

The only problem they consistently encountered was Julio’s older brothers, Arnold and Reginald. They were always using the holodeck with their friends and wouldn’t let poor Norman and Julio join in. Arnold was 12 and Reginald was 10.

Sometimes they even had to contend with Julio’s sister, Rosie. Norman didn’t mind deferring to her as much. She was at least nice about it and kind of cute. She would even occasionally agree to allow Julio and his friends to join her and her friends. That way, they could form an alliance that would keep Arnold and Reginald out.

Most days they were content to use their Shliplestein T.A.A.I.T.M. Dreamatorium Glasses. They were similar to virtual reality glasses but vastly superior. They didn’t provide the full-emersion experience of the holodeck. The glasses kept the wearer confined to the dimensions of their real-world surroundings.

In the holodeck, the floors and walls were on a track and could move to simulate traveling great distances or climbing mountains. Wind would blow in the face and around the body of a user who wanted to simulate skydiving.

The Dreamatorium Glasses only allowed one to see what one wanted to see. Traversing the world created for them by the glasses could be dangerous. For example, in the room in which I’m currently writing, I could walk into a bed, a desk, a dresser, a laundry basket full of clothes I have yet to put away, and three dogs, one of whom just farted.

One could buy the Shliplestein Dreamatorium Auto-Track as an add-on. The S.D.A.T. would allow the user to move in any direction one could normally walk and even simulate stairs. It was similar to a treadmill but not restrained to a single path. Julio, of course, had one, but his parents refused to buy additional S.D.A.T.s for his visiting friends.

Rosie was Norman’s first crush on an older woman. She was 8 while Norman and Julio were both 6. Yes, Julio’s parents were very regular in their childbearing. Each of their children was born on June 16th every other year for six years. There was one birthday party. Get it done. Done. As the years went by, Arnold was increasingly disgruntled by the growing number of little kids at his birthday party. To be fair, it was his first.

Norman’s life in Pacifica was a pretty good one. He had friends who lived nearby and a plethora of indoor and outdoor activities. His soccer team was in first place. His virtual soccer team was in third but improving. His crush, Rosie, paid attention to him and was even nice to him. Sometimes, they played together. Life in Pacifica, California was good. Then, suddenly, it wasn’t.

One evening, Norman’s mother was hovering home from work. She worked as a male model. No, it’s not what you think. She was a role model for men who needed help finding their feminine side. It helped men be more tender with women. Then, all they had to do was find women who wanted more feminine men.

She was driving her hovercar down the twisty Cabrillo Highway. Yes, they still have to use roads. They’re hovercars, not flying cars. She was zooming around a turn, which featured a residence that had a huge holographic display encouraging drivers to root for local sports teams. The holographic displays were a longtime family tradition, which started as signs draped over a fence. This was early November, so the presentation was encouraging support for the Giants of the neighboring city, San Francisco. The team was in the third round of the pre-playoffs. If they won that night, they would be eligible to enter the Wild Card Tournament. When baseball went global, it really extended the schedule.

Victoria Normalson was in a hurry to get home and watch the game with her family. Ned and Norman would already be seated behind home plate in the holodeck breathing in the pine scent of the Astroturf. She glanced over at the holographic display for not more than a second. A jolt of nervous energy ran through her body. Tonight’s game was going to be the biggest game of the year. When she turned back to the road, she had to swerve to avoid hitting a giraffe.

Someone’s pet giraffe had escaped from her yard and wandered onto the highway. In the year 112 N.C., everyone has a pet giraffe or monkey or wildebeest or koala or alligator or cat. 1974 saw a worldwide famine that was so bad people ate their dogs. By 1981, there were no more dogs on Earth. The snoring coming from behind me from one of the three dogs on my bed leads me to believe that might not be true. Maybe people just like exotic pets and owning one became fashionable.

The year 112? Following the global unification inspired by the near usurpation of the planet by alien races, a new world calendar became necessary. After years of bickering about which calendar to use, world leaders decided to start over. That was about 127 years ago. Yes, it took them 15 years to implement the new calendar. Humans are never in a hurry to change their ways. Some countries still use measurements based on a king’s feet. No, it wasn’t Elvis. Of what was Elvis the king? Poor fashion choices? I don’t know who it was or how it came to be, but I do know it makes those of us whose feet aren’t 12 inches feel awkward and somehow deformed. Thanks, King Foot Fetish. Maybe it was Dr. Scholl. I don’t know.

The N.C. stands for New Calendar, Nuwe Caledar, Novi Caledar, Nový Caledar, Nieuwe Caledar, Nouveau Caledar, Neuer Caledar, ΝΕΑ Caledar, Nouvo Caledar, Nuevo Caledar… You get it. It works in multiple languages. No, it’s not creative. It’s not even Latin. It couldn’t be a reference to a deity because not everyone believes in the same deity or any deity. It couldn’t be a reference to a specific event because not everyone gives the same significance to events. It had to be something extremely bland, or it would offend people. I’m actually offended by how bland it is. It was the only thing on which the members of the committee could agree. Given the difficulty they had implementing the new calendar, are you surprised?

All that matters now is that Norman’s mother, Victoria, swerved to miss a giraffe who had wandered onto the highway. She lost control of her hover car as she whipped the steering wheel to the right. The vehicle nearly slammed into the protective wall alongside the road. She spun back into the street. An oncoming car pushed Victoria’s car and turned her back toward the retaining wall.

All hovercars come equipped with deflectors. The same technology that allows them to float also keeps them from crashing into things. It’s a standard safety feature. As soon as Victoria lost control of her car, she was secured by the seat to keep her from thrashing around inside. After bouncing around the road, like a ball on a pool table, but without actually hitting anything, Victoria’s car came to a stop on the side of the road.

Victoria was understandably shaken up a bit. She called Ned to come to get her. Out of concern for his mother, Norman wanted to go too. They found her and were relieved she was all right. She was too shaky to drive, so Ned hooked up her car to his and towed it home. They all rode in Ned’s car. Norman wanted to ride in the car being towed. What 6-year-old wouldn’t? I want to, and I’m not even technically a kid. He was denied.

By the time they got home, the game was already in the ninth inning. Norman and his family missed most of the game. Sure they listened to it on the radio, but that’s not the same. They could watch a recording, but that’s not as exciting as watching it live. Besides, they listened on the radio. They already knew what happened.

To make things worse, the Giants lost to their hated rivals, the Smeshfield Dragons. You thought I was going to say the Dodgers. That rivalry cooled significantly when the Dodgers moved to New Delhi and renamed themselves the Diwalis. They hoped the reference to the Hindu festival of lights, which takes place in autumn, would help them achieve victory in the playoffs, which also take place in autumn. It didn’t work.

A year later, Victoria died from lung cancer. It doesn’t matter how many advancements humans make. They cannot figure out how not to be self-destructive. They also stubbornly refuse to view medical care as anything other than a business, so people still die of otherwise curable or preventable ailments. Good job, humanity.

Norman and his dad were obviously crushed. Cancer is a long, slow, painful process. Remember that if anybody offers you a cigarette. Just say, “No, thank you. I don’t want to die as long, slow, painful death. Nor do I want to be that guy and/or girl who always stinks even though I shower daily and has smoke and tobacco stains on my clothes and teeth and hair and skin.” Yes, it stains your skin. No, vaping is not better. It’s just douchier.

Norman and his dad tended to Victoria constantly as she was dying. It was severely difficult and painful for both of them. First, she lost her hair from the chemotherapy. As Victoria’s cancer metastasized, or spread, tumors started to grow on her spine, which impinged her nerves, and she lost the use of her legs. The heavy regimen of pain medication left her mind cloudy. Some days, she could hardly recognize her family.

Yeah, happy kids’ story. Cancer! Death! Boom! See? Don’t smoke. It ruins things for everybody.

No, humanity has not yet cured cancer. There’s much more money in treating diseases than curing them. There are far too many humans who would rather profit from the suffering of others than help people. If you know someone who helps others, give them a smile and a gold star for the day. Fine, you may give them a blue star but only if you’re entirely out of gold. You don’t get to give out blue stars and keep the gold ones for yourself. That’s selfish. Being selfish is selfish.

Emotions and pain make people do crazy and stupid things. Norman’s dad flirted with the idea of moving to Montana to be a dental floss tycoon. He wanted to get a pygmy pony to ride around his ranch. Fortunately for Norman, that’s not really a thing. It’s just a silly song by Frank Zappa.

With his wife gone and his aspirations of becoming a dental floss tycoon being potentially a severe mental condition, Ned was suffering from severe depression. This story got dark. Who turned the out the lights? Oh yeah, Cancer.

This story needs lightening. Ned needs lightening. Emotional pain is a hard thing with which to deal, and it’s often hard to move on from that. Fortunately for Ned and our story, Ned’s sister, Nickel, or Nickie for short, even though it’s the same amount of letters and syllables, took it upon herself to pull Ned out of his personal pit of despair.

Nickie knew she had to do something before Ned did something crazy, like move to Montana in an attempt to partake in a fictional profession or worse, move to Reno. She logged on to the I.I., or intergalactic interweb, and created a dating profile for Ned on Cosmic Love. The I.I. was relatively new to Earth, and Nickie didn’t realize that the dating site and app Cosmic Love was literally cosmic.

On Earth, a balding accountant widower with a 7-year-old son in his 40s who can’t grow a mustache isn’t considered a prime dating candidate. On Epatrus, being an accountant more than makes up for any deficiencies or baggage a man may have.

Before Ned even knew about the dating profile Nickie set-up for him, he was receiving messages from Epatrus. At first, he began responding out of decorum. Then, he decided he liked the attention. He wasn’t so sure about the green, yellow, or blue women with purple highlights. He was pretty sure he didn’t like the mustaches. That was a prejudice he learned on Earth. Human women don’t usually have mustaches, and when they do, men generally don’t consider it an attractive feature. Yeah, humans are weird. Ned had to admit there was something alluring about a woman with a prehensile tail. He didn’t know what it was, or, at least, he couldn’t express it in a story that’s supposed to be family friendly in spite of all the Cancer and death discussion. Two words: Old Yeller.

Misgivings aside, Ned was always excited to receive greetings from one particular woman. What started as simple messages in text form, soon expanded to live voice chatting and even video chatting. It’s a good thing there was no longer such a thing as phones or long-distance charges. Ned’s phone bill would have been astronomical, literally. That’s a pun. The I.I. made such communication almost instantaneous, like the ansible first imagined by Ursula K. Le Guin way back in Earth’s 1960s.

Uhoria Jhakurus was an Epatrusian from Epatrus. She was born and raised on Epatrus. She lived her whole life on Epatrus, except when she left. She was a mustache model. Yeah, her mustache was that sweet. You wish your mom had a mustache that nice. Unless you’re human, then people would make fun of you for having a mom with a massive, luxurious mustache.

Uhoria was attracted to Ned as soon as she saw the word ‘accountant’ on his profile. It’s that big of a deal on Epatrus. Accountants on Epatrus are like rock stars on Earth. Earth has some very famous rocks. Look at Mount Rushmore. That’s not what rock star means? What else could rock star possibly mean? Asteroid? Meteor? Comet? Technically, no, but they can be mistaken for stars, shooting stars.

Uhoria had never met a human before. She found Ned’s pale, pasty skin shocking and drab. His thinning hair was a conundrum. His eyeglasses made him look like he was wearing a disguise. It was like if he took them off and changed into tights and a cape, he would be completely unrecognizable. She didn’t know humans didn’t have tails. The most appalling and disgusting thing about him was that he didn’t have a mustache. On Epatrus, only infants and those with a genetic disorder didn’t have mustaches.

Even with all those defects, Ned was still an accountant. Count on! 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13… That’s counting. He was also a father. He had a paternal instinct. Uhoria wanted to be a mother more than anything. Could humans and Epatrusians mate? Yes. Maybe. He was an accountant. It was worth a try. Don’t ask Carl Sagan. If he were alive, he would tell you no, which would ruin the whole story.

Ned and Uhoria’s conversations became more frequent, more prolonged, and more intimate. It wasn’t long before they both saw past the oddities particular to the other’s species and began to like each other for the people they were. What they started out viewing as physical shortcomings slowly became attractive.

Ned came to find Uhoria’s skin color of yellow and blue with an interspersing of purple to be quite lovely. He always saw her color scheme as beautiful. It just took him a while to accept it as skin color. Likewise, Uhoria came to find Ned’s pale skin to be exotic. Epatrusian males are black with orange markings or red with black markings. She could see that anywhere. More importantly, it was the inner beauty of each that made them beautiful to each other. It’s what made them fall in love from parsecs away.

A parsec is a measurement of distance. One parsec is equal to 3.26 light years. One light year is equivalent to 30 trillion kilometers or 19 trillion miles. I don’t know if love can conquer all, but it sure can travel.

So, what the fart does all this have to do with Norman? Everything.

When Ned first started communicating with women around the universe, Norman had no idea. Nickie thought it would be easier for Ned to start dating if Norman didn’t know. It’s often hard for kids when their parents date someone who is not their parent, regardless of the circumstances. It might have been impossible for Ned to move on from his pain and find someone new if Norman had reservations. Nickie still had no idea Ned was talking to extraterrestrial women.

Norman didn’t pay much attention to what his dad was doing. At first, Norman and Ned experienced a bonding and closeness that came with Victoria’s death. After Ned announced his plan to move to Montana to become a dental floss tycoon, Norman didn’t talk to his father for days. He didn’t know it wasn’t really a thing. Other than the dentist, Norman had no idea from where dental floss came. He had never heard of Frank Zappa or even Tina Turner, who sang background vocals on the song. Norman actually thought he was going to have to move to Montana to farm dental floss. His reality turned out to be much worse.

 

 

 

Norman Normalson & The Normals Synopsis

Norman Normalson is a normal nine-year-old boy. He hates to brush his teeth. He hates to take a bath. He hates school, especially math. He’s irritated by his younger half-brother who gets all the girls, can drive and has a mustache… at nine… months-old.

Norman Normalson is a normal nine-year-old boy, except for the fact that he’s an alien. He misses his hometown. He misses his friends. He misses soccer. He misses toilets. He misses Earth.

Norman Normalson’s life was flipped upside down when his mother died. His life was further flipped when his father met a new woman online. Again, when his father fell in love with the woman and decided they should move in with her on Epatrus, many parsecs away from Earth. On his new home, he’s flipped upside down every time he has to go to the bathroom.

On Earth, Norman was normal. He wasn’t the most popular kid in school, but he had friends. Norman got decent grades. He wasn’t a genius, but he wasn’t dumb. He wasn’t a great athlete, but he liked sports and was above average in most he attempted. He loved fútbol, but called it soccer, which is kind of weird. Though, it is normal for his country to think they can take the world’s most popular sport and change its name. They’re arrogant like that.

On Epatrus, he was not normal. He was the only human in his school. He was the only one without a tail. He was one of the few who didn’t have a mustache. He was nine-years-old and couldn’t fly an F.T.O. His baby brother had to fly him to school. He was not good at playing brickenspricken. He was one of the few people who didn’t like to eat Epatrus’s primary food source, gwatuchorazz cheese.

He wasn’t the most popular kid in school, but he had friends. Norman was adopted by the outcasts of Gargamel Von Shliplestein Elementary School. Even among the outcasts, Norman stood out for the simple fact that he was human. Upon his inclusion in the group, they went from being called ‘freaks’ to being dubbed Norman Normalson And The Not So Normals. Eventually, their name was sarcastically shortened to Norman Normalson And The Normals or often simply The Normals.

Norman Normalson was slowly adjusting to the alien world that was now his home. Being picked-on became normal. Being flown around by his baby brother became normal. His dad going to work wearing tights, tap shoes, sweater vests, and curly blue clown wigs became normal. He was slowly adjusting to his step-mother. His friends were actually friends, not just the only people who would hang out with him. Norman Normalson was finally accepting the new normal when everything changed.

If Norman thought his life was turned upside down by the fecal extractor, wait till his baby brother disappears in a flash of light. Wait till his friends start disappearing. Wait until he and his friends take it upon themselves to solve the mystery. Wait until the robot that’s assigned to protect him tries to kill him. Wait until his friends and mentor try to convince him of the benefits of gwatuchorazz cheese. “It’s butt cheese.”

Norman Normalson & The Normals Logline

This blog has been primarily focused on The L Squad. There’s a good reason for that. The L Squad is the first book I completed and is the most polished. The L Squad is also the book I’ve been shopping to agents. Agents haven’t been overly enthusiastic as of yet. I can only assume, it’s because they are illiterate… or I suck. There may be some other possibilities in between.

While I am far from giving up and abandoning The L Squad, I decided to give Norman and friends a shot. I’ve recently completed a fourth draft. Yes, typos can hide for the complete first three drafts or so. They are clever buggers and champions of the game You Can’t Find Me, So Please Stop Trying And Declare Me The Winner And World Champion Of You Can’t Find Me, So Please Stop Trying And Declare Me The Winner And World Champion Of… or as humans call it Hide & Seek. Humans may have a better name for that game. On some planets, it takes so long to say the name that the game never actually begins.

With that in mind, the fourth draft, not the ridiculously long name given celestially to Hide & Seek, I’ve decided to give Norman Normalson & The Normals some much-deserved recognition. I will be posting more information on Norman and his group of misfit friends. Is ‘misfit’ offensive, now? At this point, I wouldn’t be surprised if the word ‘friend’ is offensive. Anyway, there’s a lot more Norman stuff coming. I’m starting here, as with The L Squad, with the logline. I hope I won’t look back on this later, like I did with the logline for The L Squad, and realize it’s horribly generic.

Normal Normalson hasn’t been normal since he and his father moved to Epatrus. Adapting to being an alien on an alien world got a lot harder when his half-brother disappeared into a flash of light, and nobody believes what he saw.

If you thought that was exciting, just wait till more stuff comes. We didn’t even get to the butt cheese.

The L Squad Chapter One: 13 Pillows

I haven’t posted anything here for awhile, which is probably obvious by the post dates. I have been diligently working on the follow-up to The L Squad, The L Squad: Phase Two. The simple fact that I’m working on a follow-up is probably somewhat of a spoiler. I finished it recently and have been working on rewriting it. I didn’t follow Mitch Hedberg’s advice to simply make a copy as it needs a lot of work. There were a plethora of redundancy issues, typos, length issues like it being 190+ pages when it should be closer to 150 given the target audience, incoherent ramblings… Yeah, like this. I decided to I should post something on this blog before the cob webs started to grow. I’m pretty sure that is not what’s meant by the world wide web. Since I have been writing and rewriting and rewriting and… a book instead of blog-appropriate material, I thought it would be a swell idea to slap the first chapter of the book that started it all (All of what? This chaos here and, I hope, lots of future stuff.) onto NobbinBlog for the reading enjoyment of anybody who actually reads it and enjoys it. I know that’s asking for a lot. At least read it. Without any preamble or preface, except for the preamble and preface I’ve typed, here is the first chapter of The L Squad entitled Chapter One: 13 Pillows.

Chapter One:
13 Pillows

“Splorg. Splorg! SPLORG!!!” The deep voice echoed through the darkness.

Abby couldn’t see anything in the seemingly endless caves. The thunderous boom made by each slowly approaching step sent waves of terror through her little body. She tried to run, but her legs wouldn’t work. She could only stumble through the black abyss. She kicked a rock and tripped. The steps got closer. She willed herself back to her feet. The fear forced her legs to move. She ran through the blackness. She hit a wall and collapsed. She couldn’t get up. She struggled to get up, but could only lie there shaking. Something brushed her face. She couldn’t see what it was, but she knew if she didn’t get up now she would never get up again.

Abby jerked and jumped up trembling and gasping for breath as she looked around in terror. Hitch was sitting on her bed caressing her face. Charlie, her tricolored Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, was curled up at the foot of the bed. Charlie perked her ears, lifted her head and cocked it slightly to the right when Abby jumped. Hitch put his hand on hers.

“Another bad dream?” He asked.

“Yeah. Was it obvious?”

Hitch just nodded his head. “The mines of LambaBad, again?”

“Nasga, please,” said Abby. “It was so beautiful when it was Nasga.”

“It didn’t have uranium mines before it was LambaBad,” said Hitch.

“That’s why I want to remember it as Nasga. That won’t ever happen here, will it, Hitch? He can’t find us on Earth, can he?” Abby asked, with a shiver.

“I hope not,” said Hitch. “That’s why we do this. That’s why Rad exists, just in case.”

“I hate when you call it that,” said Abby. “’Rad’ is a slang word humans used here in the 1980s. The R.A.D. is an important organization. It’s our job to make sure that what happened on Nasga and…” She paused as a wave of melancholy washed over her. “Yamfenn doesn’t happen on Earth.”

“You are such a nerd. How have we been best friends for so long?” Hitch asked. “On two planets, no less?”

“Because you’re the luckiest guy in the universe,” Abby said, with a smirk on her pink face, which wrinkled her yellow stripes and white blaze. A little jerk of attitude wiggled the curly antennae perched atop her head. They both laughed.

“Oh plurg! Speaking of Rad we have to get going. We forgot to request a wake-up call,” said Hitch. “It’s 11:30. If we blow another mission Captain Grek is going to flip his flop.”

“I don’t think you’ve completely grasped the American idiom. It’s ‘flip his top’ or ‘flip his lid,’” Abby said. “Even Kip overslept?”

“Even Kip. It’s probably flight weariness,” Hitch said. “The way George flies we’re lucky to get anywhere alive.”

“If it weren’t for George we would never have escaped LambaBad, or out-flown the Lambads and made it to Earth,” Abby reminded her friend. “Isn’t he also the same pilot who saved a furry little alien floating aimlessly around the Iisneent Solar System in a malfunctioning pod?”

“That’s all true. I’ll never forget him saving my life,” said Hitch. “That’s why I requested he be the one to pilot our escape ship. I just wish he had landed it, oh, in one piece.”

“I think the Lambads had more to do with that than George,” said Abby.

“All right, you win,” said Hitch. “Let’s get out of here. As captain of this squad, Captain Grek is due to take the biggest bite out of my booty.”

“Hey, nobody wants to be around Captain Grek when he’s angry,” said Abby, pinching her nose. She gathered up her things and called to Charlie, “Come on, Charlie. Leash!”

Charlie jumped up and ran toward Abby at, “Come on, Charlie.” When she heard “Leash!” she stopped in her tracks and stood up on her hind legs. “Seriously? Come on. I’ll be ever so good,” Charlie pleaded, in her English accent.

“You say that every time and every time I acquiesce to your wishes you end up chasing something,” said Abby, as she snapped Charlie’s collar around her neck. They rushed out of room 217 of the Something Tree Hotel.

“What does ‘ak-wee-ess’ mean?” asked Hitch.

“Give in, submit, assent,” Abby said.

“Where do you get these words?” He asked.

“I read.”

“How do you know what the words mean?” asked Hitch.

“If I don’t know a word I look it up,” said Abby.

“Why doesn’t George have to wear a leash?” Charlie asked, scratching at her collar. “He’s more bonkers than me.”

George is only crazy when he’s flying. My anthropomorphizing device gave you Yamfennian-like qualities, but didn’t subdue your canine instincts,” said Abby. “You’re still a spaniel deep down.”

“What’s wrong with being a spaniel?” Charlie asked.

“Nothing. It’s wonderful to be who you are. You’re my good girl,” Abby said, while scratching Charlie behind her ear. “I love you, but your need to chase things and bark gets us into trouble.”

They reached room 219 and Hitch pounded on the door and yelled, “Let’s go, Kip. We are late.” The only response he got was a deep moan. “We’ll be in the lobby. George is getting the ship.”

They headed for the stairs.

“Can’t we take the lift just this once?” Charlie asked.

“No elevators,” said Hitch.

“Fair enough,” said Charlie, “but how about the lift?”

“Hitch hates elevators,” said Abby. “When he was a youngling he was having a pod race with his friends just off his home world of Zechisten.”

“Do you have to tell her this story?” asked Hitch.

“Yes, please,” said Charlie. “I like stories ever so much.”

“Yes,” said Abby. “We can all learn from your mistakes. I know someone else who gets too excited and rushes into things.” Abby gestured toward Charlie.

“I like to learn,” said Charlie, “especially if I can learn without getting into trouble.”

Hitch, our fearless leader, was so into the race that he zipped right past the finish line and into a wormhole that took him to the Iisneent Solar System,” Abby said. “The pod’s engine malfunctioned around Nasga. If George hadn’t found him when he did, that pod would have become his coffin. Now, he has a severe case of claustrophobia. Just walking by an elevator, for example, makes his brown fur stand on end and his pointy ears curl.”

“I’m not scared,” said Hitch. “It’s good exercise. We have to stay in shape.”

“You’re a scaredy-cat,” said Charlie. “I like to chase cats.”

Charlie feigned a lunge at Hitch. Hitch flinched and sternly said, “Charlie, sit. Stay.”

“I can’t,” said Charlie. “We’re late.”

Hitch, Abby, and Charlie reached the courtesy desk just as the attendant was hanging up the phone. She could barely see Hitch’s ears and Abby’s antennae sticking up over the desk. She stood up to see them.

“You must be room 217 & 219,” she said.

“That’s us. Sorry, we’re running a little late today,” said Hitch. “We’re just stopping by to let you know that we’re finally on our way out.”

“I’ve been informed that 13 pillows are missing from your rooms. You’ll have to pay for them before you can leave,” said the attendant.

“Peanut butter and jelly!” Hitch said, angrily, as he reached up to slam his little furry fist down on the desk.

“I prefer honey,” the attendant said. “Do you guys, like, eat pillows or something?”

“I have been known to tear asunder a pillow or two in my time,” Charlie confessed, “but I haven’t done that in days.”

“This is absurd. There aren’t even 13 pillows in a room,” Abby protested.

“Someone requested more pillows,” said the attendant. “Now, those pillows are missing.”

Meanwhile, on their ship, George was in a closet making a nice cushy nest out of 13 pillows.

While we cut away briefly to George, and his secret hideaway bed, Kip joined the others at the courtesy desk. Kip was looking a little bloodshot this morning.

Kip, did you see 13 extra pillows in your room?” Hitch asked.

“I didn’t see anything,” said Kip.

“How did you not see anything? You are literally an eyeball,” said Abby.

“I was closed most of the night,” Kip said. “Oh, don’t talk to me until I get my morning solar rays.”

I should probably explain here that Kip, short for Kipp, is a Yortian from the planet Yort, short for Yortt.

Hitch turned back to the attendant, “We are a squad from Rad, the Refugee Alien Defenders, and we’re on a very important mission. We don’t have time for this, this…”

“Piffle,” Abby added. Everyone stopped to give Abby a weird look. “It means ‘nonsense’ or ‘baloney.’ Doesn’t anybody read anymore?”

“No. Any book worth reading will eventually be made into a movie,” said the attendant.

“The book is always better than the movie,” said Abby.

What? You’ve never heard of a Yortian? Seriously? Yortians come in two main species the Cyclopes and the Opes. Yortians start out life as one-eyed giants called Cyclopes. Through a process of maturity, that’s too gross to fully explain here, they enter the second stage of life as Opes. Basically, the eyes separate from the giants and become their own beings. Opes have arms, hands, fingers, legs, feet, toes, and a mouth. They do not eat, but instead are solar-powered; they get all their energy and nutrients from the sun. The eyelid remains attached and the eyelashes act as an Ops’s hair when open. The eyelid is tough, almost like a shell, which supplies sufficient protection for the fragile eyeball inside. The irises of the Opes come in many different colors. Kip’s iris is purple. Now, where were we?

We may have missed something during our tangent to the planet Yort and all that description. I blame you for not knowing what a Yortian is. That’s why one should always soak up all the knowledge one can, so this kind of thing won’t happen.

The attendant pointed to Charlie. “There’s also an added fee for pets.”

Charlie was indignant. She stood up on her back legs and said, “Look here, missy. I am no pet.” She grabbed her collar forcefully. “I just like to wear jewelry.”

A security guard standing in the lobby was aroused by the commotion. He walked over to the courtesy desk and tried to calm the situation. He put his hand on Hitch’s head and said, “Everybody, calm down. Let’s take a little walk to the security room. We can sort this out there.”

Abby said, “This is ridiculous. We have to go.”

When she heard the word “go” Charlie’s eyes got big and her ears perked up. She dropped back down on all fours and started running for the door. Abby was still holding the other end of Charlie’s leash and was pulled to the floor and dragged toward the door.

The attendant, thinking they were trying to escape without paying, yelled, “Security!”

Another security guard was standing by the door and seized Charlie and Abby. Four actual police officers entered the lobby. That’s what we missed. Someone in the lobby, sensing the situation was getting out of control, called the police. The person was probably xenophobic and was simply afraid of or didn’t like aliens.

Security officers had Hitch, Abby, and Charlie, leaving it was up to Kip to save the day. Kip wished Kip had Kip’s morning sun, but Kip was determined to help the squad. Kip wasn’t about to let Kip’s low energy keep Kip down. Kip charged the police officers, closed Kip’s lid, dropped to the floor, retracted Kip’s appendages into the protective shell and rolled toward them like a bowling ball. That’s a fancy maneuver popular among Yortians called the Patented Yortian Ball. The police officers casually stepped out of Kip’s way. Kip rolled safely passed them and crashed into the wall. Kip’s lid rolled back and Kip just lay there until one of the police officers picked up Kip.

They all went to jail and lived happily ever after. Except for Abby, she went to the pound. The end. I feel like something is wrong with that ending. Charlie went to the pound. Abby was sold in a pet store. No. That’s not it. There’s still something missing. Oh yeah, the rest of the story. They only went to jail for 30 years. When they were released they went to live in a retirement community called The End Of The Road Retirement Community. That’s a different story entirely and not for younglings. While I’m trying to figure out what’s wrong with this story let’s check in on George.

George was in the ship, which was parked on the roof of the parking garage. Each squad in the R.A.D. has its own ship. The refugee aliens commandeered a mothership to escape LambaBad. Each mothership was host to a fleet of smaller ships. These ships were designed to hold small crews during planetary invasions. The smaller ships’ weaponry wasn’t as potent as the motherships’ but they were still well shielded and came equipped with blasters and torpedoes. They weren’t capable of long-distance space flight but were fast and sturdy. The L Squad’s ship was named the R.A.S., for Refugee Alien Ship, MacGuffin. They often referred to it as ‘the Mac’ for short.

George was tapping his tail on the terminal waiting for everyone to get on the ship. George’s eyes rotated alternately, watching all directions at once. How is that possible? Sagrian’s have two extendable and retractable antennae atop their heads. Each of the antennae holds an eye. The antennae can spin all the way around. Of course, George can only do this for a short period before he gets dizzy and vomits. George’s antennae also act as ears. No, he doesn’t see sounds. That might be kind of cool, though. He hears through the antennae, quite well, in fact. Two of his hands were combing and petting his thick, black, luxurious mustache, Herman, while the other two were on the controls anticipating liftoff.

“This is getting ridiculous,” said George. “Hitch told me we were running late and to get the Mac ready to go. We’ve been waiting here for five minutes, five minutes.”

“Maybe we should fly down there and pick them up,” said Herman.

“That’s a good idea,” said George. “This is an important mission. There’s no time to waste.”

George! That’s what I forgot. The story’s not over. George is still free. He can save the rest of them. Duh! I am pretty sure they get locked up at some point, though.

“Countdown,” said George.

“Me?” Herman asked.

Charlie’s not here,” George said.

“10, 9, 7, 6, 3, 2, 1. Liftoff,” said Herman.

“I think you skipped a few numbers,” said George.

“I’ve never got to do the countdown before. I got nervous,” said Herman. “Just go.”

George powered up the ship and launched. He got about 1.5 meters off the roof of the parking garage, which was reserved for such crafts, when he felt a sudden violent jerk. He set down the ship and did a full scan of the systems but nothing was amiss. He tried again and the same thing happened. George knew there wasn’t time for this and he had no patience for malfunctions. He turned the thrusters on full.

“What’s the plan, George?” asked Herman.

“I’m going to force it into the sky,” George said.

“That’s not a good plan,” said Herman. “Maybe we should get out and look around.”

“There’s no time,” said George.

A chain had been attached to the ship’s landing pad, anchoring it to the parking garage and impeding George’s attempted takeoff. The hotel manager ordered their ship grounded until they paid for those 13 pillows. If George took a minute to get out and fully inspect and research the problem he would have seen the chain and could have removed it, or cut it with his laser, and been off. He didn’t.

George fired the thrusters at full throttle. The chain snapped, but not before jerking the ship back down. The Mac crashed into the edge of the parking garage’s roof and tumbled down toward the ground. As it tumbled, the nose and the tail of the ship alternately collided with the 14-story hotel. Somehow, the Mac landed with its nose in the lobby of the Something Tree Hotel.

It’s fortunate that all R.A.D. vehicles, buildings, weapons, and technology were constructed with the same materials as the enormous mothership that brought them to Earth. The great majority of it is Yamfennian technology, even though it was made on Nasga. Nothing built on Earth from earthly materials would have survived that fall. The R.A.S. MacGuffin survived with only minor damage.

“Herman, are you all right?” George said to his mustache, while gently caressing it.

“I’m all right, George,” said Herman. “How are you?”

“If you’re all right, I’m all right,” said George.

“Good. Let’s get everybody else,” said Herman.

George opened the top hatch and yelled to his friends, “Did you forget we have a mission? Let’s go.”

11:47 a.m. proved to be a good time for such a gymnastic landing as no one in the hotel was seriously injured. Most guests were checked out by then. Everybody who remained inside was shaken and confused. The members of the L Squad were the first to recover. They were accustomed to George’s flying and ‘landings.’ George opened the loading hatch and they all rushed in.

Georgie Boy, you saved us again. Now, get us out of here,” Hitch said.

“You’re the best, George,” said Abby. “I was just reminding our captain of that.”

“Everybody, buckle up,” said George. “Charlie, do the honors.”

They buckled their safety belts and Charlie commenced with the countdown, “10, 9…”

“Short version,” Abby yelled.

“3,2,1,” Charlie barked out in rapid succession.

George hit the thrusters and… nothing. Nothing happened. He tried again. Again, nothing.

“What’s happening, George? Let’s move,” Hitch said.

“I’m not sure, Cap. I’m scanning now,” said George. George tapped at the terminal. A scan started and the terminal went dead.

“It looks like I’m not the only one who didn’t get a morning charge,” said Kip.

George, did you forget to plug in both sides of the battery, again?” asked Abby.

“Ahh! It’s such a weird design,” George said. “Why are there separate plugs for the outgoing power and incoming power?”

“The ships weren’t meant to be kept underground,” said Abby, “and the batteries weren’t meant to be removed so often. That’s not even to mention the fact that we had to work fast under horrible conditions.”

All R.A.D. headquarters are underground to maintain secrecy. Their bases and all equipment are, of course, solar-powered. Every base has a special room with a convertible roof that allows sunlight in to charge all batteries and the base.

“Well, I get excited to fly and I forget some of the little details,” George said. “I must have had just enough juice leftover to get down here.”

“How much power does it take to fall off a roof?” asked Charlie, looking out the window at all the damage to the hotel.

“What now, Captain?” asked Kip.

“We make a break for it,” said Hitch. “We have a mission to complete.”

Abby looked out the window at the growing number of police officers and security guards and said, “Maybe we should just give up.”

“The L Squad never gives up,” Hitch said. “Everyone to the hatch.”

Everyone, except Abby, congregated at the hatch. Hitch pulled the emergency manual release lever and the hatch opened.

“But we’re surrounded,” Abby protested.

George, Kip, and even Charlie followed Hitch running out of the ship. Keep in mind that these are aliens. Hitch is the largest at about four-feet tall, weighing in at about 95 pounds. Charlie, though technically a dog not an alien, is the smallest. When she’s walking on her hind legs, she’s stands about two-and-a-half-feet tall. Whether she’s standing on her hind legs or she’s down on all fours, she weighs about 20 pounds. Everyone else present is human, which means they’re generally much bigger and stronger.

One by one the L Squad exited the ship. One by one they were picked up by the police officers waiting at the bottom of the ramp. Charlie would have been the hardest to apprehend given her size and speed, but she was still wearing her leash. She ran between an officer’s legs, but the officer grabbed the leash as it dragged behind her. Charlie was easily pulled back. Abby exited last with her hands in the air.

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