Hawaiian UFO Aliens
by Mel Gilden
At last, exhausted and thirsty for a drink of fresh water, I crawled onto the beach. It should have been daytime, but the black boiling clouds kept out the sunlight. I lay on the sand, relieved that rain and blustering wind were all I had to deal with.
I walked up the soggy mess of a beach and came at last to the house. As was always the case when Whipper Will wasn't around to remind them to lock it, the back door opened easily without a key.
The usual crowd was sprawled about the living room watching a Gino and Darlene movie on TV.
"Hey, dude," Thumper called to me from the far side of the room, which was a compliment of sorts. I'd have guessed he was too busy with Flopsie (or was it Mopsie?) to notice my appearance in the doorway. Everybody actually looked away from the TV for a moment to acknowledge my existance. Hanger and whichever red-head wasn't busy with Thumper got up and gave me a friendly cuddle. You didn't have to be human to appreciate how warm and soft they were.
Mustard took a joint from his face and said, "Wet enough for you?"
"He likes it wet," Captain Hook said. "They all like it wet in Bay City." He never took his eyes off the TV screen.
The captain was in one of his moods, so I obliged him with a low-grade zinger. "Sure," I said. "That's why Bay City is near the beach."
Thumper pounded the flat of his hand against the floor and shouted "Ahh-roooh! Zoot is back!" The rest of them took up the cry. All but Captain Hook. He was too busy watching Darlene jiggle across the TV screen.
At my feet was a puddle of salt water big enough to do laps in. I waved at the crowd, told them that I had to change, and walked along the dark hall to Whipper Will's room. As far as I could tell, nothing had been touched. Nobody had washed the laundry, that was for sure.
After pulling out a flat waterproof packet and throwing it onto the bed, I peeled off my short johns, padded into the bathroom with them and hung them on a hook, where they dripped arrhythmically. I rubbed myself down good with a towel. Feeling more like myself all the time, I went back into the bedroom and put on my Earth clothes. The brown suit felt natural. I unwrapped the sheets in the waterproof packet and put them into my inside coat pocket. The trenchcoat and the fedora could wait.
In the kitchen I found a glass that had not seen much action, and drank tap water from it. I rinsed out the glass with a little soap and water and set it in the drainer, where it was all alone except for a fork that might have been clean. I was ready for anything now, so I went back into the bedroom and hefted Bill out of the closet.
Even in the dim light, Bill's silver body shown. I could barely hear a song about surfing and young love that was playing on the TV in the other room. Rain blew against the side of the house, went away, came back even harder. I reached up and pulled the flypaper off Bill's head. He blinked and said, "Bay City! Ya! Have a nice trip, Boss."
"I had a nice trip, thanks."
He computed that for a moment, then said, "How long?"
"A few weeks."
He nodded the way I might have. "What's the scam now?"
"I need a driver's license. You know where I can get one?"
"My meat, Boss."
"Wait a minute." I put on my trenchcoat and my fedora, figuring that the weather being what it was, wearing them did more than just put me in uniform. I followed Bill as he waddled from the room and down the dark hallway. We hurried through the rain and cold across the small garden where Will grew the fruits for his yoyogurt and into the garage.
The Chevrolet Belvedere was waiting for me, looking like the ghost of a car in the gray air. Far away, thunder grumbled about how lightning got all the publicity. I lifted the garage door, letting in uncertain light and a good view of Pacific Coast Highway. A car swished by every so often, stirring up a big lonely sound, but the street was more deserted than I'd ever seen it. When I opened the car, it smelled musty and damp. I let Bill in the other side and he sat near the window, his legs not quite long enough to dangle over the edge of the seat.
"You want the Department of Motor Vehicles, known to its friends, of which there are few, as the DMV."
"I want it, all right. I'm tired of waiting for the first cop with a little time on his hands to pull me over and discover my terrible secret. Where's the DMV?"
Bill told me, and I backed slowly onto Pacific Coast highway. Rain suddenly attacked the windows with hard spatters and we were off. Soon, I couldn't see through the cascade rolling down the windshield. Driving was pretty exciting there, for a while. Even Bill had a good grip on .pathe handrest. "Use the wipers! Use the wipers!"
"What wipers?" I was busy at the moment, trying to decide if the thing in front of me was a truck or a sports car.
"Windshield wipers!" His left arm telescoped toward me, reached for the dash, and turned a black plastic knob. Immediately, a couple of arms came up on the outside of the windshield and swept the water one way and then the other.
"Cool," I said. "How'd you happen to know about that?"
"Bubble memory," he said, and tapped the side of his little ducky head.
The DMV was a square yellow building with a parking lot on one side. The gray, joyless day complemented it so perfectly, I wondered if, maybe, rain fell there all the time. The building had no class, no style, its only distinguishing marks being the words DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES in bold block letters on the side, and a jagged chorus line of black marks drawn along one wall.
"Graffiti," Bill said.
"Meaning there's probably more action around here when the place is closed."
"I just want a driver's license," I said.
I had my pick of spaces in the nearly empty lot. I told Bill to wait for me in the car. He got busy betting himself .pawhich raindrop would reach the bottom of the window first.
Inside the DMV building was a single room, lit too brightly with fluorescent tubes. Following the Los Angeles tradition, the air conditioning was on, making the room even colder than the air outside. Bored clerks sat in the cubicles behind desks making notes on papers that would probably be filed in boxes somewhere and never seen again. A lot of the clerks were wearing coats or sweaters. One guy had a knit hat pulled over his ears.
English and Spanish signs that hung from the ceiling told the multitudes where to stand, which line to wait in, whom to see. No multitudes were there at the moment, so I walked up to a counter that had an INFORMATION sign hanging over it. Arrows pointed downward just in case anybody entertained thoughts of standing in line on the ceiling. I stood tipy-toe so I could see over the top of the counter.
Nobody was standing on the other side so I called out, "Am I in the right place to get a little information?"
A bored man looked up from his work. His shoulders sloped, and his hair was thin. But his white shirt was crisp and his tie didn't clash with it. Astonishingly, his face drooped into an even more bored expression when he looked at me. "What sort of information?"
"Is this where I get a driver's license?"
"It is if you're eligible."
"Am I eligible?"
"I don't know. Are you? Read the sign." He pointed to another sign, this one taking up most of one wall. In English and Spanish it said that a driver had to be so old, had to pass such and such tests, couldn't be crazy.
"Sure, I'm eligible."
"Are you a citizen?" He kind of sneered when he said it.
I said, "I'd rather not shout. Do you have legs, or are you screwed into that desk?"
A few of the other clerks almost laughed. The guy I was talking to didn't like that, but he stood up--just to show he could do it, I suppose--and walked over to stand behind the counter. He was shaped like a bowling pin. Walking to the counter must have been quite a workout.
"Ok. I'm here now. Are you a citizen?" He glared at my nose, which, truth to tell, is most of my face.
"The sign doesn't say anything about being a citizen."
"No, but you'll need a birth certificate anyway, to make sure you're over eighteen."
"Of course I'm over eighteen. Don't let my good looks fool you."
"No. When I was a kid, I had a little accident involving toxic waste and a bottle of nose drops."
"Yeah. It could happen to anybody." I speared him with my best stare. "It could happen to you.
The guy wearing the knit hat guffawed once and then caught himself. The guy at the counter almost looked over his shoulder at him, but didn't quite.
"You have a birth certificate?"
I took the folded document from my coat pocket, unfolded it on the counter, and waited. I'd done my homework and I thought I was ready for this guy. Him and anybody else in that room, singly or in combinations. If homework were enough.
He looked at the document, turned it around, turned it over. He studied me instead of the paper and said, "I hope this isn't a gag. The state of California wouldn't like it."
I was ready. I knew he wouldn't be able to make head or tail of the document because on T'toom, never having seen written English, we still used the letters of the local written language, which was called Gomkrix. But it really was my birth certificate. I'd just have to fiddle with the date and place of birth a little.
I said, "No gag. It's my birth certificate from the Bay City Hospital."
"It's not in English."
"Show me where it says the certificate has to be in English."
He took the document and talked to one of the other clerks. They buzzed to themselves while poking the document and watching me. I got tired of it, and went to look out the window. The rain was so fine, it was almost mist. I could see Bill's dark shape inside the Chevy.
"Sir?" It sounded as if the word hurt him to say it.
I went back to the counter and the guy said, "OK. Let's go through this an item at a time." I spent the next twenty minutes explaining my birth certificate to him, making up facts to match what was written there. I didn't lie any more than I had to.
When we were done, he looked like a man with a bad taste in his mouth, but he gave me the written driving test anyway. He was not very happy when I passed, but we went outside and I drove him around the block while he made marks on a printed sheet on a clipboard. Bill sat in the back seat, thank Durf, not saying anything. I must have passed the driving test too, because when we got back into the building, the guy took my thumb print, my picture and forty-two dollars.
As he was writing up my temporary license, he said, "If you're from Bay City, then I must be the Martian."
"Could be," I said, shrugging. "I've never seen a Martian." Which was also not a lie, despite Orson Welles. I picked up the temporary license and my birth certificate. The guy watched me walk out the door and hustle across the parking lot to the Chevy. Maybe he expected the Chevy to turn into a flying saucer and take off.
If he wanted to see a flying saucer, he shouldn't have been watching me. He should have been watching the news.