Peanut Butter Lover Boy
A Letter Home (Translation)
FROM: Pleskit Meenom, on the emotionally dangerous Planet Earth
TO: Maktel Geebrit, on the relatively sane Planet Hevi-Hevi
Sixth grade is beginning to wear me down. Not only do I have homework and social problems, I have the issue of being the only kid from another planet in my classroom. (Actually, the only kid from another planet on the planet, at least, as far as we know. Not to mention the only kid who is bald, purple, and has a sphen-gnut-ksher growing out of the top of his head.)
With all that, I was afraid I might not have time to tell you about my latest… experience. But it turns out there is an author right here in Syracuse who is interested in writing my stories down for me. He told me he has been making up stories about aliens for years, and that he would love to write about a real one for a change. So Tim and I told him everything that happened as a result of the peanut butter disaster, and let him take it from there.
Believe me, it was a lot easier that way.
I’m sending along a copy of what he wrote.
Since the story is kind of embarrassing, I’m just as glad I didn’t have to write it myself.
The biggest surprise was that the Fatherly One was in favor of this idea. After being so upset with the news stories that were being written about us I didn’t think he would approve this idea. But he has decided it would be good publicity for our mission. This is something we need, because the mission is in trouble. The suspicions you shared with me in your last letter are correct; someone is trying to sabotage the Fatherly One’s work. Or maybe many someones. Anyway, we need to get out all the positive images that we can. The Earthlings do not yet realize what hangs in the balance for them and we are hoping that the books will help them feel more comfortable with us.
Please do not laugh too much when you read about what happened to me. It may seem amusing to you, but it was very painful to live through.
I hope, hope, hope that it works out for you to visit soon. Until then… Fremmix Bleeblom!
Tim Tompkins looked at his lunch. Peanut butter. Again. He liked peanut butter, but this was getting ridiculous.
“Hey, Pleskit,” he said. “What have you got?”
Pleskit Meenom, childling of Meenom Ventrah, ambassador from the planet Hevi-Hevi, looked up. “Squambul. Again! I like squambul, but this is getting ridiculous.”
Tim thought for a moment. He had already had one bad experience with alien food. On the other hand, he was interested in all things alien. And he was truly, deeply sick of peanut butter. “Wanna swap?” he asked, holding out his sandwich.
Pleskit looked at the squambul pod in his hand. He looked at Tim’s sandwich. A fruity smell drifted out from his sphen-gnut-ksher. “Sounds like a good idea to me!”
He glanced over at his bodyguard, Robert McNally, who was leaning against the wall about ten feet away. The tall black man was looking in their direction. But since, as usual, he was wearing sunglasses, Pleskit couldn’t tell if he approved of the swap or not.
Pleskit passed his squambul pod to Tim.
Tim passed his sandwich to Pleskit.
The purple boy sniffed at the bread and peanut butter combination. “The aroma is strange, yet enticing,” he said after a moment.
“I can’t say the same for this,” coughed Tim, setting the squambul pod on the table.
“You haven’t even opened it yet,” said Pleskit. “You have to squash it to get the full effect.”
“I’m not sure I want the full effect,” said Tim, remembering the hilarious photograph of Jordan Lynch’s face the first time he had smelled squambul that had showed up in the THE NATIONAL NEWS a week earlier. “Maybe we should swap back.”
Pleskit’s eyes widened. A smell like burning hair burst from his sphen-gnut-ksher. “Please say that you are joking!” he cried, his voice desperate.
“Hey, settle down,” said Tim. “It’s only lunch. Come on, let’s swap back.”
Very slowly Pleskit put down the peanut butter sandwich. Placing both hands flat on the table, one on either side of the sandwich, he looked straight into Tim’s eyes. “I am asking one more time,” he said, his voice deadly serious and tinged with something that sounded like anger. “Are you joking, or do you really mean it?”
Tim blinked. “Uh… I guess I was joking.” He reached forward and retrieved the squambul pod, astonished by his friend’s unusual behavior.
Pleskit let out a heavy breath. His face relaxed into its usually cheerful look. “That’s a relief,” he said. Then he took a big bite of the sandwich. “Oh, this is good!” he cried excitedly. “Very good!”
Tim looked down at the squambul pod and wished he had his sandwich back. Oh, well, he told himself. If I’m going to be an interstellar explorer, I might as well get used to this stuff. He squashed the pod between his palms. The sharp odor attacked his nose and made his eyes water.
“Lick it fast, while it’s still fresh,” said Pleskit. “That’s when it’s best.”
Looking at his palm warily, Tim began to lick at the green and purple mess, just as he had seen his friend do on other days. “Hey, this isn’t bad!” he said in surprise. “Tastes kind of like chicken.”
Later that afternoon, when they were outside for recess, Tim said to Pleskit, “So what was that thing at lunch all about?”
“You mean my distress at your violation of the basic social code?” asked Pleskit.
“I suppose so. I never saw anyone get so bent out of shape about someone wanting to do a tradeback.”
“Bent out of shape?” asked Pleskit nervously. He reached up to make sure his sphen-gnut-ksher was not somehow disfigured.
“Upset,” Tim clarified, ducking as a soccer ball went flying past his head. “You were upset. Why?”
Pleskit replied with a question of his own. “What is the Fatherly One’s mission all about, Tim?”
Tim blinked, then said uncertainly, “Uh… to establish diplomatic relations, connect Earth to the galaxy, and bring us the benefits of your advanced technology?”
“And why would we want to do that?” persisted Pleskit.
“Because you are a wise and benevolent superior race?”
“So benevolent we have crossed trillions of miles of space just to do you a favor?” Pleskit’s face showed amazement. “Do you really think we came all this way simply because we are nice?”
“Then why did you come?"
”I’ve told you before, this is a trading mission. It is trade that binds the worlds in friendly alliance. The Fatherly One hopes to find something of value on Earth—something that will let you become a trading partner with us.“
”You came here to do business?“ asked Tim in astonishment.
”Of course! Our whole culture is based on trade. And we are taught from the time we leave the egg that a deal is a deal. We do not make a trade and then expect to be able to trade back instantly if we do not like it. Everything would fall apart if we lived like that. That is why I was so shocked when you wanted to go back on our trade in the cafeteria. It was a warning sign of bad cultural habits.“
”Okay, I think I’m starting to get it,“ said Tim. ”But what about…“
”Wait!“ said Pleskit urgently. ”Look!“
Tim turned around. Linnsy Vanderhof, his upstairs neighbor, was walking toward them. He shrugged. ”What’s the big deal? I see Linnsy every day.“
”Are you so blind to beauty?“ cried Pleskit. ”Is your soul so dead to poetry on the hoof?“
Tim turned back. He stared at his friend in concern. ”Are you okay, Pleskit?“
”Out of my way!“ ordered Pleskit. Pushing past Tim, he puckered his lips and raced toward Linnsy, crying, ”Kiss me, baby, kiss me!“
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