By John McDonnell
It was Dolores who came up with the idea that Murphy should give Larry a job in his bar.
“It’s no good having an alien in the house all day,” she said. “I never know what he’s going to turn into. Yesterday he was a walrus. Now my living room sofa stinks of clams. And my mother thinks she can fix him up with her favorite soap opera actresses. Her hold on reality is getting shakier since he’s been around.”
So Murphy reluctantly hired Larry as a bartender. Larry was a quick study, and in no time he was a master mixologist, sometimes turning himself into a four-armed Hindu deity in order to keep up with drink orders on busy nights. He was a good listener, and could converse on any subject except chaos theory and modern Art, so he was popular with Murphy’s clientele.
Larry was adept at handling misunderstandings among the patrons, too. Once, when two inebriated men started arguing, Larry changed into a large, red-bearded Viking warrior, and when he split their table in half with his battle axe they suddenly decided to make up.
Larry’s only drawback was that he tended to mix himself pink fruity drinks while on the job, and after a few of these he had less control over the physical details of his existence. You never knew if he was going to change into a life form that was charming, curious, or toxic, and anything could set him off.
Murphy found a way to deal with that by hiding the little paper umbrellas that Larry put in his drinks, since Larry thought the umbrellas were essential and wouldn’t take a snootful without them.
Business improved, because people liked Larry. Murphy even came up with theme nights, where Larry would turn into famous people from the past and answer questions while he tended bar. Babe Ruth was a popular one, as was Sigmund Freud, although Murphy had to tell him no more Marilyn Monroe after he nearly caused a riot in the bar.
Larry met several women at the bar and even went out on a date or two, but nothing came of it. Dating was awkward for Larry; he was prone to creating mini black holes in restaurants if his meal was undercooked, or turning himself into an ostrich when he didn’t know what to say.
Murphy began to think that Larry would never find a girlfriend, until one day when he had to call a pest control company after he found a rat in the kitchen. When the exterminator showed up it was a woman named Myra who had pasty white skin, a lumpy body, and Coke bottle glasses. She wore a dark green uniform and was a little too interested in rodents.
“Rats are highly intelligent,” she said. “They form communities just like humans, and they are highly efficient breeders. One male and female rat can have over a million descendants in less than two years.”
Murphy shuddered at the thought of a million rats running around his bar, but Larry, who was currently in the form of a toothless, gray-bearded prospector from the Old West, perked up.
“Yes ma’am,” he cackled, “and don’t you know that rats regulate their body temperature through their tails. And, by cracky, they can stay afloat for three days. Not only that. . .”
“You have an interest in rats?” Myra said. Her glasses were steaming up.
“Why yes,” Larry said, changing into a myopic professor in a cable knit sweater. “I happen to think they are an extremely well-adapted life form.”
“Agreed,” Myra said. “They are fascinating animals. Much more so than humans.”
“I concur,” said Larry. “Highly evolved.”
Myra coughed. “I, uh, never met anyone like you,” she said. “Would you, er, would you want to go out to lunch?”
“I suppose that would be a highly useful thing to do, since we could discuss rats.”
“Yes,” she said. “Highly useful.”
“I’m a vegan,” Larry said.
“Oh, me too!” Myra said. “I know a great place down the street. They make the best burgers out of broccoli and kale.”
They walked out the door and left Murphy wondering at the strangeness of love.
COPYRIGHT JOHN MCDONNELL, 2010. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.