Friday, February 4, 2011

Larry Goes To The Future

By John McDonnell

Word gets out when you have an alien living with you who can time travel, and Dolores started getting phone calls from a man named Mr. Smith, who said he represented petroleum interests and wanted to talk to Larry about where the next drilling accidents would occur, so his Big Oil clients could plan their blame-everybody-but-us PR campaigns early.

Mr. Smith offered Dolores a lot of money just to get an introduction to Larry, so Dolores took him to the bar one Saturday afternoon. She brought Edna, who had cooked up a pot of clam chowder and wanted Murphy to sample it, in the hopes that he would put it on the bar's menu.

"This is our time traveling friend," Dolores said, introducing Larry to Mr. Smith. "By the way, Larry, why don't you ever travel to the future?"

"I don't like the future," Larry said. "It upsets my stomach." He was in the persona of  Matteo Ricci, a bearded Jesuit missionary from the 16th century.

"The future is overrated," Murphy said, taking a spoonful of the clam chowder. "In my experience, it only brings trouble and the taste of ashes in the mouth."

"I much prefer the past myself," said Edna. She was dressed as a Busby Berkeley chorus girl from the 1930s, with gold lame tap pants, a tuxedo jacket, a sailor hat, and tap shoes. "By the way, how do you like my clam chowder?"

"It's not bad," Murphy said. "I'm not fan of clams, though."

"I like clams," said Larry. "Although it's interesting that there are no clams in the future."

"No clams in the future?" Dolores said. "Why not?"

"They die out in about a hundred years," Larry said. "Some ecological reason, I forget why." He stroked his beard thoughtfully.

"Aren't they important in the food chain?" Murphy said. "Seems to me I heard walruses eat them."

"My deceased husband looked something like a walrus," Edna said. "People often said so. He had the same bristly mustache, the same mottled skin, and he was a dead weight on the dance floor. And, come to think of it, he was partial to clams."

"The simple clam," Larry said, a quaver in his voice. "Nobody appreciates the simple clam." He had a tear in his eye, and he began to recite a verse from "The Walrus and the Carpenter".

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--
Of cabbages--and kings--
And why the sea is boiling hot--
And whether pigs have wings."

And then the air shimmered, there was a smell of seaweed and salt water, and Larry was in the form of a bull walrus, who lunged for the pot of clam chowder, knocking it to the floor. Larry licked up the chowder and then galumphed off in that peculiar undulating movement walruses have.

"I didn’t know he was so sentimental about clams," Edna said.

Mr. Smith turned to Dolores and said. "Now, about that million dollars I was going to pay you. . ."

"I was quite the dancer in my day," Edna said, striking a pose. "Would you like to see my rendition of the Lindy Hop?"

Larry undulated back and said, in a gravelly walrus voice: "Million dollars? You'd pay us a million dollars? For what?"

"If you could tell us the location and circumstances of the offshore oil spills for the next 20 years."

"I'd have to go to the future," Larry said. "It gives me too much anxiety."

"Well, no million dollars, then."

"Okay." The air shimmered. Larry disappeared, then came back with a three foot tall, hairless human named Qwex, who communicated by telepathy. He immediately gave everyone a splitting headache because he was using thought waves to shout directly into their brains. "Where are the clams?" he blared. "You told me there were clams here!"

"I ate them," Larry said. "Sorry."

“I think you misunderstood me,” Mr. Smith said. “He’s from too far in the future. I only meant the next 20 years.”

"Oh, you don’t like where I’m from?” Qwex said. “The hell with you. I'm not talking about your silly oil spills, then. I came here to eat clams, but if you don't have any, I'm gone." And he disappeared.

"I hate the future," Larry said.

"Yes, the past is much better," Edna said, breaking into a tap dance routine. “It has better musicals, for one thing.”