By John McDonnell
“Willow is taking a medieval history course at the community college,” Dolores said to Larry one day.
“I don’t understand why anyone would try to teach history to Willow,” Larry said. “She measures Time by her tattoos. If it happened before she got her first tattoo, it doesn’t exist to her.”
“Could you bring that nice Irish monk back from the 7th century?” Dolores said. “Maybe he could help Willow with her history homework.”
“I don’t like the 7th century,” Larry said. “There’s a lot of prejudice against extraterrestrials there.”
“Please?” Dolores said.
Larry sighed, there was a shimmering in the air, and then the monk Fergus was standing in the kitchen, blinking his eyes.
"Faith,” he said. “It's quite the skill you have, to be snatching people away from their breakfast and bunging them 14 centuries into the future. You're sure the Devil plays no part in it?"
"No," Larry said. "It all makes sense on the quantum level. No bogeymen involved at all." He was feeling a lack of confidence today, and so he was changing shape every few seconds from a Steller's Sea Cow to a late 20th century U.S politician, complete with bleached teeth and poufy hair, wearing a mustard yellow suit.
"Oh, I'm glad you're here," Dolores said, clapping her hands. "My daughter is studying the Middle Ages in school, and I asked Larry to bring you back, because I thought you'd be a great source for her, seeing as how you're living in the Middle Ages.”
"Middle Ages you say?" the monk said. "In the middle of what, may I ask?"
Willow walked in wearing black from head to toe, with hair that looked like an explosion in a paint factory, and more piercings than a pincushion.
"Mom, I don't need help with my homework," Willow said. "I can do it myself."
"Why don't you just ask this nice monk if he'll help?" Dolores said. "He actually lives in that time so he'll be able to help you."
“Is it one of the Norsemen you are?” the monk asked. “I couldn’t help noticing the tattoos and nose rings and so forth. In my day the Vikings decorated themselves like that. A rude lot they were, too. Wouldn’t stop for a bite to eat, no, had to get right down to the business of plunder.”
“This is my way of expressing myself,” Willow said, her lip curled in a snarl. “And if you don’t like it, you can--”
“That’s enough, Willow,” Dolores said. “This monk is our guest.”
The monk wrinkled his brow, cogitating for a moment. “What’s a self, if I may ask?”
“You don’t know what a self is?” Larry said. “I thought I was the only one who couldn’t figure out my identity. A self is you. It’s who you are. All your wants and dreams and longings. Your identity.”
“What a wonderful invention!” the monk cried. “Why, in my day we weren’t allowed a self. Did you never wonder why none of the monks ever signed their names to their work? It’s because nobody cared about us. Only kings and queens had a self. The rest of us riffraff were just part of the sea of humanity.”
“I know the feeling,” said Larry, who was morphing into a variety of small animals. “On my planet most of us do not have a self. That’s why I feel out of place on this planet. Here, everybody knows exactly who they are. It’s unsettling.”
“Willow, sit down and have some breakfast,” Dolores said. “You look like a concentration camp survivor, you’re so skinny.”
“Mom, stop telling me how to live my life!” Willow shrieked. “You have no right to do that. I swear, it’s like prison living here. All you want to do is run my life. I can’t stand it! I’m going to post all about this on my blog!” She stomped out of the room like a person who had been sorely put upon.
“What’s a blog?” Fergus asked.
“It’s a place where you publish outrageous personal details for the world to see,” Larry said.
“‘Tis a charming concept,” Fergus said.
“In my day we didn’t have blogs,” Edna said, coming into the kitchen. She was dressed in a long white robe and a turban. “We depended on gossip. Why, when I went skinny dipping with the golf team at our country club, the whole town knew by sunrise the next day. Gossip is still the best information delivery system.”
“Aye to that,” Fergus said. “And you wouldn’t believe how fast it gets around the monastery when a man has a drop too much of the ould poteen.
“But that’s a story for another time.”