Thankfully, on the road of life we occasionally pass through a stretch where the way is tree lined, sun dappled, uncomplicatedly straight and there is no other traffic to disturb the serenity. I thought such was the case one day that summer when the three kids (ages ranging from 6 to 10) were not harassing each other but had decided to have fun teasing their Dad. It was Saturday morning, just back from judo, so adrenaline had not quite abated as they chased each other around the table that was already set for lunch. With Mom in the kitchen putting together the final touches, it fell to me to ensure that no accidents involving glassware and crockery would occur.
“All right you guys, out on the porch, go burn energy there till we call you.”
At this they stopped, coalesced into a gaggle and surveyed me with identical cheeky grins. Middle sibling Phil, then went into his demented nitwit routine – tongue hanging out, head lolling from side to side, taunting me.
“No way, Dad, you have to catch us first.” This was followed by a brave chorus of ‘Yeah, Yeah’ from his fellow rebels; bravery engendered by the wide but vulnerable table between us. As I moved to one side, so they move the other way. A Mexican standoff with giggling.
Then I suddenly remembered a ruse I had been saving and that I was in the perfect place for it. I stepped back and stood against the wall and assumed an air of resignation. They were not buying my capitulation; two wary gazelles and a wildebeest surveying a sleeping lion
“I’m not going to chase you round the table. I don’t have to. I’ll just use my special powers.”
Predictably, this produced head and shoulder rolling mirth from the far side.
“Very well,” I said frowning, “you leave me no choice.”
I raised my arm and pointed at the ornate Tiffany lamp suspended over the table. Then I opened my hand in a throwing motion towards the lamp, at the same as I leaned against the push button switch nestling between my shoulder blades.
The light came on, eyes widened and jaws sagged. I waited for the penny to drop, for one of them to say they knew what I had done, and the joke would be over. But they stood bemused, silent. Evidently they didn’t know about the switch, possibly because we didn’t eat in the dining room that often.
Finally, Sarah the eldest (the skeptic in later life) uttered, “What? No! How did you do that? Can you turn it off, I bet you can’t, it’s a trick, right?”
With the same hand motion and imperceptible back-leaning, I obliged her, then demonstrated my ‘powers’ twice more. By this time they had rounded the table and were standing beside me in awe. Ah! Sweet gullibility, I was on a roll!
“No, seriously Dad,” said Laura mustering great seriousness for a six year old, “how are you doing this? Nobody else can do that.”
I looked at each of them in turn, pursed my lips, and then looked around and behind me before I spoke. “I’m not sure I should tell you; not sure you’re ready for such a big secret. But you’re bound to find out one day. So you have to promise to never, never tell anyone. Can you promise? Really?”
Silence, but vigorous nodding in reply.
“Well then. The reason I have special powers is because …,” I lowered my voice, “… because I am an alien.”
Laura took two steps back. I was looking at three pairs of owl eyes. With a splutter, Phil found his voice.
“Oh sure Dad. You’re an alien from a galaxy far, far away. I bet it’s called …” searching his ‘Star Wars’ memory in vain, “… I bet it’s called …Quack!”
“Holy cow!” I said. “How did you know? Your pronunciation is a bit off, but that’s understandable; humans have the wrong shaped palate for our language. But yes, my home planet orbits the star Cuwahuark.” Narrowing my eyes, I asked him, “How do you know that?”
Laura stared at me then spun around and glared at Phil. “Are you one too?”
“Shut up,” said Phil, looking annoyed at being sidetracked, “it’s a bunch of bull.”
Meanwhile Sarah, standing behind them was laughing quietly. Laura was adamant.
“I don’t care what you think, I believe Dad. It’s okay Dad, I’ll keep your secret, I promise to tell nobody. But I have to know one thing. Does Mom know?”
by Hugh Marchand
There is a coda to this story: In early January 2004 I received a large envelope from Laura containing a belated Christmas gift. Seventeen years after the event described above, she evidently still believed in my off-earth origins. Without revealing our secret she had registered the name of my home star – I have the certificate to prove it – in the International Star Association Catalog. It was kind of her so I decided not to tell her that on the accompanying star map the Association had identified the wrong star. They chose one very close to mine in the constellation of Pegasus, but some twenty seven light years beyond it.