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Diary of an Alien

by Phil Temples


 

No more procrastination, I promise myself, as I pull into the driveway of the old family home in Sandy. I’ll soon begin the arduous process of putting my parent’s estate in order. Mom passed away several years ago; dad died this past August. I can appreciate the fact my siblings want some closure, especially Donnie who lives in Arizona. I’m the eldest of five children and the only one who still lives in the vicinity of Salt Lake City so naturally it falls to me to do the lion’s share of the work, like arrange for a large dumpster to hold the myriad items my father and mother hoarded over with years.

Down in the cellar, canning jars are lined up neatly over dad’s old workbench, holding all manner of screws, bolts, nuts, washers and nails. Scattered on the floor are old rubber gaskets, hoses, stacks of National Geographic, even a couple of burned-out electric motors. Upstairs, there’s worn, thread-bare furniture in the living room covered in dusty sheets. The bedroom closet contains all the baby clothes that my mother intended to pass down to her children for her grandkids.  In mom and dad’s closet I spy mom’s dresses that dad couldn’t bear to part with. Dad stood for hours in this bedroom just smelling her clothes. He said it helped him to remember her. Of course, there are a few valuable family heirlooms I need to place in storage until my brothers and sisters can come and sort through them.

Mom and Dad were decent, caring folk who led frugal lives. Devout members of the Church of Latter Day Saints, they were charitable and kind—especially to strangers. They took to heart the verse in the Book of Isaiah: Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?”

To my parents, it didn’t matter how strange the stranger was. Nor, how far they had wandered. You fed, clothed, and sheltered the wanderer. It was the right thing to do.

I’ve put off the attic until last. It pains me to go up there—to be reminded that I betrayed him when I was a teenager. What I wouldn’t give to go back in time and to do things differently. I pull down the ancient folding stairs from the ceiling and climb up into the attic. The space is partially finished with makeshift living quarters: a mattress on the floor; faded posters with astronomy themes; a simple dresser and a writing desk. The space is preserved in time—a memorial to its occupant of long ago. One particular item catches my eye—Frankie’s old trunk, roughly three feet long and two feet high. He always kept it locked. Strangely, however, the padlock is hanging loose on the latch. In all the time I spent hanging out with Frankie in the attic, I don’t recall ever seeing the trunk unlocked.

###

The aliens landed in ’22 out near the Bonneville Salt Flats with great fanfare. Their arrival was met with worldwide celebration but also, much fear and trepidation. Religious institutions saw it as a sign of the end times, while the United States government saw it as a bonanza of riches. Federal agents rounded up every alien they could find for interrogation and medical “examination.” At first, a few dozen managed to evade capture but eventually, nearly every alien was rounded up and imprisoned. The military confiscated their spaceship and hauled it off to Area 51 in an effort to reverse-engineer it.

Around that time, my mother and father happened to be driving by the Salt Flats on their way back home from California when they spotted a ragged, half-starved creature along the side of Interstate 80. It was Frankie. They smuggled Frankie home in the trunk of our car.

The government placed a bounty on the aliens’ heads. Every God-fearing Mormon was informed by the Church leaders it was their duty to turn in any alien they happened to find. But mom and dad disobeyed the Elders’ directives. My parents’ rationale was, it was not in accordance with the Holy scripture. Instead, they sequestered Frankie in the attic and Mom nursed him back to health. We kids were sworn to secrecy. Before long, Frankie became a regular member of the family.

Frankie and his ilk were funny looking. An adolescent, he was short in stature and his head was bald. He possessed a bright reddish-tint to his skin. His ears were pointy. Frankie had two eyes and a mouth, but he didn’t have a nose like us. Instead, he used a single orifice on one side of his head to breath and hear through. Some of the aliens were “left” breather-hearers and some were “right.” Frankie was a lefty. Frankie was never able to speak any semblance of a human language. I suppose their vocal chords evolved differently, like those of a dog or ape. There was no question however Frankie was extremely intelligent. Mom taught him not only how to read and write, but also American Sign Language. After a year or two he became quite proficient in communicating with signs. Us kids learned it, too. To this day, I still remember some ASL.

###

I open up the trunk and dust from the lid goes flying everywhere. I start to sneeze but am able to stifle it so that even more dust doesn’t become airborne. Inside are Frankie’s keepsakes. Simple things, like a yoyo and a deck of baseball playing cards that I gave him. There’s also a baseball and a glove.

At the bottom of the trunk hidden under some old comic books I find a diary that apparently belonged to Frankie. I open it to a random page near the beginning:

 

“August 12, 2024: It seems like an odd idea to maintain a diary using plant matter and graphite. But this is a primitive world so I must adapt. I don’t know how long I will have to remain here with my newly adopted family. They have been very kind to me. They have provided me with living quarters, nourishment, entertainment, and companionship. Because they are unable to communicate telepathically like us, I must use hand signs to communicate. Roy is my best friend. Even though I find his physical appearance repugnant, he has taught me much about their world—especially the humans’ favorite sport, something called baseball…” 

I skip to one of the last entries:

“…I begged my new family to let me go outside and watch a real baseball game but they said it would be too dangerous. Roy said he would take me. I told them I could dress up in a disguise, but adopted mom says the authorities are looking for me and my people. She lives in fear of what they might do to me if I am discovered.”

I throw the diary back in the locker and close it.

Over the years, I’ve thought about that day when I betrayed Frankie by calling the authorities. It was a terrible thing to do! I’m still not sure why I did it. Perhaps it was to spite my parents. Over the years I’ve tried to rationalize it as merely a stupid stunt I perpetrated as a teenager. Like the time I beat up on Jeromy, a younger kid in the neighborhood whom everyone called a sissy. Or when Sam got the blame for breaking Mrs. Parkinson’s window when, in fact, I was the guilty culprit.

Anyway, I can’t change what I did now. It’s no use continuing to beat myself up. I’m a fundamentally decent human being. Or at least I’d like to think so. Besides, they would have found him eventually. The worst part of it, though—I never took Frankie to a stupid baseball game.



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