“And coming out of commercial in five, four, three, two,” and Hal gave Lisa Manly the beat for one with a finger pointed at her.
“From Madison, Wisconsin we now have Senator Thomas Finzi with us as he is in that town for the next Democratic debate,” Lisa said. “Thank you for joining us, Senator Finzi.”
“My pleasure, Lisa. Thank you for having me,” replied Finzi from the right side of the split screen.
“Senator, I did have several questions I had prepared for you, but I wanted to start somewhere else, um, as from what I understand there is some new issue related to your campaign buttons? Do I have that correct?”
“Indeed. As you know, Lisa, the motto of our campaign, as you’ve certainly seen on our buttons is ‘Rebuilding America Together.’”
“Yes, and that’s certainly a strong sentiment.”
“My feeling just recently is that this message is perhaps insufficiently clear. And so I have ordered all our present campaign buttons to be destroyed and replaced with new campaign buttons with a motto that I feel more fully encompasses my perspective and conveys a more definitive message to all Americans.”
“And what is that?”
“Don’t Fuck Up.”
“I’m sorry, what was that—no, I mean, okay—what? No, I got it. Never mind.”
“Don’t Fuck Up.”
“Senator Finzi, with respect to our viewers, you can’t say that on live television. I don’t think you can put it on a campaign button either.”
“Why not?” Finzi replied. “I think it’s perfect. I borrowed it from the Japanese. I think it’s on their currency. Maybe we should have it on ours. Don’t fuck up. That’s my philosophy in a nutshell.”
Hal repeatedly crossed his finger across his throat indicating end, end, end!
Lisa turned to camera two and the millions watching. “Thank you, Senator Finzi. And we’ll be back in a moment.”
“We’re at commercial,” Hal said with a relieved sigh.
Lisa studied him and took a moment to assess the situation. Then her body shuddered and her raised fingers became like claws grasping and shaking a little tiny imaginary Earth. “Is everybody crazy!”
Knock, knock, knock. Rika took a deep breath while waiting for a response on the other side of Alvin’s bedroom door.
“Come,” came the reasonably pleasant command from the other side.
Rika entered and shut the door behind her. “What happened to in?” she asked.
“It’s implied. It would be redundant. Come is come in. Come means come forward. It’s the opposite of go, which in the same respect would be redundant if I said go away, since away would be the only place you could go. I was being efficient.”
“May I help you, miss?”
She sat on the bed and he turned around and sat side-saddle on his desk chair.
“I have to say something to you, Alvin,” she began. “And I don’t want you to be mad.”
“Then don’t say something that’s going to upset me.”
“I need to tell you something and I need you to promise you won’t be mad. Do you promise not to be mad?”
Alvin stiffened. He steeled himself. “What?”
“I don’t want you to be mad.”
“Actually, this preamble is beginning to make me mad. What?”
Rika folded her hands together. They squeezed and flexed. “I read your diary.”
Alvin attempted to scan every page of his diary in order to evaluate how bad her reading it might actually be. He wasn’t sure, so defaulted to the neutral response of, “I see.”
“I know,” she said, apologizing in response to his unspoken criticism, admitting the error of her ways. “I’m sorry, but you left your computer on and I needed a pen because mine was dead and so I came in here, and accidentally bumped your mouse, and that brought the computer out of sleep, and the screen showed all your stories. I saw Note to the Mother Ship and thought it was another story. So, I read it.”
Alvin was incapable of responding. His mind was in a vacuum.
Rika shifted, looked off, looked back, uncomfortable with the silence and the stare. “It’s kind of your fault for leaving your computer up,” she said, if for no other reason than to goad him into a response, even an angry one. But nothing was forthcoming.
“Alvin,” she then said.
“You don’t really think you’re from outer space, do you?”
He wouldn’t answer. She leaned forward, hands together upon her knees, extending outward, as though praying and beseeching him to talk. And then the slightest of smiles graced his face. And softly, and low, seemingly now amused by the question, he said, “No.”
She pulled back and her body relaxed.
“Though, I’d like to be,” he added, daydreaming, now just a bit remote from her. “It would explain a lot, anyway.”
“How come you were writing that?” she asked.
“I was told writing a journal would be good therapy. By a psychiatrist.”
“Don’t worry, I’m not crazy. I just have low serotonin levels. Well, that and the psychiatrist said I was clinically depressed, but I think they tell everybody that. Personally, I think I’m just clinically annoyed.”
She smiled a tad at the remark as she saw Dark Alvin floating away and being replaced with Regular Alvin. “Have you always been like that? Had that?”
“I don’t think so. I remember when I was a teenager my foster father said to me one day, ‘You used to be such a happy kid. What happened to you’? Thanks for noticing and being proactive, dad. Don’t mind me—I’ll just be over here in the corner playing with knives.”
“Well, I’m sure he loved you.”
“Are you saying that to make me feel better or you feel better?”
“That’s kind of unfair.”
“Love has to be accompanied by something tangible, otherwise it’s just a meaningless four-letter word. I can’t blame him, though, really. There was no biological connection. And we really had nothing in common. Actually, I feel kind of bad about that. Not his fault, I suppose.”
“So, did you ever take medication for that?”
“For my father being a disinterested parent?”
“No, the serotonin thing, silly.”
“Yeah, a couple years ago. Made me feel neutered. So I quit in a week. I remember being in a store and seeing this really attractive Asian girl and thinking, ‘Eh. Whatever.’ So, that was kind of a signal. Then more recently this new person put me on some other nonsense. That lasted three days. It caused me to develop restless leg syndrome. Apparently that’s a side-effect. I woke up at two in the morning and wanted to cut my leg off. I mean, I seriously, really wanted to cut my leg off. I called the next day and they prescribed some other medication to take with the original medication to fix the insane leg problem. That’s when I realized things were getting out of hand. So I quit the new medication.”
“Oh, geez. That sounds terrible. Maybe there’s another medication you can try.”
“No, I’m done.”
“So, what are you going to do to fix the low serotonin thing?”
She didn’t know how to respond to that.
“Life is not Fun-O-Rama,” Alvin stated. “I can live with that—now that I know it. Things are only bad when you think they’re supposed to be great. When I was a kid I thought being James Bond was an actual job you could do when you became an adult. That was in error. Now that I know that it’s not an actual job, it’s fine. I have no disappointment.”
“But you’re not happy.”
“Who is? I’m adequate. And I take great delight in the fact that nobody’s dropping bombs on my street. Aren’t you?”
She didn’t respond to that but she smiled. “I have a question. Why pretend you’re an alien and not just write a diary? You know, like, just a normal diary.”
“It lets me be free of myself.”
“Oh.” She considered it for a moment, not entirely sure she was grasping the concept, but she needed to move on. She puffed her lip out with air, and put her hands firmly on her thighs, still looking at him. “Okay, next thing.”
“I want you to see somebody.”
“I don’t need to see a doctor—I said I’m fine. I just have low levels of serotonin. I’m not gonna jump off a bridge. You don’t have to worry. Trust me.”
“I’m not talking about that! I’m talking about the blips.”
“That’s serious, Alvin. There’s something seriously the matter with you. It could be a brain tumor. You need to have it checked out. Losing consciousness and not knowing where you’ve been is not something to ignore.”
Alvin crawled back into his cave. But then looking at the floor he nodded and let out a slow, “Yeah.”
She reached out and grabbed his knee and gave it a shake. “Yeah?” she asked. “You on board?”
He sighed, “Yeah, I suppose.”
“Good. You want me to call someone? I’ll call someone for you.”
“No, I’ll do it.”
“Yes!” he yelled in mock irritation.
“Good. Do it tomorrow.”
“I certainly will.”
Rika stood up from the bed and looked down at Alvin. “We okay? Are you mad?”
“No, I appreciate your concern, if not your unrestrained sense of curiosity, but which I also acknowledge as an indication of intelligence, however ill-employed.”
“Thanks, I think. Want to watch TV?”
“No, I’ve got some stuff to do,” he said and pointed to work on his desk.
“Okay, well, I’m gonna watch TV. Come out if you need a break.”
“I will do that,” Alvin said agreeably.
She left. Alvin turned to his computer and looked at the file named Note to the Mother Ship. He put his hand on the mouse. He thought some more, then put the cursor on the file, and dragged it to the Archive folder. Entity MS was now dead.