A change of pace: The Story of Elena
Y'know what, I am getting sick of blogging about politics and current events, and everyone else here is busy, and considering I am probably the worst at it anyway it's sort of silly for me to continue reaching and cutting - and - pasting to create posts when I really don't have many of my own ideas to relate, nor adequate time usually to relate them if I was not sick of it.
Consequently, for the indefinite future I am going to do something else I am REALLY bad at but can at least be original with, which is writing fiction. On top of that, I am going to write the type of fiction I am the very worst at, which is science fiction. And on top of that, I am going to tell the story from the perspective of a type of person I've never even met, which is an elderly Mexican woman. If anyone would prefer more serious subject matter contact me and I will give you a log in. Enjoy.
On the morning of her 75th birthday, Elena Perez walked along a dusty road carrying two plastic sacks of groceries, including cheese, tortillas, soap, hair spray and cat food, when suddenly she saw a flash of light in the sky. "Ay caramba, que es eso!" (Holy mackeral, what is that!) she said out loud, as the ground began to tremble, an eerie roaring sound filled her ears, and nary a bird nor animal of any kind was to be seen in any direction - north, south, east, or west. She knew this because she was spinning around.
Five days later, she was sitting at a card table playing bridge, a game unknown in her hometown in Mexico, but the recreation of choice of our new alien overlords, who had taught it to Elena. Half of the human race had been destroyed immediately by laser-like weapons which caused massive explosions, like the weapons portrayed in the movie War of the Worlds starring Tom Cruise, and the other half of humanity had been coralled into slave labor camps. A select few, mostly elderly Mexican women, were allowed to live in relative freedom and comfort as long as they agreed to complete foursomes when needed. Those with no talent for bridge were given a choice between weekend kitchen duties and certain death. Most chose the former.
During Elena's belated birthday celebration, the head alien overlord, Regis, sat down next to her and looked directly into her eyes.
"Elena Perez," he said with a perfect Spanish accent [Editors note: Regis speaks Spanish to Elena but all of the following will be translated into English for the benefit of our English-speaking readers] "you must be wondering why we have come to Earth, destroyed everything, and forced those we have not killed into slavery. It must seem ... how you Mexicans say, 'a tad crass.'"
"Oh, si senor" said Elena [Editor's note: Ditto on Elena's speaking in Spanish and it being translated] "in my country, we have very few large explosions and we never, ever play bridge."
"Ha ha ha ha ha!" Regis laughed appreciatively. "Somehow, that's EXACTLY what I thought you were going to say! But I do want to explain that we aliens need certain raw materials from your planet - raw materials unkown to mankind because they only exist in the most remote places on Earth, deep underground. Your people - and by this I mean humans, not Mexicans - do not have the technology to locate or extract these materials, and even if you did you'd have no idea what to do with them. That's where we come in."
"Oh, I see: So you and all the other overlords are like mining executives. We have some of those in Mexico City, from what I am told. Or we did ..."
"I'm glad you made that little self-correction at the end, Elena," Regis noted, "because it makes your previous two sentences far more accurate. Yes, we are very much like what you call 'mining executives.' And yes, all of your mining executives are now headquartered near Toledo where one of our regional offices is located. It's a good-sized facility, and fairly comfortable, but they are all slave laborers nonetheless, albeit of the 'white collar' variety. It's no picnic."
Elena finished her last bite of cake, set down the little paper plate, and nodded knowingly while she chewed.
Regis continued: "The raw materials will make us fabulously wealthy, ensuring we can afford to heat our home planet, Accutane, for millions of years."
A strange, perplexing thought went through Elena's mind, and it showed on her face by the slight scowl she made.
"But if all you need is a raw material we did not even know existed, why couldn't you just come and take it instead of killing everybody?"
Regis' eyes turned cold and gray, like the shark's eyes so famously described by the Robert Shaw character in Jaws. "Let me explain something to you, Elena," he hissed. "Alien overlords will do whatever they wish, whenever they wish, and it's not yours to ask 'why.' Your role is simply to eat your birthday cake when appropriate, play a little bridge now and then, and go on with your life, now as an upper middle class person. I have problems, let's call them 'opportunities,' that you would never understand. Oh dear, sweet, innocent Elena. How I wish sometimes I was born a simple Mexican woman instead of an alien overlord. I bet you've never killed anyone or caused a single explosion in your life, now have you?"
"Oh, no, senor."
"Do you mean 'no' you never did those things or 'no' as in you are disagreeing with me because you have actually killed people and/or caused explosions?"
"I mean, I may be a simple, latter day Mexican peasant farm worker who is no spring chicken, but I have not lived in a cave my whole life. I killed two men during spring break when I was 22 years old after drinking mucho tequila - I ran them over with my friend's car."
"Two at the same time?" Regis asked with mock horror.
"No about five hours apart, but the same binge."
"How about explosions?"
"No, I never cause any explosions. Nothing in my house is made to explode."
"Well EVERYTHING in my house is made to explode," Regis said. "So, can I get you some more punch?"
"No, I've had enough. Thank you very much for the party and the explanation of why you invaded our planet," Elena said sincerely. "Do you know if anyone needs a fourth today, or what else might be going on?"
Regis gave Elena the day off, patted her shoulder, stood up and turned resolutely toward the door, feeling rather proud of himself. That had gone MUCH easier than he'd expected. He waved at a group of four other matronly Mexican ladies, clasped his seven-fingered hands together, and strode into the hallway, ducking to ensure his metallic skull did not smash through the top of the door frame.
He saw an overlord rounding the corner ahead, and called out to him: "Hey, Barthlomew!"
"How are the slave labor camps going?"
"You mean before or after I breathed napalm fire down on everyone and burned their hair and clothes off?"
Regis laughed. That was an old joke, but it still tickled his three funny bones every time.
The following morning, Elena was awakened by the sound of her cat coughing harshly, sounding like some kind of squawking bird or an animal literally croaking from some horrible pain.
"Oh, que mal" (how bad) she said to herself [Editor's note: All Spanish translated from here on out], "whatever am I to so with my poor kitty Julio? You are so lucky the nice alien overlord man let you come live here with me in this very nice apartment, but sometimes I think you were happier in our modest peasant home, amidst such agrarian delights as clean air, wide open fields, and the smell of freshly harvested corn. Perhaps I should be taking you outside, as others do with their dogs ..."
Elena stopped herself and got that perplexed look described earlier.
"But no, you never see anyone walking a cat," she mused to herself. "That's probably because if you tried to keep it in a harness it would go berserk. So the upshot is, presumably cats don't need fresh air per se but can be content living indoors. Or is that just a rationalization for not wanting to find a way to actually take the poor cat outside? Oh Julio, you may indeed be the case that disproves the conventional thinking, you with your terrible cough that is driving me nuts."
Julio, generally a good cat (as far as that can go), was definitely troubled, and though cats have few manipulable facial muscles this one was showing pain via the only ones his nervous system could manipulate, namely the eyes and the corners of the mouth. The former were slightly more closed than usual, and the latter somewhat turned down, as if in pain or from deep disapproval.
Elena figured, well cats probably don't experience disapproval, and if they do I don't care because it's a cat, but considering the coughing I think it's pain with this one.
She quickly dressed and grabbed her keys and cell phone.
"Julio, mama will be right back with some medicine and maybe later we will go for a walk" she said as she walked out the door.
On the elevator, she thought about different ways she might solve the cat-walking problem and possible scenarios. There was a nice park about half a block away, so conceivably she could put the cat in its carrier and carry it to the park, and then whatever the cat's reaction to the leash was at least she'd only have to deal with it at the park. It wasn't like she'd have to fight with it all the way there.
On the other hand, maybe there would be a way to do away with the leash portion of the scenario entirely. Maybe carry the cat to the park in the carrier, then let it out but keep right on top of it. But what if it climbed a tree? If Elena had grown up in America in the 1960s and 1970s, she'd have known that the 'cat up the tree' being rescued by firemen was a situation so familiar it was practically a cliche, but since she grew up a poor peasant in Oaxaca with no television this image never came to her mind. She did have the foresight to recognize, however, that Julio might get up in a tree and that would be a pickle for anybody and not just an old Mexican lady like herself. Such pickles she did not need.
A third scenario involved creating some sort of fenced-off portion of the park and letting the cat use it as a playground. Now here might be a workable solution! Hardly anyone except other elderly Mexican women ever even came near the park, and that not very frequently. A nice little four-foot hurricane fence would probably do the trick (cat's can't climb metal, right?) Elena liked where this idea was going. The posts would not be mounted in concrete, obviously, so over time the ground would need to be re-tamped down now and then. But heck, time was one thing she had plenty of, and everything in the hardware stores - like all the other stores - was just there for the taking.
The elevator finally reached the bottom floor and Elena stepped out and walked through the automatic doors onto Market Street, the "main thoroughfare" at the Reston Town Center, where she, all the other old Mexican women, and many of the alien overlords were quartered. She went around the corner to what used to be the registration room for the skating rink but was now an alien overlords' administrative office.
Two overlords were seated behind the desk - the sign behind them still said "Skate rentals must be paid in advance. Children under 10 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian." Because the alien overlords had shiny, bomb-shaped heads, dagger-like teeth, massive hands that could crush steel, and breathed fire when angry, there was quite an incongruity to have them there with the skating regulations still posted. Since Mexican peasants do not, as a rule, ice skate, this irony was lost on Elena.
"Can either of you alien overlord guys be a veterinarian for me?" she asked as she walked in. "Julio is very sick."
"Oh, what's wrong with the little guy," asked the overlords in unison. (They did that a lot).
"He is coughing, but it's not like a normal cat cough, it's more like a 'somebody's squeezing me in a vice' cough, sort of like a condor might sound if it was very angry," she explained.
"Hey, are there any condors left in Mexico?" asked the first overlord. "They've always fascinated me. You know they have a wing span like a small Cessna."
"That may be true," said Elena, "but I've not spend much time around airfields. But yes, we get the occasional condor."
"Isn't that interesting ... well, yes I can be a veterinarian. Julio's probably got some kind of lung disorder, likely related to being relocated into the condo unit. Those air delivery systems in the large buildings might have any of a hundred different chemical substances leaking in trace amounts that would not bother you or I but could wreak havoc on a feline. I think we should try getting him out of there and see if it clears up. If it does, we at least know where the problem is and we don't have to spin our wheels trying out different medications. We can either fix the ventilation or move you two into a townhouse."
"Oh," said Elena sadly, "I do enjoy the view from up there, but I guess if it's making poor Julio sick we can go back to ground level. Julio, you see what you do to mama?" Elena said half under her breath, "We finally get to live above the 25th floor and you have to get sick and bring us back downstairs again!"
The overlords chuckled, and said in unison, "You can take the cat out of the cornfield ...." All three laughed at this.
Overlord number two said he'd be happy to keep Julio as he had a fenced in yard and no other pets yet.
Elena was overjoyed and rushed home to get Julio. Despite all the turmoil of the past six days, that cat's nasty cough was about the most troubling development of all.
[TO BE CONTINUED, PROBABLY]
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