SOUTH ATLANTIC CAREER CHANGE

BY MICHAEL BLOOR

(first published in Idle Ink, Sept 4th, 2021)

Really, I did feel bad about neglecting the alien, but I was terribly busy at work that week. I’m a delivery driver and Christmas is our busiest time of the year. And the company cancel your Christmas  bonus if you clock-in late more than once in a month.

So, I’d just stepped out the front door that morning and there s/he (gender indeterminate) was: standing beside the bird feeder – a six foot high Giant Crab, waving her/his front claws rhythmically like giant windscreen wipers.

I let out an involuntary yelp and s/he turned round to look at me. Immediately, s/he opened up her/his haversack and pulled out something like a toy xylophone. S/he tapped away on it with both claws, very fast. And, instead of a tune, it spoke in a deep, warm, throaty voice, reminiscent of Morgan Freeman: ‘Greetings Earthling. Fear not, I am a peaceful emissary from the Alpha Centauri System. Have you got anything to eat? Some dead fish would be nice.’

Well, obviously I was in shock, or I’m sure I would’ve acted completely differently. But I’m afraid I invited her/him in and opened a tin of tuna (with olive oil – no rubbish). There was also a tub of crab meat in the fridge – I hid that behind a pack of sausages.

And then I rushed off to work.

Helluva day at work, but I did try to call the UK Foreign Office three times. Each time, in order to speak to a human being, I had to wait in a queue. So I decided, finally, that I’d contact their website when I got home. To be honest, I was hoping (fervently) that the Giant Crab would be gone when I got back. But just in case, I stopped off at the Co-op and bought a nice piece of cod.

No luck. The Giant Crab was on the sofa watching that ‘You’ve Been Framed’ programme, where they show clips of strangers falling into water. As soon as s/he saw me come in, s/he started tapping away at the xylophone: ‘Welcome back, Earthling. At some point, you must tell me why falling into water is considered hilariously funny. But, first things first, that’s a nice looking piece of dead fish you have there… No, no, don’t trouble to cook it – you lose a lot of the flavour that way…’

I figured I’d let her/him have the whole of the cod and I’d mebbe have an omelette later. While s/he was tucking in, I explained about the Foreign Office website. I thought it might be useful for the Foreign Office guys to know how come an Alpha Centaurian Giant Crab arrived in York in the first place. York Minster and the medieval walls attract a lot of visitors, but I felt we could rule out tourism as the sole-purpose-of-visit.

It turned out that there had been a computer programming error: New York had been the intended objective, in order to address the UN General Assembly.

S/he suggested I ask the Foreign Office if they’d be kind enough to arrange transportation to New York and to contact the UN Secretary General on her/his behalf. As an after thought, s/he tapped that I could tell ’em that s/he was Rhor’thougrrrt, the Alpha Centaurian Deputy Foreign Minister. Conscious of the importance of avoiding any unfortunate diplomatic incidents, I read her/him the email back before sending it. As an aid to verisimilitude, I attached a selfie of my house guest and myself.

The next morning, I had an early start. I left the last tin of tuna, open, on the kitchen table for her/him before I set off. And that was that.

They told me at the de-briefing (at a large Victorian country house in Kent) that it was a pity about the selfie attachment: several more people at the Foreign Office than those with a need-to-know had seen the picture. They also said I wasn’t to worry: they had it on Unimpeachable Authority that Rho’thougrrrt’s party had been ‘superseded’ in government, her/his Earth mission had been cancelled, and s/he had been replaced as Deputy Foreign Minister.

Frankly though, I wasn’t entirely happy. But the job they offered me, Driver to the Governor on St Helena, suits me down to the ground – very light duties.

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