Aliens and Encyclopedias

March 31, 2010

posted and written by caroline picard

I’m in the middle of finishing up my thesis–that novel about hipsters in Philly that I’ve been working on for what seems like forever. In any case, my advisor asked me to write another 75 pages which has been great. I’ve got about 12 to go, but I think I’m going to call it quits for the moment. In any case, I included this story–like a story within a story, which is more or less the style of the book. This story is told by a character called Anna. It was originally told to me, almost word for word, at a dinner party by a woman I’d never met before. There were a number of us at the table and I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy, as far as thinking about narratives and reliable narrators and how, especially in a dinner party setting, it is presumed that everyone is telling the truth.

“OK. So my parents used to go on these drinking binges. I have like a bunch of little brothers and I’m the oldest, Tobias, but so most of the time I thought it was kind of cool because like I’d get to take care of everyone. And, you know, my dad was pretty much always a real shit so it was cool that he’d be out of the house and I didn’t have to worry about him being a dick and hurting someone.

“My parents would take off—they’d leave for like a night usually. But sometimes they’d leave for a weekend. No big deal, they’d basically get a couple of cases of beer and then take off to the beach for a weekend. I guess it started when I was like nine or something but then it started happening more frequently when I was like 12 and then this one time they left for a whole week. It was like they were just gone. And my brothers and I we just kept going to school and I like cooked for everyone it was pretty simple. I knew where there was spare money in the bedroom drawer of my parents’ room and we had a ton of mac and cheese and beans and stuff so it wasn’t really that big of a deal—I mean of course now, I’m like what fucking bad parents, but at the time, I felt like, you know, I could take care of things.

“So then our folks come back on Sunday, and we’re like, ‘Where were you?’ and they’re like, ‘We went to the beach, you knew that.’ And we’re like, ‘But you were gone for a whole week.’ And then they didn’t believe us. You can imagine too, like if your folks don’t believe you about something like that, then you start to wonder, kind of, but I knew and my brothers knew—at least my oldest brother. And so like whatever, you know, you kind of just forget about it.
“Then I’m 13 and my parents go away again and they’re supposed to be gone for the weekend but again they’re like gone for a whole fucking week. And then they’re gone for a week and a half, so like Sunday comes and goes and still no parents. And I start getting really freaked out, what if something happened to them, how will I know, what will I do? That sort of thing. I’m worried we’re going to run out of money. I worry that I’ll have to tell someone and they’ll split up the family. I mean like, fuck, right? Crazy shit.
“On Wednesday our parents come back. Just like that. They’ve got their beach blanket, the dogs are super excited to see them. They’re kind of pissed at me that the house is such a mess. They don’t remember being gone for more than a weekend. The school calls because the school got worried and I feel really guilty like they’re going to be mad at me for getting caught, but then our folks are just like, wow. That’s nuts. I guess we got so drunk we blacked out for a whole week. And they like promise never to do it again.
“Then my mom wakes up in the middle of the night and there’s an alien standing over her bed. And she realizes suddenly that the were abducted by aliens. They didn’t black out at all. And she has all of these flashbacks about how she’d been probed and the alien is standing over her bed and it like wants to take her with it up into the space ship. Luckily she knows that—and this is good for all of you to know, actually—she knows that if you just say “NO,” very fiercely and very strongly, aliens can’t abduct you, kind of like how vampires can’t come into your house unless you invite them. So she goes “NO NO NO NO NO NO” and wakes Dad up and they’re both sitting there going NO NO NO NO NO NO until the alien goes away.
“And the way they proved it? They proved it because the next day the alien stole the Tu-Wi Encyclopedia and the telescope.”