Day #37: Thea

It’s been a very tough year.

No jobs, no prospects.

And then, out of the blue, my husband Horace lands an interview. No phone screen, no application. They found his resume on Monster and wanted to talk to him.

What could he do? He went.

And I waited.

We’re on the verge of losing our rental, we’re maxing out our public aid and our utilities have been cut off multiple times. Things are very very tough. We weren’t reckless big spenders. In fact, we were careful – only committed to spending what one of us could earn.

But then both of our jobs disappeared.

We don’t exactly have anybody we can rely on. Both Horace and I are orphans.  People often wonder how two of us end up together, orphans are rare in this part of the world. But the fact is, we share things. We share a self-reliance, a confidence and a learned ability to get through hard times. These are traits most other people simply lack. They drew us to each other and they’ve tied us together. After three years of marriage, the scariest part of our financial troubles is that we’re beginning to fray.

I don’t know why they called him – I would work too. But they did. And so I stay at home, playing with the 6-month-old twins. I wouldn’t call the feel in the air excitement. We’re waiting, but nothing has turned out well before. Our hopes aren’t high. But they are there and I’m glad of that. Eric, the boy, seems to sense it – he’s in a delightful mood. Heidi, our little girl, is excited, but fussy. She isn’t great at change.

I hear Horace’s car, a 1989 Honda Accord, pull into the driveway. I resist the urge to jump up and accost him for news. I do sit myself up on the couch and watch him park.

I wait as he walks towards the front door of the house. His step shows a mood that is mixed – he’s clearly excited – but he’s also fraught with anxiety.

I can’t resist any more. I jump up from the couch and make a dash for the front door.

“How’d it go?” I demand.

“You’d better sit down,” he says. I want to think he’s hiding a wonderful surprise, but all the signals are mixed. I can’t understand what he’s thinking. I go back to the couch and sit down.

“Julie,” he says, quite solemnly, “I’m not sure how to tell you this. I got an offer.”

I clap my hands excitedly, “TAKE IT!” I shout.

The kids look at me, confused.

“We may not want to,” he says.

“Why not?” I ask, “Low pay is better than nothing.” Then I notice he said ‘we.’

“What do you mean ‘We’?” I ask.

“They want all of us,” he says.

“All?” I ask, “Why?”

“This is why you need to sit down,” he says, “This was the single strangest job interview, or anything else, I’ve ever encountered. I need to tell you everything.”

I wheel my fingers impatiently, “More?” I ask.

“You have to promise not to tell anybody,” he says, “Or they’ll think I’m crazy.”

“Done,” I say, “No use people thinking you’re crazy.”

“Well,” says my reliable, confident, grounded husband of three years, “I interviewed with space aliens.”

That, I am not expecting.

I take a moment and then ask, “What?”

“Space aliens,” he said, “Honest to goodness space aliens.”

I don’t know where to start. Luckily, he bails me out.

“There was a human there too. But there were also these aliens. I didn’t see them at first, just the guy. I guess they were listening from another room. Either way, I walk in to this place that’s no nicer than a beat-up police station from a gritty TV show. There’s a white guy with graying hair sitting there. He’s in his 70s. He’s wearing clothes straight out of the 1920s – an incredibly sharp suit with I cut I’ve never seen outside the movies. Then the really weird stuff starts. He knows my name, he knows your name. He knows our kids’ names. He knows our friends’ names. And although I can’t be sure he had it right, he had pictures of our parents. They know our history.”

I’m just shocked. I can’t speak. What happened? Has Horace suddenly gone crazy?

Horace continues:

The man just wanted to talk. He had a high-end London accent. It was a conversation about nothing. They didn’t ask about my work history or anything. They just talked about my thoughts on politics and sports cars and the weather. They asked me to describe things in the room and that I’ve seen around the city. It was like they were trying to suss me out. And then they gave me an eye exam. Not one of the normal ones with the letters and stuff. They moved this thing that looked like a light towards my eye. But instead of shining, it just started making a whole bunch of strange sounds. After a minute or so, the man announced ‘You’ve passed.’

‘Passed what?’ I ask.

‘You’re eligible,’ says the man, ‘They will offer you the job.’

‘What job?’ I ask. He motions for me to follow him and I do. We go through a door. And then I see them, the aliens.”

I wait, still unsure what to say. He continues:

Behind that door was a brightly lit room. And seated on three huge chairs were three huge creatures. They looked something like oversized humans who’d each taken on the thick gray skin of an elephants. And the weirdest thing is, they don’t have eyes. At least none I can see. Massive ears, but no eyes.

‘Hello?’ I say, totally thrown for a loop.

‘Hello,’ says the largest of them. ‘You would like a job.’ It isn’t a question.

‘Yes,’ I answer, ‘But doing what?’

‘As you see,’ said the creature, in perfect English with the same high-end London accent,  ‘We haven’t any eyes.’

‘Okay?” I ask.

‘We are an old species, far more advanced than you. We are travelers, constantly moving from place to place. But, as with all creatures but those of your planet, the visual world is closed to us. Due to the dangers of UV, ocular evolution has not occurred elsewhere. Our thick skin protects us, but eyes would not last. So we want to hire you for your eyes.’

‘You can’t just take them!’ I insist, getting ready to start throwing punches.

‘We don’t want to take them,’ says the creature, a little defensively, ‘We have use for you and them. You would travel with us. You, your wife and your children. You would enrich our travels, allowing us to appreciate more of the cultures, civilizations, ruins and galaxies that we see. You are a smart man, you describe things well. We want you with us. Your family would come as well. And if they are similarly gifted, they could guide us as well. And your eyes will be protected. What nature could not provide, proper shielding can.”

I can tell you, the creature seemed gentle enough, the old man seemed quite content. So I ask, ‘What does it pay?’

‘It is irrelevant,’ says the creature, ‘You won’t be on Earth. You will have everything you need, a very long life, and an opportunity to see things few others of your kind ever see. We will eventually return you to earth, your children must have mates. When you return, you will have no lack of money.’

I have to admit, dear, it seemed pretty interesting. I told him I’d think about it, and he told me we had three days to decide. And then the gray-haired man guided me back out of the room.

‘Tell no one but your family’ he said, ‘Or you will appear to be a fool.’

I understood.

‘How do I tell you if I want the job’, I asked.”

‘Come to the Pier 117 and get on the yacht named Thea.’ he said. And that was that. I left and then I came home.

I just sit there. The kids are watching us silently, clearly aware that something is up.

“Well?” asks Horace?

“Well?” I ask, “I don’t know where to start. Are you okay?”

“I am,” says Horace, “We can check the pier, but I’m sure the yacht is there and I’m sure it is waiting for us.”

He seems well grounded.

“Let’s accept that what you’re saying is true, what about all this?” I ask, waving my hands.

“What about it?” he asks, “Things are just going to get harder and harder. We don’t have any family and our friends aren’t that close.”

With a bit of reluctance, I realize he’s right.

“What about the kids?” I ask.

“I”m sure,” he says, “They can get a fine education.”

“But they’ll want to play with other children?” I insist.

“Maybe the aliens have children,” he says. “We can ask at the pier.”

“Alien children are no substitute,” I insist, in disbelief that I’m taking this seriously.

“Let’s ask,” he says, “Maybe we can meet some. It might be fine.”

“Okay,” I say, beginning to run out of objections. As crazy as it is, seeing the universe has some odd appeal. It is a way to start over.

I look at the kids – trying to imagine their lives voyaging to places humans have never seen.

I can’t.

I guess that prevents me from having more specific objections.

“Okay,” I say, “Let’s go to the pier.”

We pile into the Honda and head down.

The ship is there.

************

NEWPORT NEWS, VA (Daily Times) – A family of four has died while sailing in their yacht off the coast of Virginia. There were no distress signals or poor weather.The yacht, the Thea, had been registered to Julie Tuboy since shortly before the couple’s marriage three years earlier. Workers at the pier reported that while the yacht had been maintained, it had never left its berth prior to the tragic expedition. Search flights were called off after a wreckage was spotted 35 miles off the coast. While no bodies were located, the family is presumed dead.

The Tuboy’s neighborhood was in shock. With reactions ranging from that of Juan Ortiz, who expressed shock that the family owned a yacht to that of Francis Jones who said, “They rarely left the house and I can’t imagine they knew the first thing about what they were doing.”

William Purcell, they family pastor, offered only the following, “They will be missed. They were a tough family facing tough times. And none of this makes any sense.”

A memorial will be held at the 3rd Street Church at 11:00am Thursday.

There are no surviving family members.

************

As Julie Tuboy looked over earth from far above, she found her few remaining reservations melted away.

She looked forward to the journeys – and she looked forward to sharing them with her children.

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