Wanting to collect his thoughts before going home to the wife and kids, Don had headed straight to his favorite bar after several hours of overtime. He ordered his usual mug of Miller draft, and gloried in the fact that the bar was deserted, except for a couple of patrons -- strangers -- who weren't likely to engage him in conversation.
He was wrong. The solitude didn't last long at all.
A short, rather nondescript man got up from a table, walked over to the bar, and sat down right next to Don. "Hello," he said.
Don barely glanced at him. He nodded in greeting.
"What's your name?" asked the man.
How do I get rid of this guy? Don wondered. "Don," he replied.
"Aren't you going to ask me mine?" said the man.
"No," said Don.
"It's just as well. You probably couldn't pronounce it anyway."
Don turned to look at the little fellow. Upon closer inspection, Don realized that the man looked a bit like a thirtyish Woody Allen, only with a fuller head of black hair. "What's that supposed to mean?"
"No offense, but you people generally tend to screw it up."
"And what do you mean, 'you people?' I'm German-Irish... not that it's any of your business."
"I doubt you'll believe this, but... I'm what your people generally refer to as an alien. And I don't mean an illegal immigrant," the man added, laughing at his own unfunny joke.
Don didn't laugh at all. "So, what should I call you? Doctor Spock?"
"That's Mister Spock," said the man, correcting Don. He muttered, "Fifty years, and they still screw that one up. Sad."
Don looked at the man appraisingly, struck by the Woody Allen resemblance again. "How about... Woody?"
"No, thanks. Too Toy Story."
Don couldn't resist teasing the little man. "Okay... Buzz Lightyear, then? That's probably more appropriate, isn't it?" The man scowled. "Klaatu? Mork? Alf?"
"Spare me. How about... Don?"
"That's my name."
"Alien mind-reading powers?"
"No. You told me yourself, just a few moments ago."
"Oh, yeah, that's right. Guess I wasn't paying attention. Too busy trying to escape this whole stupid conversation."
"I was trying to be amusing."
"Well, give it up. That was about as funny as your illegal immigrant line."
"I never did get the knack of the whole 'sense of humor' thing."
"Oh, that's right. You're an alien."
"Yeah. So... just call me Phil." Don said nothing. "Okay?"
"I'm Don, so you're Phil. Like the freakin' Everly Brothers. Fine. Whatever. Can you leave me the hell alone now... Phil?"
"But... Don't you have anything to ask me, considering what I've revealed to you?"
"Not really. Asking you any questions would imply that I believe you."
"Which you don't?"
"Which I don't."
"That's got to be the king of stupid questions."
"Why should I bother?"
"If for no other reason than... " Phil cleared his throat and tried to sit as tall on his barstool as possible. "If for no other reason than it might... might... convince me that all of you aren't as rude and inconsiderate as I've been led to believe you are by my years living among you."
"Well, I am rude and inconsiderate. Borderline obnoxious, in fact, if you catch me on a bad day. But that's just me. Not all of us... Earthlings."
"If you say so. But everyone we -- or our 'friends' -- have ever sent here thinks you're a bunch of self-centered, arrogant... pardon the expression... bastards."
"Yes. Your people are intelligent enough to comprehend the concept that the size of the universe is more vast than your minds can truly appreciate, but far too many of you still stubbornly cling to the notion that only one planet in that universe -- your own -- has ever produced intelligent life!"
"Uh-huh. And you also called us self-centered?"
"Yes! Even in your television and motion picture depictions of us, the universe seems to revolve around you. Figuratively, that is. You can't help but show that attitude, even in the entertainments that try to focus on the good races you imagine to be out there... "
"What are you talking about?" asked Don, exasperated.
"I'll give you one example! Since you made that 'Doctor Spock' crack... Are you familiar with Star Trek?"
"A little. But I'll bet you know a lot about it!"
"Well, they deal with a plethora of planets which have joined together to promote peace, understanding, and harmony in an organization called the Federation... "
"If I understand it correctly, they say that the intelligent, space-travelling races knew of one another for years upon years. Yet it wasn't until your wonderful planet was thrown into the mix that anyone got the brilliant idea of banding together for the good of all!"
"Even if that's true, it's just one example... and you're really nit-picking... "
"And you wonder why you only see our spaceships by accident, and why we don't contact your leaders by landing on the lawns of the White House, or Buckingham Palace, or by showing up at the United Nations... "
"Why bother abducting private citizens like Zeke and his wife, and experimenting on them, then?"
"Oh, my stars! We don't do that! What, are you one of those dorks who reads stuff like the Weekly World News and believes it? Think wrestling is real, too, do you?"
"Nope. Simmer down, Phil," Don replied, calmly. "I was kidding. Figures the joke would sail right over your head."
Phil ignored Don's barb. Shaking his head, he continued. "None of us particularly want to talk to any of you."
"Except you, it seems," Don interjected. "Lucky me."
Phil continued. "You haven't even decided whether or not you collectively believe we exist, but in the meantime, you've spent over one hundred years insulting us by depicting us as tentacled monstrosities, or reptilian creatures, or gelatinous blobs, or ineffectual-looking, hairless... "
"I thought the green chick on Star Trek was kinda hot... But anyway, what are you saying? Aliens all look like Earthlings?"
"We do. That is, my people do... more or less."
"Oh." Don sounded disappointed. "And here I was, hoping you'd tell me that what I'm looking at is some sort of disguise, or holographic projection, or something. But you're telling me you look like me?"
Phil looked at Don, who was stocky and solidly built, with thinning brown hair and a bushy mustache. "I don't look anything like you at all!"
"I meant like us. You know, as far as the basics? Two arms, two legs... one mouth, one nose, two eyes... "
"Actually, I have two mouths. But the second one's where you can't see it."
"I won't ask." Don chuckled under his breath. "A second mouth, where I can't see it... Of course," he muttered.
"You're all alike, glossing over the essentials, making your narrow-minded little judgments... "
"Hey, lighten up, you!"
"Much of your fiction has assumed that we citizens of other worlds will someday confront your warlike race and seek to destroy you, or at least prevent you from developing starships with which to carry your nuclear explosives and other weapons of mass destruction to other planets, but once again, you over-state your own importance. We're fairly convinced that you'll blow yourselves to atoms long before you perfect travel beyond your own solar system. We're not afraid of what you're capable of, even by accident."
Don sighed. He'd finished his draft, and signalled the bartender for a refill. Then he looked at Phil. "Okay, are you done?"
"No!" Phil answered. "In fact... "
Stan, the bartender, interrupted Phil. "Actually, sunshine, you are done!" Phil and Don looked at Stan -- a long-haired, overweight, heavily-tattooed man who looked every inch like the biker he was -- who continued speaking to Phil. "I've told you before, I'll put up with this alien crap until you start tickin' off my customers." He pointed at Don. "And it's obvious that this guy's had enough for today. And so've I."
Phil dejectedly hopped down from the bar stool.
Don couldn't help throwing one last dig. "Is this where you shock us both, and prove it's all true, by getting beamed up to the mother ship, or teleporting away under your own power, or... "
"Nothing so dramatic, Don," Phil replied. "I just walk out, is all." He looked at Stan, and in a very non-threatening way, said "But I'll be back."
And he left.
Don watched the door close behind Phil as Phil exited, then Don looked at Stan. "Not sure I liked the sound of that 'I'll be back' crack. Remember the Terminator movies?"
Stan laughed. "Nahhh, he's harmless. And I put up with him cuz he usually spends a good amount of money. Not like today. He just gives this alien speech to one or two o'my customers every week. They all pretty much humor him. Like you did."
"Well, actually, I didn't give him the satisfaction of telling him this, but I believed him."
"You're kiddin', right?"
"No. I believed him, or at least gave him the benefit of the doubt and accepted that he could be one. It really is kind of arrogant for us to believe that in the entire universe, no other planet has developed intelligent life. So why couldn't he be an alien?"
Stan shook his head. "I never know when you're kiddin' and when you're bein' straight with me, Don. But if I did think there was even a chance he's legit, I'd keep him talkin' for hours!"
"And why not?"
"Haven't you ever heard his little spiel? He and 'his people' sound freakin' boring! If aliens really are like him, who needs them? Give me a good, brainless flick on the Syfy Channel any day! In fact, turn the set on, will you? I think they're running a marathon of Battlestar Galactica reruns. Now Tricia Helfer, that's my kind of alien!"
"Battlestar Galactica? I think my fifteen-year-old son watches that. So, she's an alien? I thought she played some kinda robot."
"Stan. Does it even matter?" said Don, as Stan nodded in agreement with Don's point and began looking for the TV remote.
* * * * *
Thanks for your time.