It certainly has been an eventful trip! Why, we had the short hop from Earth to Moon, then the four-day trip in the cramped spacecraft to Alpha Centauri Transfer Point, then we had a wonderful time on the spaceship from there to Homeland’s first moon! Darryl even learned to swim in the ship’s pool.
It is ironic and reassuring all at once… back when we adopted Darryl in Chicago, we were told that he hated swimming pools! Maybe the instructors on the ship are more reassuring, or maybe Darryl has just matured in the two years since he was eight; I don’t know, but I am gratified that he has finally learned how to swim.
But, there I go digressing again. We had a short trip from First Moon to Homeland proper, landing at the Spaceport in Fomin, Halakan. There is no spaceport in Thorgelfayne, which is just as well. The inconvenience of a five-hour airplane flight is more than compensated by the fact that it gives us the opportunity to visit with Harshan’s parents in Fomin again.
Poor little Darryl is fast asleep in the seat next to me. It’s a combination of being pooped out from the trip and boredom from the long flight.
Won’t be long now; we’ll be landing within the hour.
We are in the part of the plane where it tapers towards the tail, so we are sitting two by two. Darryl has the window seat (what else?), and I’m sitting on the aisle. Harshan is right behind me, next to an older woman. I smiled as I overheard their conversation.
“Where did you say you spend your vacation?” she asked, not entirely trusting her perfect, but aging ears, “You say you spent your vacation in the dirt?”
Harshan let out with a good-natured chuckle. “No, not in the Dirt, we were on the Earth!”
“Oh, silly me,” the lady laughed. “You mean that new planet they just discovered with the underdeveloped beings on it!”
“Madam, that was hexacenturies ago!” Harshan punctuated his sentence with an unexpected falsetto, as if to say, ‘you couldn’t possibly be that old!’
“Oh, I know how long ago it was,” the old lady reassured him, “It’s just that it’s new, relative to all the other ones we know about.”
“Well,” Harshan conceded, “You do have a point there.”
“What I am interested to know,” the lady inquired, hesitantly pointing with a finger, “Is why anyone would want to take such a charming wife and precocious son to an awful place like Earth! Why, those people are still savages, you know.”
I turned around to steal a glance. Harshan was smiling in anticipation of her reaction to his next remark. “The reason we went to Earth,” he said, “Was to visit relatives. We’re originally from Earth, you see.”
“What?” the lady shrieked in surprise. She hastily covered her mouth as she looked around to see if she had disturbed anyone.
Harshan was clearly delighted by her reaction. “Well, I must confess that I’m not Human, in fact I’m actually a Homelander from good old Halakan; but my wife and adopted son are Humans. They’re sitting right in front of us with the next row!”
“Oh my goodness,” the lady said, “That means they can hear everything we’ve said! Oh, gracious, I’m so embarrassed!” She buried her face in her hands.
I craned my neck to the back and addressed her, “That’s okay, my husband is to blame, since he set you up for the surprise!”
“Are you sure you’re not offended?” she asked meekly.
“Not at all!” I said, stretching my arm between the seats to grasp her hand. “In fact, the worst of all Homelanders is better than the best of all Humans. Our trip only served to confirm that in my mind!”
“Oh, surely you are just overreacting to a bad experience,” she said.
By that time Darryl stirred. “Are we home yet?” he asked through a yawn. “I mean our real home, not stinky old Earth!” he said in disgust.
We all laughed. “Well that clinches it!” the woman said. “Where adults speak in flowers, children blurt the truth,” she said, quoting an old Thorgelfaynese saying.
I turned my attention to Darryl. “We should be landing very soon, honey.”
“Good,” he said. “My neck hurts. I want to get out of this stinky old airplane.”
I hate that word ‘stinky’ that he picked up from his playmates on Earth. In a few days of playing with his old friends at home, it will be gone.
The plane angled itself downwards, and the last minute instructions about trays and seat backs and safety equipment came over the speakers. Darryl strained against his shoulder strap to look out the window. He announced every landmark he saw: the Harji valley, the Harji River, and the cities of Hapdorn and Barlamon across from each other towards the end of the valley.
Soon we touched down and taxied smoothly to the terminal. Flight attendants checked everything over thoroughly, and finally we were permitted to disembark. The last line we’d have to stand in for a long time!
While we waited for them to open the hatch so we could leave the plane, I whispered to Harshan, “Are you sure John Anderson will be there to pick us up?”
“Don’t worry about it!” he chuckled. “Even if he isn’t there the bus will be just fine!”
Finally, the door was opened, and we filed out the door and down the enclosed walkway to the terminal.
“Well, space cadet,” Harshan said to Darryl, “What do you plan to do when we get home?”
“I want to go to bed,” Darryl said wearily, dragging his carry-on luggage clumsily, “I’m tired!”
“You can’t do that yet, honey,” I admonished him, “You have to get adjusted to the local time zone. No sleeping until bedtime!”
“Aw, ma!” he pleaded impatiently, “But I am tired!”
Just then we emerged into the terminal where a crowd of people were waiting. It took a while for Darryl to notice that his friends from school were there, carrying a large, crudely lettered banner that said: “Welcome Home Darryl Lahtissimon!” I have no idea how they found out when we were arriving!
Darryl’s eyes widened and even moistened about. “Wow, that’s neat!” he exclaimed softly. John Anderson was there, armed with his skritch, of all things! He pulled back on the bow and began to play something that sounded vaguely familiar. The kids all started to sing,
“I come from a star so far away,
Which one it is, I cannot say…”
Darryl stopped dead in his tracks and even dropped what he was carrying.
“Mom!” he said, looking up at me with a tear-streaked face. “That’s the song I wrote for the school play before we left! That’s my song!” I just nodded proudly. I was afraid to answer him because of the lump in my throat.
We had no difficulty keeping Darryl up until bedtime. The incident at the airport sort of supercharged him. A lot of his friends came over to look at his souvenirs and hear the story of his adventures on Earth. Darryl loved every moment of it! After getting beat up by his former friends on Earth, his Homelander welcome seemed even more wonderful than it was—if that is really possible!
Darryl cried himself to sleep that night. From happiness! And I will have to drop mother a note—if she wants to see her grandson again, she’ll have to come here!