(written for the Friday Fiction “Stranger in a Strange Land” prompt)
I remember it now like it was just yesterday, though it was many, many years ago.
“Mom!” I had screamed as loudly as I could while stretching the vowel sound out for as long as possible. “Glipper the Dripper left slime all over my baseball cards!”
“That’s nice, dear,” answered my mother, disinterestedly. “Glad you’re having fun with your friend!” She then returned to her phone call, completely missing the fact that I was in deep agony over my dripping baseball cards.
Glipper, or as I called him, Glipper the Dripper, was our exchange student from the Glorious Amoebulating Federation of Ool’Oonalagon, a small, relatively unknown star system from the Andromeda Galaxy. The Gafoo, as they were more commonly known on Earth, were a largely shapeless species that was completely covered in an oozing, gooey and drippy film which served to allow them to breathe, metabolize their food, communicate with each other and remove waste materials from their inner cavities. After years of negotiations, the Federation of Sol, of which the Earth was the principally inhabited planet, had come to an understanding with the great people of the Gafoo, making it easy for the two most peaceful species in the known universe to share knowledge, ideas, recipes and resources.
Glipper was a Gafoo adolescent, with his age and level of education approaching my own eleven years of life and six years of education. We got along quite well at our first meeting and before long the paperwork was signed, sealed and delivered and Glipper was officially living at my house, sharing my bathroom somehow (I knew better than to ask about how he accomplished this) and sleeping, well meditating restfully, on the upper bunk bed in my room. After a few days, however, things started to go sour between us and it was beginning to look like our status as BFFs was going to be over rather quickly.
It only took me a couple of days to figure out that Glipper and I should switch bunks. I mean, I could deal with the snoring or chanting or whatever he claimed it was; I just put my head under a pillow and fell asleep. But I couldn’t take the dripping. Drip, drip drip. All night long, the Gafoo version of exfoliation would occur and I would wake up in a pool of wetness that had nothing to do with my own inability to make it through the night without peeing. That third night, after my mom tucked me into bed and then helped Glipper slide into his bed, I couldn’t fall to sleep at all. I lay there, staring up at the bottom of the bunk above me, thinking about school, wondering if Mary Sue Parker thought my hair looked funny or not and not knowing why I cared. Suddenly, a big heap of Gafoo goo dropped onto my face, causing me to feel as though I was drowning. I threw a fit and Glipper, looking sad and upset, slid off the top bunk and onto my lower bunk as I climbed up the ladder and splashed myself onto the drenched mess that were the sheets.
The next morning, I knew things were different. Glipper wouldn’t look at me. I complained to my mother that Glipper wouldn’t talk to me and she suggested that I offer to play a game with him or show him some of my toys. I grabbed Glipper by one of his pods, hoping that it was, in fact, something like a hand, and we went to my room. I pulled out my blue Trapper Keeper, the one that no one except my inner circle of friends was allowed to see, and I opened it up to display my collection of New York Mets baseball cards, securely fastened in individual plastic sleeves. The sleeves were, of course, safely trapped and kept inside my Trapper Keeper. It was fun – I would teach Glipper each player’s name, tell him about the position the player played, quote statistics and tell him all about my favorite game of baseball. The Glorious Amoebulating Federation of Ool’Oonalagon were well known for their amazing memories and Glipper was no exception. I never had to repeat a name or statistic to him and he remembered them all. Glipper was happy, I was happy and there was peace and tranquility between our peoples.
Later on that day, I returned to my room eating the remnants of my peanut butter and butter sandwich (on crustless wonder bread, of course) to find Glipper in my room, back to the door, choking or humming happily. I looked onto the bed and saw my Trapper Keeper, lying there empty, neither keeping nor trapping anything.
Strewn about the floor were my cards. Dave Kingman, George Foster, Lee Mazzilli, Sid Fernandez… all of them, just tossed around like so many pick up sticks. Then I saw it. My prized, Dwight Gooden card, separate from the rest, lying on the floor in a puddle of Gafoo sludge. I nearly fainted and instead screamed. Then I screamed again. I don’t know what I was screaming, I just screamed.
When I finally got control of myself and picked up my Dwight Gooden card, shaking partially out of fear and partially out of anger, I reached out to my mother, calling her in my sad, loud voice… and all she could say was that she was happy that we were having fun.
“Glipper sorry,” said Glipper, his voice sounding as it always did, like a combination of sandpaper on a tomato and the sound I always imagined Miss Piggy would make if she stepped on an angry, rabid bee. “Glipper knows that this is a mess, but Glipper can’t help it. Billy made Glipper excited about baseball. Glipper now knows all about baseball and will help Billy get new cards. Now Billy and Glipper should play a different game.” I had quickly gotten used to the difficulty Glipper had with speaking, since the Gafoo on their Glorious Amoebulating Federation of Ool’Oonalagon home world never had to use their voices for anything other than their nightly meditative resting.
I stood there holding my dripping Dwight Gooden rookie card, the one that I had won last year by eating more eggplant and broccoli than that freak Stewie Macoloni, the vegetarian kid who lived down the road. I looked up at Glipper and in that moment I realized that friendship was more important than a piece of paper. Well, looking back now, I understand that I realized it at that moment. My thoughts at that very second were that I was going to go ahead and tell Glipper all about the joys of my sister’s paper dolls and her Growing Up Skipper doll. That thought was interrupted by the fact that I quietly liked the Growing Up Skipper doll for reasons that were not apparent to me at the time. So, instead, I pulled out my MagnaDoodle and my Simon game. After I showed them both to Glipper and he tried them out, we came to realize two more things. First, the goo that oozed from the Gafoo also had its own magnetic field, rendering the MagnaDoodle useless to a Gafoo owing to the fact that as soon as Glipper’s arm-pod thingy would move over the thing, all of the little magnetic pieces would clump together uselessly.
The Simon game was far more successful. Given the Glipper’s exceptional memory, he could follow the pattern of lights easily at first. I was smart this time and realized that the gooiness dripping off of Glipper’s body would quickly short out the electronic toy before there could be any enjoyment. I went to my sister’s room and found the pretend diapers that were on her My Size dolls and removed them, exposing several My Size Butts to the world. Returning to my room, I strapped the pretend Pampers onto Glipper’s gelatinous arm-pods and taped two of my Han Solo Star wars figures to the diapers so that Glipper could use them like fingers. This allowed Glipper to use the Simon happily and with him happy, I found that I was happy. My mother was pleased with me for finding a way to make our guest comfortable and I got an extra piece of pie at dinner that night.
When the time came that Glipper had to leave, I allowed him to take my Simon with him. He was happy and said he would take good care of it. He told me that he would not forget about the baseball cards he had damaged and that he would have me come to his home sometime. I nodded and smiled the way I had seen all of the adults do it so many other times before. Right, I though. Sure. You’ll remember the card because your biology mandates that you will… but I’ll never see you again.
It has been many years since Glipper was living in my home. We inevitably lost touch soon after he left, though I had heard rumors that he had set the intergalactic Simon record by successfully following a pattern of 11,394,495,234,550,123,134,893,013 colors, only stopping when the batteries had overheated. But otherwise, I had heard nothing more and had moved on with my life. I had long since given up on replacing my Dwight Gooden baseball card, for heroes come and go like the snows of winter.
That is, until yesterday. I had not even thought of Glipper in years, until I received a letter from the Intergalactic Postal Service. Opening it, I found a picture my old BFF Glipper, holding a smoking Simon game in one arm-pod thingy while another arm-pod with a Han Solo decorated diaper attached to it was raised in a thumbs up position. In the background I saw the park that Glipper had always spoken about, his favorite place to bring his friends back on his home world. Smiling, I slid the little slip of paper out from behind the picture and was stunned to find Dwight Gooden staring at me in that crisp, glossy way that only a baseball card could present. He had done it! The crazy, dripping kid from the Glorious Amoebulating Federation of Ool’Oonalagon had not let me down after all. I looked in the envelope and found a ticket, round trip, from Earth to the capital of the Glorious Amoebulating Federation of Ool’Oonalagon, to attend the inauguration of His Royal Eminence, the All Knowing Glipper. I was to be honored as well, as the one who introduced electronic Simon to a galaxy of kids, thereby increasing their memory and intelligence exponentially in a fun and safe manner. My title now and forevermore will be Billy, the Great Memory Enhancer of the Glorious Amoebulating Federation of Ool’Oonalagon and together Glipper and I will rule the universe with integrity, honor and fantastic memories. I am proud and honored and excited, as you might guess.
My little sister would be proud, too, I think, but she is now resting comfortably in Santa Monica, spending her days painting faces on pet rocks and singing songs from the “Puff the Magic Dragon” soundtrack, the only things she could handle anymore due to an unfortunate accident with a Growing Up Skipper doll and a bag of pop rocks… but we don’t talk about that anymore… trying, in fact, to forget the incident altogether.