Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Barington Encounter: Part Eight

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[1] * [2] * [3] * [4] * [5] * [6] * [7]

The alien, of course, was unoffended.

He was relieved, of course, that he’d not only remembered to put on his assault vest but also to set its force field to maximum before leaving the ship, and resolved now to leave it on permanently until such time as he and his crew could become accustomed to the local customs, or otherwise be reasonably certain they could be free from sudden, unwarranted violence. Fortunately, it was a flattering garment... Some vague hunch told him he’d be wearing it for awhile.

Unoffended though he was he would, however, have admitted to being a tad confused; his new friend’s heartfelt attempt at attempting that ancient Andromedan custom - namely welcoming formerly absent friend or complete stranger alike with a pithy yet poignant performance piece - had left him as baffled as he’d been only that morning trying to find an inconspicuous place to park an alien space craft in Sussex.

So while very few Andromedan nursery rhymes actually featured interactive assaults with either implements of cookery and/or religious artifacts (Princess Crock-Pot and The Yarmulke of Death being the obvious exception), most of them do sound rather like women’s doubles tennis; and while he’d been having a bit of trouble following his neighbour’s welcoming narrative (something about a pony lost in a strange city who befriends a golden frog) the alien appreciated the exchange, as well as the clumsy attempt to speak Andromedan, and in response offered his people’s customary sign of thanks (a loud raspberry accompanied by a V-sign made, palm up, with the index and middle fingers) to her closed door.

In his desire to seem encouraging, in fact, he offered it several times in rapid succession, and using both hands as well; on Andromeda such a greeting was usually reserved for VIPs - well, basically just the Emperor, since he was pretty well their only VIP - but he felt that, despite the live video feed he carried in his pendant camera watching his every move, (and, in theory, a good many of his fellow planetarians back home watching what it was watching) his fellow Andromedans would want to see him treating his hosts with the utmost respect, which was a surefire ratings grabber on Andromedan television, unlike anywhere else.

Once more unsure what to do, and unwilling to give offense besides, he turned again to face the crew of movers, this time his body moving fluidly and his head moving jerkily. Since, he reasoned, they would be more familiar with human customs than he was (being ostensibly human themselves) the alien looked to them for some sign that what had transpired was supposed to have happened. If any of them - let alone all of them - had seen the odd exchange between the new neighbours and thought it odd, that was not reflected now in their array of studiously disinterested miens. In fact, their expressions remained as precisely arranged as the coloured cloths wound about their heads, and were focussed at that not on him at all but upon their own unfolding crisis.

As previously indicated, if the workmen were in any way flummoxed by their temporary employers or the situation into which they had become employed they betrayed no sign of it; they just kept on trying to push a too-large mattress through a too-small door, stopping occasionally to yell at each other in a strange language which was so complex it took the alien as long as twelve seconds to fully comprehend it.

‘Push harder Jasbir,’ said Narinder, who was easily the most frustrated of the lot.

‘What does it look like I’m doing Narinder,’ said Jasbir, whose frustration was rapidly gaining on that of Narinder.

‘It looks to me like you’re not pushing hard enough.’

‘May I suggest you look a little harder?’

‘May I suggest you push a little harder, rather than peppering me with quips?’

For his own sake, Satpreet appeared to be staying out of it, preferring instead to concoct a particularly vivid (not to mention potentially blasphemous) daydream starring himself, Shilpa Shetty, and Aishwarya Rai - a dream in which Jasbir and Narinder (let alone his wife Bhupinder) didn’t feature in the least. He did, however, offer his pithiest rejoinder: ‘May I suggest you both shut up?’ Say what you will about Satpreet’s manners, at least his methods were effective; following that brief exchange they resumed their labours in silence.

The three of them, the brothers Grewal, originally hailed from a slightly more nerve-wracking region than the front step of 14 Juniper Mews, namely that bit of ground between Pakistan and India they always seemed to be fighting over while those who lived there only seemed to fight over how quickly to get out. They’d seen some strange things and met some even stranger people in their first British decade - all of it not just strange but British strange, meaning it was weapons-grade - so that nothing and no one, not even Andromedans, was apt to faze them now; or, they could have been under the mistaken impression they were working for Blue Man Group, and had somehow unwittingly been tricked into participating in some form of performance art, which ought to be a hate crime yet somehow isn't.

The point is, we will never know. Unless, of course, we bother to learn Punjabi; which, to be honest, is highly unlikely.

Either way, when they got home tonight they were sure going to have them some laughs remembering the crazy white lady and her naked Jew on a stick and what she did with it to the skinny blue bloke who paid them five times more than they were worth without blinking... In fact, come to think of it, he never blinked at all - how weird is that! Still, when they told their wives the story, they might leave out the bit about being overpaid - strictly for their own good of course; women, as was widely known (especially around the Grewal house), were unable to deal with money, which is the only logical reason why they spent it faster than their husbands can earn it.

*That's Shilpa Shetty on the left and Aishwarya Rai on the right, which is the exact same way Satpreet Grewal prefers them.
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1 comment:

Mathias N Oz said...

Your description of Kashmir is an example of why I love your writing:
The three of them, the brothers Grewal, originally hailed from a slightly more nerve-wracking region than the front step of 14 Juniper Mews, namely that bit of ground between Pakistan and India they always seemed to be fighting over while those who lived there only seemed to fight over how quickly to get out.
In the words of the immortal Karen Walker, "it's funny coz it's true"