The Iron Writer Challenge #31
2013 Iron Writer Autumn Equinox Challenge #9
Nummo, the Alien
A Cricket Ball
An Elementary School Spelling Bee
The Girl in the Banana Slippers
Betsy Polk Joseph
On the outside, Nemma didn’t look like the other kids in the sixth grade at Horace. Alter Elementary School. First of all, she was beautiful, much more beautiful than any other sixth grader, ever.
“Pretty in a weird way,” Mina Witherspoon whispered to Lucy Adams on that first day when Nemma showed up out of nowhere wearing the thin yellow banana slippers through which she communicated with Lenny, her guardian at Alien Control “Yeah, she kinda radiates,” Lucy hissed back. It was true. That was the second thing. Nemma glowed. It was one of the few parts of her that the Alien Control Officers hadn’t been able to humanize. The soothing golden light only added to her beauty, causing her to stick out even more among the messy, desperately wanting, ever- striving sixth grade humans.
Nemma, who hated sticking out, was stuck in sixth grade, forced to relive it year after year for a vast chunk of her immortal life. It didn’t matter where she was or when, sixth grade was always the same mix of math struggles, pencil dust, test anxiety, mean kids, zits and cliques.
She’d begged Lenny to promote her to, at least, seventh grade. For the first decades, she’d kept her pestering to a minimum. Lenny was the closest thing to family and she didn’t want to lose him. But sixth grade wasn’t something one got used to; every year was worse than the one before. “Be patient, sixth grade is the safest place for a virgin goddess like you,” Lenny said, as he patted her hand and returned her to the same hell. “Just keep watching,” he said,” for a sign of change.”
She didn’t know what she was watching for until she found it on a flyer that barely caught her eye until a red light lit up between her toes. Red lights were rare and urgent – change was coming, she could feel it. “Don’t miss the Cricket Ball,” the flyer read in block letters. The ball was more than just a dance. It was the night of the Cricket Chirp, the biggest elementary school, sixth-grade only, spelling bee in four counties.
Win the Chirp, her toe light flashed. Win the Chirp.
Nemma didn’t care much about the ball; the Chirp was something else. It was her ticket out of sixth grade. This was her chance –nobody knew sixth grade like she did, right down to the spelling words.
The bright stage lights beamed on the two final Chirpers: Nemma and Jimmy McCree. Nemma had just been given her next word, “Gorgeous,” when she felt Jimmy’s eyes on her. “Gorgeous,” he mouthed, looking her up and down with wet eyes in the way of a boy who’s moved beyond sixth grade. It hit Nemma like a Sirius star that there would be many more Jimmys in the grades past sixth.
“Sixth grade is the safest place for a virgin goddess like you,” Lenny had said.
“G-o-r-g-o-s,” she spelled, breathing easy as she sealed a long familiar future of sixth grades that suddenly didn’t seem so bad.
It began when he won the fourth grade spelling bee by spelling “pyramid”. Excited by his win, he began reading about pyramids. From then on, he was hooked. He read everything he could about ancient Egypt, studied ancient history in college, learned Coptic, and began studying hieroglyphs. He had not finished college yet when the UFO changed his priorities.
He was encamped for the night at a river gorge after a day of hiking. About to retire to his tent, he saw the sphere of light appear in the sky and hover above him. He stood staring, enthralled. Even after the light shot off at impossible speed in the direction of blazing Sirius, he stared fixedly after it. As he recalled the nummo of the Dogon, theorized to be aliens from the Sirius system, and the importance of Sirius to his beloved Egyptians, he knew that his passion for Egypt had been transformed. Now his ruling desire was to prove that Earth had been visited in the dim past by beings from the stars, beings who had perhaps first come to Egypt.
He dropped out of college that year. Free of academic constraints, he wandered the globe taking odd jobs, working on archaeological digs, and even publishing some moderately successful books that helped fund his increasingly obsessive quest. Years slipped into decades, but proof always eluded him. Now he sat in his shabby apartment, clad in a threadbare robe, his feet in ancient banana slippers. A manuscript, begun in hope but now abandoned in bitter frustration, lay forlornly on the table, a cricket ball lying on it as a paperweight. The radio yammered quietly in the background, unnoticed. He drank now and then from a tumbler of whiskey. He sighed, ran his hand through his now graying hair, and took another long drink. As he drained the glass he saw something out of the corner of his eye. Looking to the side, he saw a tall being standing in the shadows a few feet from where he sat.
“Yes. What you would call a nummo.”
“Did you really…?”
“Yes. We came to Egypt, and other places—to guide them and help them seek the light.”
“So you’ve returned to guide us once more?”
The Nummo was silent for a moment. “We do not force. We only guide. Even with guidance, the time is past that your species could save itself. Destruction is inevitable.”
“Then why are you here?” he said, voice quavering.
“You—and others like you. Those who have striven beyond narrowness, those who have truly sought a better world against all disappointments. Those who truly seek the light.” On the radio came a newsflash of a major military attack.
“Time is short,” said the alien. “Come—hope is lost for your world, but not for your species. Come with us and build on a new world what you could only dream of here.”
He nodded through his tears. The alien gestured and the two of them dissolved in a ball of light that ascended to the sky. The missiles struck an hour later.
Nummo, the alien sat at the desk to answer the spelling bee competition. Bob, the host announced the 1st word, ‘category’. Successively, he asked another 4 words completing the session. Nummo failed to answer any. Then, Bob advised him to have one to two glass of Nunn every week to improve his memory. (after 3 months) Nummo participates in the competition again. It followed Bob’s advice and spelled all the words perfectly! And thus ends the 1 minute commercial for Nunn Champagne.
After which I switched off the T.V. and walked towards the kitchen. My kiddo, jumping in his banana slippers followed me. I acted busy doing dishes, hoping to avoid the dreading situation. But, it happened. He threw the cricket ball in the air and caught it just above the crockery. God save the crockery. But actually I wouldn’t worry about it much. He is pretty good at it. So the crockery wasn’t on my mind.
Playing with the ball, he told me about his elementary school spelling bee competition. The inevitable then happened. “Dad!! I wanna win the spelling bee competition next month. If I have 2 glasses of your champagne every week till then, then I would surely win the competition!!” said kiddo. “I have been doing the same kiddo, I still forget to take the house keys on the way to office.”
Young Nummo , the alien, stared at the encased first prize Elementary Orbit school. It would be his last chance to attempt this year’s spelling bee to get the banana slippers. The slippers were no ordinary slippers;they were specially designed aeronautical slippers. He would be the first in the school to have a pair. He would be on top of the universe, seeing his protruding eyes glistened as he fantasized about wearing those slippers and his peers envying his fun sailing like someone in the circus de solar system. Aw, yes , an elementary school spelling bee. He would need to study all the terms in the galaxies and the judges may toss in a word that humans are more likely to use such as a type of food. Oh gosh, he has so much preparation to do. As he thought of some human words, he was interrupted by a friend tapping him on the shoulder. ‘Well Nummo, you think you are going to win this time? You don’t deserve to win those slippers because they have my name on them’ his so called friend said. ‘They were taken in 2045 by a famous television presenter on Earth. The original pair. I desire them. I can spell. You can’t. You’ll see. He tossed a cricket ball close to Nummo’s head, who shrank.
‘Ha Ha ‘ Your stinky fee wouldn’t fit in those slippers,’ the other contestant yelled. ‘Good luck loser!’
Nummo felt defeated already, but it made him study non-stop for hours. The day of the spelling bee arrived. There were 10 contestants. Each speller received two words to spell. No second chances. Nummo spelt the first word, “broccoli” correctly. He’d correctly guessed he could get human words to spell. Sweat was pouring out of his antennas. The green glob coming out of his pores started turning fluorescent the more anxious he became.
His major opponent smiled at him knowing Nummo. Nummo didn’t like his smile. It was ominous. You could see through the solar system in his eyes and he also saw a ball in his pocket.
His opponent couldn’t spell his given word “apocalyptic” correctly and was eliminated, to Nummo’s relief. At this point they were down to three contestants and yet Nummo’s antennas startled to rattle. This only happened when danger was looming. He couldn’t contend with this premonitory sign.
It was Nummo’s turn again and the final chance for the banana slippers. He was holding his breathe. The word to spell was “clairvoyant”. Oh gosh thought Nummo I’ve never heard of that word. He took a deep breath and started slowly, ‘C …l…a…’ Just before he was going to utter the next letter a cricket ball flew at him; he quickly ducked but it hit his opponent on the head knocking him out. The audience gasped.
With the confusions, the spelling bee was timing out. The opponent came to his senses but he couldn’t seem to utter any letters. One could say he was spellbound! Nummo finished his word successfully . Then the third opponent started to stutter and he was disqualified for taking too long.
Nunno went bananas!