So here we are, planning to strike with the utmost surprise, and your house guest — your innocent alien baby — gets a hold of this information and decides to give their people a heads up. You can feed alien babies practically anything. They have the constitution of an ox. Who knows what they worship up there? Studies have shown that even unused and abandoned dishes retain their pings. Star Trek, Star Wars, Space 1999, Planetof the Apes,Logan’s Run. And remember this too: no television antennas either. DECEMBER 21, 2018
This piece appears in the latest issue of the LARB Print Quarterly Journal: No. And what do we know really? The dreaded stinky diaper is not something you need to worry about. While we’re on the subject, you’ll be relieved to know that an alien baby is very much like a self-cleaning oven. Your alien ward must return to their mother planet. While our emphasis here is more practical, we will grant that you do have a certain responsibility in this direction. They don’t know how not to follow the leader. As we all know, discipline comes in different forms: the raised voice, the reprimand, the ruler on the knuckle, the time-out, the confiscation of electronics, the demand for an apology. They will know your favorite cereal — whether you are a sweet cereal type or a cheerless, unsweetened, heart-healthy kind of person. When you get tired of seeking and plead for them to come out, they won’t come. Alien babies, contrary to what you might think, do not require any kind of special climate, so please, do not interfere with the room temperature. But that is not what we are talking about here; we are talking serious business. Let’s say we plan to attack their planet tomorrow, to seize it and make it our own, to force them to come harvest our potatoes, our almondsand tomatoes, our oranges and grapes, and so on and so forth. Yes, certain requirements must be met. It would be regrettable, if peradventure they stumble upon them. 20 Childhood
To receive the LARB Quarterly Journal, become a member or purchase a copy at your local bookstore. This is a really complicated question. Perhaps a close friend or family member installed those for you. Those boxed-up video cassettes in the basement. Now is not the time for a moment of silence. Even drowsy eyes can pick up a mess. Tag is not such a good idea either because being called “It” is not good for an alien’s self-esteem. Don’t forget to always keep that door closed, and they never forget. Just teach them to worship in the way you worship. You must also be sensitive in your choice of entertainment. When you touch the feather dust ever so lightly, patting their nose three times, the sneezing will stop. It is good manners to host visitors as you would family, or perhaps even better. You know those things that look like turned out giant’s ears, eavesdropping into every terrestrial and non-terrestrial conversation? Those are a no-no. The truth is that no one knows whether aliens have souls. Do not be surprised if they beg you to tell them what to do. Well, some do but in a few others, they are shown to be humorless savages, creepy and wide-eyed, just saying, “Take me to your leader.”
You should know that your baby will experience…perhaps we don’t have the word for it. Osondu is the author of the collection of stories Voice of America and the novel This House is Not For Sale. The worst thing that you can tell an alien baby is that they are free to do as they like. All the things of Earth belong to Earth and the things of space belong in space. Look at the world we live in today. You probably don’t know this, but here is a useful fact: when alien babies start sneezing, nothing can stop them except the finely ground feathers of the alien bird Okanukapi. Those antennas are useful for sending back information to mother planets. You don’t want your guest seeing itself through your eyes. They exist for a reason. Our alien guests will grab and twist every antenna-finger to tell their people sensitive things about us, if we let them. You are never going to catch your alien ward with their hand in the cookie jar, literally or metaphorically. What do you think they’d do if they get this actionable piece of information? Though we welcome the alien baby we would prefer to keep communication to a minimum. Alien babies are pretty much self-contained. It is something the Earth babies sense instinctively. They immediately begin to point and yell. What kind of games should you play with your alien baby, you ask? They can hide, but when you seek them you can never find them. Some even look for ways to make them break the rules so they can feel they are actually fulfilling their parental duty. They will not sass you back or slam the door. Definitely not hide-and-seek. You shouldn’t just abandon the baby and run off to church, or the mosque, temple, ashram, or meditation center. But how many people have Okanukapifeathers in their medicine cabinet? Don’t worry that your ward may proselytize, return to their little planet up there and try to convert their kin to their new faith. His fiction has appeared in the Atlantic, AGNI, n+1, Guernica, Kenyon Review, McSweeney’s, Zyzzyva, Threepenny Review, New Statesman and many other publications and has been translated into over half a dozen languages. You will not be ashamed by the photographs in the newspapers. Don’t worry too much about it. And none of your old DVDs and space-themed movies from yesteryear. What for, you ask? But corny jokes aside, what on Earth do alien babies eat? Another rule: your house must not have any satellite dishes. Surely, the Germans do — they have a word for everything. You know the ones I’m talking about. Think of your alien baby as a fruit. Mars Bars, of course! As you well know, in warfare, surprise attack is the mother of victory. These are the most dreaded aspects of parenting that neither parent nor child look forward to. They will know about your bowel movements too, how regular you are and if you tend to get discombobulated when you feel backed up. Freewill makes us human and it is the absence of freewill that makes an alien an alien. Do you realize that most of these those movies — yes, most — portray aliens as kind and generous and loving? There is something about them that unnerves our Earth babies. It’s like they’re looking at something crazy! Alien babies know how to obey rules. Indeed, many have concluded that their only real function as parents is to correct their children when they stray from the straight and narrow path. Always tuck in your shirt, you say, and they always will. This is a well-known phenomenon in Rocket Science: even when satellites die, their pings do not. How many times a day do they pray? Of what use are such questions? They will never break the rules. Always tidy your bed when you wake up in the morning. You must have some source of gainful employment. You don’t want to go about hurting the feelings of our little alien baby. No Syfy channel on your TV please. They are low-maintenance babies. What kind of atmosphere do you need for your alien ward to thrive? Some parents have even found this fact to be frustrating, and have actually started to wish that their ward wouldbreak the rules. Many have asked, If aliens do not have souls, does that mean they do not sin?If they do not sin, does that mean there are no heavenly consequences for their actions? Sit, you tell them, and they sit. Yes, of course they’ll know all that stuff, you probably don’t want an entire planet knowing these things. Of course they would strike our planet. A quiet neighborhood without Earth babies would be an ideal location to raise your alien baby. More on this later, but let’s just avoid it for now. It comes as a surprise then, when they discover that alien children don’t need to be disciplined. Your lawn should be photogenic, prepared for media coverage. You wave, and they wave back. It is in no way a commentary on your parenting skills. Finally the day comes. You set the rules. You feel no ache and so you close your eyes and continue to wave. If you would like to commemorate the many who have fallen while installing those spiky, dozen-fingered blighters, please take that moment at a later time. Another question you may have: what to feed an alien baby? Many theologians have spent years examining this question from different angles. You always knew it would, though you didn’t realize that it would come so soon. In what faith should you raise your alien baby? Get rid of them, every single one. You will never stop playing, you will be old and gray and still in the same game of follow-the-leader. What do they bow down to? Always remember: country first, our planet first. You don’t want your alien baby using your house as a transmission center for sending messages back to his mother planet. They are meant to be obeyed. I am talking about nostalgia for the mother planet, otherworldly homesickness. What your alien baby needs is simply for you to sit them down and gently sing this folk song:
Papa went to the market eeya
Mama went to the market eeya
Papa will buy some savory moin-moin
Mama will buy some savory akara
On their return I will say Papa welcome
On their return I will say Mama welcome
And we shall feast igomiligo
And we shall feast igomiligo
By the time you are done your alien baby will be fast asleep, snoring slightly, an odd, peaceful smile on their face. You wave again, and keep waving at your alien baby until the spacecraft has completely disappeared.
E.C. Do not ever open that door, you say, and they’ll never touch it. Their society follows a strict command and obedience structure, you see. Before you know it, they’ve annexed our home — our dear mother Earth — and taken us to their red, dusty planet and forced us break rocks all day while we sing “By the Rivers of Babylon.” Please, no antennas on your roof. Tell them what to do, and how to do it. Yes, that is a fact and you can take it to the bank. Grapes need a certain type of weather and soil to do well. The first thing to know about taking care of alien babies is that you must have a large, well-manicured lawn. You are the alien baby’s Earth mom; it has many other mothers elsewhere. You watch the door close. They have an industrial blender where their alimentary canal should be. Your alien baby runs to the spacecraft. Follow-the-leader is also out because they will always follow the leader. If, for instance, you are going to adopt or foster an Earthling child, you have to obey certain rules. The alien will never be human.
Here’s what you need to worry about, though: play dates. Soon it will no longer be a game, and you may need to go to the authorities. Your home must be clean, at least on the day of the inspection. You must be at least 21 years old, because babies can’t look after babies. You are bound to fail but here’s the good thing — an alien child never forgets what he’s been taught. The occasional mild breeze should do the trick. Just keep your home free of dust mites and dander, and any furry dust balls that might trigger a sneezing fit. Very few follow the religion in which they were raised. If they are living with you, they will certainly know all sorts of things about you. Your eyes grow misty, but perhaps it’s just your seasonal allergies, triggered by the freshly cut grass. Why would you think fostering an alien baby is any different? The rulesought to be even more stringent, really. They usually don’t stop yelling until their moms remove them from the scene. This is strange since Earth babies are not ordinarily a discriminating group, but there we have it. The ship lands on your well-manicured lawn. Unfortunately, alien babies don’t play well with others. If there are no heavenly consequences, then should we take it upon ourselves, sinners that we are, to hold them accountable for any violent acts they may commit?This is like asking whether there is more sand under the sea than in the desert. For them, the chain of command is important. They thrive on rules. Your alien baby will definitely get this feeling sometimes, no matter how much of a good Earth parent you try to be. Teach them to help an old lady cross the road, to raise their hat when a lady passes by, to never spit on the street, to pause when a funeral procession goes past, to say “Yes, sir” and “Yes, ma’m.” Teach them to never look down at any individual with disdain or look up to any fellow in fear. An alien child is never going to test boundaries or try to see how far they can push you. It is impossible to raise a child without having to discipline them.
Rules are rules. Like a dog with two heads. And if they do not pray at all, has it made them any worse or better than humankind? Think about their feelings. Well, sooner or later an alien baby must return to its mother planet and the mode of transportation to that planet is the mother ship. So yes, on the subject of lawns: keep it freshly mown with well-trimmed edges so that when that mother ship arrives — silently in the night, with its deep unearthly glow — you will not be ashamed when your neighbors come out of their houses, wearing robes and shoddy slippers. Have you exhausted the sand in the desert? Perhaps they fell to their death in the act. If you keep your house free of dust, you’ll both breathe easier. But you do not have to worry about this because your alien child does not need you to discipline them. Always say please and thank you, and they’ll say it without fail. It is expected that you know that and keep it in mind. You need not towel them dry, nor powder their necks. You linger at your front door. And you bet they wouldn’t show mercy. The spacecraft takes off. This might surprise you. They do not need a daily bath. They will tidy their bed without fail. No air conditioning, no fan. Your hands do not feel tired.