6/12/10 This prompt was “fill in the blank” of this opening sentence:
I am ____________, from ____________, _________ capital of ____________, where nothing ever happened until the summer of _____________ when ___________________ …
I am John Teagarden from Earth, Poppy capital of the galaxy, where nothing ever happened until the summer of the infestation when out backwater planet was discovered by the galactic trade council and their harvest-bots.
Who knew poppies would be our claim to fame, our entry into galactic notoriety. We’d been broadcasting Bach and Beethoven to catch the ears of aliens, we’d said “peace” in all known language and a few we made up, we’d sent out mathematic equations and a poem or two. But what it is that catches their attention? Poppies. The opiate drug grown so cheap and popular in our fertile crescent.
Why poppies? You might ask. Surely not for the ‘altered state’ we humans get from them. Do the aliens want our poppies for art? For fuel? Are they a form of currency? Do they play an important role in a religious ceremony throughout our galaxy? Nope. It’s just dope. Crazy, isn’t it? We finally make contact with intelligent life in the universe and it turns out they’re just as dumb as we are.
And here’s the real kicker. Who do you think was running the best poppy business when the harvest-bots landed? The Taliban! Any sane, freedom-loving liberal figured a way off the planet as soon as possible after the Taliban took over the global franchise of poppy trade with the aliens.
That’s why I’m stuck here in this stupid cantina looking for work and stupidly trying to still give a damn about civil rights and the environment and peace.
So I’m living here on the planet of Onos – a planet with a highly transient population and only a small indigenous community that makes tons of money off the travelers and temporary residents such as myself. I have a small room behind this cantina and the owners let me work a patch of ground out back. It’s not exactly a garden and I’m not making any claims as to how any of the food will taste because it’s not exactly soil or ‘earth’ that I’ve got my carrots and cabbages growing in. We’ll see.
This morning I found a pile of, I guess, sticks and leaves all over my garden. They are not exactly sticks and leaves, you understand, but what else can I call the stuff that regularly falls off the native plant life of this planet? Anyway, I think my neighbor is dumping this tree litter on my garden. He’s done it before.
His name is Bill, but that’s not his real name. He pretends to be from Earth, but he’s not. I tried to explain this to him or to anyone else but they don’t believe me. “Bill” has been here for years claiming to be from Earth. He does sort of look like someone from Earth, the bipedal upright way of walking, arms, hands, opposable thumbs and all that. But his skin color is all wrong and he is too tall and too thin, his eyes are too big and his nose is too small. Yet everyone is always saying how much we look alike and how nice it must be for Bill to have someone like him around. I can’t believe I’ve traveled billions of miles from Earth only to still have to deal with racist ideas like “you all look alike to me.”
Anyway, I want to tell you about what happened with this “Bill” guy and my garden because it is really weird. This morning after clearing all that stuff off my garden I was in the cantina eating breakfast when he walks in a sits down across from me smiling. Sort of. See, that may be the biggest reason why I hate him. He pretends to be from Earth but he can’t smile without it looking like a smirk or like he’s about to eat me.
So he says to me, “Yohn, you are no like I give you com-post.”
I can’t tell if he is making a statement, an accusation, or if this is a question. His English is terrible; he has no feel for inflection and syntax. His vocabulary is passable but grammar still throws him.
“You’re putting compost on my garden?” I ask. “My carrots don’t need compost.” I tell him.
“I you help grow poppies for good,” he says.
I sigh. Poppies, why is it the only thing people want from me is poppies? I smile, showing my teeth a little. “No poppies. And don’t put compost on my garden, or else.” I raise my eyebrows at him suggestively. I’ve discovered a lot of aliens like how much my face can move – particularly my eyebrows.
Bill leans forward, “No compost. No poppies. You me kill dead or maybe planet save yes.” Whoa – my head was spinning. Did he just threaten to kill me or does he think I’d kill him for putting compost on my carrots? I wish he would just go away and leave me alone.