My first pet was an alien. He was a little green guy with big black eyes and appeared to be plotting the earth’s demise. From all of the science fiction movies I had watched, that was everything on my checklist for an alien. He was a bit smaller than I had expected, standing maybe 3 inches tall, but Hollywood makes everything seem bigger.
Of all of the awesome places on earth, he decided to land on our lawn mower in our homemade shed in the middle of one of the hottest Texas summers. It probably meant he didn’t do much research before landing or maybe his maps gave him an outdated or futuristic guidelines to our earthly places. At any rate, he was here. In my shed.
My step dad was preparing to mow the lawn when I spotted my alien. He asked me to fetch the lawn mower for him. Sweating dripping down, I sprinted into the shed and immediately froze. He was perched on the handle. I admired his lanky stance, his polished poise as he seemed to be lifting his head up audaciously scoping out this new planet he had discovered. Not a fear sensed. Maybe he had been here before? Or maybe even to an alien unaware of our human ways, I still had the aura of a harmless being?
I tried to say something to him, but no words came out. We have species on earth that don’t understand English so it seemed plausible my words would be wasted on him anyways. Maybe he was a mind reader? But again, my thoughts were in English. Unless he read emotions, like how some of my first memories existed. Not a a place or person or event, but a feeling or a smell I remember very distinctly. Every now and then if I smelled it again or felt it again, I’d remember the safety and loneliness of my nursery. The picture of pink flower fields above my toddler bed. The place I had imagined visiting so many times as I drifted to sleep underneath it. An emotion I didn’t even have a name for but it sent shivers through my body.
Slowly I backed out of the shed and ran to get my brother. I excitedly explained I had found an alien, we needed to find a container. See if maybe we could coax him in it. A giant pickle jar! My mom always washed and saved them. It was big enough and clear so we could get a good look at our alien! Troy grabbed a pickle jar and we darted off to the shed again. I heard my step dad yelling at us to quit playing and just get the lawn mower out here now!
“Hold on! We need to get the alien off of it first!” I yelled back.
I heard my step dad yell something else and then curse. He always thought I was lying. I’d show him my alien as soon as we caught him. My brother and I slowly opened the shed door and saw the alien, still standing on the lawn mower planning our demise. Wherever he came from, there wasn’t an ounce of fear in him.
I opened the pickle jar slowly and glanced at my brother. What were we supposed to use to lure an alien into the pickle jar? My brother grabbed a handful of grass and threw it into the jar. He shrugged. It was worth a shot. My hand shook as I held the pickle jar closer. The alien didn’t flinch or move. Was he dead and maybe I just didn’t recognize death in another planet’s species? I reached my free hand out to touch him. I could feel my heart beating hard and loud. It echoed throughout the shed it seemed. Once my finger touched the aliens back, he turned toward my finger as if to inspect it. Then he crept toward the pickle jar rim and fell in. He regained his balance quickly and stared through the pickle jar glass at me. I could feel his distrust glowing. It wasn’t hard to lose someone’s trust, but it’d be impossible now to regain it now.
We ran into the backyard and sat down to inspect our new pet alien. What would we feed him? Did he drink water? We sprayed a little bit from the hose onto the grass in the pickle jar and waited for his reaction. After a minute of not moving, he dipped his head down to inspect the droplets on the grass. I couldn’t tell if he drank it or not. Maybe he did it telepathically. Just absorbed the water with his mind. I couldn’t see a mouth. Maybe he didn’t need to ingest things to sustain his body. What if he accidentally starved to death?
My brother and I decided to collect the most common kind of bug in our backyard-grasshoppers. We caught them all the time, so it didn’t take long to catch a few and toss it in the pickle jar. We laid on the grass and stared at him waiting. Nothing. The grasshoppers acted as if an alien wasn’t a few inches away from them.
Suddenly, the alien neglected his praying stance and grabbed a grasshopper. He held it still while he peeled it. I felt my stomach drop. Aliens were brutal. Grasshoppers were my current favorite animal and it pained me to see the alien didn’t even have the decency to kill it first before eating it. He just ate it alive. Thank God aliens were too small to consume humans.
“When am I getting the lawn mower?” barked my step-dad.
We jumped and looked up. “We found an alien on the lawn mower!” I exclaimed.
My step-dad rolled his eyes and said, “That’s a praying mantis.”
I turned the pickle jar sideways and let him go. He wasn’t an alien and he was a vicious eater without a shred of decency. I didn’t want him anymore. It was the first time I remember being truly disappointed. If he was an alien, I could a least excuse his barbaric eating habits. But he was of this planet and should have understood pain and suffering. But he didn’t care.