“Is that,” I said, “is that one of yours?” It didn’t look like a fishbowl. It looked like a purple moon.
“No,” said J.Lo. “Not one of ours.”
Slushious had come to a stop, and J.Lo got out. I followed him to the side of the road. Pig purred and rubbed up against us, but I was barely aware of her. I sat still in the grass, hypnotized by the thing.
“Should…should we go?” I said. “Is it close?”
J.Lo shook his head. “Is not close. Is very big, and very far away.”
The surface of it seemed to move. It seemed to shudder and writhe. But I thought it might have been a trick of the air. A mirage.
“You probably better tell me about this thing,” I said.
“It is a Gorg ship,” said J.Lo. “It is the Gorg. They have come now to take Smekland for their own. The Boov will to fight them, but the Boov will lose. And…andit…it is alls my fault.”
His skin was pale and blue.
“This has something to do with the antenna farm?”
J.Lo nodded. “I sent them a signal. I did not to means to. It was for an accident. But I sent them a signal when I was testing the antennas.”
“That must have been a strong signal.”
“Yes. Yes, too strong. Much too strong. Not pointed correctly. When I did saw where it went, to what part of the sky, I knew the Gorg could catch it. I was to hoping they would not catch it.”
“What was in this signal?” I asked.
“Does not matter. The Gorg would to have come no matters what. They would to have come as soon as they were learning that there is a good world here for taking.”
The wind whistled by us. I had to stop myself shivering, though it was as hot as bathwater.
“It’s so big.”
“Mah,” J.Lo breathed. “This is the smallest kind.”
“But really…what did you send? There weren’t any radio or television stations transmitting anymore.”
“No. It was just a little song. I singed a little song to see if the antennas were able to be sending it back to my scooter.”
“What kind of song?”
“A kid song. A children’s play song.”
“How did it go?”
“Hm. It will not to rhyme in humanspeak.”
J.Lo thought for a moment.
“It goes…it goes, Gorg are dumb, dumb like soap, their wives are wider than they should be.”
“Uh-oh,” I said, looking ahead at the big purple ball.
“The funny part,” said J.Lo, “is that Gorg do not even have wives.”
“You should have told me about this. You said the Boov were after you because you made a mistake. This is one hell of a mistake, pardon my language.”
“Oh,” said J.Lo. “Oh yes, I am supposing I should have to told you all about it, liketo you were telling me about humans hiding in this Happy Mice themed park? Hm?”
“That’s different. Those humans…I thought there were people plotting to get rid of the Boov! To kick them off our planet! You wouldn’t have understood. You would never have gone along with that.”
The sun was higher in the east, and it lit up the big Gorg ship like a heat lamp on a meatball.
“I mean…what is it with you people? It’s not enough you stole the whole earth and my mom and everything? You had to go and invite Planet Purple and the…Purple People, too?”
“Gorg,” corrected J.Lo. “And their skins are colored mostly green—”
“It doesn’t matter!” I said, standing. “Green or purple…it’s still the wrong color skin, and they aren’t welcome here!”
I breathed heavily and thought.
“Okay, that came out wrong,” I said, “but still—”
“The Gorg, they might have anyways learned about this world. They might to have picked up the human televisions—”
“But they hadn’t yet, so you thought, ‘Hm…maybe for I to give my Gorg friends a call, maybe they can to come for my Let’s Ruin Everything Jerk Party!’”
“They are not my friends!” J.Lo shouted. His face was burning pink. “You may not say it! The Gorg are friends of no one! NO ONE!”
“They are monsters!”
“Okay,” I said.
I settled on the grass again, and we sat in silence for a minute. I was kind of dizzy, kind of light-headed, and I had what you might call a vision. Or you might not; that’s your thing. But I could see the Boov and humans and J.Lo and me and my mom and everybody all at once, and there were lines connecting us—a constellation. I only got it for a second, like it was a secret.
“I am thinking we are alls in the same car now,” said J.Lo. “We should to have no more secretions.”
I took a deep breath and nodded.
“And…” said J.Lo, “and I might also have gone along with that.”
I turned. “With what?”
J.Lo looked at his little feet. “With your plotting humans hiding themed park boys. I am thinking maybe the Boov should not to have come to Smekland. To…Earthland.”
I kept my mouth shut and listened.
“Before we came, Captain Smek and the HighBoovs telled us that the humans needed us. That the humans were just like the animals, and that we could to make them better. Teach to them. We were told the humans were nasty and backwards. It…it is what we thought.”
“And what do you think now?” I asked.
J.Lo seemed about to speak, but nothing came. He opened his mouth, and closed it, and opened it once more. He clenched his hands and curled his legs up against his body.
“I am thinking I am very sorry, Gratuity,” he said.
And I said, “Call me Tip.”
So anyway. You all know what happened next, or you think you do. You know what happened with the Gorg. As for what Smekday means to me, this is it: every year as Smekday—as Christmas—rolls around again, I remember that day in Florida, and what J.Lo said, and what I decided. How there was nothing to it when it happened. Lightning didn’t crash, I did not think, All right then, I’ll go to Hell, pardon my language. I just decided to stick by a friend.
Most everyone thinks of Smekday as the day the Boov arrived, and as the day they left, one year later. But the longer they’ve been gone, the less I care about that. The Boov weren’t anything special. They were just people. They were too smart and too stupid to be anything else.