It was just after ten on Monday, and I was having a magnificent morning. I couldn’t face another full week of angry MyTablet users phoning about all the glitches that kept popping up. Making a three-day weekend by calling in sick was a no-brainer.
I finished a hot bath with salts from the basket Craig had sent for Valentine’s Day, and wished again that he wasn’t such an incurable nerd. Afterwards, I threw on a plain red t-shirt and some sweat pants.
I was about to recline on the couch with Dr. Whiskers and a salacious new romance novel from Bethany when what sounded like a train derailment shook the house. Multicolored lights blinked rhythmically through the windows.
I dove under the couch and Dr. Whiskers disappeared. Then — silence, followed by a faint high-pitched sound.
I extricated myself from the couch and headed to the kitchen. Grabbing a chef’s knife, I steeled myself for whatever came.
Bright light shone through drawn blinds as I reached for the door handle. It was warm to the touch. To my horror, it began to turn in my hand. I recoiled and took several steps back.
The door swung wide, revealing three skinny figures. As my eyes adjusted to the harsh backlight, I could see fur with intricate spirals of color. None of them were taller than my stove. They looked like ornate stuffed animals that had gone through a taffy puller.
“Thank goodness we’ve found you,” said the middle one. “Has there been a cataclysm?”
“Um, I don’t think so. Why?”
“This is the fourth domicile we have visited, yet you are the first human we have encountered.”
I loosened my grip on the knife. “Well, it is Monday. Everyone’s working.”
“Well, the other males yes. But we have seen no females.”
“I’m a female,” I said indignantly. Confused, they leaned into a huddle, whispering in an alien language. One of them looked up to inspect me, then resumed whispering.
“So you are female then?” asked the leader.
“See,” said the one on the left. “I told you. She was preparing the evening meal, that’s why she has the cutting instrument.”
I looked at the chef’s knife and decided not to correct him.
“Then why does she wear the forked garment?” The one on the right pointed at my legs. “Should she not wear the long garment to conceal her shape from competing males?”
“These are sweat pants,” I said testily. “And I could use a few more ‘competing males’ around. Not that it’s any of your business.”
“What is wrong with your face?” asked the leader. “Have you fallen ill too?”
“Excuse me?” I shouted. “What do you mean, what’s wrong with my face?”
“It lacks contrast.”
“That’s because I’m not wearing make-up, you little creep.” He looked confused. “You know, eye-shadow, lip-stick?” This led to another huddle.
The leader reemerged. “Do you not wear this ‘make-up’ for when your mate returns?”
“I don’t have a ‘mate’.”
This shocked them. “How will you bear offspring before your reproductive window passes?” said the one on the left.
“What?!” I said, exasperated. “Did my mother send you three?”
“No, we come in search of The Cleaver.”
“Well, I don’t have one. I don’t eat a lot of meat, and the filet knife works well for most… Wait, why do you want a cleaver?”
“No. The Cleaver,” said the leader. “Is this not Pine Street?”
“Do the Cleavers not live at 211 Pine Street?”
A childhood memory clicked into place. “Hold on. You mean to tell me that you want to talk to Ward and June Cleaver?”
“Yes. We witnessed his parables. We seek an audience with The Cleaver, to ask permission to procure Earth females.”
“Procure females?” I repeated in shock. “Why?”
“Because they exhibit many of the traits we valued in our own females before they were taken by the illness.”
“Your women died of disease?” I asked, trying to keep up.
“Not a disease of the body, but of the mind. Our females went mad, abandoning our world sixty-three of your years ago, taking with them genetic material that they had collected covertly over many mating cycles.”
“Okay, time out.” I tried to make sense of what I was hearing. “You mean to tell me that your women ran off with buckets of sperm. So you came here for replacements because you think human women are obedient little housewives, based on what you saw on old episodes of Leave it to Beaver?”
“That was decades ago. Times have changed. The first four houses were empty because men and women have jobs. Men are expected to do their fair share of the housework and help raise the kids. Women expect to be treated equally these days.”
“Our females exhibited similar symptoms before the illness entered the final phase.”
“Those aren’t symptoms!” I screamed. “Boy. I can’t imagine why they ran off on you.”
“Neither can we,” said the one on the left.
“If women hold jobs, why are you at home?” asked the leader.
“I called in sick.”
“So the illness has spread to Earth as well.” The leader was crestfallen. “We will have to move on to Gendolia.”
“Oh, don’t give up so quickly.” My eyes lit with devilish humor. “There’s another species here that’s right up your alley. The women raise the kids and still find time to prepare meals. Males lay around most of the day sleeping, eating, mating, and occasionally fighting for dominance.”
“Really! That’s perfect,” said the excited leader. “Where can we find this species?”
“Just head to Africa and ask for the lions.”
“Wonderful. Do you think these lions will be receptive?”
“Are you kidding, furry little critters like you? They’ll eat you right up. I promise.”
Patrick S. Tomlinson lives in Wisconsin, where he is hard at work writing his first novel. In addition to trying to claw his way up the publishing ladder, Patrick also helps edit stories for Apex Magazine. Time not writing is spent training for triathlons, maintaining a stable of Ford Mustangs, and snuggling with his unnaturally supportive wife.