Baja Blast-Off

In the Taco Bell on the moon, there’s an Alien-family holding up the line. Alien-daughter is scanning the holographic menu for vegetarian options. The Alien-cashier tells her he can make a blackhole bean burrito special for her. He tugs a few of his eyes down in a slimy attempt at a wink, and Alien-daughter feels the familiar rake of disgust scrape through all four of her stomachs. Crossing both sets of arms over her chest, she orders a moon cheese quesadilla before fleeing to stand behind her Alien-mom.

     Alien-son wants the soft taco, but Alien-dad doesn’t care. He doesn’t want his son to be soft. Alien-dad orders him the hard shell instead, with beef and sour cream, but buys him cinnamon twists to make up for it. Alien-mom wants to try a fancy Earth beverage, half leaf-water, half lemonade, something she saw in a movie. The Alien-cashier is trying to explain that she gets the drink at the fountain herself, handing her the plastic cup with his eight-fingered hand, but she’s shaking her emerald head, blinking at him with all four of her eyes in unison as she says,“I’m not done ordering.”

     Alien-daughter is fourteen thousand alien years old, so she’s decided she loves Taco Bell more than hydrogen itself. Earth food is delicious, rich and salty and greasy, always leaving her stomachs bubbling. She loves the Earth decorations, the purple seats and shiny tables, the clanging sounds that play over the speakers. Earth music. It hurt her ears at first, but now, she finds herself humming the noises even in her sleep. There’s a cheap screen hanging in the corner, broadcasting grainy pictures of humans. Their faces are strange and beautiful, with two small eyes in the middle, a triangle to breathe from, and a mouth to yell from. That’s not the only thing they use it for. They kiss, too. And drink blood. Alien-daughter saw it in a movie, where a pale human fell in love with a sparkly, bloodsucking human.

     Alien-daughter has never been in love. She thinks Alien-boys are ugly, with their oily cheeks and sunken sets of eyes. She wonders if they think she’s ugly too. She searches for her reflection wherever she can, in the shiny silver of the ship, her ghostly reflection on a glass pane, and when she finds it, she scrutinizes each feature. Her head is a luminescent blue, with a dozen flickering eyes and a tight-lipped mouth. Alien-mom won’t let her paint her face yet, but she does anyway, stealing jars of purple and green from her mother’s drawers. Using the tips of her fingers, she paints triangles over the circles of her face, hoping to look more like the Alien-celebrities. Really, she wishes she could find shades of brown, and look like the humans instead.

     When their food is ready, the Alien-cashier floats it telekinetically to their table. Alien-daughter pries open her quesadilla, picking out the scorching cheese and eating it by the fingerfull. Alien-son licks the cinnamon off his twists with both of his tongues, gulping down his Baja Blast-Off. Alien-mom is still complaining about her drink, which sounded much more delicious and high-class in the Earth movie, and Alien-dad is nodding as his wife drones on, pretending to listen as he lifts his Quadrupelupa to his gaping mouth.

     On the television, an Earth face fills the screen. Alien-daughter is entranced by the Earth girl, with her Mars red lips and the shiny metal encasing her white, square teeth. Her cheekbones sparkle, green rhinestones circling her eyes. Space Girl, the words on her t-shirt read, with a bedazzled star dotting the i. Alien-daughter has never heard of an Earth girl visiting space, but there she is, tucking her head into a glass bubble to hold the oxygen, slipping her limbs into a pink plastic suit.

     “Space is in trouble!” she declares, voice muffled and staticy. “I can fix it!”

     The screen flashes to her ship, a silver box with whirling rainbow lights. Alien-daughter admires it with wide, glowing eyes, deciding she’ll request an identical spaceship for her sweet sixteen-thousand. Space Girl kneels down, picking up a loaf-shaped monster with triangle ears and a thousand teeth.

     “I couldn’t leave without my best pilot,” she says, fitting a smaller bubble over the monster’s face. “He’s the purrrrr-fect sidekick!”

     A laugh track sounds. Alien-daughter doesn’t get the joke, but she laughs anyway, tries to shape her mouth and bend the sound so it comes out just as neatly. Her Alien-family doesn’t notice. Alien-son is busy crumbling his taco wrappers to toss like asteroids toward the waste basket. Alien-parents are fighting again. They were going to take a romantic trip to Saturn’s second ring, but Alien-dad forgot to book it early enough, and now they’re stuck at home. Alien-daughter has learned to tune their voices out.

     She decides that if she meets Space Girl, she’ll become BFF’s with her. Space Girl can bring her down to Earth, where they will have sleepovers every night. Sleepovers are like normal nights, but instead of sleeping, you hit one another with your comfort devices and braid each other’s hair. Alien-daughter considers bringing Space Girl to her own planet, where she can show off to all her fellow aliens that she really is cool, cool enough to make an Earth BFF, but worries Space Girl will find the other aliens cooler than her, so she decides against it. There’s more to see on Earth than in space, anyway.

     “My new episode starts soon,” Alien-mom prompts, tapping her nails against the tabletop. “It’s Keeping up with the Kerugalians, so I don’t want to miss it.”

     Alien-dad nods, licking the Thousand Suns hot sauce off his fingertips. Alien-son refills his cup with the glowing turquoise liquid, slurping it in approval. Alien-daughter keeps all her eyes trained on the television screen as she walks toward the exit, watching Space Girl’s shuttle lift off Earth and beam into the sky.

     On the way back to her planet, Alien-daughter scans for signs of the rainbow lights in the abyss of black beyond her window, holding her breath as she searches for it like a shooting star or supernova, like something that could take her home.

Regan Puckett writes from the Ozarks, and is terribly upset about Taco Bell taking potatoes off their menu. Find her recent work in trampset, MoonPark Review, and more. 

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