Darryl’s Special Night


8 Seventhmonth 459A

Dear Ken,

I’m writing this letter in a hurry, because we’ve been busy getting ready for our big trip and we got home late from Darryl’s school play. Harshan and Darryl are both snug in their beds, but you know me and this extra-long Homelander day. I’m so tired I could drop, yet I can’t sleep a wink!

I guess I’d better fill you in on things. We’re going to travel back to Earth to visit my mother, and since the spaceport is in Fomin (capital of the United Republic of Halakan), we’ll stop in and see Harshan’s folks as well. Darryl will get to see all of his grandparents!

Now I know what you’re thinking, and shame on you! I can hear you from twelve light-years away! “Melissa and Harshan can’t even afford to buy a car, so where are they getting the money for this trip?” Ha-ha! I knew you were thinking that! You forget, however, that Harshan used to work for a spaceship line, and now works for a travel agency. When you add up all the discounts, there’s really very little left to pay. Then we did receive an anonymous donation to the tune of 65,536 Ducats. I have no idea where it came from; one day I was sorting through the mail, and there it was! I think somebody took up a collection for Darryl, and I suspect that it was his teacher. (When I first told her about the money, she didn’t even pretend to be surprised; she just smiled.) That rather large sum of money, when combined with Harshan’s discounts, means that we can practically travel on pocket money!

Darryl’s school play went very well this evening. The class chose to reenact the War of the Fayne. They did a very good job of it, too! I particularly liked the ingenious way that they staged the automobile accident at the climax.

Then came Darryl’s part. Since he is the only alien in the class, he doesn’t really know enough about Thorgelfaynese history to participate in the reenactment very well. So his teacher asked him to write a song about himself that he could perform as an interlude between two scenes. Darryl wrote a poem, then the music teacher “collaborated” with him to write the music. John Anderson—in his public debut!—accompanied him on the skritch.

You’ve got to picture this to appreciate it:

The auditorium stage was clear, except for the black curtain that served as a backdrop. Darryl walked to the center of the stage. The audience was restless, because they had been sitting for forty-eight minutes or so; but Darryl was resolute. Another child sat on the stage behind Darryl underneath a black blanket. She had a flashlight with her that had been covered with light-proof tape, which she had pricked with a pin. When the lights dimmed, she aimed her flashlight at the backdrop, which was instantly covered with hundreds of little dots of light. What an ingenious special effect! It looked like Darryl was standing in front of a backdrop of twinkling stars! Oohs and aahs of parental appreciation oozed from the audience. John skritched away. Darryl, visibly counting, began to sing his poem:

“I come from a star so far away,
Which one it is, I cannot say…”

That’s just my hackneyed translation of the first two lines; you’ll have to take my word for it that it was an impressive poem. Darryl’s plaintive, little-boy voice and the wail of the skritch combined to make it a very beautiful song. Even the amateurish, improvised “special effects” only served to strengthen it.

In his song, Darryl told about his lonely life in the orphanage and his former deafness. The audience was deeply moved, because he was describing a type of emotional poverty quite impossible on Homeland. They were caught between empathy for Darryl’s past and horror at the conditions on his former world. Darryl went on to explain how exciting it was to find out that his new foster father was an alien from outer space. (To the audience, Darryl was the ‘alien from outer space,’ so this sudden role reversal had the effect of a well-needed humorous relief.) Darryl mentioned his ear operation in passing, and finished his song by glorifying Thorgelfayne and all the friends he has here.

I suppose by any sober musicological standard, the song was just mediocre. The tune was nice, thanks to the music teacher, and John’s skritching was just adequate for the occasion, but the overall effect was stunning. The audience knew that Darryl was an alien and that he sang a true account of his life; they applauded what they knew more than what they heard, I’m sure. Darryl beamed as he bowed.

Darryl’s part was over at this point, so he hopped down from the stage and ran into the audience to sit between us for the remainder of the play. John straggled behind and sighed into the chair on my right.

“Was it good?” Darryl asked, as soon as he was in his seat.

“That was a fabulous song, space cadet!” Harshan rubbed Darryl on the head. On my right, John was slowly putting his skritch back into its case.

“Thanks, Dad,” Darryl chirped, “And I wasn’t even scared!” Well, perhaps in retrospect he wasn’t.

“It sounds like you’re going to miss all your friends while we’re gone,” I observed, “are you sure you want to go to Earth?”

“We aren’t going to stay there forever, are we?” Darryl asked in sudden terror.

“Oh, no!” I laughed. “We’re just going to visit Grandma Franklin in Chicago, and then come back.”

“Whew!” Darryl sighed, mopping his forehead with the back of his hand, “that’s a relief!” He bent over to tie a shoe. “It’s a nice place to visit, but I don’t want to stay there!”

John and I laughed uproariously at that one, but we had to squelch it immediately: it wasn’t appropriate for the scene on the stage.

“That was actually a very difficult song,” John volunteered out of nowhere, “I was terrified that I’d ruin it at any moment.”

To be truthful, I don’t think anyone even noticed the skritch. We were all wrapped up in the words to Darryl’s song, and the sincerity with which he sang it. “It came off quite well,” I reassured John, with a pat on the arm.

“Thanks,” he said. Then he added in an apologetic tone, “I even missed a few notes, but I guess no harm was done.”

Darryl tugged on my sleeve: “What about Grandma and Grandpa Nagala?” he whispered.

“We will see them in Halakan, before we get on the spaceship,” I reassured him.

We then directed our attention to the Founding of the Guilds, which was being reenacted on stage by members of Darryl’s class.

We had planned to head for home and go straight to bed the instant the play was over, but we were detained by a number of people who wanted to congratulate Darryl on his song.

So! Those are the events of the day! We will be leaving here tomorrow, Fourthday, the twelfth of Seventhmonth. We have an early-morning departure on Kharg-And-Beyond Airlines. (All the flights from Fomin seem to leave in the morning!)

Suddenly, I’m very sleepy, so I’ll have to wrap this up. I’ll send you a note from Fomin, Halakan!

Your friend,

Melissa