I wrote this for my Creative Writing class. This is the semi-edited version, put up for the edification of Robin Sena and the rest of the folks at Harry's. Some bits are true, some aren't, and it's up to you to decide when I'm lying to you. Enjoy!
The first clue I got that my dad was an alien of dwarf (the species, not the variant of human, think Tolkien) is really a funny story. I used to work at a petstore, this was a few years ago, and my dad walked in. I was surprised, Dad almost never came to the store when knew I was working. I walked up behind him and was about to say Hi and ask him what the hell he was doing there when he turned around.
The man wasn’t my dad.
It wasn’t surprising that I mistook him for Dad, they looked so much alike they might as well have been brothers. The were both short, shorter than me and I’m not exactly tall, had beards, hair the same color of used-to-be-blond, eyes that were Icelandic blue. How I wished I had gotten my father’s eyes! Instead I had my mother’s brown cow eyes. The man was waiting for me to speak.
"Oh! I’m sorry! Areyoufindingeverythingallright?" I asked in one big rush.
"Ah, yeah." He then told me he was looking for a cockatiel for his two daughters. I helped him choose a bird and a cage, food, toys, vet, all that stuff.
As I checked him out I commented just how much he resembled Dad.
"Oh, really?" he said, clearly bored.
"Yeah. He’s a rockhound."
The guy blinked, "Really?" he said, finally interested. "I collect pyrites, but I don’t have time to go out into the field."
I laughed a bit, "he also has a meteorite he bought off ebay, 42 pounds."
Now he was laughing, "Mine’s bigger, 58."
Later that night I told my parents about the Guy Who Was Like Dad. Mom looked slyly at Dad. "Maybe he’s related to you!"
That was my second clue something was up, even though at the time I wasn’t collecting clues.
A couple weeks later I was reading the newspaper. There was a story in the paper about a man who had died in Eastern Oregon, searching for Josephineite, ‘a rare mineral from the earth’s mantel,’ the story read, and as usual it was completely wrong. Josephineite was from the Earth’s core, not it’s mantel. And it’s an iron/nickel alloy that is only found one place in the world, Josephine Creek in southern Oregon. This is what happens to children of rockhounds, they know geeky rock stuff. The photo of the guy looked just like Dad.
Okay, I thought, this is starting to creep me out. How many guys are out there who love rock and look just like my dad?
That weekend Dad hauled me off to the Rice Museum, over in the Rock Creek area. Mr. Rice was a guy who was into rocks in a major way, and upon his death he had his house and collection turned into a museum for other rockgeeks, I mean rockhounds, to come and drool over. This month there was a fantabulas exhibit of fossilized wood on display, on loan from a married couple of fossilized wood geeks. Naturally Dad dragged me along to go see it.
I wasn’t that I wasn’t interested, mind you. I actually do kind of like this stuff, although the extent of my ‘collecting’ was picking up a couple of rocks that might look good in one of my reptile habitats. I’m more of a live-animal type person myself. It’s just that there is only so much of the rock-geek stuff I can stand. It wasn’t so bad when we went out camping, while he hunted for thunder eggs I would be turning over stones looking for snakes and lizards, but a museum? Sheesh. Oh well, I love my dad and I do love spending time with him so I’m willing to put up with a few boring times in my life.
We got there and started looking around at all the various rocks on display, or at least he was. I was looking at the people. Or rather I was looking at a certain type of people, suspiciously Dad-like people. Who looked like Dad, and were also looking at rocks.
Um. Okay, that’s just plain weird.
There appeared to be at least four of them, the museum was rather crowded thanks to a story in the newspaper, and I thought one of them might have been the guy I met at the petstore. If he was he didn’t recognize me, which wasn’t too surprising since he was drooling over a display of pyrites. Nice big floaters too, I could see, perfectly cubic.
I heard Dad call my name, apparently it was our turn to go down and look at perfectly ordinary pieces of wood that had been turned into stone. Or something. I walked over to him like a dutiful daughter (I hope he noticed, it isn’t often that I’m dutiful), and then followed him down the stairs into the special exhibit hall. On the way down the stairs we passed one of the Dad-clones, as I was beginning to call them in my own mind, and I just so happened to notice him palming a note to my dad. Neither of them stopped to talk or even appeared to notice the other.
It was this point that I decided that I had entered The Twilight Zone. I swore I could hear the sound track.
The wood was indeed wood. It looked like you would expect would to look like if it got turned to stone. Not particularly exciting. I preferred the opal camel’s tooth we found in an opal bed we found at the Sheldon Wildlife Refuge in Nevada. A camel’s tooth that was made of opal is so much cooler then a bunch of wood. I did like the fossilized pinecones, however.
On the way home I asked Dad about the Dad-clone on the stairs (of course I didn’t call him that), and what that note was. Much to my surprise Dad denied getting any note from anyone, let alone a stranger who happened to look like him. That was an outright lie and he had to have known it. I was hurt and angry and thus said a few things I perhaps shouldn’t have said. As a result neither of us spoke to the other for the rest of the day.
I like to stay up late and Dad likes to go to bed early, so it was much to my surprise several days later when he didn’t go to bed when he normally did. For some reason mom didn’t seem to mind and went to bed at her ordinary time. Me and Dad had our usual silent battle over the Internet (yes, we still have dialup), and I lost, mostly because I wanted to work on a story. I continued working, just as I’m doing now, and almost didn’t notice when Dad left the house.
I heard the back door shut and a minute later one of the Suburbans started up. I raced outside to see Dad start to drive off in the ’69. Curious, I hurried out just in time to see him disappear into the darkness. Looking down I found a piece of paper that had been carelessly dropped on the ground. I picked it up and read it.
"We’ll meet you at your mine. Family business."
I knew where his mine was, but why was he meeting those guys there? Plus there was the fact they invited him, not the other way around. More-over, I know who my family is, and none of these guys were ever introduced to me at a family gathering. I just didn’t get it.
I never read Nancy Drew as a kid, but if I did I’m sure I would have read a story similar to this one. That is, Nancy would not have gone back to bed and waited for her father to return and refuse to answer her questions. No, she would have done what I did which is to get into her car and take off after him. Fun stuff never happens if you sit on your butt at home.
So that’s what I did. I didn’t bother trying to follow Dad, I knew where he was going. His mine, which wasn’t really his, was way out past Eugene on a gravel road as close to the middle of nowhere you can get without leaving the Willamette valley. The mine was an old barite mine, which is a type of heavy crystal he digs up and sells on ebay. Why he does this, I haven’t a clue. It’s not as if the crystals are actually good for anything other then the fact that the smaller ones make good paperweights. I guess there’s enough people out there just like him (and how like him are they? I wondered) who just plain like to collect rocks, and it doesn’t matter how useful they are.
So I get to the turn off for the gravel road and I stop. There really isn’t many places to park and I was suddenly afraid that if I parked on the road someone would wonder who was driving the Chevy Cavalier, and ask questions and find out that I was spying on them. So, I decided to park it in a parking lot a couple miles up the road and hike in. This lovely plan would allow me to hide my presence, but, on reflection I abandoned it because that meant I would have to walk something like seven miles one way. That would be enough to tire me out and I still might be discovered as they drove past me. Plus, I might miss the meeting.
So I ended up driving the car up the road to the mine. I did park a ways from it in the hopes that they would mistake it for a late night fisher or poacher and be too lazy to call the game warden. Not that I would be in trouble, given that I don’t have a gun. The mine was up on the left side bank, away from the river, and I had to climb upwards trying to avoid the poison ivy and the blackberries. My dad does this for fun, mind you. He even brings his friends out here. I seriously don’t get it.
Any ways, after some scrambling and more then a few scratches I finally get to the mine and found that the gate had been locked. The gate was placed there by the Forest Service people to keep vandals and dumb kids out of the cave, but they routinely cut the lock. My dad, acting on his own, bought a better lock and upgraded the gate, which was quasi-legal but the Forest Service people he talked to didn’t seem to care. He was the only rockhound who used the mine on anything like a regular basis so I guess he thought it was his by default. Even though the Army Corps of Engineers owns it, even though the Forest Service takes care of it. Apparently going inside it and collecting rocks isn’t illegal, even if they did put a gate and lock up. Yeah, I don’t get it either.
The mine itself was surprisingly big for something that had originally been dug out by hand through basalt by one man back in the late 19th century. It is apparently bat habitat, even though it is too wet most of the year for bats, and has the usual assortment of creepy crawly things inside, which is why I like it. There’s nothing quite as cool as cave crickets, with their long spindly legs, or the occasional tree frog.
Any ways, the gate was locked and I didn’t have a key, but I could hear what was going on inside. Not that any of what I heard made sense. There seemed to be a group of men, perhaps a dozen, who were talking in a strange language. One of them was my dad, I recognized his voice, even if I couldn’t understand what he was saying.
Now, I know what many different languages sound like, even if, like the average American, I am monolingual. I used to work at the zoo (retail, nothing exciting) and me and some of my coworkers once made a list of all the languages we heard spoken by different visitors. Every time we heard a language we didn’t recognize we would go up to them and ask what they were speaking, I suppose that might have been a bit rude but no one seemed to mind, and we would always show them the list and just about everyone thought that was cool. We had over a hundred languages before the list was lost. Whatever Dad was speaking now didn’t match any of the languages I heard.
Hell, I knew he used to speak Spanish (Spain Spanish, not Latin American), but not as much anymore. I’d never heard him speak whatever it was he was speaking now. Not even once. It didn’t even sound as if a human had created it, although at the time I didn’t think that could possibly true. The Bushmen’s native tongue, (whatever that was, like I said we lost the list) also doesn’t sound like what a human would create, but it most definitely is.
I wanted to break the lock, but couldn’t. I wanted to understand what they were saying, but couldn’t. So all I could do is stand there and wonder.
I waited until the voices had gotten stronger and it was clear that they were starting to leave. I hurried down the hill in an effort to get to my car and drive off before they did, I didn’t want them to see them, but especially Dad, to see the Chevy.
I think I beat him home by about ten minutes, if that, but it was long enough for me to get inside and up the stairs and into bed without him knowing about it. Mom was still asleep, which was good because I didn’t know how I was going to explain spying on Dad to her. I suspect that she wouldn’t like it at all.
The next day I didn’t say anything to Dad. There wasn’t much point, I suppose, and I was feeling a bit guilty about spying on him. It wasn’t really right, and it wasn’t fair to him. That didn’t stop me from being more curious than Kitty, though. I decided to set up a discreet surveillance, in the hopes that there would be more mysterious meetings. I’m not a very patient person, but the curiosity was eating me alive.
About a month later my patience paid off. When I got home from work one day there was a mysterious message on the answering machine for Dad. A man’s voice spoke, first with a sentence or phrase of that strange language, then in ordinary English.
"Meet us at the mine tonight," he said.
I smiled, Nancy Drew was back in action. Rather then inaction. Heh.
This time I made plans. I packed a sack dinner and a couple bottles of water in a backpack and headed out to the mine. Dad wasn’t home yet, so I knew that I would probably have at least four hours once I got there to get ready myself. I just hoped that the others would wait until after dark to make their move. I drove several past the mine up the gravel road, to where no one but a fisherman would go, or so I hoped. I then hiked back down the road until I got to the mine. There was no sign of anyone else around, and while the air was cool, the day was nice and sunny. A lovely autumn.
I scrabbled up the slope to the mine again, and found a hiding spot high up in an old yew tree. I hoped that as they arrived I would be able to sneak inside, with any luck someone would forget to lock the gate or somehow leave it unattended. I wanted to get inside
I got my chance an hour after sunset. I had probably been sitting up there for more then four hours with my butt getting number and number. Trees are not fun to sit in for hours at time, and I was freezing my ass off. Oh well, that’s the way the world was, I guess.
One of the little men, not my Dad, arrived at the gate. He pulled out a key and unlocked the gate, which surprised me because I thought that Dad was the only one with a key. He went inside and left the gate open for me. Well, not really for me because he didn’t know I was there, but you get the picture.
I had to be careful because the mine wasn’t really all that big, just a couple dozen yards deep. The main part of the cave had already been mined out but it’s first miner, but there was a little side shoot by the entrance that Dad had been excavating for crystals. The hole that he had been working in was considerably bigger then the last time I saw it and I realized that it would make a perfect hiding spot. I climbed in and pulled my dark brown coat over myself and hid in the hole, praying that no one would want to hunt for crystals that day.
Wouldn’t it be ironic if I had been discovered by Dad? I don’t think I would have been able to deal with it.
One by one they arrived. They came in ones and twos mostly, gathering for who knows what. Dad was one of the last to come and my legs were getting tired of sitting there in the hole. He came in and locked the gate, which at least told me which asshole had locked it on me the last time. My legs were cramping, and I was cold, and I wondered just why the hell I hadn’t given up on this spy job so I could be lying in my warm bed. I guess I’m a bit of a masochist.
Dad locked the gate (I could see him if I peaked out from under my coat) when it became clear that he was the last one to arrive. Then he walked over to the rear of the cavern to where the rest were gathered. I snuck out of my hiding spot.
Ten little men, all of whom were exactly like my dad, stood in the middle of the cavern. Squinting, I tried to make out which one was Dad. I thought he might have been the one in the red plaid shirt, it looked very much like the one I gave him two years ago for Christmas, but I couldn’t be sure. Whatever these guys were they had exactly the same kind of fashion sense, or rather lack-there-of, as Dad. It was entirely possible that one of the others was dressed in a red plaid shirt.
As I watched them it suddenly occurred to me that these guys weren’t human. All the stories of dwarves I had ever heard came back to me. Dwarves like mining, and this is a mine. Dwarves made swords and other things, which given that those stories were first told before Christianity meant that modern-day dwarves had to have advanced beyond sword smithing to other things, such as engineering. Dwarvish magic was that of made things, rings and jewelry and swords and other bits and pieces, and certainly everything my dad made had a certain level of awareness to it that an ordinary object should not have. A certain sparkle not normally seen in a water purification plant, for example.
And, well, you know what they say about dwarves. They were always male, and little dwarf babies have to come from somewhere.
Did Mom know about this? I wondered. Why not? I suppose in this day and age it would be wrong for a man to keep his wife in the dark about his true origins, even if he wasn’t human. I wondered, though. Dad had two girls, and no boys. If it was true that only boys were dwarves then he hadn’t done his duty to his species. I don’t know if that mattered or not.
I didn’t know why I was hiding. Certainly Dad was one of the ten, and I couldn’t see him harming anyone, let alone me. I guess I just wanted to see what they would do without outside interference. If they really were what I thought they were than they weren’t human. Was I? After all, half my genetics came from Dad, and if he wasn’t truly human…Well, you know what they say about dwarves. Perhaps the girl-babies are human like their mother, and all the boys are dwarves like their father.
Peaking around the corner I listened with interest to their conversation. I still couldn’t hear what was going on, but I could see what they were doing. It looked like they were holding a debate of some kind. Did dwarves hold elections? I remembered the dead guy in the newspaper. Wild fantasies (which I learned later where not so wild after all) of him being their king, or president, or mayor or something and now that he was dead they had to elect a new one. Maybe that’s what explains all these mysterious meetings, although it did not explain why they were being held in Dad’s mine.
Maybe he was the only one who had one.
They moved around in no real order that I could see and each took a piece of paper and wrote something on it before dropping it into a beat up cowboy hat someone had donated. One of them pulled the papers from the hat one by one, read them, and then made several different piles. All at once the men started cheering and the next thing I knew one of them was being hauled to the front of the group and was handed a random piece of rock. Everybody cheered except for me because I still have no idea what the hell was going on. Was this guy their new leader? A sacrifice to the mountain gods? What? I didn’t know. He looked happy, from what I could tell in the light of the flashlights, so maybe it was okay.
Maybe these guys were human after all, weren’t dwarves supposed to like their mead and feasting? They didn’t have anything to eat or drink, just filed out of the mine one by one. Dad was the last to walk out, still holding his rock. I stood up and didn’t bother trying to hide from him because, well, he was Dad. I decided it was better to fess-up, and maybe not get kicked out of the house, then to forget myself in ten years time and open my dumb mouth.
He smiled at me and didn’t look surprised to see me there. "Did you like the show?" he asked.
"Um, yeah," I said, "how long have you known I was there?"
"Oh, we all knew. I had to talk fast to allow you to stay, but they gave in when they found out you were my daughter."
"Oh," I said. "So what was that about?"
He laughed, long and low and it reminded me just how much I love my Dad. "Boring stuff," he said, "make up your own story, it’s bound to be more interesting."
So I did.