He/she/it approached the counter in a manner that can only be described as waddling, as its four legs splayed out from its lower torso rather widely. There was a plaintive look to its seven-eyed visage, as if it were unsure of its welcome. "The nice people over at the employment office told me to come here."
"It takes all kinds," said the frowsey-looking woman behind the counter in a bored voice. Evidently she had seen it all and had determined not to believe a word of it. "Here," she added, thrusting a large pile of official U.S. Government forms into the alien's eagerly outstretched tentacles. "Fill these out and bring them back. Be sure to use a number two pencil. Write clearly and legibly or you'll have to do it over again." She paused, as if for effect. "In English.... You can write in English, can't you?"
"Oh my, yes. Indeed," answered the alien. "Thank you in the extreme!"
"There are desks over there," said the woman, waving her hand to vaguely indicate the far wall of the lobby.
The alien nodded its gourd-shaped head and waddled over to the indicated desks. Head bent in furious concentration, it began the arduous task of completing the seemingly infinite reams of forms. Occasionally scratching its head with a tentacle-tip at the confusing details asked for by the documents, the alien finally filled out the last line of the forms and rejoined the line at the window. After some time had passed it was finally his turn.
"Next," said the woman behind the counter.
"Thank you," said the alien. "I believe I have it all finished." It passed the pile of papers back through the window to the woman. She quickly flipped through the stack, occasionally placing a check-mark next to some of the items. "All right, everything seems to be in order. Go through that door and wait. When enough people are there a bailiff will lead you through the oath, then you'll be a citizen."
"Most kind you are. Thank you again," said the alien. It waddled off in the direction of the indicated door to await the rest of its processing.
"Next," it heard the woman say again, her voice never losing the bored tone.
After another interminable wait, the alien was able to take the oath of citizenship along with a room- full of other immigrants. It then made its way happily back to the employment office to present its papers to the officials there.
"Next," said the bored-sounding man behind that particular counter.
"Thank you," said the alien, its voice bubbling with happiness. "I have just received my citizenship papers and I would like to get a job."
"All right," sighed the man behind the counter. "Do you have any skills?"
"Well, I am patient, polite, and eager to become a productive member of society," answered the alien.
"That's not quite what I had in mind," said the man, rubbing his head as if to forestall a headache. Its gonna be a looooong day, he thought. "I meant job-related skills, like construction worker or bricklayer... something that will narrow down the area you you'd have to choose from. Since you just got your papers, your choices are gonna be limited anyway."
"Oh... I was a wild-life management specialist back home," said the alien after a short pause for thought.
"Not much call for that in the big city, kid. Most of the wildlife around here prefers to manage itself. Anything else?"
"Well, I did work my way through college as a busboy in a restaurant."
The man behind the counter made a check-mark on a form. "Not many openings in the food services industry listed today," he said.
The alien thought some more and then sighed heavily. "I can't think of anything else. I piloted my spaceship over 4000 lightyears to get here, dodging planetoids and dustclouds the whole way, threaded my way through the Strategic Air Command radar fields without getting shot down, landed near Central Park, fought off five muggers, and stood in lines all day just to find out I don't have any salable job skills? What a revolting development!"
"Hang on there," said the man. "I think maybe we finally got something to work with here." He detached a card from one form, checked-marked a box in another, and stapled several forms together. Handing the forms and card to the alien he grinned. "Go to the address on this card, they hire lotsa of immigrants. You know, you really gotta learn to cope with all the waiting, sport. Don't let it get you down."
"Oh thank you," the alien gushed. It turned and rushed out of the building in search of the address on the card.
"Next," said the man behind the counter.
Needless to say, the alien found the business in question quickly. They took some convincing in order to give it a job, but finally they did. The alien worked hard, followed all the rules, attended night-school to better himself, joined the proper union, and did all the right things in order to become a model U.S. citizen. He even registered to vote and got an internet account with AOL. Ten years later, he was still Acme Cab Company's only English-speaking driver in New York City.
Dan Hollifield (Aphelion Webzine's Editor, by the way) was born in 1957 at almost the same minute that Sputnik II was launched. This seems to have warped his point of view in the fact that he has always been rather a nut on the subject of spaceflight. He lives in Athens, Ga. USA. More biographical info can be found at The Mare Inebrium website- if you need that sort of thing. More of his work can be found at Aphelion Webzine.
If you like this story and you wish to tell Dan so you can e-mail him by clicking here.