TITLE: Bob Smith
By Ivy Strader
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Bob Smith was tired.
Bob was tired of many things – the telephone ringing, the rain, which hadn't let up since the week before, the dog across the street which never stopped barking. Bob was tired of paying a dollar fifty for the bus every single morning. Bob was also tired because he'd only slept a few hours last night. But mostly, Bob Smith was tired of being disliked.
Bob didn't know why the other people disliked him. He always tried to be nice, he smiled, he made conversation. But when Bob joined a conversation, it always stuttered to a halt. People would avoid Bob's eyes when they talked to him and make an excuse to leave. The sweet girl at the front desk made no comment when he walked in every morning. The little boy who played across the street was called in by his mother every time Bob passed.
Each morning Bob would leave his small house, walk down his stone walkway, pull the mail out of the mailbox, and sort through it as he walked to the bus stop. At the bus stop Bob dumped the junk mail in the garbage and stuffed the rest into his briefcase, then waited for the bus. Every morning, day after day, Bob Smith climbed onto the bus, said “Hello” to the bus driver, and sat down in the third row left side window seat. When the bus stopped in front of Bob's office, he stepped out, saying “good morning” to the bus driver, and walked inside where the sweet girl at the front desk ignored him. At precisely five o'clock, Bob did the same thing in reverse. And Bob Smith was sick and tired of it.
This morning was different. For one thing Bob had only gotten a few hours of sleep the night before. This was partly because of the report due this evening, and partly because of the dog across the street. For another thing, today marked the one-year anniversary of Bob moving here and starting at the office, and Bob hadn't made a single friend. Today, Bob Smith was going to be different. Today, Bob Smith was going to try twice as hard, and today, Bob Smith was going to make a friend.
In his purposeful stride through the rain to the sidewalk, Bob didn't forget to pull open his mailbox or sort through the mail. He only had to wait for the bus for two minutes; as he stepped on, Bob walked straight up to the driver, read her nametag, and said in a bright voice, “Hello, Susan! My name is Bob Smith. It is nice to meet you.”
The driver watched him suspiciously over her half-moon glasses and opened her mouth to reply. Bob continued.
“How are you doing today? Have you been enjoying your morning so far?”
There was a small line of people forming behind Bob, waiting to pay their dollar fifty. The neighbor's dog was barking a block away. The bus driver began, “Yes, thanks, but––”, as Bob seized her hand and began pumping it up and down. She was too shocked to protest.
“Well, that is wonderful, Susan. My name is Bob Smith and I am so pleased to meet you.” The man just behind him said, “Hey, look, what are you...?” and Bob, releasing her, rounded on him in turn. The bus driver snatched her cellphone and began to dial.
“Hello, sir, what is your name?” Bob said, smiling as widely as he could and grabbing the man's hand. The man tried to shake him off but Bob held on tightly, his smile getting bigger. “I like your tie, sir. Where do you work? Do you live around here?”
The line behind them had vanished. Bob's hopes were fading. It looked as though this attempt would end like the others: shunned by these unfriendly humans. Bob Smith couldn't understand. He'd seen all the other humans do the exact same things, and they were met with warm smiles and approval. It was no use quitting now, though; it was time for a last-ditch effort. Bob turned to the frightened faces in the back of the bus and picked out a likely candidate: a young woman who looked sweet and friendly. He began to bear down on her. She screamed.
Bob Smith was tackled from behind by the man with the tie. His head hit the floor as sirens wailed faintly; the man shouted, “Stay where you are!” Bob tried to turn his head to smile reassuringly at the man, but he slammed his knee into the small of Bob's back.
Bob Smith knew then that he'd never understand the humans. The report he'd worked on until late last night would have to be turned in – it was simply a fact that Earth was not the right choice for colonization. As the sirens wailed closer, Bob wondered how Crwtxs, his boss, would respond to the news, but he knew his people wouldn't last a single day on this unfriendly planet. Even when he was disguised as a human they couldn't accept him. How much worse would they respond if the whole group landed in the middle of New York with their green skin, multitudes of eyes, and webbed feet?
A police officer pounded into the bus as Bob Smith made his final decision. He still clutched his briefcase filled with important mail and files, even as three officers forcibly escorted him from the vehicle. As soon as they left the shelter of the bus and he felt those first few drops of rain, Bob called Drysz on the tiny radio attached directly to his brain. She responded immediately, and as Bob began to float upwards, he looked down at the scene below. The officers were now holding the empty doll he'd been confined in for a year and a huge commotion was beginning as people watched him float upwards to the spaceship they'd never noticed before. Bob smiled, watching with two pairs of eyes while looking longingly upwards with the rest; he was no longer tired. He'd just have to tell Crwtxs the truth and hope they could find another planet soon.
Just before he entered the mothership, he cast all his eyes downwards for one last look. Bob Smith would not be missing Planet #324.
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