It was late. I sat on the couch between Robbie and Cisco. Larry sat in an armchair, and Elvis sat on the floor, play-wrestling with Getlo. There was only one lamp on in the living room, but the dining area, where Warren was studying, was brightly lit. Except for Warren, we were all drinking beer. But even though all of the major networks were broadcasting Larry’s YouTube video, he didn’t seem all that happy.
“But you pre-empted Leno and Letterman, man!” Cisco was saying, waving an arm in the direction of the television set. “Don’t you know what that means? That’s like—shit, I don’t know. That just never happens!”
On the screen, a somber Larry sat behind something that could have been a conference table, patiently explaining what would happen if Earthlings continued to develop nuclear weapons for extraterrestrial deployment. The bogus flag of the intergalactic organization he represented was putting in another appearance on the wall behind him, its missing planet precariously reattached.
“Do you think Larry was right to sit behind the table, Hank?” Elvis asked. “They had an armchair for him, but Ginger said it looked too casual and friendly.”
“Good call,” I said. “He looks like a head of state.”
“A head of what?” Elvis said, turning to look at me.
But I was sucking on the joint that Robbie had passed me. I’d had the impression that we were passing this joint around, and we were, but I was beginning to realize that the only people who were actually taking hits were Robbie and me.
“Hank, I hope that that drug is not bad for dogs,” Elvis said, frowning.
“Tell her not to inhale,” I said lazily, and passed the joint on to Cisco, who passed it to Elvis, who tried to pass it to Larry, who declined. Elvis held it suspended like a teacup in a bear’s paw.
The camera zoomed in for a close-up of Larry’s face, earnest and sad. He was talking about what a beautiful planet Earth was—one of the most beautiful he’d seen. A newscaster replaced him on the screen, and Cisco muted the television.
“That true, dude?” Robbie said, plucking the joint from Elvis’s fingers and turning his head to look at Larry.
“It is a beautiful planet,” Larry affirmed.
“Even though it only has one moon,” Elvis said, “and not as many light shows as some planets.”
“Yeah, but we got all that blue sky,” Robbie said with an expansive gesture. “Blue oceans and green fields.”
“Amber waves of grain,” I put in.
“Mountains,” Cisco added. “But I guess other planets have those.”
“And rock and roll,” Elvis said. “And dogs. Dogs are very beautiful.” He stroked Getlo’s ears. “But Larry’s home planet is also beautiful,” he said. “And it’s time for us to go back.”
Nobody said anything. We knew he was right.
“If he stays any longer, someone will shoot him,” Elvis said.
“Or someone else will get hurt,” Larry said. “We were very, very lucky with Jillian.”
“We knew they might attack Larry again, but we did not expect to cause harm to innocent stand-byers,” Elvis said.
“On this planet,” I said, “they’re usually the ones who get hurt.”
Larry nodded. “I see that now. So we have to go.”
“Hey, man, you did what you could,” Robbie said. “The rest is up to us.”
Elvis pushed his huge frame up from the floor, then bent to scoop up Getlo.
“Will you all come to see us off?” he said.
I woke up. “You mean now?”
“Yes, Hank,” he said. “It’s time.” He held up his wrist, pointed to his watch, and grinned at me.
Larry stood as well, looking more rumpled and weary than I’d ever seen him look. He read my expression—well, probably he read my mind. “I’ll rest once we’re under way,” he said. “And besides—,” he said, and paused.
This time I read his mind. “You’re going home.”