I was disconsolate as I nursed a soft drink in a back booth of
The Enchantment. That’s a dingy roadhouse on the outskirts of
Letongaloosa. Every college town needs a joint like the
Enchantment to maintain its academic accreditation. The
Enchantment is where I go to have a soft drink and relax. On that
night I had gone to The Enchantment to brood. I had goofed up,
and I was feeling low. Then, happily, my robot friend Kaybe rolled up
to my booth.
Do you believe in aliens from outer space? I do. I’ve been friends
with one for decades. KB-11.2 doesn’t have green skin and luminous
eyes like the aliens one sees in sci-fi movies. Kaybe looks like a giant
tuna fish can.
Erector Set® arms sprout from the curving sides of his body,
and three spindly metal legs drop down from the underside of his flat
stainless steel torso. He has ball bearing wheels for feet. A floppy
two-foot antenna, with three sensor-eyes, stick out of the middle of
his lid. Kaybe comes from the Alpha Centauri star system. Many
years ago on a visit to Earth, Kaybe saved my marriage. Now here
he was again to cheer me up.
My wife Emmaline and I had taken a vacation to Northwest
Florida where we used to live. We had spent a lovely week at a
hotel in a room overlooking the beach. On the last day as we
packed and got ready to leave for the airport, I realized I hadn’t
packed my house slippers.
But there was not a smidgen of room in any of our luggage.
These house slippers were brown suede. And they were OLD. The
rubber sole of the right one was flapping, and the tops of both were
heavily spotted with toothpaste. So I stuffed them into an already
loaded trash basket, and walked out the door.
I felt a pang of regret immediately. I had worn those house
slippers forever. They were with us on our trips to the Smoky
Mountains, and with me on my journalistic assignments to Central
America and the Caribbean, South America, and Africa. Yet now I
had callously left them in a trash basket in a tourist hotel room far
from home. It wasn’t right.
Emmaline, practical and logical, said it was long past time to
get rid of those house slippers.
“The sole of the right one was coming off, and they were filthy,”
she said. “Filthy,” is a relative term with Emmaline. The word covers
everything from something that is undeniably dirty, to a tiny spot on
an otherwise pristine necktie.
Emmaline was right, of course. It was past time for the slippers
to go. But I loved them. And I was born in the year of the Dog. In
Chinese astrology, people who are born in the year of the dog are
innately loyal to their belongings. Even, apparently, a pair of worn
out house slippers.
As the plane took off, I thought how those dear old house
slippers would soon be lying under a heap of trash in some
I continued to brood even after we had unpacked our
suitcases and put them back in the closet, and I had picked up the
mail that the Post Office had held for us.
“You need to go to The Enchantment,” said Emmaline. “Go
have a soft drink and get this out of your system.” That’s where I
was when Kaybe, my alien robot friend, rolled up to my booth.
Kaybe communicates and takes nourishment telepathically,
and he’s highly intuitive. Kaybe ordered a nonalcoholic beer from
the waitress, Four Finger Fannie, who is also an alien. I watched the
brew disappear from the mug without Kaybe ever having touched
His words filtered into my mind, “You loved them, right?”
“Dearly,” I said. “They didn’t deserve to be abandoned like
“Then be of good cheer. Your house slippers are safe and well,”
said Kaybe. “I pulled them from the landfill, and I flung them into
space. Your dear slippers will sail happily through the galaxies
forever. Now go home and get some sleep.”
I tried. I really did. I said goodbye to the patrons at The
Enchantment, walked out and drove back into Letongaloosa.
Emmaline was asleep when I got home. I undressed in the walk-in
closet off the master bedroom and put on my pajamas. Then I
automatically tried to slide my feet into my dear old house slippers.
Duh! How dumb was that? I just walked back out to the living room
and collapsed on the sofa.
“I’ve got to get those back from outer space,” I said to
myself. It was late, but I got in the car and headed back to The
Kaybe was there. He felt bad when he saw how glum I
looked, and few days later Kaybe located and retrieved my house
slippers from a Florida land fill and brought them back to
Letongaloosa. Bless him!
But I still had a problem. For Emmaline, those ratty house
slippers were objets non grata. What could I do with the sorrylooking
Then I had a burst of inspiration. I would have my house slippers
near at hand without ticking Emmaline off.
Emmaline wanted me to toss the house slippers because they
were old and ratty looking. I had a plan to transform them. The idea
had come to me after Emmaline and I attended a baby’s first
birthday party and saw one of the gifts.
I transformed my ratty old house slippers from objects of scorn
to objets d’art. And now the dear old things occupy a prominent
place on my office shelf—as bronzed bookends.