... an out-of-this-world experience?
|“What’s a ‘different planet’, Grandpa?”
“Well, it depends, sonny.” Grandpa ruffles my hair, his eyes all soft and marshmallowy. “Seems like the only thing those scientist fellows agree upon is that every planet is different from the rest... just like folk, I guess.”
I fold my arms across my chest, just like he does when he’s thinking hard, and I lean against his funny, bony old knee. I love when he runs his fingers through his hair, making it stand up every which way. And the big wrinkles in his face deepen into great crags as he pushes his specs a bit higher on his nose - JUST before they fall off. Sometimes I nearly forget what I’ve asked him. I get so fascinated watching those specs teetering on the very edge of a fall right off his face.
“Do you mean like people coming from different countries? And they’re other colours and things? And some have squinty eyes, and some slant right up into their hair... Like this?” And I scrunch up my eyes, tight as they can go. Don’t know how slanty they are, though. And I think of something else. “It’s polite to like them, even when they’re ‘different’, isn’t it, Grandpa?”
“Well-ll yes... but it’s another kind of different I was thinking about, with people.” And he tilts his head to one side and raises his big bushy eyebrows so high they nearly touch his hair. I like when he does that. “You know how there are all those whirly lines on your fingertips?”
And I look, and I have. He’s right AGAIN! But he just keeps talking like that’s nothing new to him. “There aren’t two sets of fingerprints the same in the entire world, even though there are over seven billion different people on Earth—”
“Did you count them, Grandpa?” I can’t help interrupting him. I feel my eyes stretch really wide, and my mouth drops open without me trying at all.
“Mmm, no...” Grandpa looks like there’s a blush on his smooth old cheeks. “Actually, I uhrr... ‘Googled’ it.”
“REALLY, Grandpa?” Wow, I know he messes around with his computer, but he only looks at the weather... I think. And he likes Facebook, and he loves seeing what the world is doing in his favourite news places. He watches lots of news on TV, too. His best channel there is ABC because it doesn’t have commercials. He hates commercials. Usually goes clicking all around so many other channels it makes my head go wonky. And back at the computer, he also loves card games on the computer. He plays lots of them. Maybe even more than I play Lego… and that’s saying something!
“Did you Google ‘different planet’, too Grandpa?” And I can see by the twinkle in his eye and the smirk that twists one edge of his mouth up, that he did. “What did Mr. Goo say, Grandpa? What?”
“Ah well-ll-ll....” Grandpa strokes his chin. No beard there, but he didn’t shave today and there’s lots of white stubble over the whiskery part of his face. I often wonder if he could be one of Father Christmas’s helpers? If he grows his whiskers now, he’d have a good chance at that ‘helper’ job. He’s too big for an elf, so that’s one more thing to write off his Christmas ‘TO DO’ list.
Grandpa chuckles. “Mr. Goo, as you call him, says those scientist folk are finding more planets as their telescopes get more powerful… and as Man goes further out into space, I guess.”
“MORE?? How many more, Grandpa?” I lean even closer to his face to look into his eyes. There are a lot of wrinkles and crunkles those eyes are peering through, but they look like they’re laughing. Is he laughing at me? Again?
“Well, little man… when I was your age—”
Uh-oh! This could be the absolute greatest. Grandpa has SO many fantastic stories about when he was a boy. BUT could be boring. Sometimes he waffles off into a world of his own and it’s hard to know what he’s talking about. SO many things were different then, and I have to keep stopping him and reminding him what we’re talking about NOW! He has to clear his throat and harrumph and garrumph a bit. Then he continues—
“… yep! Way back then, I learned about NINE planets out there. But then, a few years ago, the experts decided Pluto wasn’t an actual planet, it was a dwarf planet—”
“Like a leprechaun, Grandpa?” I can’t believe this. Little people out there, flying amongst the planets? Miniature spacemen?
“No, no, no. There’s a whole other reason for calling it a ‘dwarf’ planet. We’ll talk about that another time; it’s a lot of information.” He shakes his head. “Main thing is, NOW they reckon there’s 10 or 12 or maybe more. They find more all the time. They’re even calling them by numbers now. Too hard to think up new names, I guess.”
Suddenly I’m tired of our little chat, and I say, “but, Grandpa... I can’t remember all of that to say next time.”
“Next time what, sonny?” Grandpa scrunches his eyebrows together, looking a bit annoyed.
“Next time I don’t understand a maths problem and teacher tells me it’s like I 'come from a different planet’!”
Twisted Tales contest, June 2021