Readers Gazette Short Stories


Short Story Citizen of the Cosmos

Citizen of the Cosmos by Joanie Chevalier Sci-Fi short story

Visit Joanie Chevalier Website


A Fictional Story about Cosmopolitanism:
A Dinner Party, A Boy and An Alien

Cosmopolitanism (Wikipedia)
Cosmopolitanism is the ideology that all human beings
belong to a single community, based on a shared morality.

Each person you know about and can affect is someone
to whom you have responsibilities: to say this is just to affirm
the very idea of morality. The challenge, then, is to take minds and
hearts formed over the long millennia of living in local troops
and equip them with ideas and institutions that will allow
us to live together as the global tribe we have become.
- Kwame Anthony Akroma-Ampim Kusi Appiah,
Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers


Morgan’s parents were hosting yet another dinner party with their well-to-do friends. He was an only child and actually enjoyed hanging around listening to the adults. After he piled some food on a plate from the three-course meal that the adults would soon consume, catered in of course, his mother allowed him to sit on the stairwell if he remained quiet. She believed in the mantra, “Kids are to be seen, not heard.” He didn’t mind though. Listening in on the conversations during these parties were entertaining and at times very educational.
He had learned a lot by listening in on the adults’ conversations; subjects about stocks and politics, cars, women (only when the wives were in the kitchen), crooked employees and lazy bosses. He didn’t understand all of it of course. He was only eight but knew quite a few things already; he had skipped second grade after all.
He wasn't lonely sitting by himself on the stairs. Besides his plate of food beside him, he held his raggedy stuffed bunny, Rabbit, in his left arm and a flashlight aimed at a book’s page on his lap with the other.
Morgan was basically waiting for the adults to drink a little bit more. He was patient and knew from experience that the lively conversations would soon start since the adults were done with their meal and had migrated to the living room, below the stairs where he currently sat. They had each consumed wine at dinner and mixed drinks after, so it wouldn’t be long now. He cocked his head and looked up from his book when he recognized the neighbor’s high-pitched voice.
“I keep seeing that crazy-looking homeless guy in front of Larry’s Grocery. He really gives me the creeps! He stares at everyone, demanding money with his big sad eyes!”
Morgan’s mother, Irene, turned to Steph and responded. “I bet he uses the money to buy drugs!” The women tsked in agreement.
“Oh, leave him be, Steph. All he wants is a decent meal,” Steph’s husband said abruptly.
“But is it his right to ask it of me? Am I responsible to feed him? I mean, I guess the question is, am I obligated to respond or answer?”
“No!” Fred answered. He was leaning against the fireplace. “Don’t make eye contact with the beggars, that’s the secret. I don’t even acknowledge them.”
His wife, who was sitting on the ottoman across from Irene, looked up at Fred and laughed sarcastically. “But you don’t like or acknowledge anyone outside of your little circle anyway, Fred.”
“I have the right to love everyone or no one,” Fred answered rather abruptly.
His wife blinked rapidly. The dinner guests who bothered to glance over didn’t know if Steph had suddenly developed a nervous tic or if she was about to cry. Steph glanced at the drink in her hand before she gulped it down, clinking her ice loudly. She jumped up and walked briskly to the bar in the corner of the room.
“I wonder if Steph is even in her husband’s inner circle,” Carol discreetly whispered to her husband.
Frank turned to Fred. If he didn't help Irene diffuse this situation, he'd hear about it later. “Our company sends at least two interns to Africa to combat starvation, maybe he can go there.”
“Well, well, well! Africa, Africa, Africa! That’s just great people! What about our veterans at home?” There was almost an audible collective sigh from most in the room. Fred never let up on veterans’ rights. “Don’t they deserve more charity than someone in another country?”
“You narrow-minded people need to lighten up and look at the whole picture,” slurred Uncle Henry who sat on a bar stool at the bar. He carelessly poured himself another shot of Tequila and filled up Steph’s glass while he was at it.
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence.
“Ignore my brother everyone. You know he’s a curmudgeon,” Irene said with a light laugh as she attempted to diffuse the tense situation. She quickly switched topics. “What about the air conditioning problem at your school, Carol, did they take care of that?”
“Can you believe that a board member told us that our kids should be used to the heat since they’re from families who work out in the fields? My god, I almost hit her over the head with the microphone! She even had the gall to announce that there were other schools with worse problems on the punch list.”
“What? I can’t believe that! Well, I couldn’t do what you do, Carol,” Irene continued, laughing nervously. “How can you be in that school all day? It’s so far away and seems dangerous! Frankly, aren’t you afraid that your car may be stolen, or heaven forbid, your window broken and your things stolen? After all, you work hard, Carol. You deserve nice things.”
Carol frowned. “Irene, all children deserve a chance in life. You can’t assume they all steal just because they live,” Carol aggressively shaped her fingers here and signed the quote marks in the air above her head, ‘on the other side of the tracks.’”
“Certainly, Carol, certainly. Why, just the other day, Frank and I made another small donation to our school’s library…”
Frank choked on his drink. “If you call forty grand small, then ….,” his sentence trailed off. Sure, he was irritated with his wife’s spending, but at the same time proud that he made such a good living. He felt that he earned the right to be arrogant in front of his friends.
“Yes, but Irene, doesn’t Morgan attend a private school?”
“Yes, but I don’t see what you’re getting at Carol. If we first take care of our local kids-”
“My school IS local, Irene, local to the kids who live in that area. They deserve better. They deserve new books, and a library, just like yours-”
“Well, really, Carol, do those kids even read?”
Carol’s lips pressed together into a hard straight line. She abruptly got up from the cushy chair where she sat and stormed towards the foyer. She grabbed her coat from the bunch that were hanging over the banister and furiously yanked the front door open. The group flinched in unison, expecting the door to slam behind her. Thankfully it didn’t. Carol simply left it open, the cold draft wafting into the otherwise warm room.
After a tense moment, Irene walked over to close the door. “Carol’s smoking again,” she commented, as she peered out.
Carol’s husband sighed and got up, placing his drink on the side table. He shrugged to the group before rushing out himself. “Be back in a minute.”
Irene’s husband shrugged and continued the conversation. He had sisters and was familiar with drama so he was used to it. “Yep, our interns are looking good. Because of all the schooling and such that our company paid for, they owe us by staying on for at least six years. Pay us back for coddling them is what the Board calls it.”
Fred laughed. “That sounds fair.” He grabbed an olive from the tray on the coffee table and popped it in his mouth. “How’s your nephew doing by the way? Kevin emailed me that he couldn’t work on my yard this summer since he’s out of the country.”
Frank snickered. “Ha, how do I explain it? Wants to travel the world. Wants to save it, one person at a time. Ebola, AIDS, malaria, you name it, he’s there. I tell him over and over, how are you going to save the world, one person at a time? Won’t that take like, FOREVER?” He shook his head. “Kids these days….”
“Yeah, what can you do?”
“You’d think my sister adopted him. That kid, wanting to go off into foreign lands, help third-world countries. And for what? He doesn’t have anything to show for it. Working his fingers to the bone for nothing.” He spread his arms wide. “And to think, he could have had a position in our family’s company….”
“He doesn’t get paid by that organization?”
“Hell no, it’s all volunteer, can you believe it? I told him, don’t get those damn diseases and then cry your way home to momma.”
“I heard Nancy turned Kevin’s bedroom into a man cave for our brother-in-law anyway,” Irene commented. The group chuckled. They could relate, on one level or another.
Morgan was only half listening to the conversation because he was contemplating on what he’d heard so far. Why couldn’t everyone help each other? He thought that sometimes adults over analyzed things. But what did he know, he was just a kid. At least that’s what he was told. If adults would only listen to him, he would tell them how to solve hunger and homelessness. Just share your lunch and let them sleep in your room. Simple! That’s what he’d do if he were in charge of the world!
As he daydreamed about curing world hunger, he heard an unusual sound above him. He looked up and held his breath, listening intently. He looked down into the living room but the adults were still debating, not noticing anything unusual. He heard another thump up the stairs and down the hall towards his room. Since they didn’t own a pet, Morgan was curious and he stood up to investigate.
As he slowly climbed the stairs and walked down the hallway, he noticed a flickering green light shining from his bedroom, illuminating the hallway. The light diminished and then got bright again several times, like power surges. Even though he didn’t feel fear, he still clutched Rabbit tight in front of him. It brought him comfort.
He cautiously peered around his bedroom door and saw a lime-green being standing in front of his bookshelf. Its head was cocked to one side, as if puzzled. It was staring at a model spaceship that it held in its webbed-infused fingers.
“Who are you?” Morgan asked, not afraid, just confused. The lime-green being was his height and when it turned around, Morgan noticed that it had a friendly, open face. Its eyes were huge, full of curiosity and its small mouth slightly open, smiling.
“Who are you,” the lime-green stranger answered back. Its voice was soft and musical.
“Morgan.”
“Morgan, I am Emija, citizen of the cosmos.”
Morgan hesitated for a second. He held out his hand like he’d seen his dad do when greeting someone. “Welcome. I am Morgan, citizen of the world . . . Earth,” he responded. He’s a science-fiction geek, and even at eight, he felt like he knew instinctively how to greet an alien.
After tentatively inspecting each other for a few seconds, the alien and human boy ended up having a rather fun few hours together. While the adults argued in the living room about world hunger, who’s responsible for feeding the poor, or whether or not the homeless had a right to sleep on the sidewalk, etc., Morgan gave the alien a tour around his yard. They climbed into his treehouse and told ghost stories. They played with his model airplanes and spaceships in his bedroom. Morgan read out loud from his science fiction books. The lime-green being laughed as he listened to the alien stories. His laughter sounded like flutes.
Morgan’s parents didn’t even notice his absence since they both thought he was in his bed, reading. The little alien left after Morgan fell asleep listening to its melodious philosophies and perspective on life, earth, and the universe. His ideals were simple and similar to Morgan’s: we were all one; we were all brothers.
* * *
A few weeks later, Morgan awoke abruptly. It was dark and quiet so he was guessing it was after midnight. He looked around sleepily but saw only the shadows of the elm tree branches shaped like gnarly fingers reaching up from his floor to the ceiling of his room.
He then heard the noise that must have awakened him. It sounded like a small helicopter. The boy listened intently for a moment. He was curious so he got up from his bed and walked gingerly to the window.
With the help of the moonlight, he caught sight of what made the sound. He opened his window and the drone hovered near, blinking its green and purple lights. It dropped something glowing to the ground. The drone then made a few beeping noises, flashed its lights and disappeared into the sky.
The boy climbed down the tree expertly, having done it many times on hot summer nights, pretending to be a pirate of a great ship or an important pilot in a big plane flying overseas.
He ran to the glowing object laying in the dew-covered grass and picked it up. He wasn’t afraid. He felt that it was meant to be dropped here, in his yard, his little section of the world, just for him. The disc vibrated slightly and it warmed his hand.
* * *
The next morning, Irene went into Morgan’s room to wake him for school. He was still asleep, lying in bed with the green glowing object in his hand. She was confused and at first thought Morgan had stolen it from the restaurant they ate at on Tuesday. There was a twenty minute wait so they were given the disc to hold until it vibrated, indicating when their table was ready.
After examining the disc in her son’s hand, it seemed smaller than a restaurant disc and it emitted a glowing lime green light. It had deeply etched symbols located on the front of it and there was a small red blinking button on the bottom. She pressed it.
Irene jumped slightly when a white mist sprayed out of the small disc and swirled up towards the ceiling. It sounded like a balloon quickly deflating, phssst. She looked up and the mist re-arranged itself into symbols, much like hieroglyphics. They hovered in the air for a few seconds, then changed into many symbols, some she recognize as another language. She felt relieved when the letters finally focused and she recognized English letters of the alphabet. She read the hovering white puffy letters slowly:
To:
Morgan Phillips
Son of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Phillips
Resident of 1000 Tree Lane, Wedgewood
Wexford County
State of Michigan
United States of America
The Americas
Earth, Milky Way
Universe

Greetings Friend & Brother of the Universe, Citizen of the Cosmos,
Citizen of Earth, Little Earthling Humanoid of Wedgewood, Michigan, called Morgan!

Irene gently shook Morgan to wake him and they read the message together. Irene turned the disc over and a photo materialized. It was a little hazy but it looked like a family of four. She chuckled. Whoever photo-shopped this photo had a sense of humor. The family looked like they had enormous heads with super skinny legs and their skin seemed to be tinged lime-green. The sky was purple and the lake looked orange. Kids . . . they’re always trying to change up naturally pretty photos! She shook her head, marveling at the technology young people knew these days.
When his mom had left the room, Morgan re-read the unique postcard.
Thanks for the fun visit, Morgan, citizen of Earth. Hope to see you soon.
Love in kindred spirit,
Your Brother of the Universe
Citizen of the Cosmos
Emija


“The question was put to him what country he was from, and he
replied, ‘I am a citizen of the world’.” - Diogenes (404-423 BC) as reported in Diogenes Laertius The Lives and Opinions of the Ancient Philosophers 3rd Century AD

To see more of Joanie Chevalier work, click the link to her website or scroll down to the bottom of the page to view her member details Visit Joanie Chevalier Website.

Images used for the story are Visit Garden Green Pixabay

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