I. Homeward Bound

It was time to go home. That much was certain, Toogo thought, as he rummaged in his sack for a container. For one thing, the Amazon rainforest, where he’d taken up residence during his Earth- vacation, was unbearably hot and sticky. And the cuisine left much to be desired, he thought morosely, as he pulled a fat and reluctant grub from its hiding-place under the bark of a tree. He held it up to the light, eyeing its squirming body, and screwed up his eyes in distaste. Disgusting.

Yes, it was definitely time to go home.

He sighed, and dropped the struggling grub into the mouth of the container. No, this wouldn’t do at all- this would be the very last time he choked down mashed suri-grubs for dinner. He sighed, tied up the sack, and trudged off to the hut he’d been calling home these past months.

He sat by the fire that night, surrounded by his companions as they spread mashed suri over tortillas, and broke the news to them.

“Friends,” he finally said, “I’ve decided to go back to my home planet. It’s been really lovely here, and all, but it’s time I got home.”

“O! But Toogo!” they exclaimed, “Why would you ever want to leave the rainforest? Isn’t it fantastic? Isn’t the food completely delicious, and aren’t we generally all-around awesome people to have a great time with?”

“Well, to tell you the truth,” said Toogo, “I’ve never really been particular to eating raw squishy invertebrates- and even if it’s spreadable, it’s not exactly Nutella. And I miss my family and friends at home! I have a perfectly nice piano there, and Mother will be horribly displeased that I haven’t practiced in six months. It’s a dreadful way to improve.”

“Ah,” they sighed, “Well I suppose that does make sense. After all, we didn’t learn to hunt in a day. And even as good as we are at hunting, our dear cousin Cuahutemoc got eaten by a panther just the last moon.”

“All the more reason to get home!” proclaimed Toogo, jumping to his feet. He walked quickly to the water trough, downing as much as he could to rid himself of the taste of the grubs in his mouth.

In the morning, Toogo quickly loaded his belongings into his pack. He bade his friends farewell- it was an overly weepy affair, with much wailing and flailing of limbs- and set off.

Of course, within two minutes of following the overgrown path from the village, a problem presented itself: how was he to get home, anyway? The travel agency had booked him a one-way flight to Earth, and there were no space shuttles in sight, especially deep in the rainforest.

So Toogo hiked on, and he thought. And thought. And Thought.

And he was so wrapped up in his thoughts, that he managed to walk into a tree. Which hurt, but that wasn’t what Toogo was so surprised by: behind the tree, behind the dense wall of green that he had been whacking his way through was...a garbage dump.

It was almost as impressive in size as the rainforest, but much less pretty and a thousand times more smelly.

But there was also- was that a spaceship?...Oh, no, just an old car, but- ooh, that could become a spaceship, and..there! Some wires! Some very technical and sophisticated engineering equipment! That could be a wing, and that could be an anti-gravity suit...

“Hullo,” said a voice from behind him. Toogo let out a strangled sort of sound and whirled around. Standing before him was a paunchy man, dressed in a dirty green jumpsuit. He was chewing something that smelled abominably, but he didn’t really seem a threatening sort, so Toogo replied cautiously, “Hullo,”

“Can I ask what you’re doing here?” asked the man. There was something green stuck in his teeth, and his grin was a bit too wide. He spat a frothy brown liquid to the ground. Filthy.

“Um,” said Toogo, “I just- well, forgive me, but I was just admiring this enchanting garbage dump, and- would you mind, if I took a few parts?”

But the man was already shaking his head. He looked pleased for some reason, and it was rather putting Toogo off. “I’m sorry, what you ask is expressly forbidden, my friend- but I’ll tell you what, all you need to do is go to the Office of Garbage Affairs in Lima, fourth floor, down the left-hand hallway, turn right, right, then left, second office on the right; ask the clerk for a form 2209-C, and enter the pieces you’d like to take from the yard. Processing takes three weeks, and then they might clear you to have an interview with the Officer on duty to see if you’re a worthy candidate of the junk-pieces you’ve inquired about.

And then-”

“Hang on, just- wait!” Toogo bit out. He breathed in slowly through his nose, calming himself from the complete frustration of listening to the man talk nonsense.

The man stopped abruptly and cocked his head to the side, a small smile playing about his face as if to say, you are no match for the Office of Garbage Affairs.

“Did you notice that I’m orange?” asked Toogo conversationally.

“Good grief, you’re orange!” the man exclaimed. He didn’t seem to be exceptionally thrilled.

“...Right. Well. I’m orange and, as you may have noticed, you are not. What can we conclude from this?”

The man quirked his brow, looking puzzled and irritated and not about to answer anytime soon. Toogo sighed.

“Let me do the talking then, it will be much quicker. I am orange. You are not. What can we conclude from this? Either: a) I am an alien, an extra-terrestrial, or b) I am the unfortunate recipient of scientific testing gone horribly, horribly wrong and am doomed to spend the rest of my life as a scaled, orange human being with feelers instead of a mouth.”

The man took off his cap and scratched at his balding head. A couple flakes of dandruff flew from his nails. Toogo wrinkled his feelers in disgust, and decided it was time to have this done with.

“Ok, let me make this simple: I have strange and dangerous powers, since I am, you know, an alien, and orange and all- and if I snap my fingers, you may disintegrate into millions of tiny pieces and I would very much not like to do that because breathing in your particles would be thoroughly disgusting and probably detrimental to my lung tissue. Now, off you go, or- shall I demonstrate?” Toogo waved his fingers threateningly at the man.

“Nope, not necessary, go and do whatever it is you... need to do, who, who am I to take it up with- an alien, did you say? Really? Hadn’t noticed, hah! And- for a space shuttle, was it? Did you say? No you didn’t, never mind, never mind me, I’ll just be, hah, just be leaving, then..” the paunchy man said a bit hysterically, backing slowly towards the mounds of of trash before scuttling off.

“And a good day to you, sir!” shouted Toogo at his retreating backside.

“Now, where were we...?” he thought to himself. He looked around himself carefully, considering the

beckoning piles of junk. Of course, all he had to do now was build the ship. He sighed, steeled himself to the massive task, and got to work.