Darryl is a remarkable child, as I’m sure you’ve noticed by now. I don’t mean that he possesses any special talents or character traits (although I’m sure he does), I mean that he is the first human child to receive at least part of his upbringing on a civilized world. This is important to the anthropologists at Earth Watch Base because we have a unique opportunity to study the relative effects of nature and nurture on the development of a Homelanderoid being. Darryl has adapted fairly well to Homeland: in fact, he appears to be a normal Homelander child to the naive observer. (Of course, you must compare him with Homelander children his age, in terms of percentage of total expected life span.) Will his human nature or his Homelander upbringing predominate in his character as he grows up?
For this reason, we wanted to keep close tabs on him during his visit to his grandmother. We wanted to see if Darryl would retain the behavior he had learned from his peers in Thorgelfayne, or if he would conform to the behavior of the other human children he encountered during his visit. During their layover on the Moon, Darryl had entertained himself in the playroom while Harshan and Melissa were being briefed about this. They were intrigued by what they heard, and they immediately saw a practical value in it. The anthropologists would not only have grist for their theoretical mills; they would also be in a position to offer Harshan and Melissa some constructive advice about bringing up Darryl in Thorgelfayne. Harshan and Melissa eagerly agreed to report anything of interest. The staff gave them a local phone number in Chicago that they could call, in case they required the services of an anthropologist during their stay on Earth.
When the call came, it was from Melissa’s mother! This was completely unexpected. The telephone operator couldn’t understand a word she said, but simple deduction revealed the identity of the caller, and the panic in her voice was unmistakable. They dispatched me. I asked Chau (my boss at the pet store) to take over at the cash register for me, and ran into the back room. It took some calling around to find a hospital emergency room in Chicago with a Mrs. Franklin in it, but it was worth the effort. Then, pleading a personal emergency, I ran out the back to the waiting space-jitney, and they whisked me from Washington, DC to Chicago, Illinois.
As I hurried out of the alley and sprinted towards the hospital, I wondered how I would recognize Melissa’s mother. After all, we had never met. When I arrived, I discovered that my worries were unfounded. I saw a tall, middle-aged woman standing nervously in front of the hospital entrance, and I knew right away it had to be her. Though she was trying very hard to stay calm, her actions gave her away: she was wringing her hands and looking around frantically. I walked right up to her without her noticing me.
“Mrs. Franklin?” I asked.
“Oh!” she gasped, clutching her chest. She caught her breath and said, “You startled me! Are you Dr. Lornifar?”
“Yes, I am,” I replied, “I left as soon as I talked to you.”
“I’m so very glad you did!” she said. “I didn’t have any idea what you looked like! I was so worried we would miss each other!” Mrs. Franklin escorted me through the doors and into the hospital. We immediately turned left into a corridor. The clip-clop of her shoes echoed against the walls as we walked. All of a sudden, she stopped. “Before I forget, be sure and set your watch back an hour,” she advised, tapping my shoulder with her hand, “you’re in a different time zone now!”
“Thank you,” I mumbled. I turned the hands back, and the watch made a faint crickety-crickety sound as I wound it tight. “That’s very helpful.” Melissa must have told her about my fondness for old-style watches.
“I’m so glad I had the presence of mind to call the phone number that Harshan gave me. We were in such a hurry to leave, I wasn’t sure I had made myself clear,” she said proudly. “I’ve never made a phone call to the Moon before! Did I really talk to someone on the Moon?”
“Well, don’t worry about your phone bill, if that’s what you mean,” I laughed reassuringly. I wondered how she’d react if she knew that they didn’t understand a word she said? “It’s a local call that’s patched to the Moon.”
“I wasn’t worried about the bill, I was just wondering,” Mrs. Franklin continued. “It was very bad connection; like a time lag. It was almost like talking on a two-way radio: you have to wait and make sure the other person’s finished before you start talking.”
“The Moon is some distance away,” I reminded her, “far enough away that it makes a difference, even though radio waves do go the speed of light.”
Mrs. Franklin brightened momentarily, “Oh yes! I’ve read enough science fiction, I should have thought of that myself!”
We turned the corner into the waiting room, and there they were. It was a pathetic sight: Harshan was sitting on the sofa, with Melissa’s head in his lap, and Melissa was fast asleep.
“I don’t know what got into her,” the nurse said apologetically, “one minute she was all panicky and the next minute she’s out like a light!” Her hand swooped up in a dramatic gesture. “All I gave her was a headache pill—she said she had a headache.” She shrugged her shoulders and walked over to the desk with a soulful sigh.
“That’s all it would take,” I said. “Melissa is quite suggestible. She probably believed it was a tranquilizer and convinced herself to sleep!”
During the next few moments, Harshan, Mrs. Franklin, and the nurse all filled me in on all the details. They spoke in somber, quiet tones, but they were so upset they repeated themselves. I think I heard all the details at least five times! Then I shook Melissa by the shoulder. “Melissa!” I called softly, “Deflaktü! Laskeo Bobo, θorgeldoma!” Melissa stirred, and glanced at me as she started to turn over. A delayed shock of recognition made her sit up sleepily.
“Bobo, what are you doing here?” she asked in a little girl voice. She rummaged around in her purse for a small mirror.
“Your mother called me.”
“How long have I been out?” she asked, as she checked her face and adjusted her hair. “Whatever that nurse gave me sure put me under!”
“It was just a headache pill, honey,” Harshan cooed as he squinted at his watch. “You were asleep for only about a half hour. You said you had a headache. I think you just knocked yourself out.”
“Well, I don’t remember asking for any pills.” She yawned. “What’s happening to Darryl?” She jumped to her feet before she was completely awake and nearly lost her balance. Harshan caught her in time.
“Your mother called the emergency number before you left the house and told them that Darryl had been hurt,” I said. “They sent me.”
“Oh,” she said, and sat down. Mrs. Franklin and I remained standing in front of the sofa on which Harshan and Melissa sat. I switched to English, invited Mrs. Franklin to sit down, and advised them all to wait patiently while I had a chat with Darryl.
I turned to walk to the nurse’s desk, but the nurse had been standing behind me all the time. “That sure is a pretty language!” she said admiringly, “What do you call it again?”
“Thorgelfaynese!” we all replied in unplanned unison. Melissa suppressed a giggle.
“Okay, okay; you don’t have to jump all over me!” the nurse lifted both hands in surrender, then she pointed me in Darryl’s direction.
Darryl was lying on an examining table, and he looked like he had calmed down somewhat, based on what I had been told.
“Darryleoma,” I said as softly as I could, “Laskedo lak? Vartresektüosi marendoka.”
Darryl opened his eyes slowly, and began to sit up. “Who are you?” he asked in Thorgelfaynese. He rubbed his eyes and yawned. “Yes, I’m awake. I have a headache! What kind of problem am I supposed to have?”
So we had a nice chat about the events of the day. Darryl seemed to be taking it very well for a human. I took mental notes. Since Darryl is the first human child to be raised—at least in part—on a civilized world, this incident will add another anecdote to those perpetual nature-versus-nurture discussions. I showed Darryl my watch, and asked if he could tell if it was mechanical or electronic. He pressed it to his ear and correctly identified it as mechanical.
I decided that Darryl could go home now, so I grabbed him gently under the arms, lifted him off the table, and set him on his feet. Then we walked out to his parents and his grandmother.
“Well?” Melissa asked expectantly. Harshan had his arm around her and was holding her tight, just in case.
“There’s nothing to worry about,” I said and held up my watch for all to see. “Darryl can hear this watch ticking just fine!” Melissa let out an obvious sigh of relief and gave Darryl a big hug as he walked up to her.
“Why couldn’t he hear me earlier?” she asked, looking up.
“It was just the trauma of being beat up, knocked unconscious, and waking up to find himself in strange surroundings,” I said, “Those surgeons back in Hapdorn are famous for the sturdiness of their prosthetic devices.”
“Hapdorn?” the nurse protested, glancing at us from her desk. “To think I got an ‘A’ in geography in high school!” She muttered to herself as she continued with her paperwork, “I guess the mind is the first thing to go!”