by Cathy Edmunds
by Cathy Edmunds
Joyce swept the biscuit crumbs out of Tim’s hair and turned to Iris.
“They grow up so fast, don’t they. One day you're reminding them to take a handkerchief and wipe their feet –”
“What, with the handkerchief?”
“No, silly! And the next, they're going on about Alien Group Theory.”
“Alien Group Theory? Whatever's that?”
Tim looked up at the two women and rolled his eyes.
“Mum, it’s Abelian Group Theory, not Alien. Can't you go and eat biscuits somewhere else?”
“Of course, darling. Are we disturbing you? Come on Iris.”
She walked past her son, glancing down at the open text book.
“Fermat's Little Theorem? Did he have a big one as well?” she giggled girlishly.
Tim’s scowling response sent Joyce and Iris scuttling off into the garden. Two moons shone down, casting purple and crimson shadows. Joyce cart-wheeled around the lawn, extending her sixteen arms to make butterfly patterns.
Iris clapped her hands.
“Ooh, that was lovely! I really must get to Earth some day and see the herds of buttorfleogen crossing the Serengeti for myself. By the way, how's Tim fitting in down there? Still sufficiently human?”
“Yes, he's fine, but I do hope he passes this time. Six foot eleven and still growing. He’s becoming conspicuous.”
“Can't they do anything?”
“Seven ops so far to remove extra arms and a typewriter that grew overnight, but they daren't give him any more inhibitors, just in case.”
“In case of what?”
There were unmistakable tears in Joyce's three hexagonal eyes.
“In case he flattens.”
“Oh lord, yes, see what you mean.”
Iris imagined the still passably human Timothy hiccupping during his test and flopping into a jellyfish shape, complete with tentacles growing at six inches a minute. It didn't bear thinking about. She shook her head sadly.
“You'd think we'd be able to run our own algebra courses, wouldn't you.”
“It's the cost. Cheaper to teleport to Earth these days. Ridiculous, isn't it.”
“Certainly is. But at least the human technology means we can grow our own furniture.”
She stroked the deckchair lovingly. It winced, trying to remain wooden and neutral and not reveal the masterplan too soon.
Tim got up and closed the window. It was impossible to concentrate whilst listening to the inane burblings of his mother and her friend. He shook his head to dislodge the last remnants of the daydream, which fell to the floor with a tinkle, releasing a faint aroma of joss sticks. Never again would he be tempted to eat any of Becca's home-made mushroom quiche. He looked out of the window. If he tried hard enough, he could make the two moons meld back into one, though he nearly went cross-eyed with the effort.
Only one hour left to revise six months' worth of algebra. He'd manage, unless the chair grew tired of being sat on and contacted its alien – no Abelian – cousins. Oh, it was too hard. Tim laid down his head and snoozed.