Author : Sharon Molloy
Every night, a man would look up at the moon and stars.
Astronomy had been his boyhood hobby. He knew about the ice volcanoes on Neptune, and Saturn’s diamond rain. Even more amazing worlds surely existed in outer space. “It must be a wonderful place,” he would say to himself.
All too early, he would have to go to bed, for he had to go to work the next morning.
One night, he awoke to a strange light in his room. Carefully he opened his back door. In his back yard, he saw something like a round plane with no wings, and a strange creature that could only be an alien. The man didn’t know what it was saying to him, but it sounded friendly enough.
The man and the alien spent the next few hours learning how to communicate. The alien cooed in amazement at all the ordinary things in the man’s house. They could have happily done this forever, but the man said he had to go to work.
The alien begged to go with him. If he stopped doing something as interesting as this to go to work, “It must be a wonderful place.”
The man told the alien to hide in his briefcase; they got in the man’s car and off they went.
When the man’s car slowed down, the alien asked, “Why are you driving so slowly now? What’s that noise?”
“The roads are full of other cars. Everyone else is going to work too.”
“Everyone?” Again the alien thought, “It MUST be a wonderful place!”
Was work wonderful? After a long, boring meeting, the alien still had to hide. People kept interrupting the man as he did hours of paperwork. The alien could travel in space far longer than any plane flight, but it had never before been this bored.
Finally, the man picked up his briefcase. “I’m glad this day is finished!” Driving home, he asked, “What work do you do on your planet?”
“If that was work,” said the alien, “we don’t do it.”
The man was so surprised, he nearly drove off the road. “You must get bored!”
“You were pretty bored today!”
“So you do nothing?”
“’Nothing’?” Now the alien was surprised. “It’s because we don’t work that we can do things!”
“What do you do?”
The alien laughed. “It’s more like, what *don’t* we do…”
On their home planet they didn’t do just one thing all day; they did many things. Mostly, they learned everything they could. That was how they had conquered space travel and why none of them ever got sick. “Why do you work?” the alien asked.
“I need money. For my car, to drive to work in; for my house, where I sleep, so I can work the next day; and for food, so I can work.”
“You just go around in circles!” The alien felt sorry for him.
“Do you work when you finally finish learning?”
“We never finish learning.”
The man was even more puzzled. “How do you get your money?”
“We don’t need money. Intelligent beings exchange learning for learning; learning *is* our currency. “You taught me this morning, like I am teaching you now.”
When the man got home, he sat looking at the spaceship for a long time. Finally, he turned to face the alien. “When you go home, please, take me with you, to your world.
“It must be a wonderful place.”