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Storytime Blog Hop: The Perfect Gift

My backpack–the lightest I could find–sat on the scale I’d borrowed from the pilot, stuffed with all the essential things I’d needed for this survey run and would need for the next. In a pile on the floor nearby were all the things I’d decided to leave behind.

And strewn all across my stripped bunk were the things I still had to decide about.

I had about a pound left to fill. Coming from Earth, that’d been more than enough. I brought just a few keepsakes–a family photo, Grandma’s wedding ring, the shiny silver dip pen my sister gave me as a graduation gift. Little trinkets from the people I wished I could bring with me. The problem, this time, was Gtiki’s rock collection. Or, actually, my rock collection, given to me piece by piece by Gtiki. More than half the items currently occupying my bunk were rocks.

“She knows about the weight limit, too.” The pilot had come to check on me and my dilemma. “Gtiki, I mean. She’ll be pleased that you kept any at all.”

I eyed him. “Think you can let a few ounces slide?”

“Sorry, no. The balance is sensitive, and we’re pushing it with all your samples as it is.”

Which was true. I had shifted as many of Gtiki’s rocks with any geological significance as I could over to my scientific allotment instead of personal. That meant most of the prettier ones were here, waiting for me to choose between them.

“She gave you that many rocks?” The biologist peered in, too, and, between my colleagues and the rocks, my quarters were feeling crowded. “I know we’re not supposed to compare aliens to Earth animals,” she added, though she’d never let this stop her before, “but she is kind of penguin-like. Maybe she’s courting you?”

I held my breath and looked at the pilot–who was also an alien, though not particularly penguin-like–for his opinion on that. I liked Gtiki. I did not like making assumptions about alien cultures, especially based on anything from the biologist.

The pilot cocked his head. “Yes. You didn’t know?”

Good. “I didn’t know.” Maybe I should have suspected, though. There aren’t a lot of cultures where repeatedly giving someone meaningful gifts is rude. And Gtiki knew some of the rocks weren’t relevant to my work…

“Either ask her to stop, or give her something back,” the pilot advised. “You’ve left her hanging for months.”

“I will. One thing at a time,” I said. I would definitely respond, but first I had to finish packing. We only had a couple hours before loading, and I had other work to do.

The pilot shrugged and left. The biologist surveyed my rocks once more.

“She likes shiny things,” she said slyly, before she left, too.

Fifteen minutes and several painful decisions later, I had my pack to an ounce under the limit. The remaining items–mostly rocks–were piled up on the mattress, and I was about to seal my pack. And Gtiki showed up in my doorway.

“Oh,” she said, “are you finished packing? I found this and thought you might like it.”

I almost couldn’t bear to look, but I did. And it was an agate, small and smooth. A really lovely specimen, too, with vivid bands of blue-gray and red-orange and white. It’d been polished. She did not just “find” this. I absolutely could not leave this rock behind.

But, small as it was, it was going to put me over the weight limit, which meant I’d have to evict one of my other, carefully-chosen rocks. Though–the pilot said I could give her something back. And the biologist said she likes shiny things.

“It’s gorgeous,” I told Gtiki truthfully. I took it for a better look, which made her chirp and ruffle her feathers cheerfully. Yeah, I had to bring this rock.

“Hang on,” I added, and started rummaging through my pack for anything shiny I could bear to part with that wasn’t also a rock. I even briefly considered Grandma’s ring, given what rings mean to us humans, but that wouldn’t lose me enough weight to add this pretty agate in. And then I found my sister’s pen. 

It was heavy enough to trade out for the rock. It was shiny, if I rubbed off the fingerprints. It… meant a lot to me.

But it was just a pen, and I wasn’t going to forget my sister without it. I could ask her for a new one when we got back to Earth. And Gtiki meant a lot to me, too.

“Here.” I offered her the pen.

She fluffed up immediately, which was cute and also very penguin-like, and I was going to be annoyed at the biologist for a while for pointing that out. She took the pen from my hand very carefully.

“I didn’t think you… I thought… thank you,” she said, holding it reverently with both claw-like hands. “I–I look forward to our time together.”

“Me too,” I said, though I had to wonder what level of commitment I’d just promised. Oh well–one thing at a time. Gtiki drifted away, still clutching the pen like it was as precious to her as it was to me, and I placed the agate in my pack and checked the scale.

It hit the weight limit perfectly.

9 thoughts on “Storytime Blog Hop: The Perfect Gift”

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  4. Very enjoyable! And reminded me of driving to AK with the camper. While preparing for the trip, Michael was obsessing that the weight of the camper and contents would be over our truck’s weight-bearing limit, and a friend of his jokingly said to me, “You should collect all kinds of rocks along the way.” I just smiled. I knew I would and I did. (Truck did not break.) 🙂

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