There’s an Alien on the Internet

There’s an Alien on the Internet

From Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul

There’s an Alien on the Internet

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.

Plato

Andy has never met Joey in person, even though Joey is his best friend. He met him on the Internet. At school recess he played Star Wars with Kevin and Rob; but it’s all the neat stuff he learned about the solar system from Joey that made his Star Wars games fun. Joey doesn’t go to school. He’s home-schooled. I wish Joey went to our school here in Portland—then I’d never get bored because he’s so smart, thought Andy.

Last week Andy’s teacher, Mrs. Becker, put a big circle on the blackboard and said it was a pizza pie. “Andy,” she said, “if I were to divide the pizza, would you like one-third or one-tenth?”

Ten is the bigger number, so that’s what he picked. Kevin started waving his hand in the air, shouting that he chose one-third. Mrs. Becker drew lines on the circle, showing that his piece of the pie was bigger than Andy’s.

“Andy’s gonna get hungry,” Kevin teased. Sandra, the girl who sat behind Andy started to snicker. Then the whole class was laughing. I wish that the recess bell would ring, thought Andy, as he planned how he would play by himself during recess, instead of with Kevin and Rob.

Mrs. Becker’s stern voice quieted the room. “Andy, do you see how the more you divide the whole pie, the smaller the pieces become?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Andy lied.

The recess bell didn’t ring for another half hour, and by then Mrs. Becker had assigned twenty problems in the class math book. Each problem had two fractions with an empty circle between the fractions. The students were supposed to put a sign, > greater than, or < lesser than, in each circle. Looking at all those fractions and circles made Andy dizzy. He decided he had a fifty-fifty chance of guessing which way to point the arrows, so he guessed— wrong.

After school, when Andy got on-line with Joey, he typed: “Flunked my math quiz today. I don’t get fractions, how to tell which is bigger.” Joey typed back: “Here’s a good trick. Cross-multiply from the bottom up.” Then he went to his drawing board and showed Andy how.

“Five times two equals ten. Three times four equals twelve. Ten is smaller than twelve.” His trick made it a cinch, even for Andy. The next week, when Mrs. Becker gave a fractions test, Andy was the only kid who got 100 percent. The class didn’t think Andy was so stupid anymore, thanks to Joey.

After Joey and Andy got to be such good pals, Andy asked Joey to send him a picture and told Joey he would send one of his in return. Andy’s Little League team was having their picture taken in their uniforms, and Andy had posed for his with his bat over his shoulder, like he was up to the plate about to hit a home run. Andy thought, as he looked at his picture before he sent it to Joey, I look pretty cool, really athletic. Andy mailed one to Joey in Tallahassee, and started waiting for his picture to arrive in the mail.

Each day when Andy talked on the Internet, he asked Joey if he’d received his photo yet. On the third day Joey said, “Your picture came, and it’s awesome. Thanks!”

“Great!” Andy replied. “Then I should be getting yours soon.” But Joey’s picture never came, and each time they talked, Andy told him, “Still no picture. Maybe you’d better send another.”

It was weird. No photo and no comment from Joey. He’d just change the subject. Then one day when they were talking about Star Wars and aliens Andy asked him, “What if there really are aliens in disguise on earth? You know, like in the TV program Third Rock from the Sun or the book My Teacher’s an Alien?

It seemed like a long time before the screen lit up with his reply. “Can you keep a secret?”

“I guess,” Andy answered.

“Promise? It’s really important!”

“Sure. I promise.”

“I’m an alien from another galaxy. That’s why I can’t send you a photograph. My energy field can’t be caught on film.”

Andy sat there, staring at the screen. His mother was calling him to dinner, but it was Joey who signed off while he sat, staring at the computer, in a daze. Was this one of Joey’s jokes? Then why didn’t he send a picture? Is this why he knew so much more than other kids about spaceships and outer space? Why was he so secretive?

At dinner, Dad announced, “Good news! My transfer request was approved. We’ll be moving to the home office in Denver at the end of this month. The company has found a rental home for us that’s close to a good school for Andy and with plenty of room for Grandma to live with us.”

Andy’s mom was happy because her mother had been in a Denver nursing home ever since she fell and broke her hip, and she wanted to have Grandma live with them. Andy just felt mixed up.

That night in bed, Andy thought about being a new kid in a new school. I remember how I felt when we moved here. It was hard to make new friends. It seemed like everybody stared at me the first day, and the other kids treated me differently for a while until they got to know me. That was the last thing he thought about before he fell asleep.

The next morning, as Andy was sitting at the kitchen table, eating cereal, his mom was watching a show on TV. A newscaster was interviewing a lady in Tallahassee, Florida. “Tell me about the role the Internet plays in Joey’s life,” the newscaster asked.

“Well, it has allowed him a freedom he’s never known before. Not only is he able to access information from his wheelchair, but most important, he has made new friends.”

The newscaster then continued, “Tell us about your Internet friends, Joey.” The camera shifted to this kid in a wheelchair, sitting in front of his computer. He was kind of skinny with sort of shriveled legs. His head hung to one side, and when he answered, his words were hard to understand. He had to make a big effort to say them, and a bit of drool came out of one corner of his mouth.

“When other kids see me, they just see that I’m different. It’s hard for me to talk and be understood. But when I’m on the Internet, they think I’m just another kid, because they can’t see me. I’ve been making friends with lots of different people,” Joey explained.

All day at school, Andy’s mind was full of jumbled thoughts. His Internet buddy, Joey; Joey the alien; Joey the kid on TV; making new friends in Denver; Grandma and her walker. As soon as he got home, he ran to his room, threw his backpack on the bed and went to his computer. As Andy logged on to the Internet, he decided: It doesn’t matter where Joey came from—Mars, Saturn or Tallahassee. It doesn’t matter what Joey looks like. I know who Joey is. Joey is my friend.

Andy typed into the computer: “Joey, guess what? We’re moving to Denver. Boy, am I ever glad to have a friend who goes with me wherever I go.”

Joanne Peterson

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