This is one of the stories from my book The Knot at the End of the Rope and Other Short Stories.
I heard a tapping on the window, like the sound of a tree branch in the wind hitting the glass. At first, I thought I was dreaming, but I slowly opened my tired eyes, rolled over, and listened again.
TAP … TAP
I wasn’t going to be able to get back to sleep no matter what it was, so I got up and walked out to the living room. As I stood in the center of the darkened room, barely breathing, I heard it again, coming from the sliding patio door.
TAP … TAP
Slowly, I moved toward the curtain and slid it aside. There, on the patio, was a figure, my height, holding a cup. I rubbed my eyes and looked again. It raised a hand slightly in a gesture that I took to be a greeting.
“What do you want?” I asked.
“Can I borrow a cup of sugar?” he asked in a gentle but firm voice. He held out the cup.
“Umm, it’s kinda late, and who are you?” I inquired. I didn’t feel threatened; I felt curious.
I saw in his hand, where the cup used to be, a jerry can. “I meant, can I borrow some fuel for my shi— um, my vehicle,” he said.
As I reached for the light, thinking I should have done so earlier, I said, “I’m going to turn on the light.”
It took a few seconds for my eyes to adjust to the brightness and a few more to adjust to what I was seeing. He was grayish in color, skinny, with large, dark eyes. It looked like he was wearing something, but I couldn’t tell what, as it was somewhat form-fitting and only a slightly different color than his skin. I don’t know what compelled me, but I opened the sliding door.
“Thank you. It was getting cold out there,” he said as he came inside.
“You’re not from around here, are you?” I asked.
“Well, not here, but not far, if that’s what you mean,” he answered. I didn’t know what I meant.
“I mean, you look different. Not human,” I said.
I could see concern in his eyes. “You mean I don’t look like you?”
He gestured to the kitchen table. “Can we sit?” he asked.
“Sure, can I get you something to drink?”
“Scotch, if you have it,” he replied. It just so happened that I did.
As he took a seat at the table, I grabbed a couple of glasses and the scotch and brought them to the table. Pouring a couple of ounces in each, I slid one toward him. He reached out with his spindly fingers and picked up the glass.
“You know, we can’t really tell you apart from one another.” He took a sip and placed the glass in front of him. “We thought this,” he motioned to himself, “was pretty good.”
I looked at him and said, “It’s generally close. You have the right amount of everything.”
He looked dejected. “We have been practicing a long time. We made a bunch of paintings on some caves, scratched figures in a desert, made some big heads. One time we tried, and it looked like an animal. It’s frustrating.”
“It’s like this,” I got a pad of paper and a pencil from the kitchen and started to draw. “I have a heck of a time trying to draw people, too. It always comes out close, but not quite good enough.” I finished my sketch and turned it to face him. “See, you can tell it’s a person.” His eyes lit up and he looked at me.
“Can I keep this?” he asked as he reached toward it.
My alarm must have been going on for ten minutes before I woke up. I put on my robe and went to make coffee. On the table was an empty bottle of scotch and two glasses.
So, if you see a guy who looks like this:
Don’t let him in. He’ll just drink all your booze.
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