Chapter 5:

Freak Out At The Farmer's Market

Help! I'm a Single Mom Falling for a Tentacle Monster

Al was floating in the air, and while it wasn’t on a flying carpet and primed to burst into a musical number, I’m not sure I could have told the difference. I’d been let down plenty of times but something in the depth of my soul told me that wouldn’t happen today.

“Okay Al,” I signed, unable to hold back a grin. “Where are we off to?”

Al raised a tentacle into the air and I swore the way it wiggled looked just like a dog sniffing the air. Before I knew it, my date was darting off in one direction and I had to do my best to keep up. Despite there being a small crowd, everyone stepped aside once they saw a tentacle monster rushing toward them. The man running a stall with milk, cheeses, and other various dairy products looked particularly alarmed to see a single tentacle trying to spell out words in front of his face.

“I um. Can I help you?” He spoke slowly and loudly, as though speaking to someone stupid who couldn’t understand. I felt a flare of annoyance fire off inside my brain.

“Al would like some… Feta cheese.” I had to pause a moment to make out what it was signing, using my own hands so Al could see what I was saying.

“Oh sure. That will be fifteen dollars.” He was speaking slowly again, directing his words towards Al once more.

I struggled with all my might to not roll my eyes as I signed the price for the cheese. Both the shopkeeper and I seemed equally clueless as to where Al pulled out the exact change in bills but seeing as how they weren’t slimy or anything else, they were accepted as legal tender.

“Thank y-”

I didn’t have time to listen to the annoying shopkeep speak pointless slow again as I already was racing to keep up with Al as it zoomed towards another stall. I helped translate so it could pick up hazelnuts, herb-infused olive oil, and even expensive organic chicken breast with a seemingly endless stream of bills stored… somewhere.

While most of the people running storefronts seemed bemused at best, I could help but laugh whenever I had a moment to catch my breath. It was impossible to not be taken in by Al’s excitement. Once it seemed it was finally done making its purchases, I was led towards a small park nearby, Al motioning for me to sit down at a picnic table.

I heard a loud crack, looking up in surprise as Al broke a large branch off a tree and began crunching it into smaller pieces. Other tentacles were quickly darting around the ground, picking every dandelion in sight. I had barely blinked before the crushed branches had been shoved into a public cast iron grill and somehow lit on fire.

It finally dawned on me that Al was preparing me a meal made from scratch. My face was redder than any heirloom tomato that had been for sale, I was grateful Al seemed so focused on cooking that it didn’t notice. But then it was facing me once more, two pieces of wax paper it must have gotten from the butcher when I wasn’t looking covered in dandelion greens tossed in what I could only assume was the olive oil from earlier with feta cheese sprinkled on top.

Al sat them down carefully on the table, raising a tentacle sheepishly. “I don’t have silverware, sorry.”

“Al…” I hadn’t even thought to sign it, I was dumbstruck at a salad that looked like it had come from a classy restaurant that had been made just for me. And then, the music started to play. No seriously, music was playing! Someone clad in pink and black had rolled up in a wheelchair and hooked up a ukulele to an amp I had to assume was battery-powered. While there was no way it could have been planned, a meal and music, a date that felt right out of the cheesiest romance film and I was falling for the moment hook, line, and sinker.

“Space bunny! What will they say, what will they do? Space bunny! Are they coming soon to a planet near you? Will they go to planet Gilgamar to watch the stars it births? Will they visit all the people who are living here on Earth? Space Bunny!”

I let the music wash over me, reaching out to pinch the salad in my fingers and pop some into my mouth. It tasted as marvelous as it looked. Al was carefully using tentacles to enjoy its own portion, picking up bits with a tentacle and curling them inwards like an elephant trunk, shoving the food Cthulhu knows where.

“Al, where did you learn to cook?” I signed the sentence letter by letter with my free hand, not wanting to slow down the eating with just how fantastic the salad was.

“Online videos. It’s not like there’s Ecthuggde or Oct’ithorc to eat here, so I wanted to be sure I could make tasty things.”

“How I'd love to go along with you, explore the great expanse, If you ever gave the offer I know I would take the chance. Space Bunny!”

The song was weirdly perfect for the moment. I felt for Al so hard. “I know it’s not the same, but I haven’t been back to my hometown on Earth for years now here. I just can’t find boiled peanuts here like they make back home either.”

“I could learn how to make them for you?”

“Only if you teach me how to make Ecthuggde. Well, and what Ecthuggde is!”

Al’s tentacles jiggled in what I could only assume was laughter. “Well, the secret to good Ecthuggde is getting high-quality Yv’ox’m-”

Al didn’t get to finishing signing the word. We had been so engrossed in our conversation that we’d both missed the police officer that had walked up to the table.

“Excuse me, but I must ask you to leave. You are causing a disturbance.”

There it was again, the slow talk. I was getting tired of people assuming Al was stupid just because it couldn’t hear the words they spoke. It’s true I might not have known that much more about tentacle monsters than most folks until the last week but this was ridiculous.

“I’m sorry, we’re just eating here together?” I signed the words as I spoke so Al could understand, but its tentacles curling inward fearfully made me all too aware that it already had an idea of what was happening.

“We got complaints about a tentacle monster causing issues at the farmer’s market as well as damaging property in this park. This is the only tentacle monster here so.”

I tried my best not to look up at the tree. The first part may have been nonsense but that was a hard one to explain away.

“Well, I’m sorry but-”

Al gently touched my hand with its tentacle to stop me. “It’s fine,” it signed to me, knowing the officer wouldn’t understand. I would have argued that it wasn’t actually fine and that I was having my first good date in four years and didn’t want it ruined by a bunch of jerks but… Al already knew that. Well, the part of it where things weren’t actually fine anyways.

Al wrapped up the remainder of the salad and sprayed what I could only assume was ink in copious amounts to put out the fire in the grill, much to the revulsion of the cop.

“Cuz no matter just how many friends you make along the way, You must travel in your rocket ship with no real place to stay… Space Bunny.”

Stupid music, being so poignant and fitting to the current moment. I stood up and started to follow Al away from the park, surprised at how close I was to crying at the whole ordeal.

We walked in silence together until we got back to Genesis Hills, neither of us really knowing what to say. Al finally handed over the leftover salad to me.

“I hope you can still enjoy it.”

“Wait, Al!” It was my turn to reach out, carefully holding onto a tentacle so the tentacle monster in front of me couldn’t just float sadly away.

“I had a great time Al. We don’t have to stop hanging out. Maybe we could cook the chicken at your place?”

The words slipped out of my hands before I even realized what I had suggested. I was trying to go back to my date’s house on the first date. I could only imagine what I was implying to Al, though I suppose I had absolutely no clue if that was something it would want in the first place.

Al’s tentacles lifted thoughtfully. “No, but not because I would not enjoy your company. I just don’t have any human furniture.”

The phrase “human furniture” made me laugh way more than it should have. “So, next week then?”

“Yes, next week.”

I didn’t know how tentacles could smile but I was pretty sure that’s what I was seeing in front of me right now.

“I’ll see you then Al.”

“I look forward to it Annabelle.”

By the time I made my way back to my apartment all I wanted to do was flop into a comfy chair and try to take in all that had happened. Unfortunately, there was an elderly woman with enough curiosity to kill an entire herd of cats in my apartment with me.“Come on Annabelle!” Dinah was practically begging me with her voice. “How did your date go?”