Brent slouched into the office and threw himself into a padded swivelling armchair with a force that bruised Allen's sensibilities. His colleague's cavalier treatment of property that didn't belong to him offended Allen deeply.
Brent lit a cigarette and threw his spent match at the ashtray on the long table. He missed his target but made no move to pick up the misguided missile. After flicking a few white flakes of ash onto the dark green carpet, he fixed Allen with a worried frown.
"You know the work you've been doing on Krylan verbs?"
"Hmm," grunted Allen, hoping that a surly response would tell Brent to stop bothering him.
"I think some of the tonal modifications can apply to nouns as well," Brent continued, flicking more ash onto the carpet.
"I don't think the ashtray's full yet," Allen said pointedly.
"You know that bloke?" Brent's voice checked slightly after know, and rose in an early questioning inflection. "That Estegan?" he finished.
"Human Scientist Marries Man From Space," Allen quoted bitterly.
He would never, ever forgive Alison for divorcing him to marry one of the aliens. Even though they were humanoid to an extraordinary degree; firmly muscled athletes with excellent minds; and could, perhaps, according to some authorities, interbreed with humans; it was an act of massive disloyalty both to himself and to her species.
Brian Allen may have been on the wrong side of forty and slipping comfortably to seed but the face that looked at him from his shaving mirror was one hundred percent human. And he wasn't so bad-looking.
"I think the Krylans can apply aspects of mood to both nouns and adjectives," Brent resumed, scattering Allen's thoughts. "You know his name, Estegan?"
"Its!" grunted Allen fiercely.
"What?" said Brent blankly.
"Its name," growled Allen. "His is a human possessive adjective."
"Whatever." Brent flapped an impatient hand. "The point is, the latest translation of its name is Widower."
"How tragic. So what?" growled Allen.
"I've just been replaying some of his tapes. Its tapes. Estegan's tapes," Brent said with a frown. "The thing is, when he says his name, he uses the tonal modifier that conveys an active rather than a passive mood. It makes you think, doesn't it? What Alison might have let herself in for."
"Doesn't it just?" returned Allen, his face expanding into a really cheerful expression for the first time in many months. ■
Created for Romiley Literary Circle by Henry T. Smith Productions, 10 SK6 4EG, G.B.
The original story © Merik Katuryan, 1979. This version © Merik Katuryan, 2001