Novella: Invisible Friends (Free Excerpt)


elvisframed(or, A Boy and His Dog, some monkeys, walking fish and a few damn aliens)

by Steven Sawicki


Subject: Re: Weekend Plans
Date: Thur, 8 Apr, 1999, 12:32:01 -0400
From: Steve Sawicki <



Things have been more or less well here, although I won’t be able to join you this weekend as planned. I’m buried in stress at the moment and really need to find some extra cash fast. You know why. Dammit, she’s makin’ me nuts. Can’t believe it’s going to cost me so much. Didn’t cost anywhere near this much to get involved in the first place. Should be the other way around. In any case, I need cash bad. Turns out the local university is in need of subjects for a medical study they are doing. I called and they want me to come in this weekend. Some kind of brain study thing. I’ll do some Spect scans and an MRI. I think they shoot you with radiation too. Plus they want me to take this new drug—really tiny doses so it’s no big deal, I guess. Best part is that it pays almost $500. Can you believe it? $500 for four visits. And they do these things all the time. If I can do like 6 it will be a big help. Won’t have to kill the bi … well I better not say since you never know where email goes.

Hey, I have to tell you. Had a weird experience just a little while ago. Had to go get milk and decided to take the dog for a ride. She loves the car. Hanging her head out and all. Makes the door all slimy though. Anyway, as I’m passing the local produce stand, the one just before the car dealer, I see a big sign by the road advertising BANAMAS. I should have stopped but decided it was probably just some moron who didn’t know how to spell. I don’t know why we bother writing some times. Saw a big shooting star on the way home too, probably a meteorite since I think it hit. Was pretty close. Maybe it was an alien ship entering the atmosphere, ha, wouldn’t that be a pisser, make all that science fiction just so much wrong bad literature. Which reminds me. WTBS is running a B-movie SciFi weekend so I’ll be watching lots of old films. Good thing since I can’t afford videos. Let me know how the trip goes. Sorry I can’t make it. Maybe next time.


Subject: Lost Weekend
Date: Sun, 11 Apr, 1999, 19:02:21 -0400
From: Steve Sawicki <



I’m whipped. Must be the radiation. Weird shit, blue glow and all. Tech handled it with these thick gloves. Like something right out of one of your books. Really knocked me out too. They stuck this long catheter into one of my arm veins and then attached this connector thing so they could shoot stuff in and take blood out without pricking me every time. Also they could just have a tech do it instead of a nurse. Damn thing hurt the whole time, like having a hot wire stuck inside your vein. Except, of course when they shot in the radiation, then it was like a cold wave enveloping your arm. Really, really odd feeling that.

Well, glad to hear the trip went well. Wish I had been there. Double header too. Weird that you saw a meteorite on the way back though. Dog says hello. I’m really bushed. Going to bed. Long day tomorrow and they want me back tomorrow night for the second part of all this. More radiation. Another catheter. Joy.


Subject: Monkey C:/
Date: Mon, 12 Apr, 1999, 23:32:51 -0400
From: Steve Sawicki <



I’m really pissed at the monkeys for tinkering with my system and screwing up my email (they lost part of January, all of February, the odd days in March and the Mondays in April.) Granted they did fix that nasty problem with Netscape by figuring out how to switch from the 16 bit to the 32 bit Netscape 4.04, but still, I had important mail tucked in there that I had not read yet. Wait, they said, we can fix. We did a back up, says they. Yeah, right. Now I know monkeys are smart but even humans don’t do back ups so I figured they were just trying to find some way to get back at me for yelling at them. I told them I did not think they would ever get to use my system again. Wait, they said, you won’t let us play with your system because you are afraid of losing more junk mail and maybe a game or two? Shakespeare let us write plays for him, they said in closing, and you are worried about offers for cybersex? Well, how can you argue with that logic, especially when it comes from a monkey. So, bottom line is, I let them into the system and, after much hooting, parasite eating and some scratching, they managed to fix everything.

Hey, the monkeys said Shakespeare. I wonder if they wrote the tragedies? Maybe I’ll see if they can cobble together a story or two. Maybe something for Analog?


Subject: Monkey Tales
Date: Tue, 13 Apr, 1999, 6:23:41 -0400
From: Steve Sawicki <



I thought I had explained the monkeys but perhaps not. Remember when I said I needed to raise a considerable (for me) sum of cash in the next few months? Well I still do but I also can’t just stay home with the monkeys’ all the time either. This is why I went out to the discount movie theater tonight to see a cheap showing of ‘The Big Lebowski.’ I left them monkeys’ home because I was pretty sure there were no simians in the film. The movie, by the way is a terrible waste of film and I would have walked out but for two bucks you really can’t complain. Talk about a film that goes nowhere. This movie had more dead ends than an old rat finds in a sadistic psychiatrists memory maze. Sure it had big name actors, and sure they acted as if they had big names but it was all pissing in the wind. Felt good for that brief second before you realized that you were not by the ocean and that salt spray could mean only one thing. Yes, there were a few very funny parts. Yes nihilists did play a major part in the film and where else are you going to see that? Yes, Steve Buscemi was his great comedic self and was the best part of the film too. True, John Goodman had his moments. Still, the plot swisscheesed it’s way from beginning to end by lurching from bit to bit and joke to joke. Saw the film with 10 other people in the audience and besides a few titters (pair of college girls two seats down and one row up) the crowd remained silent. But that’s neither here nor there and we were talking about raising cash, not spending it.

To do this I have been doing a few things no one seems to have expected—selling off books, hiring myself out as an on-line focus groupie, doing some pr work for the local country music station, and doing some medical research (as a test subject, not as a researcher) In any case it was during my last visit to the nuclear medicine wing at Yale where they wanted to once again inject me with radioactive fluids and run Spect scans in order to test a new psychotropic medicine, that I ran into the monkeys. Now, most research subjects get paid in cash but maybe they just liked my face or maybe they thought I’d be an easy target because of my human service work, but they started telling me the tale of their monkeys and how the poor things were no longer useful and were going to be put down. They told me what wonderful house pets monkeys make and would I be interested in taking them. I refused out of hand. First, I know that monkeys piss and poop everywhere. Second, I’m not inclined to just bring home any strange monkey, regardless of it’s contribution to science. And, third, the damned aliens would have a fit. So, we do the injecting and the glowing and the scanning and the setting off of alarms and all the other stuff that goes with medical testing and they then lead me to a room in the basement and leave me. Sure enough, it’s the monkey room. I’m dead inclined to just ignore the pathetic looking things and doing an excellent job when one of them creeps an arm out of the cage and gestures me to come close.

‘Hey, pal, you look like an intelligent guy, c’mere,’ the monkey says, pissing on his cell mate.

I ignored him, studiously focusing on the clock which had started shifting positions on the wall.

‘Hey, pal, you look like a writer,’ the monkey continued. ‘We could help.’

Sure, I thought, who wouldn’t be attracted by the thought of all that free parasite picking, but, still, there were too many unknowns.

‘Look,’ the monkey said, flinging a handful of dung against the wall. ‘We could do the drudge work for you. The review work you hate. Fantasy trilogies. New lesbian authors. Harlan Ellison. We’ll do it for…’

‘…yeah,’ I finally could remain silent no longer. ‘peanuts.’

‘Gees, bud, you’re thinking of elephants.’

‘Oh,’ I said. ‘So what do you want?’

‘Computer time.’

‘Yeah, right,’ I said, ‘like you guys know how to work computers.’

‘Hey, pal,’ the monkey squatted, grabbing the cage with his fingers, ‘who do you think wrote all those Ellwood anthologies in the 60’s? Who do you think ran all those spaceships before Glenn and his crybabies got their way?’

Well, sure, I thought, put that way it made a lot of sense.

So, now you know how the monkeys came to be trying to solve my Netscape problems.

Now, if I can only get them to explain to me why every time I start my web browser some guy named Mark Johnson wants a cookie.


Subject: Grease Monkeys
Date: Tue, 13 Apr, 1999, 19:18:11 -0400
From: Steve Sawicki <



You’re still confused about things? Thought I’d explained it all last time. Well, let me think back and maybe that will help. Last time though, friends are expected to listen when one’s life tale is being spurted out. If you can’t keep up then you’ll just have to be confused.

The medical research. Yes, it is true. Pays pretty good money. Of course, the best money is in organs. They wanted to give me $3,800 for a liver. I considered it but then I figured I still had many exciting things planned for me and my liver so had to turn them down. That’s how I ended up in the radiation experiment. Something to do with aspirin and memory. I forget exactly what at the moment. Now you might think I got the radiation because I failed to agree to an organ experiment. Not true, as the monkey’s have told me. It’s a lot more random than you’d like to think. So much for the scientific method. In any case, the monkey’s and I were out for a joy ride the other day (I can’t leave them at home because the damned aliens just get too many weird ideas, not that they don’t get weird ideas on a regular basis anyway, with or without the monkeys, but I like to prevent the really odd ones from coming to any kind of fruition) and the car was sputtering like it has been. Hey, it’s an old car so what do you expect. The monkeys were sure they could fix it. Couple of plugs, some new wires, a distributor rotor, an interocetor and everything would be fine. Now, I’m not inclined to let just any idiot work on my car. It is after all something that I entrust my life to, but the monkeys convinced me they knew what they were doing by demonstrating on a Toyota Tercell in the K-Mart parking lot. It’s pretty incredible how quickly one of those comes apart. In any case, after this feat of mechanical deconstuctionism, I was convinced. We stopped at Napa and got some plugs, some wires, some bananas and some interocetor parts, then traveled home. The monkeys went straight to work while I checked out the mail. Surprisingly, beside the usual assortment of bills, bugs, slugs and body parts I found an acceptance letter from Eternity along with a contract. This means that you can all look forward to reading a short story of mine sometime in October. And don’t be cheap bastards and ask to read my copy. If the monkeys support my writing you should too. The damned aliens steal their copies but what do you expect from an advanced culture that no longer has money or pudding. So, the monkeys are tinkering with the car and I’m reading the mail when the local gendarmerie want to know what the monkey’s are doing.

‘Tune up,’ I reply

‘Do you have a permit?’ the nice officer asks.

‘To get my car tuned?’

‘To have monkeys.’

‘Well, they’re not really mine, they belong to the hospital.’

The officer had no response except to start getting out of the car.

‘I got them the last time I was there to get irradiated.’

‘You got some kind of strange disease?’ He said, getting back into the car.

‘Why? Don’t I look well?’

‘You look fine,’ he said, ‘Quite attract…’

‘Hey! Hey!, not in front of the monkeys.’

‘Look,’ he said, closing the door. ‘I’ll let it go this time but if I stop again those monkey’s better have licenses.’

As he drove off I could not help but wonder that if the DMV went a bit off when I brought the dog through for a learning permit, how would they respond to the monkeys?

So, now you are up to speed on why the dog gets to drive, why the monkey’s watch so much television and why the aliens are huddled in the basement. One more radiation experiment to go. At least I think I only have one. They’ve promised me that this is the one where I get the super powers. Hope I get something good and not something stoopid like spider sense or the ability to flame on or something like that.

Till next time, I remain your friend


Subject: Darwin’s Monkey
Date: Tue, 13 Apr, 1999, 23:56:01 -0400
From: Steve Sawicki <



‘I have a message for you,’ one of the monkey’s said to me today.

‘Put it on the table,’ I said, pointing to the clutter of catalogs, editorial requests and chain letters.

‘It’s from God.’


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