The ALF Period

I’ve been fat and unemployed for several months now. I’ve been fat for longer than that, but it’s gotten worse since leaving my job at Geek Squad. My wife is beginning to resent me. We don’t have any kids but we have a cat. Unfortunately, having a cat and no kids won’t sustain a healthy relationship for long. Especially at our age. Things are boiling over. I’m definitely going through something, and getting fatter while going through it. Also, I’ve been downloading pictures of ALF off the Internet, which I hoard in a desktop folder simply labeled “ALF.” I mainly use these pictures as communication tools, posting them on my various social media accounts as comments or messages, but I also like looking at them privately. It calms me. If I can pull through, this moment in time where I randomly post pictures of ALF on the Internet will innocently be known as my “ALF” period. That’s “if.” We’re talking best-case scenario here.

ALF (Alien Life Form) was the fictional star of an American 1980s sitcom that ran for four seasons on NBC, a show I watched religiously as a child but have not seen since. There was even an ALF Saturday morning cartoon, which I also watched, as well as a few made-for-TV movies that I ignored. All I remember about the original TV show is that ALF’s spaceship crash lands in the garage of a white family named the Tanners, who grow to love him even though he’s a lazy, cynical smart-ass who not only destroys their furniture but also threatens to eat their cat. (I’ve never threatened to eat my cat. I do nibble on my cat’s ear sometimes, but I do it out of love, not hunger.)

by Jay Wennington

by Jay Wennington

Today is garbage day. I’ve been wearing the same unwashed pajamas for weeks. (They aren’t ALF pajamas, though I have searched eBay for some that are.) I haven’t shaved in a while, either. I roll our plastic trash receptacle to the curb. I open the lid. I scream into it. This helps, but not as much as getting all those Facebook likes when I post a photo of ALF blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. I smell worse than our garbage.

I decide against doing a “Same Picture of ALF Every Day” Tumblr page. I mean, there are literally millions of amazing ALF moments to share. Why limit yourself to just one? There seems to be an ALF picture for every occasion, every mood. ALF can really set a tone. There are pictures of ALF giving an encouraging thumbs up. There are pictures of ALF holding an electric guitar or playing piano or singing into a cucumber, which means he’s musical. ALF also enjoys dressing up, sometimes in drag. ALF defies social norms. (LGBTALF?) ALF can party. Probably my favorite picture, the one I connect to on a spiritual level, is of ALF eating pizza in a bathtub.

To avoid finding a new job, I consider opening a Twitter account where I pretend to be ALF, tweeting clever witticisms that ALF would’ve probably shared, had social media been of his time. (Though, if you ask me, ALF is timeless.) This idea seems too good not to already be taken, so I check and there are no known ALF Twitter handles. Miraculous. I immediately go to work.

First “ALF” tweet: Hey, Willie. Let’s throw a cat on the barbie.

Second “ALF” tweet: *blows up the kitchen* I guess we’ll have to order in.

As a kid I looked to ALF as my reluctant, wisecracking hero. He represented depression, hedonism, boredom, existential terror and alienation. It all seemed so cool. ALF was Bukowski for kids (he even resembles Bukowski physically), and I worshiped his brand via trading cards, t-shirts, action figures, and even a set of limited-edition Burger King hand puppets, which I later sold on eBay to fund my college drug habit. (ALF drug fact: Author Jerry Stahl wrote three episodes for the ALF TV series, which he renamed Mr. Chompers in his controversial drug memoir, Permanent Midnight.)

Most retweeted “ALF” tweet: Like my old skeelball coach used to say: “Find something you’re not good at, and then don’t do it.”

I listlessly pull up the opening credits to ALF on YouTube, which show ALF terrorizing the Tanners by videotaping them in several precarious moments, the most disturbing of which involves a woman taking a shower. It’s basically a creepy, voyeuristic, Hitchcockian nightmare that predates reality television, but hey, it’s only our good pal ALF, invading our privacy. And the music is wonderfully zippy—an uplifting piano melody driven by punchy bass flourishes à la Seinfeld that was composed by a man named (coincidentally) Alf Clausen, whose résumé reads like a what’s-what of lovable 1980s refuse (Moonlighting, Splash, The Beastmaster, Fame, etc. etc.)—so yeah, all is forgiven.

Second-most retweeted “ALF” tweet: @thecarljung was a big weenyhead.

My wife is on the precipice of leaving. She says she means it this time. She can’t live like this. She doesn’t get me like ALF gets me. Geek Squad didn’t get me either. Nobody does. The cat kind of gets me. But that’s it. I want to tell my wife, “But baby, I’m just going through some ALF shit, don’t give up on me,” and maybe e-mail her a picture of ALF looking forlorn while holding a red rose in his mouth, but that would only strengthen her resolve.

Second-to-last “ALF” tweet: If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s yours. If it’s run over by a car, you don’t want it.

I’d like to revisit ALF, maybe watch an entire season, but what if it doesn’t live up to my expectations? What if it’s terrible? What if my childhood, my entire life, is based on a lie? What if ALF can’t save me? What if binge-watching ALF is like looking into an abyss that stares back and says: “Haaa! I kill me!”? These questions hang over me like a furry, mordant shroud. I need answers, so for a quick fix I click on a six and a half-minute YouTube clip entitled “The Best of ALF,” which opens with a scene where ALF sticks his head in an oven. I expect the worst.

Final “ALF” tweet: No problem! *falls out of window*


Brian Alan Ellis runs/neglects the literary journal Tables Without Chairs, and is the author of three novellas, two short-story collections, a forthcoming novel, and a book of humorous non-fiction. His writing has appeared at Juked, Hobart, Monkeybicycle, DOGZPLOT, Heavy Feather Review, Connotation Press, Electric Literature, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Lost in Thought, Diverse Voices Quarterly, The Collapsar, Talking Book, People Holding, The Next Best Book Blog, Third Point Press, Reality Beach, Literary Orphans, Queen Mob’s Tea House, jmww, Hypertext, and Atticus Review, among other places. He lives in Florida.