Nothin' but pure science fiction!
Galactic Fleet Admiral (site admin)
Joined: 14 Dec 2013
Location: North Carolina
|Posted: Wed Feb 19, 2020 8:32 pm Post subject: Hog Heaven ~ by Bruce Cook
Lester Hollow was just a big, jovial, simple guy.
Now, the word “simple” in this case doesn’t mean studid. In fact, Lester’s intelligence was easy to underestimate, because he looked like the perfect example of an overall-wearing, cornfed redneck who tilled the soil of the heartland states.
Lester was massively built — especially around the midsection — and he had a face that featured two large chins, one small nose, a pair of steel-rimmed glasses, and short-cropped hair that hadn’t needed combing since he was nine years old.
He was now forty-six and balding on top.
Lester talked easily with strangers, smiled at the drop of a hat, and was generous to a fault. People often thought that all Lester’s opinions were positive and optimistic, but in truth Lester just didn’t dump his negative opinions on other folks, and he wasn’t the sort of guy who liked to talk about his troubles.
Actually, Lester didn’t have many troubles, so he tried to stay jovial and smiling and patient with all those folks who were less fortunate than he was. Without sarcasm, he could truly be called Good Old Lester. He was a humble man, but he considered himself capable of handling almost any situation that arose.
However, helping a shipwrecked alien creature was just about the last situation Lester ever expected to face.
“What ‘ta hell was that?” Skeeter Jones exclaimed, standing next to Lester on a balmy evening just outside Lester’s big barn.
“Meteor, I reckon,” Lester said mildly. “It was a big ‘un though, huh?”
Lester knew full well that Skeeter Jones had seen dozens of falling stars in his life, but he also knew that Skeeter tended to ask useless questions. Still, it had been quite a meteor.
“Hey, Lester, I think that one came down right on your property! It looked mighty close!”
Lester understood Skeeter’s urgent desire for something new and interesting to happen in their quiet little community, but he didn’t want the old fellow to drive around the countryside looking for meteor craters that didn’t exist. So, Lester gazed up at the starry night sky, stuck his hands in his overall pockets, and offered a diplomatic reply.
“We’da heard an explosion if it had hit close to us, wouldn’t we? No, I think it must’ve looked closer than it really was.”
“Maybe it didn’t hit too hard,” suggested Skeeter.
Lester held back the snort of laughter that threatened to burst out. He decided there was no point in explaining how fast meteors traveled. Skeeter would just think Lester was being pompous, or he'd accuse him of believing what he read in comic books when he was a kid. So Lester just grinned in the darkness and spoke in a jovial tone.
“Maybe I’ll look around some, tomorrow.” Then Lester reached into his overall pocket and pulled out the pocket watch his wife had given him years ago. He made a show of studying the watch in the dim starlight, even though he couldn’t really see what it said.
“Gee, Skeeter, I didn’t mean to keep you out so late!”
Skeeter grinned at his friend as he said, “Aw, ha-ell. What ‘er friends for? That hog of yours would-a busted right outta his pen iffin’ you didn’t do something about his belly ache!”
Lester started walking slowly towards Skeeter’s battered old pickup truck which was parked nearby. Skeeter took the hint and followed along, but he continued to lecture Lester on the proper care of hogs. Lester just nodded and listened politely until Skeeter finally ran down. The moment Skeeter gave him an opening, Lester jumped right in.
“By gum, you’re absolutely right, Skeeter. But sometimes I think that hog was born with a stomach ache! He eats anything he can chew, even though he ends up regretting it about half the time."
“Hogs is thataway, I reckon,” Skeeter said philosophically.
“Thanks again for bringing over that medicine.”
“Thaz what neighbors is for,” Skeeter said for the second time. Lester was tired of hearing it, but he just nodded and smiled.
Lester opened the door of Skeeter’s truck and made himself smile so wide his cheeks hurt. The wirey old man climbed slowly into the truck, and Lester closed the door. Skeeter propped his elbow on the edge of the door and fixed his squinty-eyed gaze on Lester for a long moment. Finally he said, “When will Marcy be back from Galveston?”
“Do you miss her?”
“Every day,” Lester replied. Skeeter was asking useless questions again.
“Miss her cookin’, I’ll betcha.”
“Oh heck, I miss that between meals!”
Lester filled the crickety night with his easy laughter. Skeeter joined in with a raspy cackle that sounded like dry leaves being rustled by the wind.
Lester seized the opportunity to launch into a big, friendly goodbye routine while backing away slowly before Skeeter could catch his breath. Skeeter was only able to nod vigorously while his lungs collapsed.
Lester continued to back away — still waving — until Skeeter finally cranked his ancient truck and gunned it a few times to get it running. White smoke belched from the tailpipe and sent all the chickens fleeing in search of breathable air. He roared off with an excess of spinning tires on the bare dirt of Lester’s back yard. As the truck sped away, Lester noticed the burned-out taillight that nobody had the nerve to tell Skeeter about for fear of having to endure ten minutes of grumbling complaints about the state of the American auto industry.
As Lester made his way towards the empty house, he glanced over in the direction of the meteor that had caught he's and Skeeter's attention when it disappeared behind the distant trees. But what Lester saw made him freeze in his tracks.
A tiny spark of light streaked upward from the horizon, shooting into the sky until it vanished from sight. Total elapsed time: about four seconds.
Lester didn’t know much about meteors, but he did know they could not change their minds about coming down and just head back up towards the starry heavens. Lester didn’t bother considering any of the standard explanations for what he’d seen; it wasn’t swamp gas, because the nearest swamp was a hundred miles away, even if he were fool enough to believe such malarkey. He knew it hadn’t been an airplane or a satellite or the planet Venus.
But the thing that bothered Lester the most was that Skeeter Jones had been right. The meteor had disappeared behind the trees at the exact point from which the spark of had arisen. And somehow Lester knew that the distance was not great.
Thirty minutes later, Lester was rolling along a narrow dirt road in his shiny Toyota pickup, peering into the dark forest on either side. He was intimately familiar with the country around his Oklahoma farm, so he knew he was within a few miles of the point from which the spark of light had arisen. The over-sized tires on his high-riding truck had no difficulty with the lumpy dirt road that wandered through the dense forest. He was moving at a pretty good clip, using only his parking lights to illuminate the road while he peered into the darkness for any sign of lights, fire, or wreckage.
Lester knew he was not looking for a crater where a meteorite hit the Earth. But if something had landed in these dense woods and then lifted off again, it might have left some evidence of a UFO landing site; broken trees, flattened undergrowth, small fires from the heat of the object that looked like meteorite which managed land and then launch itself back into space.
And since Lester assumed the thing which landed had returned to space . . . he was startled when he almost collided with the spacecraft that sat squarely in the middle of the road.
It was ridiculously small, about twice the size of Lester’s truck, and it squatted on the hard packed dirt, supported by four widely spaced legs that made it look like a big metal spider. Lester locked up the wheels of his truck and skidded to a halt within a few feet of the strange craft, sending a cloud of dust drifting forward to envelope it. The orange glow from Lester’s parking lights lit up the cloud of dust for a few seconds and then it drifted on past the spidery craft . . .
. . . whose pilot now stood beneath it.
“Great Hannibal’s Elephants,” whispered Lester as he stared through the windshield and across the hood of his truck at something that God must have made on bad day. Lester jammed the gear shift into reverse and slapped his foot down on the accelerator, but the truck didn’t move. The truck's engine had died. When Lester’s trembling hands twisted the key, there was absolutely no reaction from the starter.
During all this, the weird creature just stood there staring at Lester with two slitted malevolent eyes, its long tapered head aimed at Lester by it's oddly titled body, which stood about five feet tall. It looked a bit like an underfed anteater. It had four spindly, weak-looking arms which hung down with total relaxation. Its legs were oddly bent, as if it had normal knees bending forward, but a second set of knees halfway to its feet which bent backwards!
Suddenly the creature strode forward, quickly grabbed the bumper of the truck, and pushed hard. Lester kept his wits about him enough to twist the steering wheel and keep the truck in the center of the road.
The creature let go after it had pushed the truck about twenty feet from the ship. Lester allowed the truck roll to a halt, still shocked by both the creature’s appearance and its strange behavior. When he tried to crank the truck again, it started instantly.
The creature stood about ten feet away, motionless, apparently waiting to see what Lester would do next. Lester flipped on the headlights and bathed the spindly monster in harsh white light. It reacted by throwing one of its thin arms across its narrow eyes and babbling bizarre noises in a coarse, grating voice. Its other three arms waved wildly at Lester.
The meaning seemed clear. Douse the damn lights, stupid!
So . . . Lester did.
The creature turned quickly and strode back towards its ship. In the orange glow of his parking lights, Lester noted that the creature’s long head and pointed snout — combined with its hunched-forward posture and its thin, backwards-bending legs — made it look like a hideously deformed chicken!
The comparison to something he was familiar with gave Lester enough courage to pause a moment instead of beating a hasty retreat. He watched the alien climb inside the tiny craft through hatch in the bottom. Several seconds passed, then the creature stuck its head out of the opening (upside down) and peered at Lester for a moment.
Suddenly one its arms emerged and waved at Lester, but not any friendly fashion. It was a “go away” gesture of obvious annoyance, and Lester was startled by it. He was also a bit offended. Being shoved backwards was bad enough, but being told to scram by a four-armed chicken-thing was even worse!
The alien creature ducked back inside the ship, ignoring the human. Lester knew he wasn’t thinking too clearly, and he sat there a moment debating what he should do. He thought about calling the local sheriff, but he didn’t like idea of telling him a crazy story about finding a flying saucer and then leading the police back here . . . only to find the spaceship gone. Lester would be the laughing stock of the county.
The fact that the alien obviously wished the annoying human would leave seemed to remove most of Lester’s fears. And the whole situation aroused Lester’s curiosity. What in blue blazes was this unearthly beast doing here? Stealing cows? Lester had read about that somewhere — but why would a spaceman (a spacething?) want to rustle cattle?
But then Lester remembered that the spacemen didn’t steal the cows, they mutilated them! If they just stole the cows, Lester was curious as to why . . . but if they mutilated them, Lester figured he should mind is own business!
For half-a-second Lester actually debated ramming the little craft with his truck to tip it over and then going for the police. But the idea seemed not only malicious but impractical in view of the fact that his truck didn’t seem to run whenever it was near the ship. And the creature might drag Lester out of his truck with its deceptively thin arms and mutilate him!
Suddenly Lester heard another stream of the rapid “talking” from the alien inside the ship. The alien sounded angry. Maybe its ship was disabled and the poor creature was stranded on this alien planet!
The thought touched a responsive cord in Lester’s compassionate nature. If the creature was in trouble, good old Lester felt a strong urge to help. For a moment Lester thought about taking his tool chest from the back of the truck and laying it out for the alien to see. But he quickly realized that most of the tools would be useless on such an unconventional machine.
In addition to being generous, Lester was considerably smarter than he looked.
He noticed a faint lavender light coming from the ship’s open hatch. Lester turned off his parking lights and studied the glow in thel darkness. The lavender glow was fading. It grew dimmer and dimmer until it went out altogether. When that happened the alien outdid all its former efforts to curse in its own strange language.
No doubt about it, thought Lester, things were not going well for the Chicken from Mars.
Several seconds went by with no activity from the spacecraft, so Lester flipped on his parking lights again. After a moment he saw the alien’s long-nosed head slowly emerged, upside down, from the hatch in the bottom of the ship. The alien gazed at him for a long moment, as if it was perplexed by the fact that Lester was still hanging around. Lester smiled . . . because he was suddenly reminded of Skeeter Jones.
The alien slowly climbed out of the ship, its manner giving Lester the impression of weary resignation. It stood in front of the spacecraft for several seconds and studied the human, then it startled Lester by waving impatiently in an apparent “come here” manner. Suddenly Lester was having second thoughts about his generous impulses, so he didn’t budge from the truck.
The alien repeated the gesture more slowly, and Lester wondered if the aliens was attempting to be diplomatic. If so, Lester wasn’t impressed. He put the truck into reverse and was about to back away when he was suddenly startled by an amplified voice.
“I WON’T HURT YOU!”
Wide-eyed with astonishment, Lester turned quickly back towards the alien.
“DON'T BE FRIGHTENED,” said the amplified voice. “I NEED YOUR ASSISTANCE.”
Lester just stared, his mouth hanging open. The voice seemed to be coming from the spacecraft itself. The alien used one dangling arm to gesture towards the spidery vehicle behind it.
“IT’S BROKEN,” said the voice. Lester cautiously leaned out the window and called out to the creature.
“What . . . what can I do to help?”
“PROBABLY NOTHING,” said the voice. “DO YOU HAVE FACILITIES TO CHARGE A BATTERY?”
Lester felt a giggling hysteria stir inside his head. The idea that this walking nightmare from another planet wanted him to give his spaceship a jump-start was ridiculous.
“WELL? CAN YOU?” the voice blasted out with obvious impatience.
Lester leaned out the window again and shouted, “You mean . . . like a car battery?”
“A CAR BATTERY IS TOO WEAK. DOES YOUR RESIDENCE HAVE ELECTRICITY?”
The question was insulting, and Lester answered with proper indignation. “Of course it has electricity.”
“GOOD,” said the voice. Lester was squinting at the dimly lit creature, trying to find its mouth. But there seemed to be no hole at the end of the pointed, anteater head. If the spaceship hadn’t been so small, Lester might have assumed that a second creature was inside, doing the talking.
“I CAN FIX MY VEHICLE IF YOU WILL TAKE ME TO A SOURCE OF ELECTRICITY. WILL YOU DO THAT?”
Lester just sat there wonder what to say. He wasn’t real keen on the idea of letting this goblin into the truck with him. He decided to suggest an alternative.
“Why don’t I just go get help? I could bring somebody who knows more about — “
“DON’T BE STUPID,” the thunderous voice proclaimed. “AND DON’T ASSUME THAT I AM. EITHER! THERE ISN’T ANYBODY ON THIS WHOLE PLANET WHO KNOWS ANYTHING ABOUT THIS VEHICLE. YOUR AUTHORITIES WOULD LOCK ME UP TO STUDY ME THE MINUTE THEY GOT THEIR HANDS ON ME.”
Lester was amazed. This Thing sure knew the score. But how could it be aware of all that? Lester blurted out the thought before he even realized it.
“Why do you think we’d do that?”
”WE DON’T HAVE TIME TO DISCUSS IT NOW. HUNDREDS OF HUMANS SAW ME COME DOWN. I’VE GOT TO MOVE QUICKLY. ARE YOU GOING TO TAKE ME TO A SOURCE OF ELECTRICITY OR NOT?”
What a dilemma. In fact, fact what a pardox!
The creature was so rude and insulting that Lester actually felt less fearful of its strange appearance. Rudeness was such a . . . human characteristic. However, rudeness doesn't inspire charity, so Lester felt less inclined to help the alien.
The poor, puzzled man sat there for a full fifteen seconds trying to decide what to do. Ffinally the alien lost its patience.
“YOU’RE TOO SCARED,” the creature suddenly announced. “IDIOT!”
It turned and climbed back into the spacecraft, leaving poor Lester with his ears red and burning, while his teeth clenched and his jaw flexed. Lester Hollow was a proud and gentle man, but he felt anger get the best of him as he sat there staring at the ridiculous metal spider in the middle of the road. He laid his big beefy hand on the truck’s horn and gave it a long blast that filled the night and silenced the bugs in the bushes. After a few seconds, the alien’s head appeared upside down from the hatch beneath the craft.
“STOP THAT!” blared the amplified voice.
Lester leaned out of the window and barked, “Are you coming with me or not!”
“If you want me to help you, Pal, get your skinny chicken-ass into the damn truck!”
The alien didn’t move for a long moment, and then the voice spoke.
“THE TRANSLATOR MAY HAVE MISQUOTED SOME OF YOUR REFERENCES, BUT I GATHER THAT YOU’VE CHANGED YOUR MIND.”
“Translator?” Lester gave the alien a puzzled look. Again he wondered if there was a second alien inside the tiny craft.
“NEVER MIND,” said the amplified voice. “WAIT WHILE I GET A FEW THINGS.”
The bizarre head disappeared for a minute and then the alien climbed out its ship and closed the hatch. Lester noticed that the four-armed creature wore something around one of it’s wrists, an object a bit like an over-sized wristwatch. It also wore a harness around its torso, a kind of vest which held a half-dozen devices that could tools or weapons. If the devices were weapons, then the harness was just one big shoulder holster . . . and Lester didn’t like that idea one bit!
The creature came striding towards the truck carrying an object that Lester first thought was a kerosene lantern. When he studied it more closely he saw that the cylinder-shaped object was a complex piece of equipment. Evidently this was the “battery” that the alien wanted to recharge.
The alien walked up to the passenger-side door and studied it for a moment. Before Lester understood its hesitation, the alien figured out how to work the handle and then pulled the door open. It leaned forward to climb in, then if suddenly froze. Lester saw a row of gill-like slits running up the alien’s head from snout to crown. The “gills” opened and closed rapidly for a few second, then they all squeezed closed. After a moment they opened briefly as air hissed out with a quick snort.
“What’s wrong?” said Lester. When the creature answered, the voice came from the device on its wrist.
“I can’t ride in here,” it said resolutely.
“What? Why not?”
“The smell is too strong.”
"The what?" Lester just sat there, dumbfounded.
“The smell! The smell! I have very sensitive olfactory glands, and there’s a bad smell in the cockpit of this vehicle. Would it be dangerous for me to ride in the back?”
Lester was motionless for a moment, too stunned to speak. He was wearing a freshly laundered pair of overalls, and he had showered a few hours earlier after finishing his daily choirs. How dare this ungainly buzzard accuse him stinking!
The alien apparently understood Lester’s indignant expression. “Don’t be so defensive. We don’t have time for that, now. Can I ride in the back or not?”
Lester’s eyes were narrow slits as he spoke in a slow voice, “At the risk of sounding like a bigot, I agree that you’re place is in the back.” He already regretted having agreed to help this irritating little freak, but Lester Hollow was a man of his word, so he was determined not to back out now.
The alien was about to close the door when Lester said, “Wait a minute. Are those things weapons?” He pointed to the objects that protruded from the harness around the alien’s body.
The device on the creature’s wrist spoke again. “None of these will cause you harm.”
Lester didn’t look convinced, but he said, “Well . . . okay. Get in.”
The creature leaped nimbly into the bed of the high-riding truck and sat down with its three-jointed legs crossed, leaning forward while it’s four arms were positioned around it for maximum stability, the palms flat against the truck bed. The alien looked like a spider doing yoga.
Lester put the truck in reverse and rolled back slowly until he reached a place in the dirt road just wide enough for him to turn the truck around. He was shifting into first gear when the alien called out sharply, startling him.
“Stop! Stop immediately!”
“What’s wrong?” Lester called out, twisting around to look at the alien through the back window.
“My ship!” said the alien’s translator in an anguished voice. “It’s about to explode!”
“WHAT!” shouted Lester, whirling around and staring wide-eyed at the little craft in the road, fifty feet away.
“Not THAT one!” said the alien in a frantic voice. “That’s just the lifeboat! I’m talking about the freight hauler that I ejected from in close orbit around your plant. Up there! Understand?” The alien was standing in the back of the truck and looking straight up into the night sky.
Lester leaned out the window and peered at the patch of star-filled sky above, framed by the tall trees on both sides of the dirt road. The alien had removed a device frolm the harness around its torso and was studying a display screen. It glanced down at Lester and saw him staring upwards.
“Don’t look right AT it, you fool!” the translator barked sharply.
Just as Lester squeezed his eyes closed, there was a bright flash overhead which quickly dimmed as it expanded into a fireball of hazy light. The glowing ball faded as it grew to the subjective size of a dinner plate held at arms length. After the first bright flash, Lester peeked and saw the expanding fireball vanish.
The alien was cursing softly without the aid of the translator. Lester looked back at the creature, who was still peering up at the night sky. There was a slit beneath its tapered snout, running from its throat to its pointed nose. Apparently this was the creatures mouth, and it was capable making some pretty strange sounds. Lester was glad that the translator wasn’t converting them into English, because the non-human invectives were bad enough in their native language.
Finally, the alien fell silent for a moment, then the translator on its wrist spoke.
“Everybody on this whole continent saw that. I’ll be lucky if they haven’t dissected me by sundown tomorrow.”
Lester was stunned by the poor stranded alien’s pessimistic pronouncement. The compassionate Oklahoma farmer was suddenly engulf in a wave of sympathy. He leaned out the truck window and addressed the alien in a proud voice. “Hey, the United States Government would never allow — “
The alien whirled around and leaned down to bring its pointed head within inches of Lester’s face. The translator erupt in an angry voice.
“Spare me that naïve blather, you ignorant fool! You haven’t even got a planetary-wide government yet! Your race is plagued by petty squabbles between nations. State secrets, military secrets, industrial secrets! Everybody sits on whatever technology they’ve got, and nothing much gets accomplished!”
Lester sat twisted around on the seat of the truck to look back at his strange passenger’s nightmare silhouette against the stars, and he was unable to find the words to express his amazement. The humble Oklahoma farmer had seen just enough science fiction movies when he was a boy to know that alien visitors were always curious about the ways of humans, and eager to be lead to the authorities . . . unless they had come to invade the Earth.
The alien gazed down at Lester’s dumbfounded faced for several several seconds, then it finally said, “Well, are we going to just sit here until your military arrives, or are we going repair my lifeboat?”
Poor Lester recovered his senses and blurted out, “Oh . . . right . . . sorry.” He shook off his fears of alien invasions and turned around to put the truck in gear. Obviously this smart-mouthed, pessimistic little spook was not going to crush America’s military forces in its minivan-sized flying saucer. And after all, Lester had agreed to help it. So . . .
“You better sit down back there. I wouldn’t want you to fall out.”
Lester started the truck forward at a sedate speed, trying to avoid the bumps and potholes. The alien sat in Lotus position in the center of the truck bed, it’s strange hands gripping the upper edges of the truck’s sides while its four arms radiated out like the points of a compass. After they had rolled along for several minutes, the alien shouted at Lester.
“Can’t this vehicle go any faster?”
“Well, sure . . . but the road is too rough. You’d be beat to a pulp back there.”
“How long will it take us to get to your residence at this speed?”
“Oh, about forty-five minutes, maybe a little less — “
The alien exploded. “Haven’t you been listening to anything I’ve said? I’ve got to get this power unit charged and get back here fast, otherwise my unplanned visit to your hostile homeland will be turned into a permanent stay!”
“But this road — “
“If can’t be that bad!”
“ALRIGHT!” bellowed Lester, goaded beyond endurance. “You asked for it!”
Lester accelerated to fifty, bouncing along wildly on the lumpy, weed-grown road. He was willing to slow down as soon as the ungrateful alien cried uncle. After a full minute, however, the creature still hadn’t admitted defeat. Lester began to wonder if he had bounced the poor thing out of the trunk.
“How ya doin’ back there?” he called out.
“I’m fine!” shouted the alien. “Just concentrate on your driving!” Lester could see the creature in his rear view mirror, and it was position in the center of the truck bed, arms radiating out around it while it bounced up and down like a kid on a trampoline. Its three-jointed legs were perfect shock-absorbers, cushioning each landing when it came down.
Lester was relieved that his strange passenger was all right, but it annoyed him that the alien had been right about its ability to take the jolting around. Lester’s jaw muscle knotted up, and his knuckles turned white as he gripped the steering wheel. For the next twenty minutes he barreled along the back roads and cowpaths of the fertile Oklahoma farmland. He avoided the paved roads because he didn’t want anybody to see the gangly alien creature who squatted in bed of his truck, holding itself in place with its four rubbery arms.
It was nearly two o’clock in the morning when they finally rolled up to Lester’s big two-story house. He was sorry his wife was visiting her sister. He visualized himself walking in and saying, “Honey? Guess who’s coming to dinner?”.
Lester’s nearest neighbor was over four miles away, so there was no one to see his odd guest climbing down out of the truck.
* REVISED TO HERE - 3/16/2020. BOY, IS THIS THING LOADED WITH TYPOS! *
“That is undoubtedly the most ill-designed vehicle I have ever seen,” grumbled the alien.
“Yeah? Not fool-proof like your’s, huh?” Lester said with a smile.
The alien’s translator managed to capture the frosty indignation in the reply. “The lifeboad and the freighter did not malfunction because of bad design! They malfunctioned because the idiots who own them did not maintain them properly.”
Lester was awed by the subject, and it showed in his eager question. “Really? What happened?”
“Let’s get this power unit hooked up to your electricity first. Then I’ll explain.”
Lester guided the alien into the house and showed an electrical outlet in the living room. The alien examined it and the others along the wall in room.
“No good,” the alien stated firmly. “These simple lamps don’t draw enough power. I need more voltage.”
Lester face fell as he realized he might not be able to help the alien after all. The creature went striding out of the room without a word, and Lester hurried to keep up with its quick pace. It was circling the kitchen by the time the man caught up, examining the large appliances, the refrigerator and the stove.
“Which of these units draws the most power when in use?”
Lester scratched his head and then said. “The stove, I guess. My wife wanted an electric stove because it’s easier to clean, so we — “
“Perfect,” the alien proclaimed. It placed the power unit on top of the stove.
Then it shocked Lester by grabbing the four corners of the stove’s front and hauling it out of it recess within the kitchen counter as easily as it had shoved back the pickup truck on the dirt road. As soon as there was room for the alien to get around behind the stove, it squeezed into the gap and pulled out a tool from it’s harness pouches with one hand while it yanked the stove’s large three-prong electrical plug for the socket with another.
Lester stood nearby and watched silently — even when the creature used the tool to cut off the stove’s thick electrical cord a few feet from the socket. Lester winced at this callous treatment of his property without bothering to ask permission, but it was too late to protest. So he kept silent and watched the alien quickly strip the insulation from the wires and then flip open a cover on top of the power unit. The alien placed the naked wires onto a silver plate under the cover.
When the alien closed the cover, an amber light next to it illuminated, and a small display screen on top of the cover lit up with a flurry of strange symbols. The lights in the kitchen suddenly dimmed so drastically that it was difficult to see the alien as it climbed out of the recess behind the stove and spoke to Lester.
“The power unit accepted the current, but the readout says it will take several hours to bring the power unit up to minimum operating level.” The alien paused, and the translator on its wrist made a sound that resembled a sigh. In a forlorn tone, the alien said, “By that time I’ll probably be locked up somewhere as the guest of your government.”
Lester’s sympathetic nature was moved by the poor alien’s perdicatment. Hopefully he said, “Maybe not. How long will it take to fix you flying sauc — I mean, your life boat?”
“No time at all, really. It isn’t broken, it’s just without power. Like I said before, poor maintenance by the ownerss. Anyway, I guess I might as well amuse you the tale of misfortune while we’re waiting for your military to arrive. But while we’re talking, let’s walk around your residence so I can enjoy what little freedom I’ve got left.”
The creature walked out of the kitchen and down the dark hallway towards the dimly lit living room, with Lester trailing along behind it and marveling at the fact that his unhappy houseguest was from a distant star. When the alien reached the living room it started plodding around on its three-joint legs while it’s skinny body remained titled forward. The creature’s four arms hung down beneath the titled torso while it’s tapered head arrowed forward.
It reminded Lester of Groucho Marx’s famous “duck walk”, with one hand behind his back while he brandished cigar with the other one.
Lester silently smiled and let the amusing mental image sooth away the tension his annoying creature from space had caused him during the last few hours. Two drastically dimmed lamps where providing just enough light to allow the aliens to make its way around the room. It creature seemed restless and curious, and yet nothing it saw seemed to catch its interest. It stalked around the room, its pointed head bobbing up-and-down-and-back-and-forth, giving everything a brief examination in the room’s very dim light.
“Why do you live way out here away from everything?” it asked bluntly, still making its distrainful inventory of the room’s content.
“We’re farmers,” said Lester. “I own about three thousand acres, and I raise twelve different crops.”
“How exciting,” said the creature, the sarcasm undisguised. As it stalked around the room it came to a large china cabinet. The alien’s rapidly moving head pointed at each object inside the cabinet for about half a second, pausing longer only on rare occasions. The shelves of the glass-doored cabinet were mostly occupied by little porcelain figures made in Germany. Leter’s wife adored them.
The alien was less impressed.
“These are highly breakable aren’t they?” the alien remarked in a bored tone of voice.
“Well . . . yes, they are.”
“Um-hmmm.” The alien resumed his restless trip around the room. Apparently it didn’t think much of German craftsmanship.
Lester was fascinated with the way the alien moved. It was incredibly graceful in its own odd way. Its quick movements were decidedly bird-like, especially the way its darting head jerked around.
“Hey, hummm . . . do you have a name of some sort?”
The alien didn’t anwer for a long moment, apparently preoccupied with its examination of a framed landscape.
“A name?” it said finally, turning its pointed head towards Lester. “You couldn’t pronounce it if I told you. Besides, you don’t need to know it. There’s just the two us here.” It turned back towards the framed print and said, “I give up. What is this?”
“What is it?” Lester was baffled by such a question. “It’s a landscape. It’s . . . art!”
The alien stepped back and gave the print a more all-inclusive look. Finally it spoke. “I’ll take your word for it.” It started roaming around again. “Do you live in this big place all alone?”
“I live here with my wife. We’ve got three grown kids, one of whom lives near here.”
“Wife, eh? My translator defines that as a mate-for-life. That strikes me as highly impractical. Is it common practice among you humans?”
Lester took a deep breath and let it out in a mournful sigh. Wistfully he said, “Not as much as it used to be.”
“I’m not at all surprised,” declared the alien. Then it turned and walked straight out the door and into the dinning room without a backwards glance. Lester hurried to keep up. The dining room was dark, and the alien turned to Lester as it just inside the doorway.
Do you have a portable light-unit of some kind? We can’t use any more electricity while the power unit is charging.”
“I could turn out the lights in the living room.”
“Good. Do that too.”
Lester fetched a Coleman lantern and got it lit while the alien stood nearby, looking contemptuous of the simple kerosene lamp. Once the dinning room was bathed in the white glow of the lantern, it resumed its exploration of the house. While it was making a brief circumnavigation of the dinning room, Lester tried to ask a few questions.
“How does that translator thing of yours work? I mean . . . not technically, just . . . generally speaking.
The alien paused its scrutiny of a chair it had pulled out, and if looked directly at Lester. “You mean very generally speaking?” Lester just nodded and let the subtle insult slide by. “Okay, generally speaking, the computer aboard the freighter made a routine scan of all the radio and TV transmissions it was receiving from your planet when I first put the ship into orbit. From those millions of transmissions the computer worked out a translation of all the languages that were represented. Are you with me so far?”
Lester just nodded, awed by the magnitude of what he was being told.
“Good. Then the computer fed the data into all the lifeboats’ computers, just in case. It’s standard operating procedure. So then the lifeboat computers programmed these things.” It held up the arm wearing the oversized wristwatch, which ironically was doing the talking during all this.
“To activate the translator I simply speak my own language in a barely audible voice, or just mouth the worlds. The device picks up my thoughts directly from my brain, and it translates them only when it detects my mouth moving.”
Lester’s brow was furrowed in deep thought, and he gazed down at the empty dinning room table as he wrestled with this new knowledge. Finally he said, “But what if you just spoke aloud?”
“Then the device just wouldn’t translate what I was saying! Obviously I would only speak out loud to someone who understood my language. Right?” Lester nodded, but he a little confused. The alien stared at him for a moment and then said, “The translator is programmed so that I won’t be speaking out loud when it is talking. Understand?”
Dawn broke over Lester’s round, jovial face as he suddenly comprehended the brilliance of the alien’s miraculous mechanism! The fact that such marvels existed in the universe — and that someday mankind would also possess similar knowledge — was confirmation of the bright future this humble Oklahoma farmer had grown up believing in.
“Good lord . . . “ Lester said in a barely audible voice. “That’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever — Hey!”
The alien had finished it’s inspection of the dinning room and then walked right out of the room in the middle of Lester’s comment.
“Why you rude little jackass,” grumbled Lester, but he got a firm grip on his anger and shoved it down while he picked up the softly hissing Coleman lantern from the dinning room table and carried it into the kitchen. As he entered the room, the alien was standing in the center of the room, next to the big kitchen table. Lester saw the row of gill slits which ran up the middle of the alien’s face opening and closing rapidly.
“Does it stink in here, too?” Lester said with bitter sarcasms.
“The whole house stinks, but I’m getting used to it.” The alien turned to face Lester. “Hey, don’t take it personally! It’s only caused by the difference in our body chemistries. You shouldn’t be so touchy.” The creature turned its attention back to the surrounding room. “This place is for preparing food, isn’t it?”
Lester just nodded.
“I thought so.” The creature sniffed the air audibly. “I suspect that we share some edible materials in common. Some of the smells in here are familiar. Do you humans eat animal tissue?”
“You mean meat? Sure. Fruits and vegetables too, of course.”
“Omnivorous, eh? Most sentient species are omnivores. In fact, there’s a theory that sentience is a by-product of being omnivorous . . . but I guess you wouldn’t know much about that kind of thing.”
Lester felt his ears burning red from the insult, but he made himself answer casually. “You can explain all that to the human race when you guest star on Saturday Night Live.”
“Maybe your computer missed that show when it made it’s mass recording. Never mind. Hey, weren’t you going to tell me why your ship exploded?”
“If you insist.” The creature started prowling around the kitchen, opening the cabinets, the drawers, the flour tin, the sugar bowl. It sniffed and snorted, finding some odors less pleasant than others. Never once did it ask permission to examine the things it found. Lester had come to expect nothing else.
“Well,” began the creature in a reluctant tone, still wandering around kitchen, “I was hired to fly a load of uninsurable cargo from one star system to another. Even though the job was dangerous, I took it because I had some debts to pay off.”
“I guess things are tough all over.” Lester was hiding a smile he wasn’t proud of.
“Never mind. What kind of dangerous cargo?”
“An unstable compound. Highly explosive if not handled right. If it isn’t frozen, a chemical reaction begins and it explodes.”
The alien pulled out a stack of frying pans from a cabinet under the counter, three different sizes, one inside the other. It held up two of them for a moment, side by side.
“What’s the point of having three different sizes? Wouldn’t if make more sense to have just one that adjusted to any size?”
Lester was silent and tight-lipped with annoyance for a moment before he spoke. Then he made himself smile and say, “But my wife often cooks more than one thing at a time. So one adjustable pan wouldn’t be enough.”
The alien stood motionless for a moment, and it might have been glaring at Lester, but when he replied he definitely sounded defensive. “Well then, you simple own more than one!”
Lester’s smile widened. “We do. You’re holding them. And notice how well they fit together for easy storage!”
After a silent two-second burn, the alien snorted through it’s gill slits and put the pans down on the counter a bit harder than necessary. Lester wasn’t surprised that the creature hadn’t bother putting the pans back in the cabinet. The alien quickly continued its story, eager to put the frying pan debate behind it.
“So, the idiots who loaded the ship didn’t program the cooling system for the cargo properly and it overheated. Once the chemical reaction started, I knew I’d have to eject. I headed for a lifeboat . . . Hey, what’s this supposed to do?”
It lifted the big coffee pot and sniffed it, then recoiled in horror. “What a smell! Awful!”
It slammed the coffee pot down and then stalked over to the refrigerator, opening it hard enough to rattle the bottles on the door shelves, then it poked it’s long tapered head deep inside. Lester was on the other side of the refrigerator door, and he heard the alien pushing things around while its muffled voice came from the translator on its wrist, which was even further inside than its head.
“When I got to the lifeboat I discovered that the power unit had been removed. I checked the other lifeboats and found that all the power units were gone. Maybe they had been cannibalized for some reason, or maybe the owners of the ship didn’t want me to be too quick to abandon their precious cargo. Those greedy bastards didn’t care if I — Hey . . . what’s this white liquid?”
Lester answered quickly to get the alien back to it’s story. “The stuff in the big plastic jug? That’s milk.”
“Milk? From an animal? Is it naturally white, or do you process it to make it look that way?”
“Really? Not where I come from. Hmmm.” After an insufferable pause while Lester listened to the contents of his refrigerator being shoved around by an alien creature, the story continued.
“Anyway, I spent about ten minutes running all over the ship looking for a power unit that would work in a lifeboat. You see, there are different sizes and — well, never mind that. When I finally found one and got to a lifeboat, I discovered that the unit had just enough power left to operate the manual controls for a soft planet on this planet. There’s plenty of fuel the engines, but all the electronics operate from the power unit. A fully charged power unit will last about a thousand years in one of those little lifeboats, but I had to go and grab one that was almost totally depleted!”
The alien rose up out of the refrigerator, and Lester’s eyes bulged when he saw that the forward portion of the creature’s head had turned from brownish red to pale blue!
“Good God, are you sick?” exclaimed Lester.
“Of course not! What are you talking about?”
Lester tried not to stammer when he said, “Your face is blue!”
“Oh, THAT! It’s perfectly normal. My skin responds to cold temperatures that way.”
The alien slammed the refrigerator door and then started peeking into cabinets at the china and glasses. Lester desperately wanted to know more about his curious visitor from a distant star, so he primed the pump a little with a question.
“What was that little light I saw going up from where you landed?”
Without turning its head while he studied Earth’s chinaware, it said, “Distress signal pod. A small propulsion and guidance system, plus a transmitter. It will head to the nearest inhabited star system and transmit an S.O.S. Any message transmitted from here at normal light speed would take many years to reach anybody.”
The alien turned from the open cabinet and gazed through the window over the kitchen sink at the darkness in the back of the house. “You said this was a farm? Does that mean you raise food animals here, as well as the vegetable crops?”
“I’ve got some livestock, yes. Why?’
“Where are they kept?”
“Out back. Through that door. Why?”
The alien walked quickly to the back door and opened it. It stared into the darkness for a moment and then turned back to Lester. “Are any of these animals dangerous?”
Lester was motionless for a moment, and then the corners of his mouth twitched upwards as he said, “Little buddy, you ain’t got a thing to worry about. After those animals get a look at you I’ll spend all day gettin’ them down off the barn roof!”
The chickens did not impress the alien at all. It called them the most ungainly birds it have ever seen. Lester had to agree, but he didn’t mention the rather humorous resemblance between the chickens and his gangly house guest. The alien was much too haughty to see the resemblance, and the chickens were just too stupid. So, Lester let it be his little secret. Lester’s two dogs, Hank and Babe, stood at the edge of the circle of light cast by the kerosene lantern, just staring at the alien creature. Though they didn’t back a single time — which was absolutely amazing — they wouldn’t come an inch closer.
As Lester and the alien crossed the barnyard, Lester heard a banging sound from the big barn door towards which they were headed. He remembered the hog that he and Skeeter had doctored up earlier that evening. He was an Angeln Saddleback, the biggest hog on the planet, and it would weigh over seven hundred pounds eventually. But it was only a year old and currently tipping the scales at a modest four hundred. The cantankerous critter had busted the fence around the hog pen twice, so Lester had put it into a barn stall, hoping to calm it down.
When Lester pulled back the bolt on the barn door, he promptly got knocked flat on his ample backside. Four hundred pounds of angry swine hit the door from the inside and slapped it into Lester. As Lester rolled all the way back onto his shoulders, with his feet pawing the stars above, the hog came through the door with surpising speed and headed straight for the spindly alien. The creature’s wiry three-jointed legs made a backwards leap that was twenty feet long and ten feet high.
When the alien landed it was already holding one of the devices from its harness. Lester, still laying on the ground, twisted around to see the hog charging towards the alien.
Suddenly the hog’s legs collapsed beneath it. Four hundred pounds of pork meat crashed into the dry dirt and rolled to a halt. The alien had the device trained on hog, which lay there trembling violently, making a prolonged whining sound. The alien continued to aim the device at the trembling animal while it circled the poor hog cautiously. When the alien got closer to Lester it spoke in a loud, accusing voice.
“You said none of these beasts were dangerous!”
“What you doing to it!” Lester shouted as he struggled to his feet. “Stop that, damn you! There’s no need to torture that animal!”
The alien answered as if it was annoyed with Lester. “I’m not causing it any pain.”
Lester exploded. “You lying little scum! Stop that, right now!”
The alien flipped a switch on the device and then thrust it back into its vest pouch. The hog stopped trembling and lay there motionless for a moment, then it whined pitifully and struggled to its feet. It stood there for a moment, breathing rapidly. Every few seconds it whined again, and Lester knew he’d never heard a more distressing sound from any animal.
Lester turned to face the alien, his face red with angry and his fists clenched at this sides. He spoke in a low, ominous voice. “What’s wrong with him? What did you do?”
The translator on the wrist of the strange creature made a noise which sounded like a disdainful chuckle. Nothing is wrong with it. All I did . . . was “this.” The alien pulled out the device again, aimed it at the man, and flipped the switch.
Instantly, Lester felt a soaring pleasure like nothing he had ever felt before. It was like the ecstasy of love and sex and good food and wild ride on a roller coaster — all rolled into one. That blast of pure pleasure only lasted a few seconds, but the instant it was over Lester heard a voice deep in his mind screaming for the pleasure to return.
Somehow he managed not whine out loud like hog had done. Anger and shame and indignation gave him the strength. Lester spoke in a cold, level voice.
“Now you listen to me, dammit. If you ever do that again, I will find the strength to kill you with my bare hands. Do you understand?”
The alien backed away a few steps, clearly frightened by the way Lester was staring at it, but it quickly tucked the device back into the vest pouch and then held up all four of its arms in an unmistakable gesture of surrender.
“Wait, now . . . hold on. Calm down,” the alien said, its voice betraying the fear it suddenly felt. “I just didn’t want you thinking I had a weapon. Why are you so angry? Didn’t it feel good?”
“Weapons can come in different forms,” Lester said through clenched teeth. Then he realized that if he didn’t get the murderous look off his face before the alien decided it was a murderous look, it might calm him down too with its gizmo. And that thought literally terrified Lester. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. He tried to make his voice sound calm when he spoke.
“Tell me, my friend . . . just how does that gizmo work?”
The alien visibly relaxed, relieved that his host was back in a good mood. “It stimulates the pleasure center of the brain. It doesn’t cause any physical damage or harmful side effects. I mean, other than the psychological dependence.”
“Oh, is that all?” Lester’s voice betrayed more anger than he’d intended.
“It isn’t as bad as you might think. Most life forms find that they get tired of it eventually . . . or at least less enthusiastic about it. Well, sentient life forms, that its. The lower life forms get hooked on it in no time and they’d rather starve to death than forgo the artificially induced pleasure. But if it’s handled just right, it can be used very effectively to control animals such as that one.”
The alien indicated the hog, which had lain down and was whining less often now.
“It’ll get over that in a few weeks,” said the alien. “But you might have trouble getting it to eat for a while. A heavy does like I gave it will cause a deep depression afterwards.” The alien walked over to the hog and studied it in the light of the kerosene lamp Lester had dropped to the ground. “Hmmm. Bring that light source over here.”
Lester picked up the lantern and held it high as he joined the alien beside the hog. The nonhuman was scrutinizing the animal closely. The translator on the alien’s wrist was speaking softly. The alien was talking softly to itself, and the translator was picking it up.
“ . . . and the legs are shorter. The ears are shaped oddly, but that’s not necessarily a sign of mutation. If only it could be deodorized. The smell is obnoxious . . . really obnoxious.”
Lester eavedropped, feeling a renewed suspicion and wariness of the alien. The nonhuman notice Lester standing next to it, and it studied Lester’s face for a moment with its narrow eyes. Lester felt uncomfortable beneath that cold, unfriendly gaze. Finally the alien spoke.
“Would you be interested in trading me this beast for something of mine?”
“Would I do what?” Lester was amazed.
“A trade. And exchange. I give you something of mine, and you give me this animals. Understand?” The alien was speaking as if it were explaining the idea to a child.
“I know what a trade is!” Lester said angrily. “No. I don’t want to trade.”
“Well . . . uh . . . “ Lester faltered. He didn’t want saw what he was really thinking. “You don’t have anything I want. Besides, how could you possibly take the hog with you? Your ship is too small.”
“That won’t be a problem. The beast will just barely fit into the compartment that holds the food, medical supplies, spare parts, and so forth. All those things can be stored loose in the passenger section with me. Admittedly I won’t have an inch of room to spare, but I can endure it for the three weeks it will take the lifeboat to reach the nearest inhabited star system.”
Lester stared at the alien with slack-jawed amazement. “You mean . . . you mean you would actually crame a four hundred pound hog into an undersized compartment for three weeks? What would it eat? How would you give it water?”
“It won’t need food or water because I’ll use the med kit to hook up and intravenous tube and feed it liquid nutrients. And it won’t even want any food or water, because I’ll keep it in a state mild euphoria with this.” The alien tapped the the pleasure-making device in the vest pocket. “I’ll keep it at low power. The animal will lose weight during the trip, but it will be happy enough.”
Lester’s round face turned red with anger and indignation. “It won’t be too happy when you finally turn that thing off, eh? But I don’t understand! Why do you want a hog so badly?”
The alien hesitated a long moment while it studied the hog where it still lay despondently on the ground. Finally the alien spoke.
“I told you I had debts to pay. The owners of that freighter are not going to pay me after I lost the cargo and the ship, even though it was their fault. But . . . this animal . . . this hog . . . is very similar to a life-form that is highly prized by certain types of sentient beings. It would bring a very good price if I could get it the right market.”
Lester felt a queasy feeling in this stomach as he tried to imagine what uses a race of nightmare creatures might make of a four hundred pound hog.
“Highly prized . . . for what reason?” whispered Lester. The answer he got was totally unexpected.
Lester stood there with his eyes wide and his jaw hanging down, then his meaty cheeks twitched upward as he felt a bubbling giggle rise up inside of him. His ample belly started bouncing up and down beneath his overalls as he succumbed to uncontrollable laughter. The mental image of his ornery hog becoming the pampered pet to family of little green Martians was just too lunatic to endure. Lester hugged himself and laughed so hard the alien became worried.
“What’s wrong with you? Are you having convulsions? Is it some kind of reaction to the use of this? Do you need another dose?” It aimed the pleasure-maker at Lester, and the man almost choked on the fear that suddenly squelched his high spirits.
“No! Don’t point that thing at me! I’m fine. I’m just fine. Now, listen. You wanna make a deal, we’ll make a deal. What’s your pitch?”
“What are you offering me for this fine specimen of high-grade livestock?”
“You’ll trade? Excellent! Let me see, now. I’m sure there’s something here you’ll like. I’ll need most of these devices during my trip back home, you understand. Still, there must something here I could part with.”
The alien was making a great show of pulling out various items from the pouches in its harness, trying to find an attractive trinket with which to dazzle the gullible native.
“What’s that thing?” Lester pointed at one of the devices.
“Food analyzer. It tells me what things would be safe to eat.”
“Oh. Okay, so what’s that long thing, there?”
“Medical monitor. It analyzes my system for infectious disease and administers medication.” The alien paused and pulled out the little gizmo. “That reminds me, I’d better check to see if I need another does of full-spectrum antibiotics. I gave myself a dose before opening the hatch on the lifeboat, but you never know . . . “
The alien pressed one end of the slender cylinder against the second arm on its right side while it stared at a small, round display screen that capped the opposite end of the cylinder like the giant head of oversized nail. It reminded Lester of the meat thermometer his wife used when she cooked a big turkey for Thanksgiving.
Suddenly the alien uttered one harsh, unpronounceable word which the translator did not render into English. Then the translator started speaking again while the alien muttered to itself softly in its own strange language. The nonhuman was obviously very upset.
“How could one planet have so many different infectious organisms? I should’ve taken a double does of antibiotics . . . at least a double does!” The alien was still staring at the round display screen. “Now I’m full of disease germs! I’ll be dead in a few hours if I don’t take a massive dose. Should’ve realized I felt lighthead . . . “
“What’s wrong?” Lester said. He was genuinely concerned.
“What’s wrong?” the alien said sharply while its trembling hand fumbled with the dial on the medical monitor. “What’s wrong? Oh, not much! Just your whole, hated, worthless planet, that’s what’s wrong! Your filthy, disease-ridden air is so loaded with nasty microorganisms that a standard does of full-spectrum antibiotics can’t handle them all!”
The alien was ranting in panic as it pressed the small end of the medical monitor against its forearm again, injecting itself with a huge dose of antibiotics to counteract the hundreds of diseases which Earth’s atmosphere had infected it with.
“Are you . . . are you going to die?” said Lester, suddenly sorry for the poor ugly creature, so far from home. The alien didn’t answer. It was again staring at the round display on the end of the medical monitor while it pressed the other end against one of its four arms. The nonhuman began talking to itself again in its own language, but the translator was giving Lester the English version.
“Yes! Not as bad as I thought. If I can just . . . Wait, what’s this? Four to six hours? I can’t wait that long! What moron designed this thing?” shouted the alien as it held the medical monitor up in it’s clenched fist, shaking the device while it screamed at it.
“What happned?” Lester said with genuine concern. “Is it broken?”
“This miserable mechanism decided I was overly excited, so it gave me a sedative along with the antibiotic! It says I’ll be unconscious for four to six hours while the antibiotics combat the diseases I’ve contracted. Four to six hours! I’ll probably wake up on an operating table, surrounded by a few dozen curious human doctors who’ll be watching my dissection!”
Lester cringed at the mental images the alien’s statements were giving him. He became keenly aware that his nonhuman host guest was in serious danger.
Is there no man on Earth who has the wisdom and innocence of a child?
~ The Space Children (1958)
Last edited by Bud Brewster on Fri Jul 17, 2020 10:55 am; edited 11 times in total
Galactic Fleet Admiral (site admin)
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|Posted: Fri Mar 13, 2020 10:38 am Post subject:
“At the very least,” the alien continued, “I’ll be locked up somewhere so that your military can make me explain how the lifeboat technology works. The fools will probably think I can build a starship from scratch! Primitive cultures always think that. I just know what buttons to push . . . and even then the computer does most of the work!”
The alien was pacing back and forth, gripped in the throes of a raving hysteria. It was beginning to stagger drunkenly as the sedative took effect. Lester wondered just how much danger the alien was really in. Did the creature think that Lester would turn it over to the authorities the moment it became unconscious and helpless? Obviously the alien did not consider Lester capable of doing much for it on his own, but at least Lester could make an offer to help.
“Is there anything I can do while you’re asleep?” said Lester. The alien whirled around to face Lester, nearly falling over as it sway back and forth.
“Ooooh, sure!” it said sarcastically. “That’s a terrific idea! You could just pop that power unit back into its receptical next to the control panel, and then give the lifeboat a thorough preflight check for me.” The cadence of its speech was slow, but the words weren’t slurred because the translator was doctoring up the alien’s drunken enunciation. “Just a quick run-through, nothing complicated. And THEN, my big faithful aborigine, you can load that huge, smelly animal into the storage compartment so that when — or if — I ever see civilization again, I can reap somr small reward from this disastrous episode!”
The alien staggered over to Lester and stood with the nose of its long, tapered head almost touching his.
“But maybe you shouldn’t bother your thick, stupid head with all that.” The alien swayed like a tall tree in a stiff breeze. Its slitted eyes were barely open as the voice from the translator trailed off. “Because . . . very likely . . . I’ll never wake up ., . . anyway . . . “
The aliens narrow eyes folded closed as it crumpled to the ground. Lester gazed down at it for a moment feeling an unexpected pity for this spooky cosmic looser. Lester wondered if he really was just a big, dumb aborigine from a backwater planet in the galactic boondocks. Just a native hayseed farmer on a third rate planet. Maybe the rest of the galaxy was filled with beings who thought and felt just like the one laying at his feet. This creature expected no kindness, and it showed no gratitude.
Lester couldn’t decide if it needed a lesson in generosity or one in humility. Probably it needed both . . .
A sudden thought emerged from his ponderings, and he quickly consulted his watch. It was 10:58. Barely time enough. Quickly he lifted the alien’s body and carried it into the house. The body didn’t weight more than a hundred pounds total, a surprising fact in view of its apparent mass. Lester laid the alien on the bed in the spare bedroom. Quite a housequest this was, yes indeed; a goblin from Mars.
The creature seemed to be breathing regularly, and its body was warm to the touch.
Lester debated covering it with a quilt, but he had no way of knowing if would make it too hot. Besides, the mental image he got of himself tucking in this four-armed creature for a nap was too bizarre to contemplate . . .
The eleven o’clock new was all abuzz concerning the unexplained explosion above the Earth’s atmosphere. It gave Lester a curious tingling sensation to know the answer to a question the whole world was asking. There was no mention of the “meteor” that had come down in Lester’s local area. If the Air Force and the FBI were investigating the UFO sighting, they would undoubtedly be as secretive about it as usual.
Lester wondered if anyone but himself had seen the little “distress signal pod” leave the Earth just after the lifeboat had come down. Luckily the nearest major airport was over one-hundred fifty miles away, so perhaps no radar had detected either the distress signal pod or the lifeboat. But then, perhaps luck had nothing to do with it. Perhaps the alien had been able to pick its landing spot with these considerations in mind.
On the other hand, there were missile silos and Air Force bases all over the state. So, maybe the alien was right in being pessimistic. At any moment a team of investigators might knock on the front door and ask him if he’d seen something fall from the sky.
“Who me? Why shucks no, Mr. Guvment Man! We go to bed at sundown around here, ya know. Gotta get up early and slop them hogs.”
Hogs . . .
Lester hurried out back to see it the hog had wandered off while its owner was tucking a Martian into bed. But Lester discovered that the hog had not moved from where it lay in the dirt near the barn. It still made a soft whining sound every so often, but it didn’t seem to notice Lester at all. Apparently the alien had underestimated the effects of the pleasure-maker. As a “weapon” the device was diabolical. It rendered its victim so helpless that afterwards the victim could only lie around and yearn to be shot again!
Lester remembered that his own experience with the device had only lasted a fraction of a second and at low power. The hog had gotten a full blast for more than thirty seconds. The alien had been concerned only with his own safety when threatened with physical harm. This poor dumb animal would never again experience anything which could compare with that long moment of total pleasure. In fact, there might be no way to even get the hog’s attention. It would lay right there and starve to death.
The ultimate addiction.
But if the alien sold the hog to someone who could use the pleasure-maker to induce it to eat and who would treat the hog humanely in general, then Lester would be wise to give up the animal. This was why Lester had suddenly changed his attitude about trading with the alien. And the more he considered the trade, the more sense it made from a humanitarian point of view.
“Easy feller, we’re almost there,” said Lester. He had to avoid the potholes in the dirt road, because the shocks on the trucked tended to bottom out if he hit them too hard. Toyota trucks were not ideal for hauling four-hundred pound hogs over dirt roads, but Lester’s other truck had a short in the wiring, so the headlights didn’t work.
The hog lay quietly in the bed of the truck, as apathetic to its surroundings as it had been in the barnyard. For a brief time it had been a shadow of its former self while Lester used the pleasure-maker on low power to coax the poor animal into the truck. The device was ridiculously easy to use. Even an aborigine could do it.
The power unit took a bit longer to figure out, but finally lester had it disconnected successfully. It had charged for over four hours, so it had more than the minimum operating level. He wondered if installing the unit in the lifeboat would be as simple as the alien had indicted during its intoxicated ravings. But Lester had faith in the first rule of good design: make it as simple as possible. So simple even an aborigine could do it.
It was four a.m. when Lester slowly and cautiously poked his head up through the hatch in the lifeboat’s underside. The hatch had opened by itself with he’d laid his hand on it. Lester wasn’t surprised. A good lifeboat would never be hard to get into, would it? Or hard to repair, for that matter.
By the light of the kerosene lantern Lester gazed at the cryptically labeled control panel. The rest of the cockpit was just a padded encloser, capable of holding about ten of the aliens if they didn’t mind being packed in like the proverbial sardines. It didn’t occur to Lester that artificial gravity would make it possible for the occupants to lay against all sides of the spherical interior. It would be claustrophobic, but comfortable.
A conspicuous round hole in the control panel was just the proper size for the surprisingly light-weight power unit. The cylindrical power unit had lights and displays on one end, so Lester inserted the other end and eased the cylinder down into the hole. When it bottomed out there was a click, after which the cockpit’s lavender lights and control panel displays blazed to life. Lester nearly fainted from nervous fright at the sudden electronic activity, and he had to go sit in his truck for ten minutes until his heart slowed down. He had half-expected the spidery little craft to lift off with him dangled from the bottom!
After his jangled nerves had quieted, Lester again used the pleasure-maker to get the Hog loaded into its place aboard the lifeboat. Normally Lester would have needed the help of eight strong men to get the hefty animal loaded. However, there’s simply no overestimating the things one could make a hog do when the animal could be motivated by a blast of pure pleasure.
Before leaving the farm, Lester had found it easy to persuade the hog to stuff itself with food for its historic journey to the stars. Lester realized that the hog could be trained to do nearly anything, just by causing the animal to associate the given activity with a measured does of pleasure.
For that matter, people could be trained the same way. Broadcast towers equipped with larger versions of the pleasure-maker would be able to keep the people living in the world’s slums very, very happy. Lester decided he didn’t want the pleasure maker to fall into the hands of the government. Anybody’s government.
Lester left the pleasure-maker inside the lifeboat. He didn’t want the alien to get its hands on it again until it had left. As the nervous Oklahoma farmer drove back along the dirt roads and cow paths towards his home, he heard a sound that electrified his jittery nerves. The whack-whack-whack of a helicopter in the sky behind him caused Lester to almost collide with a tree as he leaned out the window and searched for the aircraft. It was keeping well back, but it was definitely following Lester. The sky was turning gray with the approach of damn, but it was still too dark for Lester to see anything of the helicopter except it’s searchlights.
When Lester turned into his own driveway the copter banked hard and headed towards the brightening eastern sky. Its departing silhouette had the wide look of an army helicopter. Lester wondered if he was in for a visit from the military. Obviously there was no time to waste.
“Come on, pal. Up and at ‘em!” Lester gently tugged on the alien’s arm, trying to rouse it from its drug-induced slumber. The creature’s reluctance to cooperate began to wear on Lester’s frayed nerves, and he lost his composure for a moment. “Wake UP, you ungrateful freak! You’ve over-stayed your welcome!”
The alien mumbled a few word in it’s own language, but the translator didn’t attempt to render into English. Lester pulled the gaunt creature up so that it sat on the edge of the bed. Even though Lester knew the creatures was amazingly strong, he couldn’t help thinking that the fragile-looking body would break easily. The alien’s head rolled around loosely, and Lester had to hold its body up in a sitting position.
“Hey, you!” Lester shouted. “Hey! The Army or the Air Force or somebody followed me back from you ship! We gotta go . . now! Pronto!”
“My . . . my lifeboat?” said the translator in an anquished voice. “Somebody found my lifeboat?” The words weren’t slurred, but the translator spaced them well apart, indicating the alien’s barely conscious condition.
“I’m not sure if anybody’s found it, but they’re definitely looking for it. I got the hog loaded up and the power unit plugged in. Do you think you can fly it?”
The alien’s narrow eyes widened in alarm for a moment, then it said, “You’ve . . . you’ve been tampering with my lifeboat?” It shook its long tapered head a few times, struggling to shake off the mental sluggishness caused by the drug. “You’ve been . . . out there? Tampering with my lifeboat?”
“I plugged the power unit into its hole. All your funny little lights lit up real purty. Now, get the hell up you ugly little . . . hold it. What was that?”
The sound of cars pulling up in front of the housed caused Lester to freeze with fear.
“Well . . . that’s it. Our luck’s run out.” Lester felt a knot of dread gripping his stomach at the thought of what might result from the alien’s capture. The creature was still too groggy to make an attempt to escape. It slumped over sideways on the bed just as Lester heard a sharp knock at the front door. As he walked through the house he tried to think of some way to get the alien to its lifeboat before the authorities found the spacecraft — assuming they had not already done so. But he knew they would want some explanation for what he had been doing in that wooded area at five a.m.
That part didn’t really worry him, though. He could pull the old “farmers get up the chickens” routine. He could tell them something like . . . he was checking the north forty for boil weevils. They’d believe anything as long as he acted both sincere and studid.
They’d believe . . . anything. Hey . . . yeah.
When Lester opened the front door he was faced with four very well groomed men in Air Force uniforms. He was impressed by the ranks they represented: a colonel, a major, two captains — and three MPs Lester tried to ignore because their presence frightend him. Was he under arrest?
Two drab looking sedans were parked at the end of the driveway near the house. Lester saw the eyes of the Air Force officers give him a quick look from head to toe. Everything depended on their taking him at face value, so Lester hooked his thumbs into his overall straps and made his shoulders slump. He let his face sag into a bovin look of utter stupidity.
“Mor — nin’,” he drawled slowly.
The colonel flipped his wallet open for Lester to see his service I.D. card. When he spoke, his voice was crisp, well modulated, and unbearably pompous.
“Mr. Lester Hollow? Were with the U.S. Air Force and we’re investigating a matter that may affect national security.” Apparently that was supposed to impress the hick farmer. Lester allowed his face to take on a “Gol-ly!” look.
“Mr. Hollow, may we ask you a few questions?”
Lester gave the moment a suitable pause and then he said, “What kinda ques-chins?” He moved his eyes slowly as he looked at each of the four officers one at a time.
“We happen to know that about an hour ago you were driving through the wooded area that lies southeast of here.”
Lester preceded his answer with a long, thoughtful pause, as if he had trouble remember that far back. Finally, “Ye — ap.”
“Mr. Hollow, we’ve received eyewitness reports from this area, indicating that some sort of object fell from the sky approximately thirty minutes prior to the explosion above the Earth’s atmosphere last night. Did you see anything unusual in the area through which you drove?”
Lester opened his mouth to say no, but the words froze in his throat. Suddenly he knew exactly how to get the alien to his lifeboat. Lester almost giggled at the wild mental image that his plan produced. It was pure slapstick insanity, but Lester felt it the aliens chance. He was even more sure that it was absolutely necessary for the sake of mankind. Lester did not want the pessimistic, self-center alien to fall into the hands of the military.
In doing this, Lester realized he was depriving mankind of a trip to the stars, but he firmly believed that the price of the ticket would be a bit too high. So, Lester let the dim-witted expression on his face turn into one of suppressed excitement.
“Well, now . . . I did find something out thar, but . . . well . . . “ he stammered nervously. “I figured nobody would believe me if-in I told ‘em!”
The Air Force officer suddenly looked like hunting dogs, coming to a point when the quail is flushed out.
“Describe what you saw,” the colonel said quickly.
“I didn’t just see it! I dang near run over it! Some kinda machine, parked smack in the middle of the road. It had weird lights a-glowin’ on it, and it made the funniest sound you ever heard. If I hadn’t — “
“Could you take us the object?” snapped the colonel.
“Well, sure! I’ll get my truck from around back, and you fellers just follow — “
“There’s no time for that, Mr. Hollow. You can ride in one of our cars.”
“Oh, uh . . . yeah, well . . . “ Lester faultered at this unexpected suggestion. “Well, dang, fellers, I’m amight embarrassed. Ya see, I was feedin’ the chickens out back when I heard you pull up, and . . . well, my boots is covered with chicken droppings. “
The colonel glanced down at Lester’s, large and well-worn boots, thoroughly stained with God knows what. Quickly he said, “Alright, fine, go on and get your truck. But we must hurry!”
“Right!” Lester said cheerfully. “You get in them cars, and I’ll be comin’ around the side of the house before ya know it!”
Lester slammed the door in their faces and sent his bulky body sprinting down the hallway with a foot-clumping stride that shook the whole house. Moments later he was dragging the alien’s limp body from the bed. As Lester picked up the thin body, the alien struggled feebly.
“Come on, little buddy,” said Lester as he carried the creature toward the back door. “As much as I hate to see you go, it’s time for us to part company.”
Lester just left the back door standing open as he hurried over to his high-riding little truck. The alien was startled enough by Lester’s strange behavior to stay awake, but Lester ignored its repeated demands to know what was happening. Lester shoved the alien into the truck, it multiple arms and legs practially filling the cab. Lester slammed the door, and raced around to the other side of the vehicle.
The sky above was growing brighter, and dawn was just minutes away. Time was running out . . .
He jumped behind the wheel and cranked the truck with frantic haste, convinced that at any moment the Air Force men would appear at the corner of the house and see what Lester had sitting next to him! The wide, knobby tires plowed up the bare dirt as the truck swung in a tight turn U-turn that brought it to the scattered beginning of the gravel driveway at the side of the house. Just before the truck came into view of the government cars, Lester shouted to the alien.
“Keep your ugly head head down and out of sight if you don’t want you don’t want your butt to become government property! Do NOT look up, no matter what happens!”
The two cars ahead were backing out of the driveway, but when they saw the truck barreling down on them they accelerated to get out of the way. Gravel went flying up behind the truck as it bore down on the two cars. The car in the middle backed into the one behind it, mangling the fragile grillwork. The two cars swung out on the paved road, and as Lester rocketed past, he shouted at them with a big grin on round face.
“Follow me, boys! I know a couple-a short cuts!”
Lester popped the truck intp high gear and roared off down the road, establishing a good lead on the two cars as their aging retreads spun on the asphalt. Lester stayed on the paved road for only two miles, sailing along at nearly eighty while the government cars struggled to keep up. But he slowed as he approached a dirt road that cut straight down between two fields of tall corn.
As the truck swung onto the dirt road, the alien peeked over the dashboard, despite Lester’s orders. Its narrow eyes grew wider, even though it was still groggy from the sedative.
Before the alien could start asking questions, Lester grinned and blurted out, “Here’s where things start to get interesting!” The bumpy road made the truck lurch and bounce like a rodeo bull, while a cloud of dust rose up behind it. Before the dust could obscure the sight of him from the cars that followed, Lester stuck his arm out the the window and waved energetically, urging the cars to keep up with him.
While the truck’s light body and firm suspension fought valiantly with the uneven dirt road, the less rugged sedans were being battered unmercifully by the bumps and potholes. The men inside the cars began cursing Lester in voices that were still crisp but not at all well modulated like before.
Straight ahead, between the flanking walls of corn, Lester saw the rising sun peek over the horizon, a crimson sliver burning against the distant fields. It took Lester a moment to realize that the two black shapes that hung in the sky above the sun were helicopters.
“Uh-oh. I hadn’t figured on that.”
“On what?” said the alien, who was obviously recovering rapidly from the sedative.
“Helicopters. Two of them. I wonder if they’ve spotted your lifeboat through the trees.”
“I doubt it,” said the alien, whose four arms were all involved in anchoring it inside the cab of the bouncing truck.
“Too technical to explain. You wouldn’t understand.”
“It’s great to have you back to normal.” Lester smiled, keeping his eyes and his attention focused on the narrow dirt road that cut throught the corn field. Ahead, the two helicopters suddenly banked into view above the road ahead.
They slowed to let the truck catch up and pass beneath them, then they flew directly above the government cars once they’d caught up. Lester realized that he could justify leaving the cars behind on the basis that the helicopters could easily keep up. And then, when he finally did reach the lifeboat, the helicopters would be prevented by the trees from landing.
The road between the cornfields suddenly ended at a paved a road which ran straight towards the wooded area where the lifeboat was located. But it ended at wooden gate that barred a cow path which cut across to the pasture and connected with the actual road through the woods on which the lifeboat was located.
As the truck sped towards the end of the road, Lester saw that large gate in the fence around the cow pasture was standing wide open — something he’d desperately been counting on.
“Hang on! We’re going to have to jump over a small stream.”
The alien was staring straight ahead, and it wasn’t a bit pleased by what it saw. “Does this vehicle fly?”
Lester wore the look of a man who was about to risk it all. “Ask me again in a minute.”
The truck shot through the open gate and onto the cow path wandered across the pasture. The cow path dipped down to cross a small brook — but the truck didn’t. It soared over the shallow stream and landed on the far side with a certain mechanical grace.
“WHEEE—HAA!” shouted Lester. “I’ve want to do that for years!”
“You madman!” shouted the alien. “You’ll kill us both!”
“Maybe,” said Lester as he smiled and patted the dashboard of the truck. “But we’ll go out in style!”
Meanwhile, the two government cars reached the end of the road and careened onto the cow pasture with more enthusiasm than common sense. It was immediately obvious that reducing their speed was absolutely necessary.The helicopters soared by overhead and followed Lester across the big, empty pasture. The government cars took turns cautiously crossing the small stream, though they barely made it back up the bank on the far side. The truck was almost to the gate on the far side by the time the second sedan made it across the little stream.
Within minutes the truck reached the parallel dirt road on the far side of the pasture, the one which wove through the woods and lead to the alien’s lifeboat. Lester navigated the twisting road with admirable skill until he finally rounded the sharp curve and again almost rammed the spidery little spacecraft. The dense foliage of the wooded area reduced the light of the sunrise to near darkness.
“Let’s move it!” ordered Lester as he scrambled out the truck. “I hear those helicopters. They’re directing the cars by radio.”
The alien still had trouble walking, but it waved Lester away when the man tried to help. Just as the alien reached the hatch beneath the lifeboat, Lester heard the cars approaching.
“For God’s sake, hurry up!” Lester pleaded. The alien opened the hatch and fumbled its way up into the spacecraft without a word to Lester. The hatch closed halfway . . . and then it stopped. Suddenly Lester heard the alien let loose an outraged scream.
“You stupid, ignorant dirt-tiller! How could you be so brainless! This disgusting animal was supposed to be put into the storage bin — not up here with me!”
Lester had eagerly awaited this moment, and now that it finally arrived, he let all his pent-up anger spill out.
“You selfish bastard, you hooked that poor hog on your pleasure device, and now you’re gonna have to keep him happy! I’ll admit he’s an ungrateful swine — but I’m sure you two will get along just fine!”
Lester ducked beneath the lifeboat, reached up, and yanked the hatch shut. He stumbled back away from spacecraft just as the two government cars came into view. The leading car collided with the rear of Lester’s truck, and the second car rammed the leader. The helicopters were visible through the trees overhead in the dawns early light.
The spacecraft started making a strange noise which sounded like a reverberating dial tone, and it was suddenly enveloped in brilliant blue glow. It rose up a foot from the ground, folded up the spidery legs with a snap, and then shot up through the trees like a bullet, blasting the branches to splinters.
Through the newly made gap in the green canopy overhead, Lester saw the two helicopters bank frantically to right and left after being narrowly missed by the lifeboat when it shot right between them.
“WOW!” shouted Lester gleefully as the Air Force men leaped from their cars. “Did you guys see that? I’ve never seen anything move as fast as that son of a bi — that shiny thing just did!”
The men rushed over and stared up through the ragged gap in the canopy of trees. Lester, still gazing upward, backed up until he was standing next to the young captain. Then he remembered that he had to maintain his hayseed act, so he slowed his speech down and spoke in a low and humble voice.
“Hey, uh, listen . . ya’ll are gonna pay for fixin’ my truck, right?”
“What?” said the captain, looking down for the first time and staring at Lester in amazement.
“My truck. You hit my truck. Ya’ll are gonna pay for that, ain’t ya?”
The captain was speechless. Finally he said, “Mr. Hollow, don’t you have any idea what you just witnessed here?”
Lester was instantly indignant and defensive. “You’re dang right I witnessed it! And it was your fault. I wasn’t even in the dang truck! Now, are you fellers going to pay or not?”
The captain exchange amazed looks with the other officers. Finally the colonel spoke quietly to Lester.
“Mr. Hollow, don’t worry. The U.S. Air Force will reimburse you for any damages.” But then he added quickly, “But only if you agree to make absolutely no statement to the press or anyone else about what just happened here.”
Lester carefully controlled his face like a Mississippi gambler holding four aces. He gave the colonel a hurt look like a petulant child and said quietly, “Well, dang . . . that don’t hardly seem fair — “
“Fair or not, that’s the deal! Take or leave it!” Then the colonel spoke in a low and threatening voice. “I mean it. Not to a word to anybody . . . or we won’t pay dime.”
Lester hung his head and pushed around the dirt with the toe of his boot for a moment. Finally he answered in a barely audible voice.
“Well . . . okay.”
Lester was allowed to go home while the Air Force officers awaited a team of experts to check out the landing site of the U.F.O. He drove along slowly, wearing a lazy smile as he contemplated the fact that the alien would have to endure an unpleasant three-week trip in the tiny lifeboat, keeping the hog contented with the pleasure-maker.
If the alien didn’t care properly for the animal, giving it water and most of its own food, the hog would die. And a dead hog would smell much worse than a live one.
Lester was certain that the alien had intended to use the pleasure-maker as little as possible so that the hog would not be too apathetic towards its surroundings when the trip was over. That would have lessened the hog’s resale value. If the hog had been imprisoned in the small cargo bin, the alien could have easily neglected the animal.
This way, it couldn’t. When they reached their destination among the stars, the alien would sell the hog as a pet to some race of creatures who regarded such animals as cute and cuddly.
Lester almost ran off the road when he was suddenly seized by a fit of laugher as he imagined the fat, pampered swine fetching a newspaper for the father of some alien family, after which the hog woud be scratched affectionately behind the ears and then rewarded . . . not with a dog biscuit, but with a blast of pure pleasure!
Now, surely that was Hog Heaven.
Is there no man on Earth who has the wisdom and innocence of a child?
~ The Space Children (1958)
Last edited by Bud Brewster on Mon Mar 16, 2020 3:49 pm; edited 4 times in total
Joined: 06 Oct 2014
Location: Buffalo, NY
|Posted: Sat Mar 14, 2020 2:26 am Post subject:
|Well... First of all ...I liked the story!
But....the place where you goofed points out my one suggestion. Perhaps it was telling you that the story was too long and desperately in need of editing!
An author can be the last one to be able to see it ,….because every word came from the sweat and toil of his mind and imagination!
The story is great! I loved the concepts and how you brought out the nuances of the main characters and told their story. However, I thought the story itself bogged down in a few places.
A tale of this type, meant to amuse and appeal to a less technical nature has to move quickly. I felt a bit slowed down in a few places by "more than I needed to know". An author can find these aspects fascinating and fun to write and tickle their creative nature, but be an impediment to the reader.
Look at the story. Read it out aloud....That's a real key to writing...How does it communicate?
The story as written would make a great screenplay...Because the overlapping of character's dialogue would be visually a great touch! In a written story it must be very carefully executed and here it was a bit rough. Nothing that tightening and editing wouldn't solve!
All and all, I'd give it a B+...not bad! Still a fun read!
There comes a time, thief, when gold loses its lustre, and the gems cease to sparkle, and the throne room becomes a prison; and all that is left is a father's love for his child.
Galactic Fleet Admiral (site admin)
Joined: 14 Dec 2013
Location: North Carolina
|Posted: Sat Mar 14, 2020 3:20 pm Post subject:
Gord, you've provide very good and honest advice from a fellow writer. I'll consider your suggestions carefully.
The story is designed, of course, to depict a long and frustrating experience for the kind, patient, and generous Mr. Lester Hollow, and to show that he endured numerous insults before he finally reacted the way he did.
Naturally I'm eager to hear from the other members who might agree or disagree your assessment.
But I realize there's no such thing as a story which appeals to everybody, so I know full well that some folks might like Hog Heaven just the way it is, while others might not even be able to get through the whole thing!
For example, my own wonderful, intelligent sister tried to read The Hero Experience . . . but sadly confessed she couldn't get through it.
On the other hand, my daughter (Ticket2theMoon) enjoyed reading both it and The Wishbone Express with my grandchildren (ages 10 and 15), and they loved it!
My teenage grandson — All Sci-Fi member Tantus Starbucker — enjoyed it so much he created his own Bowmen outfit after finishing The Hero Experience.
And he was saddened by the fate of the I.S.Y. Wishbone after enjoying the story in which that gorgeous starship played such a heroic role.
On a related note, two of my life-long friends who served as the inspiration for characters in The Hero Experience read it gave it a Five Star review on Amazon!
As for me, I once considered The Summer of '42 by Herman Raucher my favorite book, and I actually emulated his style when I wrote the first draft of The Hero Experience in the early 1980s!
But slowly I evolved my own style during that year-long process, and when I revised it extensively for publication in 2013, I made many revisions which improved the story and demonstrated my growth as a writer over the twenty-one years which elapsed between the initial conception and the final publication.
My point, ladies and gentlemen, is that whenever I now try to read my copy of The Summer of '42, I no longer think, "Gee, I wish I could write as good as this!"
Instead I think, "Gee, I'm glad I've learned to write better than this."
My point here is that I don't expect my writing to appeal to everyone. In fact, every reader has had different taste in the books they love within their own lifetime!
But I do appreciate the input from everyone who reads my work . . . regardless of age, race, creed, color, or planetary origin!
Is there no man on Earth who has the wisdom and innocence of a child?
~ The Space Children (1958)
Galactic Fleet Admiral (site admin)
Joined: 14 Dec 2013
Location: North Carolina
|Posted: Thu Jul 16, 2020 6:53 pm Post subject:
Just to get another opinion about this story, I'd like to hear what fellow writer Steve (Trekriffic) thought about it.
His epic yarn, The Battle of Sherman's Plant was started on April 18th, 2018, and we've all enjoyed his epic tale over the last two years!
But I honestly feel that all the events depicted in Hog Heaven are necessary to the premise. Poor Lester Hollow endured a long and frustrating experience with the alien . . . without loosing his patience!
But he finally strikes back at his obnoxious house guest!
So, Lester's final act of retribution — which is aimed at the injustice done to a helpless farm animal — is meant to show that he felt the need to balance the scales of justice!
Is there no man on Earth who has the wisdom and innocence of a child?
~ The Space Children (1958)
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