The Iron Writer Challenge #7
2013 Iron Writer Summer Solstice Challenge #7
500 Words, 5 Days, 4 Elements
A 1940 Ford Farm Tractor
A Space Monkey
A Nursery Rhyme
Ethan clambered onto Grandpa’s old Ford tractor. He pretended that he was Star Blaster, the space explorer. His ship was a big rusty bucket, but it was sturdy and strong and could take him across the entire galaxy.
He called it the Space Cow.
“Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the Cow jumped over the moon!” He swung his feet as he pretended to steer the ship.
“Nice landing, men. Time to explore this wasteland.”
He climbed off the tractor and crawled underneath.
“Keep under cover. There could be monsters anywhere.”
There was a chattering sound from the shadows.
Ethan scrambled out. Mom and Dad always said to stay away from animals that didn’t act afraid. They could have rabies.
He saw nothing, but he heard another chatter. Ethan backed away. But he didn’t leave. He wanted to see what the animal was.
A furry little hand poked out from under the tractor. It had four fingers and a thumb, just like his. Then a furry face appeared. Two enormous purpose eyes blinked at him, and the creature chattered again. It was some kind of monkey.
Could monkeys have rabies?
The creature chattered, and its pearly little teeth gleamed. It was wearing some sort of suit or jacket.
If it was a pet, then that was why it wasn’t afraid of him. Ethan put a hand out for it to sniff. The monkey hopped close to him and touched his fingers with both hands. Its hands were warm and soft.
The suit was purple, like its eyes. It was a jumpsuit that covered its body and all four limbs. Only its hands, feet, face and tail were exposed. Its tail was long and curled like a cat’s.
It wasn’t a real monkey, Ethan realized. It had eight fingers on each hand.
The creature ran its tiny hands over Ethan’s fingers and wrists. Then it tugged on his sleeve and pointed at the tractor.
“Oh, that’s just pretend,” Ethan said. “It’s not a real ship.”
The monkey tugged harder. Then it scampered up the tire and sat down on the seat.
“All right, I’ll show you.” Ethan climbed up after the monkey and sat down in front of it. “Space Cow, away! See, it doesn’t do any—”
The huge ship blasted into the sky so fast that Ethan was thrown backwards. He rolled across the floor and hit the back wall.
The monkey sat in the padded chair. Its fingers raced over the console, and the ship rocked. The window-screen showed a blue sky that slowly darkened to black. Stars cut through the black like diamonds.
“Are we going to your planet?”
The monkey chattered.
“Is there any food?”
It chattered and pressed a button. A tray slid out, exposing a neat row of green and white circles.
“I’ve never had sushi before.”
Then he shrugged and picked up a piece. He would probably eat weirder things when they got wherever they were going.
“What was it you’re looking for?” asked Rufus. He eyed the kid with the white shirt and fancy tie. A piece of grass clung to his bottom lip.
“An astronaut, sir.”
“Can’t say I’ve seen any around here, since,” he shouted over his shoulder, “What? Ninety-seven, Mildred?”
“’Bout right,” nodded his wife as they sauntered up to the Weatherford’s barn.
“But you said you heard something in your barn?” asked Spencer.
“Yessir. Wasn’t no astronaut though.”
Rufus slid open the barn door, and Spencer let out a sigh. It was packed to the gills with old car parts and farm equipment and no way to move around. Spencer stepped in as far as he dared, craning his neck to scan the mechanical detritus.
A screech and a clang rang through the old structure. Everyone leapt back, alarmed.
“What the?” exclaimed Rufus.
A chimp’s head poked up from the rusted machinery, and Spencer immediately started to rummage through his backpack.
“Hey mister,” the grass dropped from Rufus’s mouth. “There’s a monkey in my barn.”
Without looking up Spencer explained, “Yes, that’s Penelope. She’s not a monkey.”
“Pardon? That’s a monkey if I ever saw one, or the gosh ugliest farm-girl I ever laid eyes on!”
“Chimpanzee. Penelope isn’t a monkey, rather an ape.”
“What’s she doing?”
“Probably fixing something. It’s what she’s trained to do.”
“Fixing something? That hasn’t run since, what? Fifties, Mildred?”
“1940 Ford-Fergusen. My granddaddy tilled the south plot with her.”
There was another clatter from the tractor followed by the ring of metal on metal. Penelope stood waving a large, red wrench over her head.
“Your monkey best not break nothing, that there’s an antique.”
“She’s not – Oh never mind. Hold this.” Handing Rufus a collar, Spencer pulled out a Tupperware container. As soon as he popped the seal, the racket stopped and Penelope’s head made an appearance, her nostril’s flaring.
Spencer took the tuna roll out of its plastic coffin. “Come on baby. Spence has your favorite.”
A little off-key he sang, “Rock-a-bye, baby, on the treetop.”
“Now, what are you doing?”
Spencer glared at Rufus, “It calms her. Help me out – when the wind blows the cradle will rock.”
Rufus looked at his wife and she spurred him on. “I don’t got all day. There’s a ham in the oven.” In unison they joined in, “And down will come baby…”
By the third “cradle will fall,” Rufus was singing harmony and Spencer waved for the collar. Penelope’s arm crept from behind paint cans and street signs. Her fingers gingerly wrapped around Spencer’s wrist, her lips enveloping the food. Spencer sighed in relief.
Rufus picked his way through the barn checking to see what damage the ape caused. Spencer and Penelope waved farewell. Their car kicked up dust in its departure as a pop and a chug brought the old tractor to life. Rufus took off his cap, and scratched his head, “Well, what do you know.”
A Marriage Proposal in Space
Michael K. Eidson
Having flown non-stop from Baltimore to Kansas City, Julia and I are headed south in a rental. Julia drives because she knows where we’re going.
Julia jokes a lot about getting married in space. I can’t afford that, but I had proposed at the National Air and Space Museum. I’d waited until we were alone, our only audience the preserved corpse of Able the space monkey. I’d dropped to one knee, shown Julia the expensive diamond ring and popped the question.
“No,” Julia had said. “You have to meet my family first.”
I hadn’t said anything. Just gulped. As long as they’re not all murderers, what’s the big deal, right?
After a few hours on the road we pull off at a restaurant with a gravel parking lot. A sign proclaims the eatery belongs to Mama Goose. The interior walls depict scenes from a nursery rhyme: a cat with a fiddle, a cow jumping over the moon, a dish and a spoon running away together. A little dog laughing. I know how he feels.
Our waitress is maybe sixteen years old. She rolls her eyes when I order sushi. It’s on the menu, along with fried green tomatoes. “Somebody wants sushi, Mom,” she yells.
“Sarah, please tell Mom we’re here,” Julia says.
A minute later, Mom waddles out like a gushing goose. We all visit until some old guys come in and Mom has to cook for them.
“We’re going to the house,” Julia announces.
Sarah slaps some keys in Julia’s hand. “Mom says don’t drive your car up the hill.”
We travel on a two-lane road with no shoulders but lots of double yellow lines, eventually parking outside a boxy, graying wooden building. This can’t be the house.
It’s a garage. Julia climbs into the seat of a gray tractor that belongs in a museum, beckons to me and pats the tire wall. “Ever ride on a 1940 Ford farm tractor?”
I tug at my tie. “I’m overdressed.”
The tire wall is obviously not intended as a passenger seat. I set my butt there and find places for my feet.
Somehow Julia starts the relic. We ride it uphill on a rocky road so eroded the rental would have bottomed out. Cresting the hill, I see the house, greying and wooden. Not boxy.
Two bare-chested young men run to meet us, followed by an older man with overalls, suspenders and a jaunty gait. Julia introduces me to her Dad and brothers Johnny and Sam. I’ve never been punched in the shoulder so many times in my life.
I wouldn’t have guessed Julia came from such a family, but she wouldn’t be the Julia I love if she’d grown up anywhere else. Right?
The next morning, Julia takes me for another ride on the tractor. Turning it off, she kisses me and says, “You can ask me now. If you want.”
We’re in a large field. Lots of space. Now I realize where Julia wants to get married.
The witchfire crashed near the edge of Barrett’s field, where kudzu had overtaken a 1940 Ford Tractor so completely that it was merely the suggestion of a hump buried under ravenous vegetation. I cursed under my breath and grabbed my shotgun. Ever since my neighbor experienced some unpleasantness vis a vis stepping outside one morning and finding 4 cows and a Weimaraner all burnt up amidst some kind of looney-tunes crop circles I make it a point to carry the heater. It pays to be prepared.
Two minutes later I was stumbling and cursing through the tall weeds like an idiot. At the center of a small crater was a smooth, egg-shaped pod no bigger than a Frigidaire. A hatch popped open and I made a show of racking the scattergun and hoisting it at said hatch.
“Come on out nice and slow,” I said, sounding more confident than I felt.
The voice that came back sounded like that Hawking feller – the smart guy in the wheelchair. He’s always going on about space; maybe he got it in his mind to try launching himself. People get funny ideas.
The Stephen Hawking voice wasn’t speaking any English that I knew of. “Dos vedanya,” I think he said. And: “Tovarisch.”
“Never mind all that,” I said. “Get to where I can see you.”
“Da, da…” Two furry little paws popped out, followed by a furry little face. He looked at the shotgun and came out slowly, hands high, grinning; a capuchin monkey, wearing an orange jumpsuit. Slung around his neck was some contraption like an oversized calculator.
I lowered the gun. The monkey hopped down, still grinning. He gestured at the gadget and shrugged. May I? I suppose he meant.
I nodded. He typed.
That Hawking voice chirped: “Dos vedanya, tovarisch.”
“Is that Russian?”
The monkey tipped me a salute.
“Well I’ll be. Speak any English?”
He seemed to consider this, and then tapped a few more keys. “American?”
He went back to typing. Hawking chirped “Three. Blind. Mice.” The monkey grinned so wide I thought the top of his head was going to slide off.
A second foo-lite exploded up the road. The monkey screeched and jumped onto my shoulder.
“Friend of yours?”
He typed. What came out sounded like “Zadushit Litso.” He was trembling.
“Should we check it out?”
He paused, and then typed again. “Da.”
Whatever it was had smashed into the trailer that used to be Ma Barrett’s Fresh Sushi and Fireworks Stand. It must have torched the fish something awful, either that or Ma was taking creative license with that whole “Fresh” angle.
“Zadushit Litso,” the monkey typed.
“I don’t know what that is.”
He typed some more. “Three blind mice.”
“That’s not helping, either.”
As we got closer, my eyes started watering. The rotten fish smell was like a punch in the face. “Ma?” I called out. “Doc?”
“Three. Blind. Mice.”
“Cool it with that.”
From the gutted trailer, I saw something emerge that hurt my head to look at. I’ll call it an octopus, but that isn’t right. It was wearing something like a fish bowl on something like a head. These aren’t the right words, just something that’ll have to do. One horrible yellow eye was fixed on me. “Zadushit Litso?” I said.
The monkey nodded, frantically stripping off his jumpsuit as this thing advanced. I drew down on that eye and pulled the trigger.
I may have forgotten something at the house.
The creature made an awful chuckle. It slithered at us with sickening speed. From the corner of my eye I saw the monkey hurl something. A split second later, a sodden diaper struck the creature, stunning it. Without thinking, I reversed the grip on the shotgun and swung it like a baseball bat.
The fishbowl exploded, showering us in space-glass, ichor, and monkey-piss. We did a little victory dance.
A dozen more foo-lights ripped across the sky.