Big Screen TV
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
The Red Sea
Big Screen TV
Grilled Cheese Sandwich
The Red Sea
A Writing Cat
Told from the point of view of an alien who views humans as both food and pets
A Floor Buffer
Robert P. Wills
I shifted on my mount. Two-four percent more gravity didn’t sound like a lot – and really, it wasn’t – but by the end of the week, it got to me. Don’t even mention the atmosphere; it made me want to just vaporize the planet from orbit. Pets or not.
“How much longer will it take?”
Licant. Again. If I could leave him here while I vaporized the aforementioned planet, I’d do it in a twitch. As it was, he was in charge because his uncle was the High Quadturian. I gave him a glance and flicked my tail hoping he’d get the message.
No such luck.
“Are they almost done?”
I tug on my beast’s reins. He doesn’t care for the gravity either. “Yes.” I count to two-two. “Mopping, then drying, then waxing, then buffing…”
“That’s what they’re doing now?”
I look back at the pitiful aliens. “Yes, Licant. This is the last step. You will know when they are done when they put the floor buffers away.”
“Are you sure, Ruises? If there’s still work being done when my Uncle arrives…” He nervously looks up. As if he could see his Uncle’s ship in orbit. “… There will be trouble down here.”
“There’s always trouble down here, Licant.” I sit up and rest my paws on the front of the M’ple and let the reins go slack. The humans call it a Howdah. It sounds absurd. Just like everything else on the planet. “The air is too heavy. The gravity too strong. The weather too unpredictable. The inhabitants too unstable. Something is always being ‘too something’ when it comes to this place.”
Licant licked his lips. “They are delicious though, aren’t they?”
I stretch. “They are that.” I look up. Damn, now he’s got me doing it. I catch movement from the corner of my eye. The landing pad is polished. “There; they are done before your uncle arrives.”
“That is good…” He perks an ear and tilts his head. I do it as well.
“What do you hear?”
“He’s coming”, says Licant.
I stand on my M’ple and arch my back. I feel like I weigh four-three tons. “Just relax.” I hiss at the Humans to make them look.
“Yes?” Says one of them. An annoying male.
“Move the tables”, I say to it in his own tongue. “For the fancy feast.”
He gives a nervous nod. He’s hoping he’s not on the menu.
No such luck.
Finally I hear the ship- Licant is half my age, after all. In moments, it streaks to the polished platform. The ship clam-shells open.
“Uncle!” Licant bounds to the ship. “Everything is ready!” He purrs.
Licant’s uncle, the Sector High Quadturian, puts out his cigarette in a full ashtray. He seems to have embraced Humans habits more than anyone.
“We feast tonight”, he growls as he toasts with a steaming cup.
Without smelling it I know it is coffee.
I give another hiss. “Into the ship, you Human kibble!”
Fezzig awoke, stood, and stretched. His long slender fingers scraped the ceiling. He cursed.
Not all the remaining earth buildings had been renovated to suit the Westrel’s anatomy but that would come in time.
He touched the sensor in his ear flap and began thinking his diary entry.
Yesterday was very trying. I went to the museum, as suggested.
The only thing I saw that made me laugh was the exhibit of something called a “writer”. The human was consuming massive quantities of a dark liquid called “coffee” and sucking on burning sticks called “cigarettes”. Supposedly they enabled him to produce literature. Just when you think they are so advanced you find out that they have to rely on this ancient method.
I know that the decision to save some in the invasion was based on their taste and my breakfast of eggs and human kidneys was great, but to not even have invented telepathic scribing? Oh well.
Still, they are clever and perhaps I will get one as a pet when I get back from vacation.
After the museum it was time to catch the hover for the wildlife sanctuary. I had been told there were real animals there that I could see in their natural habitat. The fighting had not been very fierce in this area so quite a lot of it had been left untouched.
At the orientation there were both Westrel and human speakers but I admit I kind of zoned out.
Finally I had my chance. I climbed the steps to enter the howdah that was positioned high on the elephant’s back. It was not as ornate as the Golden Howdah in the museum had been but it was lavishly decorated with colorful tapestries.
Riding along with me there were three members of a Westrel family and one human. I assumed that the human was their pet.
At last we were in the brush. We kept our eyes peeled for any wildlife. There was very little conversation.
Suddenly a tiger charged us on the right! The snarling was so loud it was almost deafening. As it leapt toward us I acted on instinct and grabbed the human and flung him into the jaws of the beast. I am not proud to admit that I shrieked like a little girl.
Everyone congratulated me on my quick thinking and patted me on the back.
I returned to the hotel exhausted from the long day and the excitement with the tiger.
Upon entering the hotel lobby, though, I heard a loud roar. Fortunately there was a human woman nearby. I grabbed her and threw her – onto something called a floor buffer. It is a machine they use to polish the tile in the lobby.
At least I didn’t scream this time.
Emily Gray Gatrell
“What in the nether is that Mar?” TSue asked from across the room.
I set down my schedule of events as the wind blew through the open window, and the papers scattered. Floor buffer moved as I did to help pick them up. One look at its dirty phalanges had me raising my hand before it could touch anything. It flinched then quickly went back to work.
TSue had a bemused expression when I approached the window. “You know they work harder if you show a bit of kindness.”
“Not you too,” I rolled my eyes and peered out of the curtain and got a better look at my mate’s newest acquisition and what he had carrying it through the courtyard. “Oh great, he has Dinner in the front of the hoard,” I mumbled to myself.
“What is that thing?”
“A Howdah. “
“A Who what?”
“A Howdah, in their world.” I waved at the creatures carrying the gilded and jeweled throne. “They would strap it to the back of an elephant to go hunting or put it on a camel and strut around to demonstrate their wealth and status.” I chuckled, “They’re not on the top of the food chain anymore and a lot of good that wealth did them.”
“They’re not that bad. My mate brought back a cute one from the hunt. I let it sleep at the end of the bed.”
I gasped, “What’s next letting them beg at the table?” She didn’t answer. “You do! Disgusting, those things are not eating at my table.” I gagged as my mate fed Dinner from his hand. “What am I going to serve tonight? I swear that male has so many pets I think he expects us to find another food source.” I turned and crossed my arms over my chest.
What am I going to serve tonight? I looked at Floor Buffer across the room. From the look in his eyes, he knew what I was thinking. I crossed the room as I contemplated how best to serve the rotund fatty creature. I might need to Cook to pull out the pressure cooker, not enough time to smoke slow and low. I stopped when I realized the hassle I’d give myself to finding New Floor Buffer but then thought, Maybe Dinner would like to be New Floor Buffer.
The door opened, and a small blond human went running past me. It smiled as it attached itself to TSue’s legs and squealed in their god awful tongue, “Mama Sue!” TSue looked down at this with genuine affection. That needed to stop. I made eye contact with Floor Buffer, and it walked closer.
“Tsue it looks scrumptious.
TSue looked terrified, “Mar, no.”
“They’re food first.” I kept eye contact with her as Floor Buffer took New Dinner by the tiny hand and led it from the room. Tsue looked as though she might cry. “Don’t look sad. Trust me, dinner will be delicious.”
A. Francis Raymond
“Tony! Where’s my coffee?”
“Brewing now, sir!”
Humans, Rog snorted. If they weren’t so delicious he wouldn’t keep them around. He took a frantic drag from a cigarette held by one of his left-side tentacles.
His skin began to crawl. He was addicted to the caffeine and nicotine, but as long as his superiors kept him working on Earth, he could have all he wanted.
Only one catch: his assignments were mind-numbingly boring. So much so, that he couldn’t complete them till moments before they were due. He was a staff writer for the Galactic Encyclopedia and assigned to write about cultural minutiae on Earth since the invasion.
He wanted out of this gig. He wanted to be a food critic. He’d taken fantastic notes of each and every one of his meals on the most abundant meat on Earth: humans. He favored their internal organs. Especially pan-fried.
Tony was buffing the floor in the hallway within eyeshot. Rog’s mouth was salivating as he watched the human push around a rented floor buffer.
He shook his head.
Tony will be on the menu later, he thought. But not before I finish this piece on… what was it again? Ugh. His next piece was specifically addressing something called a howdah. They want 500 words on this trivia? Ridiculous.
Rog had writer’s block.
“Where’s that damn coffee?” he shouted again.
Tony finally walked in with a fresh pot of coffee. “I’ll make more when you’re done,” Tony said. Rog had already guzzled half the pot down. “Is there anything else I can do? The floors are done…”
“More cigarettes. You know I can’t write without cigarettes!”
Once Tony left, Rog’s communicator chimed with a tone set for his strict, by-the-book boss.
Rog opened up a communication hologram. His tentacled boss, Waz, appeared on top of his desk.
“You’re coming home,” Waz said. No pleasantries, no salutations.
For a minute, Rog thought that an assignment opened up in the food section… could it be?
Waz continued: “Earth is too dangerous. Everyone’s coming home.”
Rog was puzzled “Dangerous? I’ve been here for years. There’s no danger here.” He looked to see if Tony was still in eyeshot. He’d call him over and prove to Waz that these humans posed no danger.
“Apparently, they’ve discovered a taste for our tentacles. Something related to an Earth dish called Calamari.”
Rog knew of Calamari, he didn’t much care for dishes based on animals from the water.
“Tony? Tony where are you!” No answer.
“Look, Waz, let me call you back later. I’ll finish this article and then we’ll get Tony in here and you’ll see everything is fine.”
He broke the communication link before Waz could object. His mind was racing. What would he do off this world, home to the nicotine and caffeine he needed and especially the most delicious humans?
Before a plan could take shape in his brain, he felt the slice to the back of his head and his blood ooze down his back. Immediately before he lost consciousness he heard Tony’s voice “Yes, you can put it on the menu tonight…”
1968 Elvis Presley Comeback Special
Someone mowing/cutting grass
A note left on a car
Brian awoke to the sound of a lawn mower. Before 9:00The lawn mower woke him before 9:00. Again.
Stupid neighbors, Brian thought to himself. All he wanted was to sleep in. He’d come home well after midnight. The note on the back of dad’s car warned him to be quiet. Brian found him sleeping in front of the TV and managed to sneak by without waking him. Dad didn’t usually fall asleep in his chair but his heart was getting worse and he’d been tired a lot lately. He’d probably just stayed up too late and fallen asleep in his chair. Brian was glad to avoid a confrontation.
“Oh my head,” he said, swinging his feet off the bed.
He slogged through his morning routine. Shower, shave, teeth. He changed into sweatpants and a t-shirt. He wouldn’t be getting much done today judging by his headacheHe could tell from the size of the headache he wouldn’t be accomplishing much today.
As he reached the top of the steps a silky voice floated up from the living room.
Honey you lied when you said you loved me. And I had no cause to doubt you.
Elvis on the TV. Dad loved his Elvis. In fact, Brian was pretty sure Elvis was on the TV when he’d gotten home last night.
“Mornin dad” Brian said as he reached the bottom of the steps. “Look, I’m sorry I was so late. Won’t happen again.”
No answer. Brian could see dad’s argyle socks under the chair. Just where they’d been when he got home. Had he slept there all night?
“Want some breakfast? I’m gonna cook some eggs. How about some coffee?” He asked before muttering to himself, “Good lord I need some coffee.”
Elvis moved on to a gospel number. Dad must be watching the comeback special again. Always was his favorite. Brian pulled some coffee beans out of the cabinet and tossed them in the grinder.
“I thought we could just hang out and watch football. That sound good to you?”
The silence hung like a weight pressing against Brian’s chest. Dad must be really ticked off, he thought.
“Look, I uh, I know I told you I wouldn’t be out late. Time just got away from me. I promise I wasn’t drinking again though.” His headache spiked, a penance for the lie.
Still nothing. A sour pit formed in Brian’s stomach. Dad never ignored him like this. I really screwed up this time, he thought.
Brian worked in silence, finishing up the coffee then moving on to scrambled eggs with some bacon and toast. When everything was plated he poured a mug then walked breakfast into the living room.
K. A. DaVur
Gordy, a pale boy with unfortunate coke-bottle glasses, nervously scratched at a scab below his knee. The brownish crust pulled off and blood began to trickle apathetically towards his argyle socks. “Let’s stay here,” he whined. “We get caught; my folks will flip their lids.”
“We ain’t gonna get caught.” Dennis scorned. “I’ve done this dozens of times. Where’s Jimmy?”
“Grounded ‘cause he didn’t mow his lawn,” Rob said in a knowing voice. Rob said everything in a knowing voice. It was a surprise that Dennis didn’t pound him more often.
Dennis scoffed. “Who mows their lawns in December?”
Dennis glared at Rob and curled his fingers into a fist. Presently, he decided against it, returning to his post at the window.
From the living room, horns blared “Trouble”. “Come on, fellas,” Gordy implored, standing up. “The King is on.”
“You go watch the King, I’m waiting for the Queen,” Dennis said. Rob giggled, a high, girlish sound. Gordy sat back down and resumed scab-picking.
A light went on in the house next door. “Let’s go,” Dennis said, sliding his window open. He wriggled out soundlessly. Rob followed. Gordy hung back. “You got me running, got me hiding,” Elvis crooned.
“Lay it on me,” Gordy murmured before pushing himself gracelessly over the sill. He landed poorly, clasping his hands over navy and tan diamonds. “My ankle,” he cried.
“Balls to your ankle,” Dennis hissed, “Come on.”
They ran single file across the sideyard and ducked behind the fins of the Chevy parked in the drive. Dennis pointed.
Gordy had seen a naked woman before, had crowed and guffawed as they pored over Playboys snitched from Dennis’ father. Those women, posed and paper, didn’t prepare him for the thrill of seeing one in real life. His cheeks flushed as he stared. Her breasts hung, heavy and full, and wiggled as she toweled herself. He found himself mesmerized by the sleek thatch between her legs. Gordy tugged uncomfortably at the front of his pants.
“Fine as wine,” Rob murmured shakily.
Suddenly, the woman looked up. Her eyes locked on Gordy’s. He saw them widen, fill with tears. Her beautiful strawberry mouth fell in an “O” and her breasts heaved one last monumental time as she dove for the shade. Behind the real flesh was a real person, Gordy realized. One who hadn’t wanted to be seen like that. Real. Like his mom. His heart sank. His penis stubbornly refused to follow suit, and Gordy hated himself for it. Hated himself for coming in the first place.
Dennis chucked his shoulder. “Let’s book.”
“In a minute.” Gordy rummaged through his pockets with trembling hands, convinced that any minute he would hear sirens, footsteps, his parents. He produced a bubblegum wrapper and two matches before he found what he sought. The pencil was stubby, chewed to bits but it would do. “I’m sorry,” he scrawled, and stuffed the note under the Chevy’s windshield wiper. There. He felt better. Some, anyway. Gordy hobbled back to the house. If he was lucky, he’d be there before the King sang “Heartbreak Hotel.”
E. Chris Garrison
I sat at the bar, waiting for the moment. My great-grandmother’s clothes itched. The pleated skirt, the thigh-high argyle socks, the shiny Mary Janes, the teal sweater, they all matched the fashions of the times. Impregnated by the scent of a century in her cedar chest, they’d waited for this day. Somewhere, not far from here, they’re hanging in a shop, waiting for mom’s grandma to pick them out. How meepy is that?
I’d finished college classes yesterday, my head still buzzing from the Immersive Learning Induction Machine, and I left the house to get in my Googmobile. Google asked where I wanted to go. I paused as I spied a slip of paper under the windshield wiper.
It said: “Attic. Cedar chest. 6-3-68”
I knew what it meant right away. Grandma had willed the chest to me rather than mom. I ran inside, pulled it from the attic, and retrieved the lock box from within. Typing the numbers into the keypad rewarded me with a click. Inside, a brooch glowed and flashed atop a letter, handwritten in archaic cursive script.
So here I sat, decades before my mom had been born (before grandma had even been born!) transported by a memory and a time-travel device pinned to my sweater. Sipping a sugary soda. Waiting for royalty.
Then he swaggered in. The King, a comical figure in my time, filled the room with his presence. Even wearing those outrageous sideburns, my breath was taken away, and I sat staring, open-mouthed.
Elvis sat at the bar next to me. He quirked his lip and winked as he said those magical words to me: “Afternoon, ma’am.”
“It really is you,” I breathed.
The King let out a chuckle. “What’s left of me, baby, yeah.”
“What do you mean?”
He ordered a Pepsi-Cola, and under his breath, asked the bartender to add a shot of “something special”.
“But you’re the King! You’re a living legend!”
“Awww, you’re sweet. Tell that to Hollywood. Tell it to Vegas, baby. Even the Colonel’s about to throw it in.”
I put a hand on his arm, and his eyes focused on me. Parts of me turned to butter. “B-but King, what about television?”
“Oh man, I’d as soon shoot a TV as watch it.”
“Not watch it. Be on it! Make your comeback! Show those Roaches!”
“Uh, the old guys from England? Love me do?”
“The Beatles? Aw baby, they’re killin’ me.” He took a long drink.
I worked up the courage to smile at him. “Guess you could always go back to Memphis and mow lawns, hmm?”
Elvis shoved the spiked Pepsi-Cola away from him and slammed his palms on the bar. “Baby, you’re right. The King don’t give it up. I’m tellin’ Parker to call NBC today!”
He kissed my cheek and left. I spilled my soda on myself. Zzzzzt! The brooch shorted out.
I’m stuck in the Sixties! Now what’ll I do?
Well, at least I have that special to look forward to…
Dani J. Caile
“What’s the matter, dear?” asked Doris, entering the lounge.
“The matter? Can’t you hear it?” Bob pointed out to the backyard.
“Oh, the neighbor.”
“Yes, the neighbor!”
“Well, he has the right to mow his lawn…”
“At 2am in the morning?”
Doris grabbed her duster and busied herself with the mantelpiece.
“You were a bit loud with that music the other night, dear. Not everyone is an Elvis fan.”
“A bit loud?”
“He even left a note on your car…”
“Don’t talk to me about that note!” Bob paced up and down on his tiger skin rug.
“…though I think ‘country’ is spelled with an ‘ou’…”
“But he started it! He cut my hedge!”
“You put nails on his drive, dear.”
“And he set fire to my postbox!”
“You can’t prove that.”
The sound of the Flymo resonated throughout the house.
“I’ve had enough of this, where’s Elvis?”
“Please, dear, no.”
Bob took out his three-disc deluxe edition box set of ‘Elvis: The ’68 Comeback Special’ and loaded a DVD, turning up the volume on the television as it came to life. He sat there in utter disbelief.
On the screen wasn’t the fantastic hip-swaying undisputed King of Rock ’n’ Roll, bashing out ‘Trouble/Guitar Man’, but coverage of an old US golf Open focusing on a strangely dressed man.
“What the heck is this?”
Doris paused in her dusting and looked over at the screen.
“Looks like Payne Stewart, dear. I always loved his argyle socks.”
“But…how…?” He took out the DVD and looked at it. “This is a sticker! Someone messed with my DVDs! Did you…?”
“No, dear, I wouldn’t dream of touching…oh.”
“Remember when he did that drilling last Sunday?”
“How can I forget! He went on until midnight!”
“Well, he came over the other day to check if he’d done any damage. I thought that was nice of him…”
“You let him in?”
“This means war!”
With the sound of the neighbor’s Flymo outside still breaking the beautiful silence of the night, Bob ran over to his gun rack and grabbed his loaded pump action Winchester.
“I’m gonna blow that damn thing to kingdom come!”
“You’re not going all Islamic on me now, are you, dear? You must admit, he gets 10 out of 10 for ingenuity, copying labels like that.”
“Ingenuity? Ingenuity!” Bob grit his teeth and paused in sudden reflection. “What happened?” he demanded. “Everything was fine until I went to that Las Vegas Elvis Fest. Then all hell broke loose! Did you do anything while…?”
“No dear, just a small Tupperware party with the girls from the bridge club.”
“And then what…?” The Flymo hit a tough bit of grass and screamed in the darkness. Bob flew out of the French windows, screaming blue murder.
“Come to think of it,” mused Doris through the sound of shotgun blasts, “perhaps hiring those male strippers and the All Boy Carribean Steel Drum band was a bit over the top…”
Danielle Lee Zwissler
If someone would have told me ten years ago that I would be mowing my lawn with Argyle socks pulled up to my knees, I would have laughed right in their face. But now, here I am mowing this damned lawn, argyles pulled up like beacons on my white, hairy legs while my proud son watches from the living room. I look up at the window and grin, and then continue. Jacob just waves. His toothy grin meets my every turn.
I think back to when I was growing up and bought my father a tie for his birthday, it had #1 Dad all over it in cheesy font—probably Helvatica. My dad was watching the comeback special in ’68 with Elvis Presley. I will never forget because he was so happy that the King was performing once again. I was in the kitchen with my mom preparing a cake while Blue Suede Shoes blared from the television. When I came into the room with that tie, dad grinned at me. I remember thinking my dad was a superhero. Yet, now looking back I saw him there in those tighty whiteys, a wife beater and a grin on his face that would melt a polar ice cap.
He was a hero, and he was my dad. He died that summer, and we buried him in that tie.
I let go of the mower’s handle and turned toward the window again, my son still watched. I made my way to the garage and put the lawn mower away. When I was just about to walk into the house, I saw a note attached to my windshield wiper. I pulled it off and read:
My Daddy’s the best.
Drawn underneath was a handcrafted picture of myself with the socks.
I knew right then what I needed to do. I went into the house, and wrote a letter to my son. It was dated for the future, and to be read upon my death.
They come in all shapes and sizes… Today, I mowed the lawn with the help from a present from my son: a pair of Argyle socks. You saved up to buy me these socks, and you were so excited to give them to me. While wearing the socks, I remembered my own father, wearing a tie that I had bought for him. He loved that tie, and he wore it any chance he could get to show his appreciation and love for his family. Today, I vow to be the hero to my son that my father and his father before him were. I have two requests, become a man that you will be proud of, one that will sacrifice for his family, do things that he would never have done otherwise, and be a hero to someone in your life. My other request, bury me with the socks, surround me with happy times, and never forget that your old man loves you and will love you no matter what.
Because we aren’t just men, Son. We are the un-costumed superheroes, and people look up to us.