Saturday, September 6, 2014

A Dump Koan

The student went to the master who lived in the dump.

Why do you live here with the garbage, the student asked.

The master spoke.  When does a doll cease to be a doll?  When does a table cease to be a table?  When does a man cease to be a man?

I do not know, the student said.

Go, fetch your most valued possession and toss it on that mound of refuse.  Then you will know.

The student left more enlightened.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Excerpts From Tomorrow's Waiting Room

She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally, decided to walk through the door.  I watched her go as I’ve watched others - into that strange light.

I’m still wearing the hospital gown.  I feel no shame.  I’m hardly the least dressed.  Three of the others are completely naked - well one man is wearing a black knee-brace, but that hardly counts.  The others are women.  One of whom is quite stunningly beautiful.  This is something I recognize as a fact - without desire.

The light beyond the door is always the same.  Bright, steady, white.  No different in color or intensity despite who’s passing through.  I suppose that’s a comfort.  Or it ought to be.

On tables scattered amongst the gold and maroon colored, wooden-framed chairs are stacks of books.  No magazines.  Here’s an inventory of my table:  Solaris, Lila, The Stranger, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Crime and Punishment, Big Sur.  Plus a notepad and pen.  

The man sitting across from me just removed his left shoe - he only has the left - and placed it on his right foot.  He squeezed into it and extended his leg out before him.  He’s wiggling it now.

It’s sin that’s on my mind.  I should just admit that.  Small things mostly.  I hope they’re small.  Broken promises.  An illicit kiss or two.  Youthful violence.

This room is surprisingly modern.  Nothing exciting, of course, but modern.  The furniture.  The overhead fluorescents softened by recessed incandescent lighting.  The cheap oil paintings hanging at regular intervals on the beige walls.  Above my head a pastel rabbit sits in pastel grass beneath a pastel tree - presumably avoiding a pastel wolf.  Somehow I expected - or I would have expected had I expected anything remotely like this - something older.  Ancient.  Stone and iron.  Torches anchored to the walls.  Dim.  Maybe a few half-naked, brown-skinned people chanting in a corner.  But this?

This whole thing is absurd.  Completely.  Completely.

Another through the door.  A short, balding man in a shirt and tie.  I’ve been watching him.  Watching him hop from chair to chair.  He’d start far from the door.  Then he’d move closer.  One row.  Then another.  Then when he got very close, he’d double back and start again.  This last time though, when he’d reached the front, he stood and headed straight for It.  It’s something.  Beyond the brilliance of the light - which is stunning - there’s the moment of decision.  It’s in the eye and the stride.  Can’t place it.  Could be faith.  Could be resolve.  Could be...lots of things.

Maybe I should pick up one of these books.  Not really swayed by the selection though.  I wonder what’s on the other tables?  I’ll take a spin around the room a little later.  I think that’s Alice in Wonderland by the one-shoed man.  That might be good.

Strange that I’ve thought so little of my family and friends.  It’s surely not immodest to assume they’re thinking of me.  But I simply feel no worry for them.  It’s like they’re in the next room.

I should just walk through the door.  I’ll have to eventually.  There’s clearly no other way.  The door we all come in - the other door - is not an option.  I’ve watched several others try.  Nothing stands in their way.  They walk out and - after a brief while - walk back in again.

That’s odd.  The hospital bracelet.  Didn’t it have my name on it?  I’m sure I have one.  it should be...  I’m sure I had one.

Several of the others are reading.  There really is nothing else to do.  Except think.  A few chairs from me a woman in her mid-fifties wearing a silver slip with a pink, knit sweater draped over her shoulders is reading The Awakening.  I may have read that in high school.

Sin and reading and misplaced names.  And people watching.  I have a brother.  Once when we were kids he fell from a tree.  I was watching him.  I was supposed to have been.  There was a neighbor. cute.  A cute neighbor.  My brother broke his arm.  What kind of punishment do you get for that?  Brother neglecting.  Or is lust the real crime?  I don’t have a rule book.

You know what?  I need is an attorney.  This isn’t fair.  If I get through that door, that’s what I’ll say, straight away.  This isn’t fair.  I want my attorney.  I’m sure no one’s ever pulled that one.

Another one through the door.  The woman in the silver slip.  She didn’t finish her book.  She left it on a chair.  One of the pages is dog-eared.  Did she think she was coming back?  Or, maybe she found some courage in the story.

You know what?  I did what I did.  I lived the life that I lived.  Should I be ashamed?

I can’t say what I expected.  Nothing, I guess.  Or everything.  Or some combination.  One and nothing.  Some binary...something.  I didn’t expect this.  All this time.  Not that expectations matter much.  What is is and what I do I do.  That’s all.

The thing is it would be so much easier if someone would just come.  Call my name and I’d go.  Simple.

But as things are...I...  I have no immediate plans.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Walter Hedder had been sitting at the coffee shop’s counter for nearly an hour. In that time, he’d drank five cups of thin - but very hot - black coffee and eaten a slice and a half of microwaved apple pie. The place was nearly empty, but the waitress hadn’t been around to see him in twenty minutes. He had the intuition that he was no longer a welcome customer, but still he stayed.

He was a dark haired man in his late thirties. He was clean shaven with tanned skin, and had a large, slightly flattened nose. Deep lines were etched into his narrow forehead, and his strong jaw had a cleft in its chin. He wore a dark gray suit, a white shirt with a modest collar and a slightly loosened gray and black striped tie. His hat sat on the counter beside his nearly empty coffee cup.

With his fork he nudged the remaining pie around its saucer before deciding he’d had enough, then he pushed the plate away and reached for the paper. He’d read all there was to read twice already, but he still had time to kill, so he went back through it. The lead article was about the President’s new policy to ensure citizens felt their privacy was being safeguarded as the country’s spy agencies collected phone and Internet data for national security reasons. “Secret police,” he said softly, beneath his breath. In a quick flash he saw another headline dated a few years in the future - “Silicon Valley CEO Charged in Dragnet Operation” - before his vision cleared and he was back in the coffee shop with today’s paper.

He laid the paper aside and looked around the room. This was the only place of its kind left in the small city’s downtown. Years ago, Walter knew, there had been several coffee shops, lunch counters and ice-cream parlors nestled amongst stores and offices, but time, the rise of the suburbs and cookie-cutter franchises had done away with all that. Those places had been gone for decades, but echoes remained. He often latched onto those echoes as he walked the city streets, allowing himself to be caught up in the past. He missed that older city. He was nostalgic for a time in which he’d never lived.

The coffee shop was painted a bright yellow. Its floor was black and white checkerboard. Large windows ran along the front of the building above a series of booths, looking out onto a street scattered with pedestrians. The booths’ benches where upholstered in red vinyl and their tables topped with a white laminate. The counter where he sat was much the same only slightly raised and lined with red-upholstered stools with low, curved backs. The coffee shop’s door was in the middle of the line of booths. In a booth on the far side of the door, sat a kid in his early twenties wearing a green hoodie embroidered with the logo for a college basketball team. Walter didn’t know which team it was, but he didn’t think it was local. The kid was hunched over in the booth staring into his phone’s glowing screen. Every few moments his thumbs would rapidly tap on the screen, then he would pause, smile or laugh, and repeat the process. At another booth - on Walter’s side of the door - sat a couple, a man and a woman each looked to be about thirty-five. They, too, were looking down at phones.

They waitress came over to him. “You doing alright?” she asked. She was young and attractive with slightly curly, dark red hair parted above her forehead and pulled back in a loose ponytail. Her skin was pale and light freckles spotted her nose and cheeks. She wore a pink and white striped uniform, barely open just enough to reveal the pale skin of her neck and upper chest, but no cleavage. “Want some more coffee, or anything?” She asked impassively enough, but Walter knew she would be happy to seem him leave. She was the only person working the afternoon shift and he knew she was hoping everyone would leave so she could close up early and meet her boyfriend at one of the bars by the river.

I wish your afternoon could be that simple, Walter thought. Doesn’t look like that’s gonna happen though. Let’s just hope after today you and I get a few more chances at lazy afternoons.

To the waitress he said, “Could I get a little decaf?”

“Sure,” she said this time letting a touch of impatience enter into her voice. She brought the orange rimmed pot over to him and poured. When the cup with half-filled Walter raised a finger and she stopped. She carried the pot back to its warmer and then walked out from behind the counter to check on the other customers.

With his right hand, Walter lifted his cup and sipped as he turned his left wrist toward himself to peek at his watch. It was impossible to know an exact time he was waiting for, but he could tell it was getting close. At the booth containing the couple the waitress was leaning in to pick up a straw paper and used napkin. A few booths back the kid was slurping coke through a straw. The scent of the coffee under his nose seemed more intense. Outside the clouds opened up allowing a patch of sun to reach the street. Very soon, Walter thought.

He rose from his stool The coffee cup still in his hand. He tightened his grip on its handle and began walking toward the exit. As he passed the couple’s booth, he saw the waitress step backward away from the table not seeing him. He approached her slowly and steadily, and reached out with his left hand to grip her shoulder. She exclaimed at the surprise touch, but it did not stop him. He pushed her down and toward the table. The man at the table yelled out and Walter saw the kid rising from his booth. Stay back, he thought, but the kid kept moving. Walter lost his grip on the waitress as she fell away from him. He glanced down to see her head narrowly miss the hard edge of the table and bounce off the padded bench as she turned to land on her back on the floor. Just then he saw the shape at the door. He quickened his step toward it and got there just as the door opened. The man was young, white, with wild, dark blonde hair launching out from his head in all directions. He wore a heavy dark green jacket with three faded stripes on the sleeve. Walter saw a muddy boot print he left on the bright red welcome mat as he stepped into the coffee shop, then he saw the hard, silver glint of the gun.

The kid hadn’t seen the gun and was still coming toward Walter. The gunman, however, didn’t know that and he began to turn toward the kid leveling the gun as he did so. “Hey!” Walter yelled. “Hey!” The gunman stopped and turned toward the sound. As soon as his face came into view, Walter flung the hot coffee and followed it quickly by bringing the cup up and into the gunman’s jaw. The gunman yelled in pain, but kept to his feet and began circling the gun around toward Walter.

At that moment the kid slammed into the gunman’s back and Walter let go of the coffee cup and lunged toward the gun, grabbing the man’s arm. The thought of rabies fluttered through his mind as he clamped his teeth down onto the back of the man’s hand causing him to once again yell out and also release his grip on the gun.

Suddenly Walter felt a pulse of pain to the back of his head and neck as the gunman’s left hand landed a blow. I hope it was enough, he thought, as the world when dark and he went down hard into the back of a counter stool.

He came to with the sound of a shot and a chorus of screams. Then he saw the body land in front of him. The three stripes loomed large before his eyes. The kid, he thought. The kid’s a hero now.  He could feel his eyes growing heavy and the world began to fade.  A hero, he thought again.  I hope he can forgive me.  

And with that he blacked out.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A Grownup Story

There's some drug use and profanity in this story.  Don't freak out.

                                                                                                     -- Andy.

Bert owns the dog.  That’s what Bert says anyway.  Of course anyone who paid even a bit of attention could tell it’s the other way around.  Still, when the dog barks, am I supposed to yell at it or at Bert ?  I guess it doesn’t matter much.  I’m sure I’d get the same result either way, so I don’t try.

I don’t know why I live where I do.  This small apartment with its thin, beige walls, its half-sized water heater and its drafty windows.  It’s just...where I live.  I moved here after college.  I moved to this city.  Got my first job.  Found this apartment.  And...  And it’s where I live.

I know I could afford better.  I’m not the junior member of the team any more.  Haven’t been for some time now.  I make enough money and could afford a bigger place.  Quieter.  I could buy a house.  Shelly at the office keeps telling me that’s the thing to do and she’s probably right.  But... What’s the point?   Moving is a pain.  And finding a place...  And I really hate the idea of mowing a lawn.  I got plenty of that as a kid...with my step-dad yelling at me the whole time.  I guess he’s not around anymore, but still I’d have to be outside.

Bert asked me in for a beer the other night...something that’s never happened in all the years we’ve been neighbors.  His dog was spending the night at the vet or something and I guess he was bored or lonely.  So I went over.  He spent a lot of the night telling me all about working at the store.  He works at one of those places they call ‘Big Box’.  You know the one, but I don’t want to say its name.  I don’t shop there.  It’s my own personal know against consumerism and that sort of thing.  I’m not really sure how effective it is.  

After the first beer he opened a small door built into his coffee table.  He has one of those coffee tables that looks like it came straight out of the late 1980’s...which I’m certain it did.  It’s got two cushions on each end for putting up your feet and a wooden surface in between for setting things...your bible, some magazines, coffee, that sort of thing...and beneath all that is a small cabinet where you might keep the t.v. remote or hide junk when guests come by.  Bert, I learned, keeps his weed in there.  He pulled out a baggie, an ashtray and an old spiral notebook that he turned over so that the rough cardboard back was facing upward.  He dumped a bud onto the notebook and started breaking it apart.  “Smoke?” he asked.

It had been a pretty long time for me, but I said ok.  My company doesn’t drug test unless you get hurt on the job and they’re trying to get out of paying medical expenses.  To be fair, I think the insurance company makes them do that.  Doesn’t matter much for me either way.  I work in the office.

Bert reached back under the coffee table and came up with a packet of rolling papers.  He pulled one free and began loading it with the crumbles of weed.  “Don’t they test at your job?” I asked.

“Shit yeah, they do,” he said without looking at me.  I watched as his fingers expertly rolled around the paper, smoothing and adjusting it here and there.  “Don’t matter to me though.  One job’s as good as another, I guess.  Plus I got a guy who’ll piss for me if I need him to.”

“That’s cool,” I said.

So we sat there smoking and just hanging out.  I didn’t have any more beer as I’m outta practice, but Bert had a few more.  We talked.  Mostly he did.  He told me his store’s general manager was a bonafide member of the klan - some sort of grand something-or-other - and once the corporate office came in and did an audit sort of thing and told him he had to promote some black people.  “He was piiiissed about that.” Bert said.  But he’d done it.  Bert told me all the black employees know he’s in the klan, but they aren’t scared of him or anything like that.  They all laugh at him.  Once, he told me, someone laid out a cross made from boxes of bedsheets in front of his office door.  Bert really busted up telling me that story.

After a while, I was feeling pretty good and I decided to tell Bert that his dog sometimes kept me awake.  He said, yeah, that dog sometimes kept him awake too.  

At one point he asked me why no women ever came by my place.  I told him I didn’t have a lot to say about it.  I’m just not all that into the dating thing.  He asked me if I was gay.  I told him no.  He said it wasn’t a thing to him if I was.  I said again that I wasn’t.  He said ok, then I should find a girl.  It would be good for me.  I told him that was probably true.

Bert asked me about my job and I started to tell him about Clark, our manager, who spends one week every year walking across the state.  He hasn’t gotten all the way yet.  Each year he has someone - his wife, I guess - drop him off at the spot he ended the last year’s walk.  He picks back up from there and walks for a week.  Camps out at night and everything.  He’s made it more than half way by now, which is something, I guess, but then again he’s been at it for 14 years.  Some of us at the office did the math once, and, honestly, I’m not so sure he’s really trying all that hard.

As I said, I started to tell Bert all that about Clark, but he cut me off to tell me about the time they’d caught an Elvis impersonator stuffing frozen dinners into a secret recess in his fat-suit.  Now that was a good story.

Time passed.  We smoked another joint.  I asked Bert what was wrong with his dog.  He said they didn’t know.  Some stomach thing.  He didn’t seem to want to talk about it very much, so I let it go.  Too personal, I guess.

He told me all about his ex-wife.  The dog had been hers and I got the impression it was the only victory he could claim in the divorce.  She had been a dancer, he said.  Not a stripper, he added right away, but a dancer.  Graceful and elegant.  To hear him tell it, she moved like a swan.  Hardly touched the ground.  “How she ended up with me, I don’t know,” he said.  “When she left, she said it was pity, but I don’t believe it.  You might feel sorry for somebody and give ‘em a throw, but you don’t marry ‘em.”  That logic seemed pretty sound to me and I told him so.

Sometime around midnight...or at least before one...I told Bert I had to call it a night.  I slipped out the door of his apartment and moved, slowly, toward my apartment’s door.  I remember thinking that any minute another neighbor would pop out and bust me for being stoned in the hallway.  I thought about the cops coming and hauling me away.  I thought about them taking Bert too and how no one would be there the next morning to pick up his dog at the vet.  It’s really quite amazing the things you think of when you’re high and it’s equally amazing how long a 15 foot walk from one apartment to another can seem.  

Eventually I got there and managed to get my keys and unlock the door without incident.  I went inside and immediately kicked over a full bag of garbage I’d set by the door to remind myself to take it to the dumpster.  I’d forgotten to do that.  Oh well, at least years of experience had taught me to tie the bag well and nothing leaked out.  I’m pretty sure I considered taking it downstairs right then and there, but couldn’t make myself open the door.

I managed to take off one shoe before I landed on the couch and fell asleep.

Bert hasn’t asked me back to his place.  The next day his dog was home and things were back to normal.  I think I’m supposed to invite him to my apartment in return, but I haven’t.  He’s a good enough guy, but it seems like a lot of trouble.  

The End.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Another poem I wrote for a FUUN service

This is a confession

I don’t like to think about it
I do the chore
I toss it into the bin
I carry it to the alley
I recycle
But I don’t like to think about it

The blue truck lumbers past me
As I wait for the morning bus
A lingering odor in its wake
A foulness that disturbs my coffee

The knife i used in 1997
To spread mayonnaise on a hamburger bun
It’s still out there
The mayonnaise packet too

I think about the city dump
An old man sits in a salvaged chair
Outside a plywood shack
A mutt dog at his feet
Directing things
“Old refrigerators over there!”
“Kitchen trash there!”
“Diapers? On the pile!”
He has too few teeth
The dog has too few legs
This is how I romanticize

The truth though...
The corporations
The billions of dollars
The workers
The truckloads
The waste, shredded and compacted.  Sealed away
The barges carting it off to distant lands
The mounds and mounds and mounds
The poverty
The hepatitis
The people
Their lives.  Their dreams

I don’t like to think about it

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Software Development as an Art

This is meditation on the concept of computer programming as an art form. I delivered it during this morning's service at the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville. It seemed to go over well enough, so I thought I'd post it here.

The idea that software development is an art form is pretty controversial.   Google it and you’ll find blogs full of rants on both sides.  ‘Craft’ is a far more acceptable term, but even then there’s disagreement.  Still, no one can deny that software development is a creative process.  It begins with an idea and ends with an application.  Something that -- while not exactly tangible -- is usable.  Once it’s complete (if it ever is) something that did not exist, now does.  It’s been created, brought forth from...someplace

I’m a computer programmer.  I work for a product company that builds web-based, healthcare education and talent management software.  The code I write is a mixture of C#, TSQL, Javascript, HTML and CSS.  My job requires a knowledge of both object oriented and functional programming concepts, test-driven development, security, SCRUM, HTTP, REST, XML, JSON, design patterns and that’s just a random sampling.

So, clearly, I am an artist.

Yeah, sometimes, I have a hard time buying it too.

Okay. I can tell you a time when I feel like an artist.  It’s common practice when developing software as part of a team to have code reviews.  These may be one-on-one or may be in a packed conference room around a large screen TV, but in either case the goal is the same: to judge my code -- to pick it apart, to search for defects, for inefficiencies, for poor style.  These code reviews are essential in developing quality software.  It’s well known that the earlier a bug is found the cheaper and easier it is to fix and one, two or 12 extra sets of eyes can see things I can’t.  I know it’s useful.  I know it’s for the best.  I even know that soon I’ll be the one doing the reviewing.  But it hardly matters in the moment.  My code is on display.  The thing I created with all its unnecessary object instantiations, its bloated method bodies, its classes with too many reasons to change.  It’s all there.  My code stands naked.  And these people are all so much smarter than me.

So that’s why I think software development is, at least, kinda like art.  I’m attached to the code I write.  I care about it.  I worry about it.  I spend too much time playing with it...a process so common amongst developers, it has a name:  Refactoring.  This class could be shorter.  This name could be more meaningful.  That call should probably return in less than 20 minutes.  It could be better.  I can make it better.

So I figured if software is an art form, I could probably write a poem about it.  Something that might describe it’s beauty to those who’ve never heard the term “curly braces”.  Here’s my attempt.  If anyone has any suggestions for cleaning it up or improving it, please let me know.

It’s about crafting worlds
Objects built, set out and decorated
Actors passing notes on a silent stage
Scene playing out behind the curtain

It’s about transformation
One structure becomes another
Then another
Is wrapped in abstraction
And stripped to its frame

To the outsider
It’s foreign.  Ugly
Letters and spaces
Abominable use of punctuation
Best left to basements

To the novice
It’s syntax. Branching. Iteration
A mystery unraveling slowly between failed compilations and segmentation faults
Until finally IT WORKS!  But that right?

To the veteran
It’s solid
Turning and pulsing
The running thing
Not the code
But where code and machine meet
Shapes and colors. Pulses of light along connecting lines

It can be beautiful
It can be ugly
But I guess that’s true of a lot of things

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Passing By

“Yep.  It was a spaceship.  no doubt.  A spaceship from space,” the old man rocked back in his chair.  “A flying saucer.  Looked just like one of them pictures in one of them Amazing Stories books I seen when I was a kid.”

“Henry, you are one crazy son of a bitch and you know it,” Lloyd said from his rocking chair.  “Ain’t no spaceman gonna come around here.  He’s got all of space to poke around in, why would he come here.  Might go to Knoxville or some other big city, I guess, but not here.”

“I can’t say.  I can’t get into the head of a Martian.  Ain’t never met one.  Just saw his spaceship that one time.”

The two old men rocked silently for a while after that.  The porch along the front of Alice’s store was their favorite place to spend a hot day, and they had plenty of time.  Younger people - mostly women with young children - walk past them into and out of the store.  One little boy, Todd Williams, the three and a half year old son of Ryan and Amy Williams, gripped his mother’s leg especially tightly when they passed the two old men.  Their gray, stubley beards, battered blue jeans, old flannel shirts and hairy arms with wrinkled hands gripping the arms of the rocking chairs were just too much for the boy.  When he grabbed his mother’s leg she stumbled and nearly fell down the steps onto the dirt and gravel parking lot.  “Toddy, you let go now,” she said.

“Lloyd?” Henry said.


“I wonder what them space women are like?  You think they got some long legs?”

Lloyd chuckled.  “Oh, yeah.  I bet they do.  Probably two or three sets of ‘em too.  Once they got a grip on ya, they wouldn’t let you go ‘til they was done.”

“That’d be alright with me,” Henry said.

“Shit.  You’d wake up dead after that.”

“But what a way to go.”  They both began laughing at that.

A police cruiser pulled into the lot.  An office jumped out and ran up the stairs.  He drew his gun as he rushed into the store.

“Looks like Dave’s run outta donuts again,” Lloyd said.

“That boy needs to eat a apple once in awhile,”  said Henry.

The loud bang of a gunshot roared from within the store behind them.  Then came several short shrieks in rapid succession.  That was followed by a female voice.  “Damnit, Dave, what the hell are you doing?”

“Did I tell you,” Lloyd said, “I went with Dave’s grandmother a few times?  Long time ago.”

“Helen or Flora?” Henry asked.


“Good looker in her day, wasn’t she?”

“Hell, yes, she was.  More’n a little wild too, if you know what I mean.”

“Yeah.”  Henry said.  “I remember.”

“What the hell you mean, ‘you remember’?” Lloyd said turning toward Henry.

Henry stared back at him smiling.  “Yeah, I remember pretty darn well.”

“Damn,” Lloyd said leaning back in his rocking chair.  “And here I thought-”

The door slammed open and Dave walked out trailed closely by a large, middle-aged woman, Alice Mason, who had him by the arm.  “Dave, I know they give you that gun, but that don’t mean you can come into my store shooting.  What the hell were you thinking?”

“We got a call-” Dave stammered.

“You got a call?  You got a call?  Was it from me?  No.”  Alice, loosened her grip and looked across the parking lot and past the empty field across the street to the rear of a dirty white house.  “Probably that damned Marty Jenkins.  Why don’t you go over and arrest that boy.  He don’t ever go to school.  Sits around smoking dope all day.”

“Alice, I’m sorry.  I’ll pay-”

“Oh, I know you will,” Alice said.  “But not now.  You go on before I lose my temper and take you out behind the shed.”

“Okay.  Okay.  I’ll go,” Dave said stepping down to the parking lot.  “But, Alice, do you think the sheriff has to-”

“Boy if you think you can keep a thing like this a secret from old Will in this town, you need more help than I thought.”  Alice said, staring down at him with her hands on her hips.

“Yeah, I guess you’re-” Dave started.

“Go, boy, make sure he hears it from you first.  That’s my advice if you got sense enough to listen to it.”  Alice said, turning back toward the store.  She stepped through the door and began speaking more softly trying to calm the shoppers still inside.  Dave returned to his cruiser and drove away.

“You really go with Helen too?” Lloyd asked?

“Ha,” Henry laughed.  “Lloyd, now I never said we actually went anyplace, did I?”  He began laughing harder.  “Well, maybe to the barn.”  With that he burst out and Lloyd looked away with an angry glare.

Once again the men rocked in silence.  This time for several minutes.

Finally Lloyd spoke.  He stopped rocking as he leaned forward in his chair.  His eyes suddenly focused on the field across the road from the store.  Henry sat back in his chair, eyes closed, slowly rocking.  “Henry, you say them flying saucers were gray-like, did’n’cha?”


“And it had lights all around it?”

“Yeah,” Henry repeated.  His eyes remained closed.

“And you say the grass and the trees just kinda...move away from it?  Like they was pushed by the wind?”  Lloyd’s voice had taken a curious tone.  He continued leaning forward in his chair and staring.   “Did it have some long, skinny legs that popped out of it when it landed?”

“Hell, Lloyd, I don’t know.  I didn’t see the damn thing land.”  Henry said.

Lloyd ignored him.  “Did it have a sorta door that slid open with a long ramp comin’ out of it?”

“What the hell you talking about, Lloyd.  The damn thing was flying around in the sky.  I didn’t see no door or nothin’.”

“You might wanna open your eyes, then.”  Lloyd said.

The ship completely blocked the old men’s view of the Jenkin’s house.  It’s polished silver hull reflected the cloud-free brightness of the summer sky.  It’s door was open and a long black ramp ran out from it, coming to rest at the far edge of the road.  As Henry opened his eyes, the first creature stepped out onto the ramp.  It was followed quickly by another and one more after that.  The three aliens paused briefly at the base of the ramp before moving across the street and toward the two old men.