Something Is Out There

Caution-alienSomething woke me last night. Something out there was not right. I got out of bed to investigate.

Out my window, the moonless sky was naked of clouds. To the south, toward the casino in Iowa, the horizon swarmed with unworldly red lights, flickering like fireflies.

I returned to bed and nudged my wife.

“Something is out there” I told her.

She moaned in her sleep.

I nudged her again.

“It has got to be extraterrestrials,” I said, “lots of them.”

She raised her head and blinked out the window. “Windmills,” she declared then dropped back into a gentle sleep.

I trust the old girl. I value her opinion, I really do – but she is too willing to counter the miraculous with the mundane. I’d never seen lights like that before and windmills simply do not drop out of the sky – but extraterrestrials do.

I recalled a lecture on PBS by the astrophysicist Steven Hawking. He said our planet is probably not the only one with an OCCUPIED sign out front. According to him, we do not live in the best of galactic neighborhoods and a close encounter is likely to not end well for us.

If those were extraterrestrials down by the casino, why had they come and what did they want?

In the backyard, a crisp wind bullied the branches around as the moon chased a cluster of stars across the arc of the Milky-Way.

Why visit us? Earth is located in a distant spiral arm of the galaxy; astronomically speaking, we live in the boondocks.

I thought about it some more. Any society with the technology to vacation on distant stars is far more civilized than we are. So why come here?

They are probably so civilized that their children don’t hit, bully, steal or swear. Their teens are probably respectful, cooperative, polite and calm. I even bet their politicians are clean and their love lives sensible

I am sure every one of them is just as good as their mothers dreamed they would be and their oldest and most cherished institution is The Society for the Prevention of Damned Near Everything.

It sounds like hell.

As I thought about it, an owl hooted and something skittered through a brush pile. It reminded me of how much I love being away from the city.

Suddenly, it became clear.

Maybe, just maybe, extraterrestrials love the boondocks for the same reason country people do. It’s a place to get away from all that civilized crap.

So how did they know about us?

Actually, that is the easy part. We advertise.

Think about it. We have been broadcasting commercials into space for a hundred years.

Without realizing what we were doing, we have lit up the intergalactic freeway with advertisements for Marlboro cigarettes, Michelob-Golden-Light and The Friday Night Smack-Down on FOX.

Imagine this scenario: a hyper-civilized family is out for a three-week tour of the galactic wilderness. Mom has the controls because she didn’t like way Dad cut too close to Sagittarius. The kids are bored out of their minds and do what all kids do on road-trips: they punch radio buttons.

Suddenly… a deep resonate voice echoes through the star-ship, “Just a little pinch between teeth and gums…SKOAL Chewing Tobacco!”

“Oh My God!” Mother screams, “Turn it off! TURN IT OFF NOW!!

She banks hard toward the center of the Milky-Way and fires off a terse note to “The Society” about unregulated wilderness radio frequencies.

After returning home, she raises a ruckus at the zoning commission about the lack of warming buoys around our solar system.

But Dad remains strangely silent.

Later when he gets together with his buddies, he mention the trip. “You know,” he says, tossing a glance to make sure no one is listening, “I know a place…”

Which explains why they landed at the casino.

Author: Almost Iowa

www.almostiowa.com

24 thoughts on “Something Is Out There”

  1. As a matter of fact, I did move from the 1950’s. I grew up during that era, an age where kids ran free. Back in my childhood summers, I had only one requirement: be home for supper at 6:00 p.m. Every other moment of the day was mine, to hop trains, float down the Mississippi on a raft, raid apple trees, get in fights with the kids across the tracks. It was glorious.

    I saw an investigative report a few years back informing that kids are just as safe today outside playing as they ever were. It’s that our awareness of crimes is heightened now because of our 24-7 news outlets. I believe they quoted the National Bureau of Crime Statistics which with your background, you probably could verify more easily than I could. Anyway, I feel so sorry for kids today who don’t get to play like we did. They are missing out on the essential joys of childhood. Woe betide us, though, if we missed dinner. And, man, were we skinny! Another topic entirely…..

    1. Statistically, crime is down,. way down, but I would not use the measure of crime to gauge the safety of children. In the 1950’s, we had stronger communities. Our parents let us run because they knew our neighbors and our neighbors knew us. Though we took stupid risks, it usually got back to our parents and the consequences were painful. I would say, in a tightly-knit community, kids are every bit as safe now as they were years ago.

  2. Where did you move to Iowa from, Almost? The 1950’s? Gollll–ee! I’m just gonna tie my apron on and head for the kitchen to whip up a new set of No-Fun Rules to enforce on all my men-folks and kinder!

    I almost enjoyed your story. Well-written, as always, and it drew me in–until it threw me, and all of my gender, out. But then, I WOULD be critical, wouldn’t I. After all…

    1. Don’t be too hard on mom. She’s a helicopter mom in a world that doesn’t allow anything as risky as a helicopters.

      As a matter of fact, I did move from the 1950’s. I grew up during that era, an age where kids ran free. Back in my childhood summers, I had only one requirement: be home for supper at 6:00 p.m. Every other moment of the day was mine, to hop trains, float down the Mississippi on a raft, raid apple trees, get in fights with the kids across the tracks. It was glorious.

      Kids nowadays are too civilized for that and I hold mothers responsible…..sorry if you share a gender with them. 🙂

      1. Same era. Same childhood. Same history of mothers getting blamed when it takes two. Daddies are just as helicoptery–been watching tiny-tot sports, or Scouting? Insane. And when moms are getting blamed for the insanity about vaccinations–which they deserve–where the eff is the 50% blame that should be falling on the male partners? I hear Bela Lugosi: “Are ve not men?” Are they not parents? Are they not also morally and legally responsible for decisions about those children? So why do women get the blame? In my family, my mom was the more fun one, when fun was to be had. Same in the families of two of my three best friends. In my marriage, I was the rule-breaker, and my ex the one born with the broom up his backside: “No singing in the car! No laughing at the table!”

        Your stereotype was not only offensive to me personally, but I honestly don’t believe it is fair. However, I respect your right to be wrong, and really, really wrong in a public way.
        😈

        1. Same history of mothers getting blamed when it takes two

          More often than not, mothers and fathers have very different parenting styles. More often than not, fathers tend to believe mothers are overprotective and over-involved. More often than not, mothers tend to believe that fathers over-stimulate their children and encourage aggressive behavior.

          These perceptions were codified into family law during the 1990’s with disastrous results. In our state, until less than ten years ago, more grandparents were awarded full custody of children than fathers. That has changed and the law has gradually come to view both parents and parenting styles as equally beneficial.

          The essay spoke to both styles and both world views. While there are always plenty of exceptions, it is still valid to address the stereotype when it is more often than not true.

            1. Grandparents over fathers? Un-friggin-believable.

              It is still true among minorities. The chances of a young black or Hispanic male, who has not established a clear record of exemplary behavior, receiving physical custody of a child is just about nil.

              1. As soon as I saw the word “minorities” (no longer demographically/statistically accurate–what euphemism will we move toward next?), I realized. Here’s my own stereotype talking: Thus we get women, often unaccompanied by men, who maybe didn’t do such a bang-up job the first time ’round, getting a new go, only they’re more tired this time.

                But I understand where a judge is coming from, faced with a church-going dress-wearing lady, vs. a boy-man who’s been jailed once or twice for brawling, boosting, or what have you. Not saying the judge would be right, but saying I get why.

                Life is sucky sometimes, innit?

                1. As soon as I saw the word “minorities” (no longer demographically/statistically accurate–what euphemism will we move toward next?

                  In most cases, it is still quite accurate. Demographic groups are most often organized by “self-identification”. It is something that works but it is also something you can have fun with. My three nieces are triplets with roughly the same racial make-up as Barack Obama. When asked to self-identify their race on school questionnaires, one will check African-American, another will check Caucasian, and the other will check “other”.

                  It is still something we need to keep track of because racial and ethnic groups have distinct health issues.

                  “But I understand where a judge is coming from, faced with a church-going dress-wearing lady, vs. a boy-man who’s been jailed once or twice for brawling, boosting, or what have you. Not saying the judge would be right, but saying I get why.

                  That is like saying you can understand why a construction foreman would hire a 210 lb man over a 120 lb woman as a laborer.

                  In both cases, the stereotype may justify the action but the truth of that matter is that neither situations apply to the majority of cases, yet the application of the law is wildly different between the two instances.

                  In the case I cited, lawyers will put the construction company under a microscope to identify “disparate impacts” in the hiring process that result in men being hired over women. They will then ask the courts for a remedy – usually an affirmative action quota.

                  In the case you cited, discrimination is perfectly legal because men are not a “protected” group. Thus it is STILL perfectly legal to assume any women is more fit to be a parent than any man.

                  1. I am confused. When I was first investigating divorce here in CA, custody was more often given to the higher earner–more often the man–if he wanted it.

                    Re: manual labor issues, I have problems with quotas mandating female firefighters who can’t perform physically to the level of the males. If they can? Cool.

                    1. I know of no state where income is allowed as a consideration in custody cases. Even when one parent has no income. Which might have a lot to do with the high rate of child poverty. In CA, as in other states, high income cases (about 2%) are often decided on who spends the most on lawyers.

                      The way things work now, in practice but not in law, is that most parents share physical custody then determine child support based on a formula that divides joint income by parenting time. It is a very fair and equitable arrangement. In Minnesota, an overwhelming majority of democratic and republican lawmakers in the house and senate voted to make shared custody and shared support a rebuttable presumption but family law lawyers and feminist activists convinced the governor to veto the bill.

  3. Personally I think it is the extraterrestrial standup comedians who come here, researching for material. “Did you hear the one about Roy E.t. He crash landed on this place called earth. The natives there thought he was something called a cow.” A heckler in the audience yells, “That’s a lot of bull.”

  4. Love your imagination AI – your story had me riveted as always! Such great talent! Oh wait – but maybe, just maybe – truth in fiction…. Hope Dad and his buddies had fun in the casino in Iowa from a galaxy far far away 🙂

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