It’s supper time. Paw is in the living room trying to listen on the radio to The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny on the National Broadcasting Company. He’s got the cover off the radio and is fiddlin’ with one of the antenna connections. Paw prides himself on bein’ an electrical tinkerer.
Ida Mae and little Jackie are already sitting at the table, polite as punch and ready to dig into the heaping bowl of green beans, mashed potatoes, and gravy I’ve cooked up.
“Paw, I ain’t gonna call you again. Now, git in here! The food’s gettin’ cold, and the children are hungry.”
“Okay, okay, hold your horses. I just want to… Mildred! Come quick!”
I rush into the living room, scared-to-death-afraid that Paw is having some sort of conniption with his heart. The kids are right behind me.
Paw is at the window, pointing at something.
“Look out yonder! See it?”
I look up just in time to see some sort of thingamajig spinning through the air. It’s silvery and looks to be about three to four feet around. As we watch, it slows down and lands somewhere out by the creek.
“Wow!” exclaims Jackie. “Can we go see what it is?” he asks.
“You kids get back to the table and eat your meal,” I reply.
“Oh, come on, Millie! It won’t hurt if we all take a quick peek. You kids don’t mind if your food’s a little cold, do you?”
Two heads shake vigorously side-to-side in unison.
I swear—that dang fool makes me so mad! He acts like a third child sometimes. I’m outnumbered, so I give in.
“Okay. But at least let me turn the stove off first.”
The four of us race out the back door and make our way past the swing set and the chicken coop and head for the creek. Jackie’s lit out ahead as though his pants are on fire. He gets to the object first.
“Look!” he cries.
“You keep your distance, child!” I implore him. “Don’t you go touchin’ it, now!”
The rest of us arrive and keep a ten-foot distance. Little Jackie retreats and joins Ida Mae, Paw, and me.
It’s a big, saucer-shaped thing resting on five little feet. Wires are sticking out near the bottom. We watch silently for the next few minutes. Suddenly, a little door slides open, and a gangplank appears. The next thing that happens shocks us all. I silently pray that Paw’s ticker doesn’t give out on him.
A little creature no more than an inch high walks down the plank. He’s dressed in some sort of tiny mechanical contraption. It reminds me of one of the deep-sea diving outfits we saw at the state fair the year before last.
The tiny man takes in his surroundings. Suddenly, he looks in our direction and sees us. We must have scared the bejesus out of him. The next thing we know, he hightails it back up into his little ship. The door closes behind him.
“It must be some kind of little spaceship, Mildred.”
“Hush with that kind of talk, Paw! Okay, everybody—the show’s over and dinner is getting cold. Let’s go! Run back to the house, Jackie. Ida Mae. Be sure to wash your hands again. You can come back after you eat if you want. I reckon it ain’t goin’ nowhere.”
Paw turns to me and is about to say something. I’m certain he’s about to ask, “Can’t we stay longer?” but I interrupt child number three and command him to “Git!”
Back at the dinner table, all Paw and Jackie can talk about is the little spaceship. Jackie’s imagination is running away with him, thanks to Paw eggin’ him on.
“You suppose they’re Martians, Paw? They’re here to invade Earth, aren’t they? Like in the “War of the Worlds! What if they got ray guns?” The lad points at his sister. “Zap, zap!”
“I don’t think so, Jackie,” says Paw. “See how tiny he looked? How could they possibly make war on Earthlings? Why, all we’d have to do is lift our legs and step on ‘em.”
“But what if there are zillions of ‘em coming? Phew, phew!”
I look over at Ida Mae. She’s hardly said a word throughout supper, and now she’s on the verge of tears. I can tell that Paw’s and Jackie’s words have upset her greatly.
“You hush, now. Both y’alls!” I make eye contact with Paw and nod in Ida Mae’s direction. Of course, he doesn’t get it. I’d have to smack him up the side of the head with a two-by-four to make him understand that he’s upsetting his daughter.
“May I be excused, please?” Ida Mae asks. Before I can even grant her permission, she bolts from the table and heads upstairs to her bedroom.
“Now look at what you did! You got her practically in tears, you big insensitive lump!”
“What did I do?” he asks meekly.
Just like a man!
After supper, Jackie and Paw bolt outside to look at the saucer again, while I go upstairs to talk to Ida Mae. I sit on the edge of her bed and ask her quietly if she wants to talk. She explains to me that she can hear the little people’s thoughts. It doesn’t surprise me. Ida Mae has always been sensitive like that. She’s even able to know what our farm animals are thinking, sometimes.
“They’re not invaders, Maw. They come in peace. They’re scared and afraid. We look like big giants to them.”
“I s’pect we do, little girl. I s’pect we do. Did they say anything about why they’re here? I mean, not here on our farm—but on Earth?”
“No, I didn’t get the chance to ask them,” replied Ida Mae. “The spaceman got real scared when he saw us.
“Maw? Can I take a small plate of some leftover mashed potatoes and yams and leave it outside their ship as a peace offering? Show them that we’re not monsters and we mean them no harm?”
“I reckon that would be okay, honey,” I reply. “Just be careful. Sit the plate nearby, but don’t get too close. You never know if…”
I recall little Jackie’s comments at the supper table about ray guns, and I shudder.
“… if they might get spooked and try to hurt you.”
Ida Mae and I walk out and join Paw and Jackie by the flying saucer. She’s carrying a tiny saucer filled with my mashed potatoes and yams. Unless they got dozens of tiny mouths to feed on their ship, I reckon the miniscule helping will be more than plenty.
“You two been behavin’ yourselves, right?”
“Yes, ma’am,” says little Jackie. “All we did was…”
Paw clears his throat to interrupt the young ‘un.
“What did you do?” I ask, in my most irritated voice.
“Honey, all we did was to reach out and touch the space ship. We didn’t hurt it or nothin’.”
“Yeah, Maw,” said Jackie, excitedly. “We touched it was all. It was smooth as glass!”
“Well, alright. No more touching. Now listen—Ida Mae’s gonna leave them a peace offering. Some of our leftovers. She says they come in peace, but then we scared ‘em half to death. Let’s go! Back to the house. Let them enjoy this food in peace.”
The next morning, after breakfast, the four of us return to the ship.
“Oh, goodie!” cries Ida Mae. It appears that a small portion of the peace offering was accepted by the little people. Either that, or the ants carried it away.
“They’re saying, ‘Thank you. It was very tasty.’”
“Maw, she’s talkin’ to the aliens again!” cries Jackie.
“’course I am, you little skunk.”
“Maw! She called me a—”
“Hush, both of yall’s,” I reply.
“Maw, paw—they need a favor from us,” says Ida Mae.
“What’s that?” asks Paw.
“They need … they need water. They were trying to land close to the creek, but then they ran out of fuel.”
“Water?” Paw asks again.
“Water, you fool!” I say. “How many times does the child have to repeat herself?”
“They say that they have a machine that can convert water into fuel,” says Ida Mae, “but their pump thingy can’t reach all the way over there.” She motions to the creek about two hundred feet distant.
I send Jackie back up to the house to fetch a large pail. When he returns, we walk down to the creek and fill it up. Ida Mae stays behind to communicate to the spacemen what we’re doing.
When the three of us return from the creek, we’re surprised to see several of them standing outside the ship. I guess they’ve gotten over their fear of us, thanks to Ida Mae. They’ve all taken off their metal suits and helmets. I see that they’re dressed in some sort of skin-tight fabric. One of ‘em’s pants is so tight you can see his little … um … his little thing … bulging out. I remind myself that they’re not from these parts, so they don’t know what public indecency is. It’s too late to shield Ida Mae from the sight. I s’pose it’s high time for me to give her a talk about “the birds and the bees,” if she don’t already know it from watching the farm animals.
At Ida Mae’s direction, Paw helps the spacemen by grabbing a long, transparent, spaghetti-thin hose coming from the bottom of the ship. Paw inserts one end into the bucket of water. There are a few bubbles at first, then water starts moving continuously along the hose and up into the ship. The spacemen all seem pleased. After an hour and a half, the man signals Paw to remove the hose from the pail. By the looks of it, I’d say that they sucked in about three glasses’ worth of creek water. Paw coils the tiny hose into a small loop and lays it down near the ship.
“They want to show their appreciation with a gift, Paw,” Ida Mae says.
An opening appears in the bottom of the ship. A small piece of gray machinery, smaller than the nail on my little pinkie, is deposited on the ground. The little man gestures at it.
“What is it?” Paw asks Ida Mae.
“He says it’s a spare—a smaller version of the machine that they use to power their ship. The man says we can hook it up to our electrical system, and it will generate all the power we’ll ever need. He says to just add water to it every now and then, when the power starts to drop off. I told him you were an electrical whiz. He says you can probably figure out how to regulate the voltage and current for what our electric lights and radio use. Does any of that make sense, Paw?”
It’s been several years since the spacemen came to our farm and refueled at the creek. Every couple of months, someone from the local rural electric cooperative stops by to sell us on the advantages of REMC membership. The salesman reminds us of what we’re missing out on by not lighting our house with modern, efficient electricity.
“Nope. We’re not missin’ out on nothin’,” replies Paw.
Paw reaches over and flips on the light switch. The bulbs in the kitchen light up in all their glory. Then he walks into the living room and cranks up the old Philco radio. Jack Benny is telling a joke.
“We got fusion power.”
My husband is such a show-off!