SPOTLIGHT: ‘Demitasse Fiction (One-Minute Reads for Busy People)’ by Roberta Beach Jacobson

Staying Alive

On his ninetieth birthday he wasn’t dying, but his language was. Only a handful of native speakers remain on the planet.

After blowing out the candles on his cake, he approaches me, asking, “Can I be your teacher? I notice you talk a lot. I have much to share with you.”

Oh, That Little Thing?

Stage I cancer? Nah. She’d show them her strength.

The doctor assured Mona the lump was small, inconsequential, easy to remove. Trusting her doc’s advice, Mona increased her water intake, started exercising more. She found she slept better. Instead of three fruits and veggies a day, she ate five servings.

On each of her many birthdays Mona told her kids (next her grandkids, later her great-grandkids) about the nasty little bumpity-bumpity lump that nobody wanted.

204 Maple Street

Every morning, rain or shine, after his breakfast Roland negotiates the overgrown path to his mailbox. Most days he finds it empty, but occasionally there is a bill from the dentist or a political ad waiting for him.

Concerned neighbors sent him a pamphlet highlighting snail mail addiction. Roland reviewed it, painstakingly resealed the envelope, then marked it ‘Return to Sender.’


As he caressed her unfamiliar hand the gem captured sunlight flawlessly. “Such a beautiful thing,” he whispered. “What’s the stone?”

“A ruby, my darling,” she replied. “You bought this for me many moons ago, our thirtieth anniversary.”

For her, it felt like only yesterday.

For him, it felt like never.


All customer service reps are assisting other customers. Please remain on the line.

Per tv news, the situation remains unclear. Rumors of war are shouted in the streets.

The dishwasher is leaking again. The cat vomited on the new rug.

Suddenly the weather radio flashes a tornado warning.

The kids’ report cards and the parents’ job performance evaluations are due out this week. Not only that, it seems the vasectomy didn’t take.

The gutters are clogged with leaves. Winter is nearing. There’s a mouse exploring the basement.

The car started making that funny clunking sound again.

The dentist called to schedule the root canal.

. . . Oh, what will Tuesday bring?


SPOTLIGHT: ‘Maps of the Earth’ by J.B. Williams

The Lights On Santa Rosa Island

Deep in the sea of night
Sinking into the stars
The lights of the cars move from
Rising to setting, there across the water, distance to distance.
They skate along the edge of the world
And vanish, tracing a path in silence.

The headlights are brief and the stars turn slowly till dawn
And the only way to know there’s land out there
Is to tell the artificial from the true.
Someday this shall all be ocean again
And the only lights the stars; till then from time to time
Someone is out there, tracing a path in darkness.


6,800 years.
How many hurrying feet, souls gone by.
It’s not only the press of the now-people, warm and riotous,
around you in the night streets.

How many have burned away to ashes here.
On this spot a hundred years ago, a little
ragged dirty-foot girl stood outside a slum window,
watching the wagons go by.
She had an armful of cat, as she smiled.
Another kid in Spitalfields, breathing smoke.

All their names are gone now. The cemetery
in Marylebone is stacked three deep.
You’re never alone in the great city, the pub-keep
told me in the dim gold haze.
The view from the window: nothing but chimney-pots for miles.

Multitude of ghosts, layer on layer:
Below traffic’s roar you’ll hear the faint rush,
Voices in the wet neon pointillist light:
Come play.

The Castle

The stone is bare today. The ocean’s face
Is flat and grey below at the edge
Of the forest with its moving contemplating trees.
Far below the path spirals upon itself
Like so many buds, barred to most
By the sharpness of its rocks. All is brown and grey.
The squirrels are curled in their burrows with their heads
Pillowed on acorns, at the edge of winter.
Ancient stone in crumbled towers crouches at the feet of the sea
And the wood in reverence and sadness. We pile the old branches
In the seashelled hearths and lie before the salamander tongues
Of brightness that leap from it, hungry for warmth,
And whisper-exchange words and tales older than these hills.

Autumn has the most brittle of beauties in this place.
It is the season of spun glass and the making of cocoons.
The wind at the top here stings. The trees move in quick waves
Below and shake more drifts of leaves from their heads.
They blow up here and rattle against the cold towers. We
Nestle in the warmth of the turreted stone, awaiting rebirth,
Dreaming our own particular ways of being.
We are the prism of the forever undone.
We are our own selves waiting to happen.

Keeping Watch

Ours is the simplest of histories:
Traveling together, loved and menaced
By trees and the dark:
We’ve never had to speak
To communicate.

Beneath the moon
Sparks fly heavenward
And things whisper and call
Beyond our circle of firelight.
I see in your eyes
That the memory of the dead
Does not rest.

Objet d’Art

The curl of your hand against
Your face as you sleep is
Like the one at the top
Of a cello; beneath the blankets
The rest of you is careless.
We lie here,
Stillness beneath quiet starlight:
You are sculpture.

J.B. Williams lives in an old house in the Midwest with a number of cats and thousands of books.

SPOTLIGHT: ‘Ink Drinkers’ by B.A. France

cocktail hour
the sting of lime juice
on a split knuckle

pink hibiscus
demanding afternoon
rum drinks

stacked notebooks
compulsively purchased

calling mom
on new years …
pouring another

rereading montaigne
… quiet joy in a mind
at play

wine glasses
scrubbed clean
my mind drips dry

cooling tea
and dog eared pages
– nightly rhythm

B.A. France is a writer and poet who lives and works in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. His work has been published in numerous journals including Akitsu Quarterly, Modern Haiku, cattails, Last Leaves, and Shot Glass Journal. His chapbook of tanka and haibun Season’s End was published in 2021 by Alabaster Leaves, an imprint of Kelsay Books. He co-authored the e-chapbook Retweets with Orrin PréJean, which is available for free download in the Haiku Foundation Digital Library. He can be found online at his website and on Twitter @B_A_France.

SPOTLIGHT: Poacher’s Priest by Samuel Mills



Odilio Brimble scrolled through Twitter in the gloom of his study, lit up by the glow of his laptop screen. He was browsing the comments — responses to his latest review of the 27th-storey London steakhouse, GALAXIAS — familiar angst working its way through him as he read each reply.

@Rubbles93:‘Only Odilio could attack such a tawdry display of oligarch wealth and still punch down on his target.’

@themullet11:‘Big getting divorced energy from Brimble these days.’

@Clax0nTheSmiths:‘He’s always had that bottle-of-wine-ranting-at-the-TV vibe. Boring old snob, The Gent should sack him.’

Odilio sipped his gin and tonic and scanned the room. With its bleached white interiors, his study, at first glance, was like every other room in the large Regency house. His wife had spearheaded the renovation, described as ‘modern rustic’, but the furniture here was Odilio’s: antique pieces kitted out with the curios of his travels, gifts, and family heirlooms. Mounted taxidermy trophies suspended on the blank walls gave the feeling of having wandered into a museum. Outside, the last of the evening light was fading. Odilio switched on the emeralite lamp next to his computer. The calming effect of his bath — the salts and scented candles — had been undone in minutes, but the alcohol was helping mitigate some of the tension. He continued reading.

It hadn’t always been like this. Odilio had made his name as a skewerer of the politically correct. In 1992, whilst a trainee reporter at the Times, he’d phoned a hotly-anticipated vegetarian restaurant on the eve of its launch, warning them a bomb had been planted in the building, which would go off if they didn’t put steak on the menu. This was pre-9/11: when Odilio was revealed as the ‘prankster’ he was made to pay damages for two days’ lost trade. His editor had footed the bill, happy to cover the costs in exchange for the publicity the stunt attracted. Odilio Brimble was an overnight success. He went on to work for a string of publications, culminating in the position of Head Restaurant Critic for the London lifestyle and culture magazine, The Gent. He presented a TV show, wrote a series of books, and appeared on numerous radio programmes, cultivating the persona of a feisty restaurant critic, dishing it out with impunity for offence his audience could only dream of fostering themselves.

And then, nothing happened for years. The 2010s were a plateau, and a plateau — when it comes to a career — feels like a decline. Odilio still wrote the weekly column. He still made the occasional TV appearance. His agent called now and then to propose a book project, which meant regurgitating old columns, mashing them together in a hastily composed volume; slapping his face on the cover to squeeze some money out of the Christmas-stocking-filler market. His last book, ‘Don’t Get Me Started On Tofu!’, hadn’t even made the top fifty. It was embarrassing. He did not want to write any more embarrassing books.

His assistant had urged him to get on Twitter. She’d agreed to run the account for him; he had no wish to trawl through the opinions of nobodies. That was his position in the beginning, at least. Odilio couldn’t remember exactly when he’d signed in to check what was being written about him. He knew his status as a provocateur — it was a personality of his making, after all. The real Odilio was far more mild-mannered. The Odilio of The Gent was almost a fictional entity; he understood the principal business of his craft was to entertain. And so for his entire career until then, Odilio fancied his image in the public eye as something akin to Marmite: that half the people loved him, ate up his every word, ripped off his quips to their friends as they tried to adopt something desirable they saw in him. The other half, he’d come to accept, loathed his plucky toffishness. In the end, like Marmite, no one cared either way. It was a deal he’d been comfortable with for years.

Odilio stroked his fingers across the touchpad. His unblinking eyes glistened with the light of the Twitter feed. The reality was no way near half and half, he was reminded. Nearly every comment was unrelentingly and viciously scathing of him. This was nothing like the disdain you might reserve for a sandwich spread — it was genuine hatred. The few he could call ‘fans’ were far more modest in their endorsements than his detractors were oppositional. A single positive comment stood out.

@Gimmins616:‘I like him lol. Tells it as it is. Pity the loony left can’t handel it!!’

Odilio clicked Gimmins’ profile picture. His bio read: ‘Tank enthusiast. Hate Europe’. There seemed to be a factory producing these people, Odilio thought. With their penchant for the Union Flag: their aggressive, badly-spelt messaging seemed more about shitting on others than promoting anything positive themselves. Odilio suspected his appeal an extension of this tendency: did the Gimmins’ of the world really care about fine dining, about what Odilio Brimble had to say on the latest food trends, or did they just like that he rubbed the right people up the wrong way? Did anyone actually love what he did?

Odilio opened his email and scanned the inbox. He’d put off reading Cooper’s email for nearly an hour. It was his policy not to check work emails after seven, but curiosity threatened to win over. Agitated by his browsings or emboldened by gin: Odilio could feel his discipline slipping these days. Social media had a habit of creeping under his skin. Like a virus he had no immunity to, it ravaged his mind without a flicker of resistance. In the past, he wouldn’t have done anything that made him feel so bad for so long, entirely of his own volition, as scrolling through a crowd of digital hecklers in search of some elusive redemption. He’d meant to leave his editor’s email unread until the morning, but here he was, unable to stave off the inevitable. Odilio’s heart sank as he read the short line of text.

Come to the office next Thursday. Anytime after lunch. Quick chat.

Had his editor smelt blood? It made sense that management checked the social media accounts of their staff; it’d never been so easy to gauge a writer’s popularity than to scroll through the comments on their latest piece. And if they did? Odilio was finished. The game was up. Whatever appeal he’d held in the paper-based years of the 90s and early 2000s was over. He was a relic of a bygone era — a hulking great dinosaur in a museum or perhaps just a manky old dodo.

Odilio reached for his drink. He leant back in his chair. Away from the light of his desk, the room was cast in darkness. A kaleidoscope of residual screening ebbed and flowed like a hallucination on the surface of his eyes. He let out a sigh. This was how he was spending his evenings: like a picnic under the sword of Damocles, waiting to give reason to his emerging, inarticulable self-disgust.


In the living room, Helena Courtenay was overseeing the arrival of her sculpture, which was so heavy it had to be lifted into the house by a crane through the first-storey window. Outside, on a quiet street of West London, a young man from the hire company controlled the operation from the machine’s booth, as his older colleague gave orders from the living room via walkie-talkie. Helena was practising an improvised version of semaphore through the window. She knew from experience you had to be present for such undertakings: you never left men to ‘get on with it’ unless you wanted the job done to the lowest standard possible. You got your hands dirty; you did your best to encourage them. You made them work for every penny, and that was the job you paid them for.

The sculpture swayed at the end of the line. The craneman estimated it weighed three tonnes. The difficult part of the task would be removing the straps from underneath as it was lowered to the floor — even an inch drop could crack the expensive marble tiling. Foam cushions would help detach the crane bands. Helena watched on, scrutinising every last detail of the procedure. The living room was her chief source of pride in the house, of which she was entirely and personally proud. A misnomer, of course: its real purpose was a showroom for material riches — a room out of bounds to people, save for the occasional, exceptional guest.

The crane jolted forward following an overly keen lever movement. The sculpture jerked in reply. “Give it a minute,” the craneman radioed his colleague.

Helena paced the room, studying the layout from various positions. Making right angles with her thumbs and index fingers, she held these ‘L’ shapes at arm’s length, closing an eye to gauge a sequence of perspectives. Her baby-pink trainers squeaked on the tiles as she zig-zagged across the room. “Let me explain,” she said, her face softening as she turned to the craneman. “This is the ‘rule of triangles’ principle. I watch a fantastic series on my iPad. The way objects are arranged in a room is one of the most important features of their design.”

“It’s a lovely room,” said the craneman.

“Isn’t it just?” She looked around at her carefully curated assemblage of artworks: the eclectic mix of sculptures, minimalist paintings; the series of deconstructed vases on mighty white plinths.

The Courtenay name can be traced to the book of Domesday. The family still owns much of the land they did a thousand years ago, including the estate in Henley that sprawls the Chiltern ridge. The Courtenays are as old as money can be, Helena will put it bluntly as if admitting to some familial disease. The detail buffers an image one might form of her as an aspirational businesswoman. But Helena is proud of her journey: proud to have decoupled from the trajectory of idling aristocracy. In a way, she retains the best of both worlds: the prestige of the Courtenay name whilst boasting a career that’s seen her rise to become one of London’s most important art dealers.

The sculpture stopped moving. Helena gave instructions as to where she wanted it placed. The craneman measured the base and marked an outline on the floor with tape. Helena scanned the room, left, re-entered — saw something she didn’t like — then beelined for the tape, insisting it be moved slightly. Without fuss, the craneman struggled to his knees to relay the tape exactly where she wanted.

During the 1980s, Helena’s father, William Courtenay, undertook a project to expand the family portfolio by investing in the emerging markets of Nigeria, Hong Kong, and South Africa. In the summer holidays at boarding school, Helena and her brother, Phillip, travelled the world, witnessing their father’s knack for international business. “I received my education from that man,” Helena would say. “He taught me that business is entirely about magnetism; there’s nothing more to it than that.” Indeed, it’s a philosophy ingrained in her: to raise an aristocrat successfully is to produce someone with an instinctual sense of freedom. A consciousness shaped by minimal closure, it’s a show-don’t-tell business. To truly live free is to never have not been: to be unable to consider it any other way. This is how you step up to the provisions of the lifestyle without going mad. The next step is convincing others of its inevitability. Helena’s real gift lies in making it seem there’s nothing wrong with a world like this.  

The sight of a crane protruding through the window — the portly man in the scruffy high-vis-vest — and the large sculpture dangling at the end rejigged Odilio’s memory as he entered the living room. Helena must have mentioned its arrival a dozen times in the past week. He watched the man in the vest wrestle foam blocks from underneath as the sculpture descended to the floor. Helena signalled to the pavement; she gave a command to the man on his knees. To watch his wife issue instructions was to witness her in her element, Odilio thought. Helena had ordered adults around since the day she could talk. Her charm was a lifetime in the making. Odilio had been on the receiving end of this charm once, not as a member of staff but as the gentleman guest seated next to her at the 2004 Henley Royal Regatta. He remembered little else about that dinner other than he would have gouged the waiter’s eyes out with a spoon if Helena had asked him to.

The foam cushions were removed and the sculpture settled. The masking tape was peeled from the floor. Helena turned to find her husband in the doorway. “Darling,” she said, walking over.

“Sweetheart,” Odilio replied sarcastically. She tugged on the lapels of his dressing gown.

“You’ve had a bath,” she said.

“I was feeling brittle.”

“You’ve had gin,” she smiled. Odilio kissed her on the cheek. She was the last person he’d relay his woes to. An unflinching toffishness was part of his appeal. His editor’s emails, the Twitter trolls — if she knew how much those things got to him, it would only cement, in her eyes, a weakness of character. The Courtenays were hardly ones to care what the little people thought.

The craneman coiled the line in a bundle, scanning the floor for tape marks. “We’re finished,” he announced.

“How excellent,” said Helena. “You’ve been such a star.”

“I’ll be getting on, then.”

Helena showed him to the front door, returning to find her husband digesting the latest addition to their house. “It’s called Come and Get It — isn’t it fantastic?” she said. Odilio’s first reaction, staring at the massive artwork that now took pride of place in the living room, was how ugly it was. A tacky, ridiculous thing — that, or he just didn’t get it. When it came to modern art, Odilio was the first to admit he didn’t understand it at all.

“It looks like a big turd,” he said.

“I thought you might say that,” Helena frowned. It was unusual, she could concede. A large swirl of porcelain conjured up an image of an ice cream (or worse) sequinned with thousands of heart-shaped crystals, topped off with a bronze statue of a naked woman with exaggeratedly large breasts. “I think it’s brilliant,” said Helena, walking up to the sculpture with an expression of awe. “Elias isn’t afraid to go big because there’s such a softness to his work. His sculptures have this kind of regal sensitivity, like the temperament of elephants. Do you know what I mean?”

“Not really,” Odilio yawned. He was feeling sad and peckish.

Helena studied her husband. “Come here,” she reached out her arms.

Odilio hesitated and doubled back.

“Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s fine.”

“You’ve been in your study a lot lately.”

“Working,” he glanced at the floor.

She ran her hand along the side of his face. “Are you sure?”

“I’ve been busy.” He filled in the absence of his wife’s reply: “Getting my head around Twitter.”

“Well, I hope you’re not getting obsessed, darling. There’s nothing more boring than the internet, don’t you agree?”

“Agreed,” he swallowed. Helena leant forward to kiss him. “And where’s Tabitha?” he asked. Usually, at this hour, their daughter could be found charging around the house in the throes of some energetic game with her au pair — a last crescendo of activity before bedtime, notable, suddenly, in its absence for the strange silence imparted on the house.

“Rachel’s just putting her to bed. She had her first session with the tutor today. Apparently it went really well. I think that and the shock of going back to school yesterday has rendered her exhausted. She’s having an early one tonight.”

“I could do with an early one, too,” grunted Odilio, who tightened his dressing gown before making his way downstairs to the kitchen for some cheese.

Samuel Mills is a writer from London. He is the author of numerous short stories, including the 2017 collection, Nightmares. Poacher’s Priest is his first novel.

SPOTLIGHT: Down on the Farm: Spacey Tails from Flyover Country by Phillip E. Temples


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!