A Short Story by Rob Santana
It came from out of nowhere.
Twelve year-old Foady, (Fouad), spotted it first, from the sanctuary of his fenced-in patio. On weekends he was allowed to venture outdoors within the confines of his new home. His father had finally bought a house in ‘New Jersey America’ after months of negotiating, haggling, and securing passports for his family of three. Just that morning, Dad and his two co-workers from the factory had met to take the bus together. They were now American citizens. Foady’s swift grasp of English astonished his parents, who’d sent him to the best tutors back in Iran.
While Foady’s mother, Aman, toiled in the kitchen preparing breakfast, Foady had grabbed the basketball for hoop practice when he looked up. The queer-looking flying machine hovered in his line of vision, its eerie whirring and beeping sound encompassing the stretch of adjoining backyards. It seemed to have focused on his patio, and it chilled the boy. What was it doing there, so close to his home? The machine twirled and blared out a screech. Foady raced back inside and tugged at Mom’s sleeve.
“Ma, there’s a UFO in the patio!”
She frowned. “A who?”
He had to pull her from the Haleem and vegetables she was cooking. They stepped out onto their small house’s rear, and there it was still. Aman gasped, shielding her eyes from the eastern sun’s rays. The thing was back-lit but they could encipher its weird-looking design.
Long, jagged protrusions stuck out from an odd rectangular shape. Wings? Then there were those stick-like metallic legs capable of grabbing anyone in its path. The machine floated, spiraled for a second, then nodded, all within its sphere. Foady pointed at it, his eyes bulging.
“What’s that white ball in the middle?” His eyes squinted for a second. “A weapon! Ma, maybe it’s a ray gun, or it’s just curious!” Mother and son ran back into the house.
By noon, the family’s friendlier neighbors were gathered in the patio. All three of them. They gazed up at the phenomenon. Ed Davis, a rather dense retiree, was transfixed.
“Oh my God. Can’t believe it! Mary, I bet you forgot to bring your iPhone!”
Mary, his wife, shot him a look. “Well, how the heck I know there’d be a spaceship in this boy’s backyard?”
“I shoulda got my HD cam fixed.” Tully, a postal worker, muttered. It was his day off. The alien device above them suddenly lifted and lurched forward. The witnesses pulled back in unison and keened overlapping shouts. “I should call the police,” Aman said, in her broken English. She ran into the kitchen. Foady stayed put, gawking in tandem with the grown-ups at the mysterious airship.
“If there’s life on Mars,” Ed Davis began, “ then they’re capable of building a flying machine that can travel all the ways to here!”
Tully waved it off. “Ed, you’re a damn fool.”
Ed whirled on him. “You’re so damn smart, you tell us where it came from!”
Tully shrugged, scratching his bald head, his eyes fixed on the machine. “Well, it ain’t from Mars.”
Mary glared at him. “Where, then?”
Tully sniffed, studied the ground, then looked up. “Venus.”
Foady had to stifle a snort. He’d read his share of astronomy books. What planet were these two men from? “Venus is too hot,” he said, with a halted cadence, “unfit for such labor. Atmosphere is clogged. Volcanoes erupt.”
Tully and Ed stared at him. “Seems we got us an intellectual here, Ed.” He grinned at the boy. “Is that what they taught you in Iraq, sonny? Science? I bet you still think Pluto’s a planet.”
“I was born in Iran.”
“Geniuses they’re mailin’ us now.” Tully said, mussing Foady’s black, curly hair. Foady did not pick up on the sarcasm. He was too busy wondering why the floating invader hadn’t zapped them to pieces by now. Then again, if he really believed it was hostile, why stay rooted to his spot?
Instinct spoke: You are not in danger. There is an explanation.
The grown-ups flanking him must be thinking the same, Foady guessed, or they would have fled long ago in panic. The sun had inched upward and Foady could now make out the contraption’s details. The sphere lodged in its middle seemed to have focused on him. Had it flown all the way from his homeland and trailed him like an abandoned pet? The thought pleased Foady and he smiled. He loved dogs.
“What’s so funny, little man?” Tully asked. He turned to Mary. “We’re being invaded and this kid finds it amusing.”
“Well, I sure as hell don’t!” Ed blurted. “How many more of these things be likely to show up? For all I know-well, lemme shut up.”
Tully sidled up to him. “No, say it.”
Ed stole a glance at the boy, then whispered in Tully’s ear. “I hear they cultivate rocket scientists in Iran.”
Tully reared back. “You mean-“
Ed nodded. Mary, who overheard, frowned at her husband. “Ed, what a thing to say. Don’t you dare bring up that nonsense in this house. We’re guests here.”
Ed faced her. “No, we ain’t.” He pointed at Foady. “They are.”
“Honestly, Ed.” Mary said. She shifted and placed her hand on Foady’s shoulder. He quickly adopted her as his aunt.
“Aunt Mary, aren’t you afraid?” Mary’s eyes widened in delight. “Why, no, sweetheart.” she said, crafting a triumphant smirk at Ed.
“Oh now she’s his aunt.” Ed said to Tully, who chuckled. Foady looked up at Mary. She tightened her clamp on his shoulder as her smile grew wider. The distant sound of a police siren drowned the UFO’s pulsing beep. The manifest neighbors now flanking Foady’s patio stared up in awe. Foady wondered why the UFO hadn’t reciprocated its new audience. It remained fixed on him.
“Oh, hell, I know what that thing is!” Ed shouted. Before he could elaborate, two policemen pushed past the screen door. The Tall one whipped a two-way radio to his ear and murmured “Okay, bring him over.” The shorter cop began studying Foady. Aman gravitated to her son, frowning curiously at Mary’s hand resting on his shoulder. Tall Cop’s radio speaker squawked and a voice crackled. “On his way.”
“You okay, sonny,?” he asked Foady, who shot him a thumbs up and gazed up at the people surrounding him.
“So, what is that thing, Ed?” Tully asked, smirking. Ed opened his mouth just as another officer swung open the screen door for a red-faced burly man. All eyes turned to the man as he aimed a hefty remote at the machine and pressed a button. The machine slowly sank to the ground, obscured by the picket fence. Necks craned. A neighbor next door could be heard swinging open his gate. The burly man screamed, “Don’t touch it!”
“Shut up.” Tall cop ordered. “You owe this boy an apology and an explanation.” The cops waited. The burly man’s scowl persisted as he addressed the gathering.
“My name is Fowler. I live across the street. I suspected that this boy here,” he pointed at Foady, “was part of an organized plot to build bombs in this house.”
“What do you mean by that??” Aman shouted. Tall Cop held up a hand.
“Please allow him to finish, Ma’am.” he said. Aman folded her arms and waited. Foady gazed at the large, angry-looking man. Fowler cleared his throat and continued, now addressing the boy.
“I seen men gathering here. Seen ‘em sending you to that hardware store up the street countless times. Seen you come back carrying a heavy bag full of stuff. Fertilizer and pipes, the clerk told me. Been watchin’ your daddy, watchin’ him and his buddies team up for their conferences, right there on your lawn.”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake,” Mary croaked. Fowler ignored her.
“I thought something wasn’t right,” he said. “This boy was their gofer. So I sent my toy to keep a watch on him, take photos. I figured why not a patio to assemble their bombs and…” He trailed off, more embarrassed than ashamed.
“Apologize to this family,” Tall Cop commanded. Fowler’s eyes blazed.
“Hell, no! There’s a war going on, officer! And we Americans go to keep on our toes! And that’s all I got to say!”
Tall Cop glared at him.
“This was an invasion of privacy,” he said. “Let this be a warning. You ever fly your ‘toy’ anywhere on my beat again, you will be arrested. Having a license for that thing doesn’t give you the right to use it as surveillance. Get him out of here.”
Fowler was whisked away. Foady asked the name of the machine. Tall Cop answered, fighting down a grin.
“It’s the Altigator Onystar Star Fox CBXT, according to the owner. A drone.”
“Just what I was about to say!” Ed yelped.
Foady beamed. What a cool name.
Rob's work has been published by Centum Press, HP Lovecraft Lunatic Asylum, Story Shack, Bon Appetit, among others. He is also a filmmaker. www.robsantana.org