After the movie, they return to the boy’s shabby ’67 Falcon, where he plugs in an 8-track – Klaatu. The music seems to suit the space-age-y aura that follows them from the Cinema 6, where they had watched Star Wars. “Did you know,” the boy says – he has a soft, whispery way of talking, “that there’s speculation this band is actually the Beatles?” The boy has a good vocabulary and likes to use it; he tosses in a multi-syllable word whenever he can. This may be the reason he’s fond of Klaatu, since the band bandies about many words not usually found in songs.
“No,” she says.
“…Of interplanetary craft…,” sings the boy, along with the tape.
“…Calling occupants…,” sings the girl.
The boy smiles. “It’s like we have a theme night tonight.”
The boy drives them to the field in his neighbourhood beside Avalon Dairy. He suggests they lay on the grass, watch the stars wink and blink.
They lay on the grass in the field. He slips his arm under her neck, crooks his elbow, holds his hand against her chest where her heart beats. They gaze at the stars. He feels the gentle rise and fall of her chest as she breathes. Although he wants to, he doesn’t allow his hand to drift south, to her breast. He wants to demonstrate nothing but respect for her body, her breasts in particular. His mother had had a double mastectomy two years ago. “Breast cancer,” he said when he told his girl. He made a whistling sound as he sliced his hand across his chest. He noted the girl’s face changed to something uncomfortable at his description, almost as if she were horrified.
She had indeed been shocked by the boy’s description. She doesn’t like to imagine his mother, too, as being sick. Both his parents seem like parents of the future – showing up long enough to fill the fridge, then off again on their adventures – hiking around Squamish, boating the Gulf Islands. They like to collect rocks, which they paint white and place the length of the front walk. His parents are nothing like the girl’s parents. Any time her father ventures out to run an errand – say, to fill a prescription for her mother – he announces, “Made it!” when he returns home, as if innumerable unspeakable tragedies lay on the other side of the door.
“Do you think it’s possible,” the boy says, “for thoughts to telepath? You know, like in the song?”
The girl allows the words to seep through her mind for a moment. This is typical of something he’d come up with. He’s a bit artsy-fartsy, as Dad would say, what with the weed and the music collection and the hair that verges on hippie-dippie. She doesn’t bother to answer but knows that Spock, the green-tinged Vulcan on Star Trek, would approve of his line of thinking.
They lie like that for some time, without speaking, gazing at the stars.
Then, as if the movie continued, four glowing orbs enter the slice of sky above them. The orbs move very fast, faster than either would have imagined. As fast as the orbs enter their line of vision, they stop, centre stage. It doesn’t seem possible that something that had been moving so very fast one moment could, in a tiny fraction of a second, be stock still – without a sound and without a quiver.
They absorb the scene in the sky. The boy bites his tongue. What vision has appeared? Has someone laced his pot with Angel Dust? Could Angel Dust be transferred by saliva? Has he accidentally shared this with his girl when they kissed after the movie? He blinks rapidly several times as his eyes sting and his throat constricts. He may have poisoned his true love! Whatever you do, he thinks, do not freak out. Just keep it together until she says she has to go home.
He’s lost track of her breathing, can no longer feel the rise and fall of her chest. Is it possible time has stopped? he wonders.
The girl holds her breath. Is this what he’d hinted at earlier when he mentioned a theme night? Had he planned a space-age evening – movie, Klaatu, and a lookout? She waits for him to say, “Surprise!” in that lispy, whispery way he has, but he remains silent. Maybe he hasn’t noticed them yet, she thinks.
The two pairs of perfect glowing orbs hang around for a bit. Do they hover? No; they lay against the night sky in perfect stillness. Long enough for this to register. From where the girl and the boy lay, the orbs look to be the size of quarters but, given the distance, they’d have to be…well, they’d likely have to know a fair bit of calculus to know how big they really were, but neither the boy nor the girl had excelled at this.
They stare at the orbs. The orbs seem to stare back. Then, in a streak of light and without a sound, the orbs zip from sight along their westward trajectory.
The boy wonders for how much longer he can lay still in the field by Avalon Dairy without jumping to his feet and screaming, “They’re HERE! INTERPLANETARY CRAFT! WE summoned them! We have the POWER!”
The girl, meanwhile, feels dizzy, despite lying on her back in the field at Avalon Dairy. The stars swirl. The trees that edge the field whisper and waver. Is there a breeze? She can’t feel it. But she feels the earth rotate. Feels its smooth orbit through time and space. Feels her own movement from one moment to the next. She wants to lie there forever, lie with her guy in this sweet horizontal position, with his hand on her heart, as both of them watch the future unfold in the sky.
The girl begins to breathe again. “What was that,” she whispers, finally.
Ah! She saw them, too! A grin spreads across the boy’s acned face. “Interplanetary,” he says.
“Most extraordinary,” she says.
“Craft,” they say in unison. The girl giggles, lifts a hand to cover her mouth. The boy rolls to his side, extracts his arm from beneath the warmth of her neck, props himself up on an elbow. He regards the girl in exaggerated mock shock. This makes the girl giggle more. He flops back on the grass and laughs, too. They laugh together, side by side, under the galaxy’s gaze, until they run out of steam. The boy rubs his eyes, sighs. “Guess I better take you home,” he says.
They stand up. They walk to the ’67 Ford Falcon Futura, which is exactly where they had left it – parked in the gravel at the side of the road.
He drives her home. Drops her off at the back door. Kisses her goodnight. She stands on the back stoop for a moment, watches the Falcon trundle its way up the lane. It stops at the crest of the hill, its round taillights flash as the boy touches the brakes. Then the car turns, bound for home, and she’s left alone on the stoop in the silence and the darkness. His departure feels final for some reason, as if the Falcon leaves a void, a hated-by-nature vacuum that fills with gas-fumed air and tiny motes of gravel dust the moment she turns her back to it.
She lets herself in. Unties her Jesus sandals. Kicks them into the hall closet. Quietly. Everyone would be asleep. Except Dad. She’ll have to tiptoe past Mom’s door, partly to avoid disturbing her, partly to avoid being summoned to her bedside for a tête-à-tête should she be awake. The last thing the girl wants is another lecture on living life to its fullest, on not squandering her youth.
All the lamps downstairs are off; one lone beam of light from the streetlamp outside casts a yellow glow in the living room. She peeks around the corner. Yup, there’s Dad. Brooding. Smoking. Drinking coffee.
“How was the movie?” he asks. He had read about the Star Wars, knew it was popular with the kids. But why wouldn’t that boy of hers take her to a comedy? It would do her good to have a laugh. He hadn’t heard her laugh since the diagnosis.
He lifts the coffee mug, takes a swig. The white, unglazed ring on the bottom of the cup glows in the reflection from the street lamp. She watches the white ring float before his face until he lowers the cup again to the arm of the chair.
“Good,” she says. “It was good.” She wonders why he likes to sit in the dark, why he stays up so late; he’d be up until at least three a.m. Is he waiting for some sort of divine guidance? Would he be different if he knew the words to “Calling Occupants”?
“Dad?” she asks. “Ever heard of Klaatu?”
Shelley Kozlowski writes and creates on the outskirts of the Badlands of Alberta, Canada. Her work can be found in fine literary journals such as this, Geist, and Room. Even though she hails from prime tree-hugging territory on the Left Coast, her work isn’t always influenced by weed and UFOs.
Photo by: Ana Prundaru