Peering through the rain-obscured car window, Oscar was beginning to suspect the worst… they were lost. Sighing, he averted his attention away from the window, and braced himself against the bizarrely hostile argument now in full swing between his parents in the front seat. These spats always started the same. They would pick out a seemingly meaningless topic, state their differing opinions, civilly at first, and then without fail it would grow increasingly aggressive… which his parents thought were great fun. Oscar, on the other hand, couldn’t stand when his parents argued. When he was smaller he often got caught up in their arguments but now, as a wizened 10-year-old he had learned to cope. By concentrating, Oscar had learned to block out their bickering… he would just retreat into his mind and within a few seconds he was coming up with some story or a silly songs.
Driving in the middle of nowhere, any normal couple would probably by squabbling about how hopelessly lost they were, in the middle of a raging thunderstorm, no less. Frank and Beatrice were not a normal couple. “If it were about fat people, then explain to me why they included the line, ‘stand on their shoulders to retrieve your cat out of a tree,’ huh, Stan? Tell me that!” Oscar’s mother finished with a flourish.
“Well, Beatrice, that’s well and good, but you can’t ignore all the lines about them splashing all the water out of the pool and using them as beanbag chairs? It’s obvious they are singing about people carrying a little something extra around the middle and NOT about giants,” Oscar’s father countered.
Knowing this could go on for hours, Oscar tried to change the subject, “Mom, do you know where we are? I have to go to the bathroom.” Forgetting about the Aquabats instantly, Oscar’s mother turned to him with a look of maternal concern, “I’ll see if we can find a gas station, ok honey? Think you can make it?”, looking over to her husband in the driver seat she continued, “Frank can you plug us into the GPS? Oscar needs a restroom.” “Sure thing, Bea,” looking in the rearview mirror Oscar’s father looked back at him and said, “hang in there pal” and quickly redirected his attention to the road as a bolt of lightning lit up the sky.
Following the pit stop, Frank had the family back on the road in less than 10 minutes, beating his last record. Pulling out of the rest area, Frank searched the GPS for directions back to the highway and waited for it to calculate.
“Turn Left at 2nd Avenue,” the GPS voice said into the dark car.
“I hate that voice,” Oscar said to no one in particular, “sounds like an alien or something”.
“Go 3.2 miles to Union Park Boulevard.”
“Mom, can you turn the voice thingy off? It’s giving me the willies,” Oscar said, his own voice coming out a bit squeakier than he would have liked. “No Oscar, your father needs to hear the directions so his eyes can stay on the road. Sorry sweetie,” his mom shot him a look of sympathy that did little to quell Oscar’s increasing sense of doom.
“Please make a U-turn at the next available intersection.”
“What did that damn thing say? What has it got me turning around for? Beatrice, take a look at that thing and see what the matter is,” Frank’s notorious irritability was beginning to flare up.
“I’m not sure what I’m looking at here, Frank. You know I don’t know how to use these thingies… I’m just gonna mess it up!” Beatrice said as she jammed her finger at the device.
“Never mind, Bea- I see a roadside shop up ahead, I’ll just pull in there and ask for directions.” Frank put on his blinker and slowed to turn into a small parking lot with a derelict stand-alone structure at the back of the lot.
The adults may not have noticed the sign indicating the type of establishment they were about to enter, but Oscar sure did. About 30 feet in the air, as clear as day (even on a very stormy night) shone a bright white sign which read: Alien Jerky. Parked in front of the small building, Oscar’s alarm was further intensified as he was now eye to eye at a 4-foot sickly green egg-headed alien with only the car’s windshield between them. Suddenly, the menacing figure was illuminated by another bolt of lightning, and Oscar realized it was just a plaster figurine holding a ‘welcome’ sign.
Hopping out of the car to follow his parents inside, Oscar still couldn’t seem to shake the dread that prickled his skin. Inside the store, he shook the rain off and looked for his parents. His mom was nowhere to be found and his father was at the counter talking to a very petite dark-skinned man. Giving the scene another quick scan, Oscar chided himself for being so easily spooked and decided to look for his mother. Strolling through the dusty aisles filled with odd trinkets and jerky touting names and flavors he had never heard of, Oscar was about to give up his search and head back to the counter when movement in the back of the aisle by the wall of refrigerated beverages caught his attention.
Slowly making his way to the spot where he thought the activity had occurred, Oscar looked around again but saw nothing. Shrugging his shoulders, he decided be better grab a drink the road before heading back to the counter. As he reached for the refrigerator door handle, Oscar suddenly froze. Unable to move, unable to process what he was seeing, Oscar simply stared at the scene unfolding behind the rows of chilled Pepsi and Sunkist Orange. In a gap between the stocked rows, someone had failed to refill the row that normally housed Grape Fanta and it now served as a peephole to the back cold storage room of the store.
As Oscar began to regain his facilities, his first thought was to run. RUN. The message took a little longer than he would have liked to get to his feet, but soon he was back-peddling and then running to the front of the store, and to his father. “Dad! DAD!!! We have got to get out of this place! Oh god! Where’s mom? Dad, what are you doing, we have to leave, NOW!” Why wasn’t his dad doing anything? And where was his mother? Oscar looked around the store in a frenzy for any trace of her.
“Dad, you have to find mom and we have to get out of here. Please, dad, listen to me!” tears were now streaming down Oscar’s face.
“Ok, ok, Oscar. Calm down. Well, that’s the last time I let you eat an entire bag of candy corn… sheesh, that sugar has got you acting like a crazy person!” Frank gave his son a tilted grin and turned back to the dark-skinned man behind the counter. “Sorry about that, we’ve been on the road a long time now, and I think the storm has him a little on edge.”
“It is not a problem,” replied the dark-skinned man in a strangely familiar voice. Oscar noticed that his nametag read “Bob”.
“Little boys can sometimes let their imagination get the best of them. It is not a problem,” Bob continued.
“Oh my God,” thought Oscar. “His voice sounds just like our GPS.”
Frank turned to his wide-eyed son who was once again struck immobile and shook his head. “Come on Oscar, we’re leaving.”
“What about Mom!?!?” Oscar almost screamed.
“What about me?” Beatrice had just vacated the single-stall restroom and was now standing directly behind Oscar wiping her hands on her jeans.
Lunging at his mother and throwing his arms around her, Oscar’s relief was palpable.
“Why all the fuss? I just had to take a whizz,” Oscar’s mom always did have a way with words.
Back in the car, Oscar thought he had never been happier than he was the moment the diabolical jerky hut began to shrink in the distance as their car was pointed once again towards the highway.
“What happened in there, anyway, Oscar?” His dad was actually showing a bit of concern as he glanced from the road ahead to his son in the back.
“It’s nothing… it’s just that I saw something, but I couldn’t have. It’s impossible. Just forget it,” in the safety of the car Oscar was beginning to feel a tad ridiculous for his hysterics in the jerky hut.
“Come on son, I need a good story to keep me awake while I drive this last stretch,” Frank shared a glance with Beatrice before looking in the rearview mirror at his son.
“There were aliens back there. Real ones. I know this sounds crazy, but I saw them. They were back in the cooler storage area behind the sodas. They were very small, shorter than me even. Their heads were big though, like a toothpick holding up a tomato, and they were…”
“They were what, son?” Frank was for once appreciative of his son’s overactive imagination; at least it was keeping him alert and entertained while he drove. “They had all sorts of body parts, but they were brown and leathery. I could see an arm and what looked like the top of a leg but it was hard to tell. They were… they were people, dad. And the aliens, they were… they were cutting them into bits and putting them in resealable baggies. I couldn’t make out what the baggies said but it looked like it said “New Chipotle Flavor—“.
“Frank! Watch out!!”
Tire wheels screeched as Frank lost and then recovered control of the vehicle before finally pulling off to the shoulder. Almost strangling himself in the seatbelt he forgot to remove, Frank eventually freed himself and leapt from the car and wretched into the wet grass.
In the parked car, Oscar leaned over the driver seat to make sure his dad was alright and immediately recognized the cause of his father’s violent reaction. Scattered on the vacated drivers seat were the contents of a half-eaten bag of jerky, the wrapper stating in bright yellow letters, “New Chipotle Flavor”.
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
Hi everyone, just a heads up that I will be writing (and hopefully posting) from sea for the next several days, I’m on my first cruise! So be patient with me as I attempt to continue uninterrupted.
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: On the drive to the Miami Port, where we departed for our 4
-night cruise today, I was amazed and dumbfounded by the sign of a local business off of I-95. Needing a bit of sustenance for the drive we pulled off the highway and on our way to Wendy’s saw a sign that read: “Alien Fresh Jerky”. I can’t make this stuff up people (ok, admittedly I probably could, but it’s so much more fun to incorporate the bizarre reality).
TWO: Ever dependant on technology, namely my smart phone, I punched the directions to the port into my phone’s GPS system. At one point, it directed us to get off of I-95 and onto another series of highways which inevitably returned us to I-95 15 or so miles down. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why my “smart” phone would take us on such a seemingly purposeless detour. The detour, incidentally took us on to several toll roads, which prompted me to comment, “this GPS is evil”. Ooooo… that’s good… what if my GPS was evil? What if everybody’s GPS was evil? What if aliens had come up with this system to direct unsuspecting humans to their layer in order to probe them or force them to River dance? Just go with it… that’s what I do.
THREE: Andy and I have this ongoing argument about a particular Aquabats song. If you’ve never listened to the Aquabats, this will probably be lost on you, but look up the song ‘B.F.F.’ and you’ll get an idea of how absurd this argument is. Andy is convinced that this song is about fat people while I, on the other hand, know- yes KNOW, that it is really about giants. We continue to agree to disagree on this point, but the whole conversation (not to mention the song) is so ridiculous I thought it would make for a nice addition to the story.
Love & Squirrels.