Night of the Checkered Trucks
There was a man named Bull. Every move he made showed how powerful he was. He drove a red 4-door, with everthing possible loaded in on his power pick-up. When he walked, the ground thumped under his feet. There was also a little man whose name was Cuthbert. Cuthbert might be as tall as the top of the tailgate on Bull’s truck. He drove a white half pint pick-up truck. Back to back Cuthbert’s tail gate barely reached above Bull’s fender. Actually, Cuthbert himself could barely see over Bull’s tail gate.
To say it politely, Bull and Cuthbert were not friends. They didn’t even like to see each other. Whenever Bull saw Cuthbert in his little white truck, he’d say things like, “There goes that a scrawny little chicken of a guy.” Or “Little guy drives little truck.”
Whenever Cuthbert saw Bull he’d say things like, “There’s the guy with the dinosaur brain and breath. Or “How’d he get the name of Bull? Sure is an insult to a smart animal!”
Their friends grew tired of hearing them make these remarks and squabbling all the time. They all got together and came up with a secret plan to try and get them to be friends. They threw a big party and invited everyone in town including Cuthbert and Bull. But Cuthbert didn’t know Bull was coming and Bull didn’t know Cuthbert was coming either. Their friends thought, that in this case, their ignorance was best all the way around.
The night of the party came and everyone was excited, especially Bull who hadn’t been invited to a party in a long time. He’d been at the party about 15 minutes when Cuthbert came in. When Bull saw him, he was so mad his face grew as red as if he’d eaten hot chili peppers. The veins on his neck stuck out like ropes on a ship.
Cuthbert and Bull spent the party circling the room and glaring at each other, muttering words we’d best not repeat.
While Bull and Cuthbert were busy hating each as they were circling ‘round like boxers in a ring, their friends went outside and took both their trucks apart. Then they put them back together, but all mixed up--red and white. A little white fender was replaced by a big red one that stuck out 8” in front. A red door was where a white one had belonged. Bull’s bumper sticker which said, “Bulls of the world unite and CHARGE!” wound up on Cuthbert’s bumper. Cuthbert’s signed picture of his wife, Elisha Cuthbert that said, “To Cuthie, the cutest little cowboy in the West. Love and Kisses.” wound up hanging from Bull’s rear view mirror.
They finished just as Bull and Cuthbert realized no one else was inside at the party. They ran for the door at the same time. They got caught like logs in a jam before breaking free and rushing outside. When they saw the trucks, Bull got raging mad. His face got the color of a man who’d just eaten 13 red-hot Texas chili peppers. He looked like a bull that had seen the matador’s cape. He ran around bellowing and screaming. He did everything but paw the ground and snort smoke through his nose.
Cuthbert just kept walking and looking. It was hard to even tell which truck was his.
When he saw the bumper sticker about the charging bulls and Bull running and screaming amok, he started laughing. He laughed so hard tears ran down his cheeks and his sides hurt.
This made Bull even madder. His face was redder and the veins were bigger. Then he saw the bumper sticker and knew how silly he looked. He started laughing too. He was laughing so hard he could barely stand up. Pretty soon Cuthbert and Bull were leaning on each other and laughing. While they were laughing so hard, they never saw their friends sneak away.
When Cuthbert and Bull stopped laughing, they saw they were all alone. They spent all that night and half the next day putting their trucks together again. After that, they were always the best of friends. Cuthbert kept the bumper sticker and Bull kept the picture of Elisha. It always made him laugh when he’d see it and make him think of the night of the checkered trucks. And their friends? Let’s just say, it surely made the town’s Bar-B-Que nights more fun for everyone.
K. Michael and the Fog Monster
Captain Michael, also known as KM, pushed the papers aside on his desk. He was very tired of paperwork. He wanted to be back on the spaceship. There were aliens out there and maybe not all of them were nice guys. Besides, he missed his little friend, Hojo.
Right then his com phone rang. He leaned over to pick it up and barked a quick, “KM here.”
“Captain get your gear to the spaceport in 10 minutes! HoJo is already there preparing your jump-ship. You and he are to hot foot it to the Antar space Platform. Been some kind of a dust-up there. 10 minutes, Captain.” BANG! Went the com phone.
“Boy,” said KM. I wish all my wishes got such fast action. I'd be a general in charge of a starship by now.” KM grabbed his laser-saber and blue face mask with the all-see- eye scope and ran out the door. It smashed shut behind him.
After the run to the ship, he wasn't even out of breath. He saw his hairy chum beside the airlock. “Hey, HoJo, got your gear? We finally get out of this hole!” he called out with great cheer.
HoJo reached one of his three arms over his shoulder and scratched his back. With another arm, he opened the jump-ship hatch. With his last hand, he grabbed his blue face mask with the all-see eye scope. He faced KM and winked, “You think I'd miss getting out of this mud hole?” He added with what passed for his laugh and added, “Man, I am so gone. Race you to the controls,” he challenged.
“Yeah! Chimed in KM. First one there gets to take this fine ship out of orbit,” he yelled loudly.
HoJo turned. He put the hand that had been scratching his back, across the door frame so that two hands were keeping KM from passing him. That gave him a two second lead. But that was all he needed. He was first one in front of the controls. He plopped his soft body into down into the captain's chair.
Reaching the jet firing stick with one hand, he grabbed his web harness with another, and shut the outside air control with his third hand. “Hey, Man, how do you ever do this job with only two hands?” he joked with KM
Hojo's hands sped over the buttons, toggles, and sticks. KM was busy with his panel, there were many things to do before they had to be cut to be left behind. Sometimes it seemed to take longer to prepare to leave than it did to actually blast off.
As they settled into the flight, they started talking about the same things they often did.
“KM, buddy, are you ready to be beamed to where we are going? We could be there in 30 seconds.”
First, they have to make a beamer that can take our bodies and send them through space as a stream of electrons.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Same old problems. I know we can't do it yet. But would you do it if we could?”
“Bud, if I've told you once, I've told you the sky full of stars at midnight. This I can tell you: Not me first. If you make it there and back, I might think about it.”
HoJo snorted his peculiar sound between a honk and a laugh. “Well, at least tell me where they said we're going.”
“Tell you? Tell you? We are space Marines. We just do what they say, and go where they tell us to go.”
“Come on. Be a man instead of a puppy. You're the boss around here. They told you something. I heard we're after some kind of monster.”
"Well, HoJo. That has to be a mistake. As you well know, as everyone in the Universe knows, the King of Kings is on His throne now. The bad times are gone. So you tell me. But I did hear that this Fog Monster thing swallows people, any living things. They come back out, different places than they went in. They're OK. But they can't remember anything from the time they went into this freak until the time they came out.”
Man, that's scary. It doesn't make sense. Monsters now that HE is ruling? Naw, that just can't be, but then what?”
“Give it a rest, HoJo. Wait and see. KM replied. “Find us a wormhole, Thing. And let's get this show on the road. Let's set a record. From here to there is super fast time. The major said we should be in a tail-busting hurry.”
And that's what they did, they set a new record. They made it in 4 hours, 24 minutes and 16 seconds. KM liked to keep track of numbers like that.
“Hey, KM. Happy Landings guys. It's about time you two showed up,” KM heard the voice of his long time buddy, Jim. “Set her down on pad 2C, We'll have the buggy out to get you by the time you power down. HoJo flipped the switches and changed gears in double fast time. Sometimes that extra hand came in very, well, handy. .
The two space travelers raced each other to the door lock. Everything they did was a contest. HoJo, with his three feet, had the lead without one huff or puff. But KM had longer legs. Still KM only got to the door first by leaning forward and reaching with his longer arms.
They were having such a good time pushing, shoving, and yelling that they couldn't hear Jim's voice coming over the control room speakers. He was giving them a frantic warning. “Guys! Don't open the door! The Fog Monster is just outside!"
Not hearing the warning, KM opened the airlock.
All he could see was gray. He could hear a strange noise like Oooooohhhhh, uuuuuhhhhhh, oooooohhhhh.
The sound was very low, like the wind heard across the desert from afar off. It sounded very sad.
“HoJo! Back up. We're in trouble!
The next thing they knew, they were laying on the pavement looking up into Jim's face. “What did you see? Can you tell us anything about the monster?”
“Nothing, that's 'no thing.'
“No, man.” HoJo chimed in at the same time. “It was strange. This sad sound, then total silence.
“It's to the hospital for the two of you,” said the station commander who was standing beside Jim.
The doctors and nurses gave them all kinds of tests. They had done the same tests on each person who had been swallowed by the Fog Monster. Not a thing was ever discovered that could help understand the creature.
KM was brave about all the times they used a needle to get blood. HoJo was not. He screamed like a 6 week old baby getting a shot. He moaned and groaned every time he had to lay still for an x-ray. He stumbled and shuffled his feet when they asked him to go to another test.
HoJo moaned again and rolled his eyes. “You be brave for both of us. How'd a screamer like you ever get in the Spacers anyway. You're acting like a puppy losing a fight. Buck up man. Let's see some of that Marine bravery.”
HoJo moaned again and rolled his eyes. “You be brave enough for both of us. You forget these needles and tests are strange to me. I never had them until I started hanging around with you humans.”
While they were talking, the doctor ran into the room. “Well, HOJO, as far as I can see, you're the perfect patient. You solved the problem. Your blood is just different enough that something new showed in the tests.”
HoJo got a very smug look on his face. He clapped all three hands against the soles of his three feet making a great noise. “See, KM, I've been telling you I'd beat you again. Brave? I'll show you brave. What is it doc? What did you find?
“Come with us. We know how to deal with the Fog Monster. You're the one that provided the key. So you should get to be there when we try to talk to it. It seems a fog surrounds the Fog Monster. In that fog is a gas that makes people sleep and dream once they smell it.”
KM stopped everyone. “Wait, people. We need to talk to the King of Kings and ask him how to talk to the Fog Monster. I guess I'd not call him that anymore. He's not really monster. But he surely is different.”
They all stopped and prayed. They wanted Jesus to tell them how to talk with the monster—uh, new being. As they waited before the King, they came to understand it was speaking like the wind. They could change the sounds into music, and then into words.
OK, sounds good to me,” said the doctor. “Anyone here know how to do that?”\
They all shook their heads and said various forms of no: “Uh uh, nope, not me, Doc, you?”
They stood around shuffling their feet and looking anywhere but at each other. “I know,” said Betty the nurse. “I have the best answer.” I have a good friend. SeeMarie who plays the piano and is always making up new songs. Let's ask her.”
They all agreed it was a great idea. They jumped into two jeeps and raced across the space station.
KM was first out the door when they stopped. He rang the bell and waited. When SeeMarie opened the door the three started talking at once. Their words tumbled over each others'. Finally, KM yelled the loudest for everyone to be quiet. “Let Betty tell her it was her idea.”
Betty went to stand beside SeeMarie She told her everything that had been happening. “It seems to us that the being is making the sounds of the wind. I thought maybe you could take the sounds and make music to talk to the fog thing.”
“Yeah, interrupted KM. Each note could stand for a different sound to us. Then we could teach it what each sound meant. You know, point to a glass and make a sound, and so forth. It'll take a bit of a while. But we all know time isn't very important in the King's City.”
SeeMarie stood thinking for a minute. “OK,” she said. “Let me get my flute. It sounds the most like the wind.”
KM, HoJo, Jim the doctor, the nurse Betty, and SeeMarie all went out again to the jeep. “Does anyone know where the fog thing is.” asked Betty.
“Let me call the space field,” replied Jim.
They found out "the being" was in the basketball gym where it could change it's shape and size as it wanted to do so. They all stayed together and drove over.
The stayed there while SeeMarie spent some time “talking” with music. Dan, a computer specialist, made a program to change the notes into human sounds using the keyboard to get 26 letters plus the numbers for the two major sounds for each vowel.
After more “talking with music,” they all came to an understand he was sad because he had no friends. All of them would learn to use the keyboard to talk with music. Then there could be lots of people for him to make friends. There were many questions about him. The doctor said they'd all learn the “who, what, where, when and how” of his family and travels.
The first words they all understood were, “I have to warn you. Some people go into a deep sleep when I come near them.
The doctor grew excited. “Yes, we have some who have found that out. But, you've never hurt anyone. I have an idea for us to try. Would you be willing to see if you could work in our the hospital? You could put a fog over people in the hospital so they could sleep well all night.
In the end, the Fog Monster became a pal to all.
at least for now
Next time you are in a car driving through a fog, you probably can' t see him, but if you look closely, you just might.