Alien Parade, Installment One

When I left my last job (I refuse to use the word “retired”, but that’s pretty much what I did), I decided I was going to write a book. I had all kinds of ideas, but I settled on two, a collection of essays on deer hunting and a book about how the Midwest was going to experience a renaissance due to our relative insulation from the worst impacts of climate change.

Every day I’d walk the two miles to the Memorial Union on the UW campus, seclude myself in the wood paneled Hamel Reading Room, and try to write a book. It was hard. I just couldn’t get the deer essays to cooperate in the form of a coherent theme that anybody would actually want to, you know, read. And the Midwest renaissance book got bogged down in the outline stage. It was a great concept that demanded either the discipline of an academic researcher or the dogged pursuit of an investigative reporter. I was neither professor nor journalist. My mind began to wander. I decided that rather than go through all the hard work of dealing in reality, I’d just start making stuff up.

What dribbled out was this novel, “Alien Parade.” I didn’t write it to make any deep point or to reflect on the human condition. I mostly wrote it to entertain myself and to help me pretend that I was actually accomplishing something and not just hanging out at the Union instead of going to class, as I too often did in my youth.

When I finished it, I liked it. I had succeeded in entertaining myself and so I decided maybe my story might entertain others. So I got a list off the Internet and began to query book agents. I wrote 50 queries. The overwhelming response was no response. About a dozen sent me form rejections. I cherish the five replies that suggested that the agent had actually read my query. The one I liked best was succinct. “Not for me,” he wrote. Now that I think about it, I can’t be sure that that wasn’t his stock rejection, but if it was it was a darn good one. None of that “thank you so much for offering your work to us, but it just isn’t what we’re looking for at this time,” bullshit. Just a simple, “I don’t want it. Go away.” If I can’t get acceptance, I’ll take honesty.

Another agent wrote that my manuscript length, a little over 30,000 words, was probably too short for a stand alone book. That was a handhold on a sheer cliff. Of course! I was rejected by 50 agents because my book was just too short. Those agents were reading my query and concluding that it was Pulitzer material if only there was a category for novellas and, since there wasn’t, might as well send this guy the standard rejection. I’m sure the same thing happened to Hemmingway early on.

To get my daily fix of writing I moved on to this blog where I am my own editor and publisher. I find myself very agreeable to work with. But the novella’s just been sitting around for three years gathering digital dust and so now I’ve decided, what the hell, I’ll try it out on you. Since it takes place around Halloween I figure this is a good time to roll it out there. I’ve cut it into easily digestible chunks and I’ll dish it up three days a week over the next few weeks.

Try the first helping below. If you don’t like it you can always just decide that it’s not for you. Just please don’t write me to say how much you appreciated my offering it to you, but you just don’t feel that it’s right for you at this time.

Dave

Alien Parade

Installment One

1. Narvik

The neighboring village had cornered the market on apples. Up on the highlands they had taken advantage of the orchards. Apple Fest drew twenty thousand people during its traditional late September weekend and some found the village so quaint that they built massive vacation homes with stunning views out on the ridges while others moved into small subdivisions on the edge of town and took up full-time residency. 

They spent money in the stores. The local diner sold fancy Belgian waffles for nine bucks a plate. The liquor store started stocking $20 wine. The taverns put IPA’s on tap. 

But in nearby Narvik, which was down in a narrow valley and subject to flooding from the Kickapoo River, not much had changed and what was changing was changing for the worse. You could look it up in the official census, but for the average villager in Narvik, Wisconsin they knew what it felt like. Population: around 750 and in decline. Average age: dead next week. Home values: best offer and we’ll throw in the snowplow. 

What Narvik had left was two churches (one Lutheran and one Catholic) a hardware store and four taverns, the most popular of which was The Flying Saucer. 

The Saucer, as it was warmly known among locals, was a double entendre. A patron could become sauced there. But its original meaning dated back to 1982 when its owners changed the name of the venerable Good Times Tap to The Flying Saucer in an initially successful attempt to capitalize on several recent sightings of alien spacecraft. 

Since the days of the sightings the factory farms had taken over milk production from the family places and many of the farmsteads had been bought by city folk who got out there on the occasional weekend. On a Saturday morning, they would dress in new plaid shirts and pressed jeans and drive to the neighboring village for fancy waffles and to pick up a nice bottle of cabernet for dinner. 

But they did not come to the Flying Saucer or to visit Narvik at all. The Saucer still served up Pabst Blue Ribbon in bottles and fish fry on Fridays but there were no fancy brews on tap and baked walleye was never an option. 

Still, almost four decades earlier Narvik aspired to fame thanks to the strange goings on at a dairy farm outside of town. As reported at the time, here’s what took place. 

Graduated from Narvik high school a few years earlier, Ole Olson still lived with his parents on the family dairy farm just outside of town. He was in charge of the late day chores. On that Friday evening in late October of 1982, Ole was tidying up the barn after milking time. His father had returned to the house when, out the barn window in the twilight, Ole noticed a bright light in the sky, which he first took for the northern lights. But the light intensified and narrowed until it was one intense glow, like a motorcycle headlight, shining through the treetops. 

Then it seemed to descend behind the pines into what Ole knew was a clearing. Breathing hard from excitement, Ole went to the farmhouse and told his father. They each grabbed a hunting rifle and a flashlight and went into the woods. When they got to the clearing their lights reflected off something that looked like a sleeker version of the landing craft that the Apollo space program had put on the moon. 

Then in a flash it burst back up into the sky and was gone. The force of the blast threw them back into the woods, but when they recovered their senses their lights searched the clearing and found the long grass burnt to a crisp. 

They hurried back to the house and called young Sheriff Harold Rhude, who was having dinner with his family. The sheriff weighed the slim chance of contact from life on another planet versus the certainty of hot meatloaf and mashed potatoes. He told the Olsons that he would visit them in the morning, and by the way, even though they had known him all his life they really should call the dispatcher next time. 

When the sheriff arrived the next morning he inspected the alleged landing site and, in fact, did observe as his report noted, “a circular area about twenty feet in diameter that appeared to be scorched recently by a strong fire.” 

Thelma Rhude (Harold’s mother) was publisher, editor and full-time beat reporter for the Narvik News. Her weekly routine involved visiting her son in his office and reading his reports. She never asked him what was going on before she started reviewing the official logs as both mother and son felt that this would have injected nepotism into it all, thus tainting the sacred institutions of law enforcement and the Fourth Estate in not only Narvik but in fact in all of Ottawa County. Instead, Thelma sat quietly outside Harold’s office and read his reports and then followed up with a request for an interview when she found something of interest. These requests were routinely granted. 

That week’s incident at the Olson farm was, you might say, something of interest. And while Thelma Rhude did not go in for tabloid journalism, well, she had noticed that subscriptions were going down at about the same rate that the number of obituaries was increasing. She did not take the decision lightly, but in the end she saw little lasting harm to the First Amendment if she had some fun with the story in the next week’s edition. And, she rationalized, if it boosted sales and kept the News going, it was all for the greater glory of the free press. 

So readers found this headline emblazoned across the top of the that week’s edition of the Narvik News

UFO Reported at Olson Farm

Investigators are combing through evidence of an unidentified flying object (UFO) reported by Trygve and Ole Olson at their farm just outside of Narvik last Friday evening. 

The story then went on to recount the details as described above. The lede, however, did raise the ire of the county sheriff who visited the publisher/editor/reporter in her small office, which had within the previous decade been the sheriff’s own bedroom. 

“Mom, how could you say that ‘investigators’ are ‘combing though’ anything?” asked the reporter’s son. “For one thing there’s only one investigator and that’s me and I’m not ‘combing through’ any ‘evidence’ because there isn’t any. The Olson’s are nice people, but they drink and they’re weird and that’s it. Case closed.” 

“So, how do you explain the burnt grass?” 

“They burned some garbage and it got out of hand.” 

“In a perfect circle? I went out there and looked for myself.” 

“Yeah, I saw the picture you put in the paper. Whey did you do that? Anyway, it doesn’t prove anything. And if you won’t accept my explanation than do you really want to say it was aliens? Aren’t you concerned about your credibility or the reputation of the paper?”

“Look at these,” she handed him a thick stack of pink slips of paper. “These are just the messages I took off the answering machine in the last hour. Phone’s been ringing off the hook. Look, this one’s from the Minneapolis Star!”

Harold shuffled through the slips. “So, what? You want to make the Olson’s famous? Famous for being crazy and Narvik famous for being the home of nut jobs?” 

“My son, I want Narvik to survive. We need, I don’t know, something. Some thing. Like Redding has the apple orchards. They’ve capitalized on that. We’re a dying town. Literally, Harold, I know. I write the obituaries. And I don’t want to write one for my whole community.”

“Sure, Mom. I get it. But this? An old Norwegian dairy farmer and his oddball son make up a story – or maybe they really think they did see it, that’d be even worse – about a flying saucer? That’s how you’re going to save Narvik?”

“Redding just got a new subdivision and it’s filling up with taxpayers and people who send kids to their school.” 

“And so Narvik will attract space aliens then? Do Martians build tract homes?” 

“No reason to be snide, Harold.” 

Then the phone rang. It was CBS. 

2. Mayor Claire

Thirty-six years later, the Flying Saucer was still in business, though under new ownership (three times over) and somewhat worn as was the whole village. 

Claire Kornstedt sat at her corner table in the Saucer and ordered her usual brandy old fashioned with cherries and an orange slice for garnish. After the first few relaxing sips she was joined by Joe Ellsted, he of the ruddy complexion and gray hardscrabble beard, faded thick flannel shirt, Carhartt work pants and “Narvik Nimrods” high school ball cap. 

“Evening, Madam Mayor,” said Joe as he approached her table with a bottle of beer in one hand and a shot of brandy in the other. Narvik was a village and in Wisconsin villages don’t have mayors, but presidents. No matter. Everyone in Narvik referred to their top elected official as their mayor. 

“Evening, Mr. Mayor,” said Claire. 

“Not any more, Claire. It’s your job now.”

“Once a mayor always a mayor, Joe. It’s like being a priest.” 

“Don’t get me started on the Catholic Church,” Joe said as he took his seat across the table. “What’s up?” 

“Spent the afternoon going over the budget. We need to find about thirty thousand some place to cut.” 

“Whew.” Joe slipped his hat back off his forehead, tossed back the brandy and chased it with a long swig of beer. “Glad that’s not my problem.” He paused for effect. “Unless you’re going to tell me that it is.” 

“You have the largest department in the city, Joe.” 

This was technically true. The Narvik Department of Public Works was led by Joe Ellsted (who, in addition to his administrative duties, also cut grass, filled potholes and plowed snow) and staffed by three able assistants. The Narvik Police Department came in second with three officers but one position had been held vacant for longer than anybody could remember. Crime was low in Narvik but the streets still needed plowing. 

“Now, Claire. Where in hell am I going to come up with thirty grand? Hell, my trucks are forty years old. The price of road salt keeps going up. Bud, Carl and Jim haven’t had raises in three years…” 

“You haven’t had a raise in five years,” added the mayor. 

“That’s beside the point. I ain’t got it, Claire.”

“This is a touchy subject.” Claire drew a long sip from her cocktail. “But Carl’s over retirement age.” 

“Well, yeah he is. And so am I. And so are you. What do you want me to do about it?”

Claire leaned forward. “If you could talk to him. Joe, he’d be earning almost as much as if he were working and the savings, hiring a person at starting salary to replace him, would just about fix the budget.” 

Joe considered it. “I don’t see how I can do that, Claire. For one thing Robbie’d probably say it was ‘age discrimination.’ And for another thing, it’d about kill Carl. He’s got nothing but this job since the kids left for the cities and then Betty sort of followed the kids.” 

Robbie Porter, born and bred, was the only lawyer in Narvik and he was also the part time municipal attorney. For both current Mayor Claire Kornstedt and her immediate predecessor former mayor and current Public Works Director Joe Ellsted, he was the kid they knew as the one with the reputation for always having his hand up in class and always with the right answer. 

But they both agreed that trying to force Carl into retirement probably was age discrimination and that Robbie would be both correct and pleased with himself when he pointed that out to them. They decided to concede the point beforehand and not provide the municipal attorney with either the satisfaction or the billable hour. 

“Okay then,” said Claire as she nodded at Pauline at the bar, her signal for another round for them both. “What do you suggest?” 

“Well, we could turn off the streetlights early. The electric bill’s about 60 grand a year. Cut that in half and there’s your 30.” 

Their second round arrived. Claire ate her maraschino cherries and held the tiny plastic sword between her teeth. “I don’t know, Joe. I don’t know. That feels like we’re just kind of giving up then.” 

“That there is the burden of high office, Claire.” He shot back his second brandy and chased it with the full glass of beer in one smooth pour down his throat. He nodded and gave Claire a wry smile as he stood to leave. “You’ll figure it out, Claire. You always do,” he said leaving Claire Kornstedt to her lonely second cocktail in the back corner of the Flying Saucer tavern. 

3. Live from New York 

Samantha Tucker came freshly minted with a communications degree from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, which was a couple hours drive east and a planet away from Narvik. Worse, Tucker wasn’t even a Badger by birth, having instead grown up in Manhattan of all places. 

It wasn’t all that unusual really. New York sent more students to the UW than any other state outside of Wisconsin except Minnesota and Illinois. The UW had a reputation for top-notch academics tinged with a strongly liberal ideology. It didn’t hurt that in the first part of the Twentieth Century the train connections to the east coast had been good. Tradition and family ties endured. Three generations of Tuckers before Sam had gone to the UW. 

The difference was that those previous generations had returned east to the family business, which had been advertising but had lately morphed into a general public relations firm. Selling stuff – cereal, popcorn, politicians, ideas — was in Sam’s blood, but New York was too crowded for her. Crowded with people in general but too many Tuckers in particular. In Manhattan she knew she’d spend the first half of her career overshadowed by massively tall buildings in the form of her older siblings and cousins who had had a head start in the business. 

She decided to stay in Wisconsin. Isolated, cold, desolate Wisconsin was maybe the land of opportunity. Anyway, the competition would be considerably less daunting. 

In her first job out of college Sam was hired by the state’s Home Town program, which sought to help struggling small communities like Narvik spruce themselves up and market their specialness to the outside world. 

Her job was to do what she could with the little towns and villages that dotted the ridges and coulees of the stunningly beautiful southwest corner of the state with its aging population and disappearing farms. 

There were about a dozen communities the size of Narvik in her region, but Sam had a special feeling for this place. In her first meeting with Claire Kornstedt the two women hit it off nicely. Claire introduced the younger woman to the proper old fashioned, something Sam had never tried. She liked it. They had another and they talked into the night. 

Sam told the mayor that she must start a personal Twitter feed and the village must have its own Facebook page. She suggested buying some pop up ads on social media. Claire listened patiently, not understanding half of what Sam was talking about but seemingly giving her consent without committing to a thing, a skill every politician owns by instinct. 

Of course, they met at Claire’s unofficial office, the Flying Saucer. Sam asked about the name and Claire related the story of Ole Olson and how Narvik had once been known as the UFO center of the Midwest if not the nation. She told Sam how village visionaries at the time had come up with the Alien Days Festival highlighted by the Alien Parade, events which survived to this day, albeit somewhat frayed around the edges. 

For example, the mayor noted that each October, leading up to Alien Days Fest, small black and orange flying saucers hung from the downtown street lamps. But these days there weren’t enough decorations for every pole. The saucers were the target of high school pole climbers of two generations and municipal budgets had steadily eroded to the point that replacement was out of the question. The village Public Works Director had even suggested that the lights themselves be switched off for half the night, such was the state of the local budget. 

Two old fashioneds into the evening, Sam sat back in her chair. “Hmm,” she said in a pleasantly buzzed musing sort of way. “I’m looking for something that would call attention to Narvik’s specialness. That alien thing. That’s something.”

“Well, it was something once,” said Claire. “We used to get thousands of people here over that weekend. Everybody dressed up like Martians. Larry Mercer, he’s the man who owns Mercer’s body shop out on Highway K, well, Larry’s pretty good with a blowtorch, so he configured this flying saucer thing that he attached over his old Chevy Impala. Larry’d bring up the rear of the parade, well right in front of the fire truck, driving the space ship. Everybody’d go wild over that. But then the Impala needed a new engine or something and so Larry would put it on a flatbed behind a truck, but it just wasn’t the same. Last couple of years we haven’t even had Larry’s saucer in the parade at all. It’s too bad. People loved that thing.” 

Sam asked if the parade was promoted through social media. 

“I think some of the high school kids do something like that,” said Claire. “I’m not exactly sure. Anyway, they sure do look at their phones a lot. But there’s always a big spread in the newspaper.”

“That’s the Narvik News?” 

“Yes, ma’am. The Narvik News. That’s been run by Thelma Rhude forever. Her son’s Harold, the sheriff. Nice family, the Rhude’s.”

“I got some back copies of the paper, but there’s not much on their website,” reported Sam. 

“Well, I think Thelma has been saying she’s going to get around to that one day. But she does everything there. She owns the thing, she does almost all of the writing, she sells the ads. She even drops the papers off in the boxes around town. I don’t think she’s made anything else a priority.” 

Sam made a note on her smart phone. Visit Thelma Rhude. 

“I never have more than two of these,” said the mayor looking down at her empty glass. “I only have three on special occasions or when I want to continue the conversation with someone who isn’t an idiot.” 

Sam looked up from her phone, wondering where she fit in. 

“Let’s have another,” Claire said. 

4. Ole

Ole Olson lived alone on the family farm. His father died suddenly of a heart attack about a decade after the UFO sighting. His mother held on longer, but eventually she had to go into the nursing home. Ole visited her religiously twice a week until she too passed away. 

Now it was just him and that suited him fine. Invariably, when the neighbors of mass killers are interviewed by TV news crews they all say that their neighbor was, “a quiet man who kept mostly to himself.” Ole’s Narvik neighbors were, if they had bothered to think hard about it, prepared to make just such a pronouncement about him should the occasion arise. But they doubted the occasion would ever come. Ole was a sort of recluse, but not an angry or scary one. 

In fact, he wasn’t even a total recluse. On Saturday evenings Ole would come into the Flying Saucer and order a beer and a bump and the traditional Saturday prime rib, king’s cut, with extra horseradish on the side. He would eat by himself at the corner table, but inevitably villagers would filter in and nod over at his table. Ole would nod back and that, for the most part, passed for conversation among them. 

Narvikians had learned that extended talk with Ole Olson was just not going to happen, even after his cocktails. So they let it go with the nods and the occasional, “How’s it going there, Ole?” 

“Fine.” 

“Everything fine out at your place?” 

“Yeah.” 

“Well, fine then.” 

“Yeah.” 

And that was about it. Knowing from long experience that this would be the extent of the conversation, the exchanged nods became the standard greeting between Ole and his neighbors on a Saturday evening in town. 

This was all just fine with Ole. He was a deeply contented man out there on his 150 acres by himself. He had his routine and his routine comforted him. His need for human interaction was minimal. In fact, you could say his real need was to be alone. He got his fix of a few polite nods on Saturday and that was as much interaction with the human race as he required or wanted. His view was that people were unpredictable and usually in not such a good way. 

Some felt that he had just not been prepared for what had happened in the early 1980’s, when the UFO sighting made him and his father brief national sensations and enduring local celebrities. He had been interviewed by Charles Kuralt in an “On the Road” segment for CBS News. He had been quoted in the New York Times once, not to mention many lesser publications, such as the slightly less prominent Narvik News, several times. 

Through it all Ole was cooperative but stoic, often giving one-word answers. It was his very reticence that attracted much of the attention. He clearly was not out for personal glory. He gave the impression of a man who really believed he saw what he saw and was just reporting the facts to the proper authorities, eager to just get on with his business, which was farming. For awhile, people ate it up. 

Others around Narvik also started to report strange sightings or sounds shortly after Ole became famous, but no one was ever sure if they were just looking for their share of the fame or if Ole’s story had triggered something in already imaginative minds. By the time of the first Alien Days Festival to celebrate the first anniversary of the Olson farm sighting in 1983, Ole’s national star had already gone out and it had even dimmed considerably in the state, but he was still well known around Narvik. So, of course, he was the consensus choice for grand marshal of the first Alien Parade, a position he held down for a decade or so. 

Ole was not your typical grand marshal, a position normally occupied by some local grandee, eager to smile broadly and wave vigorously at his loyal subjects along the parade route. Your average grand marshal is the local Realtor or banker or owner of the feed mill who might have put up a few bucks to finance the festivities and so this was the town’s way of saying thanks. 

But Ole was more than that. He was the very reason for the parade. So they stuck him on a bar stool in the back of a pickup so that everyone could see him. Ole just sat there, not waving but just looking about him curiously as if he had just been plunked there and had no idea what was going on. His performance only added to his aura. 

And when he was informed that, after a decade of this, his run as grand marshal was about to end (taken over by Robbie Porter’s father, founder of the Porter law firm and a recent major benefactor of the festival), Ole just said, “Okay then. So you won’t be needing me then?” And that was that. 

5. Bark side down

Sheriff Harold Rhude was thinking about retirement. Now pushing 70, the kids long gone and out of college there was really no reason to keep working. Moreover, every four years he had to run for reelection. That was usually just a formality as most years he ran unopposed. But this time he knew he’d have opposition. That know-it-all-kid Robbie Porter, the Narvik municipal attorney, had been making noises about it, saying that Ottawa County needed a fresh, modern approach to law enforcement. What Robbie might know about that escaped Harold, but nonetheless he just wasn’t sure he wanted to put up with hearing about it through a long campaign. 

Harold liked to muse about these things as he patrolled the back roads of the county. He was driving along while running retirement numbers in his head when the call came over. Ole Olson was reporting another strange sighting out at his farm. 

Harold was in that neck of the woods and he hadn’t checked in on Ole recently anyway, so he told the dispatcher that he would respond over to the Olson place. 

“Coffee, Harold?” 

“You bet, Ole,” said the sheriff as he sat down at Ole’s old kitchen table. The old man kept the place spotless. It was pretty much all he had to do in addition to making firewood. Ole loved to make firewood. Driving down the long gravel road to the Olson farm, Harold observed that the neat stacks of split oak and maple could probably keep Ole’s fires going every winter night for a couple of decades. And still, by the looks of the as yet unstacked pile in the front yard, Ole seemed intent on adding even more. 

But aside from making firewood, the 150 acres were resting from active farming. Ole had the old fields enrolled in a program that encouraged the growth of native grasses that became habitat for game and song birds and he had the steep slopes signed up in another program that paid him to grow hardwood trees that would eventually, probably well after Ole was gone, be cut down to feed the lumber mills. So, basically the government was paying him to leave his own land pretty much alone aside from a small but expanding prairie restoration that Ole liked to fiddle with. 

It was late September and an overnight frost was being dispatched by a butter colored morning sun. The day promised to be dry and blue and brisk and coffee always tasted especially good to Harold on mornings like this. He took a sip of Ole’s hot, strong, bitter blend. 

After the preliminary conversation starters about the state of the farm were put to rest with Ole’s monosyllabic responses, Harold got to the point. 

“So, Ole, what can I do for you?”

“See that stack of firewood out there?” Ole pointed to what appeared to be a freshly stacked cord about four feet high. “Anything look unusual to you?”

Harold looked hard. “Seems to be in kind of a semi-circle. You getting creative there, Ole?”

“No. I didn’t stack it.” 

“You didn’t now?” 

“No, I didn’t.” 

“Well, so Ole, who did it then?”

“That’s why I called you.” 

Harold pulled a small notebook and pencil from his shirt pocket. “Well, suppose you tell me what happened from the start.” 

“So, I get up this morning like always, before light. After breakfast I went out to make firewood but it was still pretty dark so at first I didn’t notice. Well, I’m working away and I look behind me and there it is.” 

“There it is?” 

“The stack, all neat like that just the way I’d do it except for the shape of it.” 

“You mean the semi-circle?”

“Yah. Ya see, all mine are straight as can be, but that one there is curved and anyway I know I didn’t stack it.” 

“You suppose your neighbors might have done it for you?”

“No.” 

“Why not?”

“Carla’s 88 and her hips are no good. The Baker’s are the new people from Chicago. They’re seldom around and when they are, well, I doubt they know how to cut a tree much less split and stack wood. And the company owns all the rest in the back.”

The Black Deer Company, known in local parlance as simply ‘the company’, was owned by a mysterious consortium based in Madison. They owned thousands of acres in Ottawa and the surrounding counties and nobody quite knew what they were up to. But it was exceedingly unlikely that the company was in the habit of stacking firewood for old farmers. 

Ole topped off their mugs and he and the sheriff walked out to inspect the mysterious wall of wood. 

“See, now there’s another t’ing,” said Ole. “I didn’t notice it before, but they stacked it bark facing up.”

“Yeah?”

“Well, I always stack mine bark down.” 

Harold sipped his coffee, removed his hat and scratched his head as he considered the criminal implications here. Stacking another person’s firewood was not a criminal offense even when it wasn’t done in strictly straight rows and even with the bark facing the wrong way. However, trespassing was a crime. 

“So, Ole, you haven’t given anyone permission to be on your place, then? What about hunters?”

Bow hunting season for deer had opened that weekend and it wasn’t unusual for farmers like Ole to lease out their land for that purpose. In fact, under the rules of the government program that paid him to grow trees for lumber he had to honor requests like that. 

But Ole explained that no one had asked to hunt on his place in the last few years so, no, he didn’t think it was hunters just trying to get in his good graces. 

Harold fixed his hat back on his mostly bald head and took another long sip of coffee all the while staring at the gently curving stack of firewood. “Well, Ole, it’s a mystery to me. You got any theories?”

“I think it’s them,” Ole replied. 

“Them?”

“The UFO’s. The aliens. Them.” 

Sheriff Harold Rhude nodded. He made a note in his notebook. It read “$3,250.” That was the amount he had figured his monthly pension would be if he retired that day. 

Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

5 thoughts on “Alien Parade, Installment One

  1. Nine bucks a plate / $20 wine. With inflation it’s hard to tell if you’re trying to emphasize those being cheap or expensive. Spelling is good.

    Like

  2. More, Dave. You can’t leave us hanging. I’ve always enjoyed your writing — even have a copy of a speech you wrote, I think for John Plewa.

    Like

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