Seven Times
fiction by Jules Archer

August 23, 2010

1. When Jamie thinks of a saucer he thinks about a bowl of cream waiting to be lapped up. His thoughts change when Chris hands him the tattered book.

He opens it. His brother shrugs: you like to read.

Jamie stays up all night reading about unidentified flying objects and little green men.

When he closes the book, he’s in love.

*

2.  When the sun sets.

Jamie lays awake at night he’s thinking of aliens; waiting for the bright white light to zap through the window and carry him away. He’s read the stories about abductions and probes and time loss and while these all sound fine and dandy during the day, at night it’s a different story.

At night it’s real.

*

3.  When his face is pressed against the window, hands cupped to the side of his face, his family knows he’s searching the sky for a sign.

A sign of life.

A sign of them.

A sign that—

“You’re crazy,” his brother says, hanging in the doorway. “There’s nothing out there.”

Jamie shrugs. “You gave me the book.”

“I did,” Chris muses. “And I’m sorry for it.”

*

4. When his mother hands Jamie the jar of peanut butter and tells him to work the gum out of his little sister’s hair, that’s when he sees it.

The Wyoming sky is gray against the tall brush, their Impala swerving like a boat without an anchor but as Jamie massages the peanut butter into Lena’s blonde hair (it gets the gum out!) wondering why he gets the short end of the stick when it was Chris who shot the wad of gum at Lena in the first place, he happens to glance at the sky through the backseat window.

The orb is up there, shiny like a nickel on its side, just ghost-floating in the sky. He feels his mother let off the gas, mimicking Jamie’s gaze. The Impala sways but no one says anything. Lena’s peanut butter stroked hair is forgotten.

“Mom…?”

She hesitates. Lena giggles.

“I see it, Jamie,” Chris says. “It’s just like in your books.”

And before Jamie can get over his amazement at Chris’s admission, Mom’s lead foot is hitting the gas, Chris is back to his comic book and Jamie resumes the tedious task of gum removing. The sighting is never mentioned again.

Although, Jamie does likes his older brother a lot more after this.

*

5. When he sees another one.

This time he’s 16 – aged appropriately to heed the it’s-all-nonsense and old-enough-to-know-better mantras but he still doesn’t have the heart to discredit that tattered old book Chris gave him.

It’s high above the auto body garage where his father works, giving Jamie a taste of his second sighting.

But this time Jamie doesn’t say anything. Doesn’t even point it out. His father’s shop buddies are milling around and his father would not be amused in the slightest.

He sits on the curb waiting for his mother to pick him up and watches the sky.

*

6. When she tells him the name of her cat.

He’s at a diner on main street waiting for Chris. The waitress wears a pin holding a picture of a mangy feline.  “Nice cat,” Jamie says (he doesn’t have the balls to say “pussy”. Chris would.).

“Thanks,” she says. “It’s mine. It ain’t just a picture from a magazine or anything.” The waitress unhooks the pin and drops it into Jamie’s already-cupped palm. “His name is Roswell.”

Examining the orange tabby, Jamie spots the resemblance between Roswell and the Greys; it’s in the eyes. Jamie gives the pin back to her. He’s in love (again).

Waitress props a hand on her hip.  “What can I get you?”

“A burger, with everything.”

Instead of taking his order she cocks her head. “You’re Lena Parker’s brother aren’t you? The one who hotwired Mr. Maguire’s car last fall.”

“Guilty as charged.” He holds out a hand. “Jamie.”

She smiles, taking his hand in her smooth palm. Her nails are unpolished, short. “Cassandra Lewis.” Her eyes dart around the diner, smug yet guilty. “I shouldn’t be chitchatting, I’m not on break.”

Jamie reclines back in the booth, hoping Chris doesn’t come romping around the corner to ruin his suave line. “Well, take a break soon. I’d like to buy you a Coke.”

Cassandra lowers her lashes. “I’ll take one now.”

*

7. When someone else is a convert.

Jamie glances up from the grill in time to see Chris face-palm himself. Chris is talking to Cassandra; the two of them seated across from each other at the picnic table.

“Tell me you didn’t?”

“We did.” Cassandra sets her teacup down with a clatter. She crosses her thin arms, not a trace of embarrassment on her face.

Jamie strides up to them, wearing an apron that reads Natural Born Griller (A gift from Lena). “Booked our tickets yesterday. Roswell UFO Fest here we come.”

Chris snorts. “You two are a match made in the skies.” But he looks proud. After all, he got Jamie started.

Out of nowhere, she screams, “Daddy!”  Cassandra and Jamie glance over at their daughter who’s skipping across the lawn. She stops at Jamie’s side and tugs his apron. “Show me again!”

Jamie shows.

With a skill so swift, Jamie lifts Cassandra’s teacup, grabbing the round disc resting beneath it. The saucer, a metallic silver with tiny pearl white specks is raised high against the blue sky. Sunlight glints off its edges. Cassandra shields her eyes.

Jamie lets it hover. “Just like that baby,” he tells Ellie. “It sits there just like that.”

“I know,” Ellie says. And she means it too.

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