Gail Gardner

Captain Lee Crane looked in disgust as Chip Morton ate his way through the pink sticky mass of cotton candy. His Executive Officer’s capacity for junk food was bordering on amazing.

“Are we here for the rides, the sights, or for you to eat yourself into a diabetic coma?” he asked his friend wryly.

“Hmppff.” Was the only reply he got as Chip grinned at him with cotton candy wisped around his mouth like an incredible pink mustache. He licked his lips and popped the last sticky wad into his mouth. He took out a handkerchief that already had the remains of a corn dog, two chocolate bars, a giant box of popcorn, and at least a gallon of root beer on it. He looked for a clean corner and fastidiously wiped his mouth.

“You missed a spot.” Lee pointed to his chin where a clump of cotton candy hung tenaciously.

“It’s the simple thing in life that are the best. You need to learn to enjoy, Lee.” Chip grinned at his friend.

They had been in San Diego at the Scripps Oceanography Institute for a seminar and were driving home when Chip had spotted the advertisements for the carnival.

“Hey. A carnival! Let’s stop and have a look!” He said enthusiastically.

“I swear Chip, you’d have me stop at every tourist trap on the road, if you had your way.” Lee sighed.

“You have no sense of fun.” Chip complained.

“Yes I do.” Lee defended himself, “Didn’t I go to Disneyland with you last month, and then to the wrestling match, not to speak of the LA Kings game?”

“I thought you wanted to go, or were you just humoring me?” Chip eyed his friend suspiciously.

Lee took his eyes off the road long enough to see Chip beginning to look stubborn.

“Of course I wanted to go, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone. Look, let’s see what this carnival has to offer? Ok?” By the time the little argument was over (Lee wasn’t sure if his crafty Exec had tricked him into feeling guilty or not) they had reached the carnival. It was seemingly in the middle of nowhere and was spread out in a circular area in what appeared to be a wheat field by the side of the road.

It was surprisingly well-attended and in a gaudy shabby way that travelling carnivals were quite attractive. They rode the small roller coaster, the hammer and the tilt-a-whirl. “Like the Seaview rock and roll without damage and water.” Lee said happily pushing his friend to ride it for the third time.

They tried their hand at sharpshooting and Lee managed to win a Kewpie doll. They tried to win a goldfish for the Admiral, but the little bowls seemed to be impossible to hit with the ping pong balls.

“Force fields.” Lee said after his third try.

“Sure. Right, bad aim.” Chip said eating his second cotton candy.

“Are you criticizing your Captain?” Lee grabbed a hunk of cotton candy from him and started eating it.

“Yes sir absolutely sir. That’s what Exec’s are for. It’s in the manual.”

“Navy regs?” Lee grinned and swiped another hunk leaving Chip with mostly the cardboard tube and few threads of pink floss.

“Assistant Flunky’s Handbook for Getting Back at Cotton-pickin’ Chicken Pluckin’ So-Called Superior Officers. “ Morton looked sorrowfully at the remains of his snack and then laughed. Lee joined in with him as much as he could with his mouth full of the sticky cotton candy.

“Hey!” A rather thin, but gaudily dressed individual sidled up to them. He had on a canary yellow waistcoat, a purple jacket and green checked pants.

“You guys wanna see somethin’ real special? Nothin’ like it in the world.”He waved his hand expansively and then pointed down between two tents. “Just follow me to see our star attraction!”

“Bearded lady? Three-headed goat?” Chip said eagerly.

“Snake charmer.” Lee said. “Dolphin singer.”

Chip shot him a dirty look and Lee shrugged, grinning. They let the man lead them to a tent at the end of the row. They both coughed up $2 to enter. Sitting in the center of the tent was an emaciated looking creature in a glass box. It had a large head with enormous dark luminesce eyes that were oval and seemed to dominate the noseless white face. It had four fingers on each hand which seemed to float around it’s body instead of moving.

“This is the only live alien in captivity in the world.” The carny man said starting his pitch. We found him around New Mexico when his space ship crashed. He cannot speak our language yet, but we are hoping some day to learn to communicate with him.”

“Ouija board.” Chip said. “Doesn’t look like an alien to me...” he raised a meaningful eyebrow at Lee.

Lee elbowed him. “Shut up I wanna hear this.” He looked seriously at the alien. It seemed to stare at him soulfully as if trying to communicate something important.

“He eats mostly fruit and vegetables. He is especially fond of oranges, peels and all. We call him Isaac after Isaac Asimov the science fiction writer. Isaac is not really male, if you gentlemen will notice he lacks certain - equipment.”

The alien who had been sitting on a stool, slowly stood up and put it’s hand onto the glass of the booth.

“What a rare privilege!” The carnival barker said with barely enthusiastic zeal. “Isaac wishes to make contact with you! He doesn’t do that with most customers. Go ahead gentlemen. Put your hand on the glass. I’m sure you will never get this close to an alien again.” The carnival gentleman put a hand on Lee’s shoulder and pushed him gently forward.

“Go ahead Lee.” Chip teased. “Tell him ‘Welcome to Earth’.”

With the man’s hand on his shoulder Lee put his own hand on the glass where the alien waited patiently. He could see his own reflection distorted by the aliens eyes. He put his hand to the glass.

“My God. Chip! It is amazing I can hear his thoughts. Wait, I’m getting a message. He wants to speak to you.” Lee stared at Chip with an astounded expression on his face.

Chip stared at Lee and then pointed to himself. “Really?”

The carny man looked almost as amazed, but stepped aside as the blond man approached the glass cage. Chip put his hand on the glass. He felt a hand on his shoulder and a bolt of nausea shot through him. He pulled back and staggered out of the tent just in time to empty his stomach of all the junk food he’d eaten.

“Chip. You Ok?” Lee handed him a clean handkerchief to wipe his mouth, his hand on Chip’s shoulder.

“Sorry, Lee. Guess that last cotton candy was a bit too much.” He smiled weakly. “Unless it was a message from the alien.”

“Chip, I could see through the “alien’s” eyes to the guy dressed in the get-up. I was setting you up.” Lee laughed, “I bet if he turned around you’d see a zipper in the back.”

“Lee. You’ve been hanging around with me too much. You should take life more seriously.” Chip laughed too, his nausea suddenly gone. “Let’s go home and save the world from real aliens, shall we Captain?”

“By all means, Mr.Morton.” The two friends strolled off towards the exit of the carnival.

In the shabby tent, the alien thankfully pulled off the full head mask he had on. His face was damp with sweat and hair hung in damp strands.

“Well, that was different.” He commented to the carny man who was looking thoughtful. “Damn this suit is hot.”

“Tell me about it.” The carny man pulled off the mask over his face and revealed his alien face. “They both have potential, but not the ones we are looking for, not yet. Ok, as soon as they leave, so do we. Tell the others.”

When the red convertible disappeared around the curve in the road, the whole carnival began to shimmer and change shape. It became a silver disk that suddenly shot up into the sky, made an impossible right hand turn at even more impossible speeds and vanished into the sky. The place where the carnival had been, had impressed into the wheat an odd circular geometric design.





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