A warm satisfying breeze whistled through the turning maple and oak leaves that filled in the gaps between the row of houses lining Columbia Avenue in the east, and James Street in the North. The sun glittered respectfully of the rusty, chrome fender on Lance’s light blue 1976 Dodge Ram, which sat well off the curb on Columbia. The audible hum of the truck’s engine muffled the sounds of nature.
Looking out beyond the intersection, where both Columbia and James met an end, two brown squirrels scampered from the edge of the road and up the tall oak tree Jim Carpenter, Lance Goodman and Mike Rove spent hours climbing as kids. Jim’s dad supposedly broke his arm falling out of a tree as a kid, so he enforced a no climbing in trees clause. But Jim’s mom would say, “Oh, they’re just kids having fun!” When Mr. Carpenter wasn’t around, Mrs. Carpenter permitted free climbing.
The voice of Brian Johnson sounded, and Mike looked at Lance’s iPhone. The text was from Mrs. Goodman. It read: “ten minutes out.” He looked back toward the woods, and a memory of he and Lance playing catch on the road danced through his mind.
There was no texting back then, and the Internet was an adult tool. If iPods and iPads and Kindle’s and Nooks existed back then, maybe things would have been different. If those things existed, perhaps he’d have spent his time indoors texting instead of hanging from trees. Then again, there was Nintendo, and then the Nintendo Wii, and they still climbed trees. So it’s just natural for kids to play outdoors, he figured.
Peering over the trees he sees a beautiful blue skyline, with only one white cotton ball cloud. If Tsatso and Lance are out there, they’re behind that cloud. What are the odds of that? He asks himself. “Not very good,” he answers. And now I’m insane because I’m answering myself. But the clouds moving slowly to the south, so if I wait long enough…
“Mike!” It was Sarah, pulling him back to reality. “We gotta get going. Are you ready?”
“Yeah,” Mike said, continuing his gaze at the white cloud a moment, then he turned. The door slammed. Sarah was back inside. Lance’s text popped into his mind: “They’re coming! Get out! Go to Lookout Mountain.” The assumption was – “and you know what it means to ASSUME,” Mr. Textler said once. “It means that you make an ASS out of U and ME.” The class laughed. – that “they” meant the bad aliens.
But what did he mean by “Lookout Mountain.” There are no mountains in Scottville, or Ludington, or Manistee, or Michigan for that matter. The only thing he could think of was…
“Mike! Mike! Wake up!” It was Donna this time. “Come to earth! Come to earth!”
“Earth ta Mike! Earth ta Mike!” Jim said, rummaging his way through the doorway, and holding the door open for Sarah, who was prepped with her backpack and a large brown paper bag full of sandwiches. “Yo man, we gotta go.”
“I’m here.” Mike said. “And I’d like to wait for Mr. and Mrs. Goodman. They’re only a few minutes out.”
“We can’t,” Sarah said. “Lance sent another text. We gotta go, right now! Come on! Come on!” She grabbed Mike’s sleeve and started down the steps. Mike didn’t budge, and she lost her grip, and stumbled down the steps.
“Sorry, Sarah,” he said, “but I can’t leave without them.” He looked up at the cotton ball cloud, and took a step back as he saw something poking from behind the northern side of the cloud. “Look!” he said, pointing.
“It’s a cloud, you stupid mor… HOLY SHIT!” he dropped the iphone he was holdling, and it bounced off the edge of the top step and bounced onto the cement. “Holy-Mary-Mother-of-God, it is true what you say.” His jaw dropped.
“Okay, guys, come on,” said Sarah. She was now in the truck. “Come on! COME ON!” Donna was sitting next to her, on the passenger side, with a look of fright on her face similar to the look of fright on Sarah’s. Mike thought they could be sisters.
“Come on, Mike!” Jim said, jogging toward the truck, and jumping into the driver’s spot. “Come on!”
“No! I’m not going without Mr. and Mrs. Goodman.”
“Mike. Listen. Mr. and Mrs. Goodman are on their way to Manistee. They’ll meet us there, okay. Now let’s get going.”
As Mike started to the car, a scream, like an animal caught in the jaws of a predator, reverberated through the warm air. A naked boy was running down the street.