“If it happened again, I don’t think I’d tell anybody about it.” — Joe Simonton, a Wisconsin chicken farmer who claimed he received pancakes from aliens, April 18, 1961
It was a strange day. The kind of day you think about later and say, “That sure was a strange day.”
It was that kind of day.
We were all out on the porch. Mother with her stew. Sister Jessica with her magazines. Daddy with his hand puppet. And brother Bobby with that quirky look on his face that seemed to say, “Hey, here I am.”
And then there was me.
I was a young boy, nearly eighteen, but with the weathered appearance of someone who had seen it all. Even at my tender age, I had experienced a lifetime of love and loss. I had sunk my teeth into the nectar of life, and found it to be quite sour, ripe with the sickening stench of death. But I still had faith, still had an undying belief in the goodness of humanity, and in the potential for beauty in the face of overwhelming sadness.
But that’s another story altogether.
“You ever wish you were Green Lantern?” Bobby asked.
“That sure was a nonsequitor,” Mother replied. Mother liked using words like nonsequitor.
“Who?” Jessica asked.
“Green Lantern. From the comics,” Bobby said. “You ever wish you could be him?”
“What’s Bobby talking about?” Daddy asked Mother, using his hand puppet.
“Oh, Bobby’s just doing that thing he does,” Mother said.
“Oh, I see. That thing he does,” Daddy said. “Yes, I see. Yes.”
Daddy contorted the face of his puppet, as if it was saying, “Here we go again.” But, of course, it wasn’t. It was just a puppet.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Jessica asked Bobby.
“I don’t know,” Bobby said. “It was just a thought.”
“But what would be the point of it?” Jessica went on. “Being Green Lantern. What’s he good for?”
“Oh, plenty of things.”
“Well, like things Green Lantern would do.”
“For one, I could open a door in the air and walk through it and then be somewhere else.”
“Is Bobby leaving?” Daddy asked with his puppet.
“No, no,” Mother said. “He’s just talking hypothetically.”
“Oh, I see. Yes.” Daddy put his puppet down. He was tired.
“What’s so special about that?” Jessica demanded of Bobby. “I could get in a car and go somewhere, and I’m not Green Lantern.”
“But you’re not going through air to do it,” Bobby clarified. “You’re just driving, which is much different than going through air. I would suppose anyway.”
“Stew’s ready,” Mother said, stirring the stew. “Is everybody hungry?”
“And that’s another thing,” Bobby said, picking up on Mother’s cue. “If I was Green Lantern, I wouldn’t have to eat. I’d be too busy flying around and fighting.”
“You’d still have to eat though,” Mother pointed out.
“Well, I’d make other people eat for me.”
“Like who?” Mother asked.
“I don’t know. Interns.”
“That’s absurd,” Jessica exclaimed. “You can’t have other people eat for you. It’s biologically impossible!”
“Not for Green Lantern it isn’t.”
“Yes it is!”
“No, it isn’t. If you can walk though air, you can certainly get other people to eat for you.”
“What about taking a poop?” Jessica asked. “Would you have other people do that for you too?”
“Now there’s a stupid question. If I didn’t eat, then I wouldn’t have to poop. It stands to reason.”
“You just want to wear a tight outfit, that’s all.” Jessica turned her back on Bobby. She didn’t like being beaten in arguments. She opened her magazines and looked through them for ammunition to use in later arguments.
And then the spaceship came.
It flew out from behind some clouds and hovered over us. It was long and cylindrical, covered in tiny white lights, kind of like a Christmas tree, but one that flies. It made a low, humming noise like Mother sometimes makes.
“My word,” Mother said. “Now there’s something you don’t see every day.” It’s true. We didn’t.
“What do you make of that?” Daddy asked, having momentarily forgotten his puppet.
“Looks like a flying saucer,” Mother said, calm as anything.
“You mean like a U.F.O.?”
“No,” she said, squinting her eyes to get a better look. “A U.F.O. is unidentified. That’s a flying saucer alright. No doubt about it.”
We all looked back up at the thing in the sky and nodded. “What should we do?” Father said.
“Nothing,” Mother said, returning to her stew. “You just go on.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Father said. “Best not to think about it too much.”
“Just live your life the best you can. That’s what I say.”
“Don’t let the inconsistencies drag you down.”
“Otherwise you’ll go crazy.”
“And God knows you don’t want that.”
Finally, it landed, and a little green man came out of the side. He was holding a plate that contained something brown. He walked over to us and said hello. We said hello back. Not all at once though. That would’ve taken practice.
“Here,” he said, holding out the thing he had in his hands. “Have some pancakes.”
They were pancakes all right. With butter and syrup and everything. I had pancakes once. They tasted okay.
“No, thank you,” Mother said. “I made some stew. We don’t want to spoil our appetites.”
“Oh,” the alien said. “Sorry.” He waited there for a moment, shifting his weight from one leg to the other, smiling nervously at us. He made some offhanded comment about the weather, and then stared at his feet. I don’t think he had any idea what to do next. He eventually placed the pancakes on the ground, got back into his spaceship, and flew away.
“What was that all about?” Daddy asked, his puppet coming suddenly to life.
“Some alien brought us pancakes,” Mother said.
“Oh,” Daddy said. “Is that what they do?”
“I suppose so,” Mother said. “Didn’t the Fitzgerald’s get pancakes from an alien last week?”
“I’m sure that’s what I heard. Or did I dream it?” Mother looked off and made a Hmmm-ing noise.
“Or Aqua Man,” Bobby suddenly said. “I wouldn’t mind being Aqua Man either.”
“There goes Bobby with the nonsequitors again,” Mother said. Mother sure liked that word.
“You would?” Jessica barked, looking up from her magazines. “What on earth for?”
“So I could make dolphins come and stuff,” Bobby said.
“Why would you want to do that?”
“I don’t know. It’d be fun. I’d call dolphins with my dolphin-calling thing and then they’d come. I think that’d be kind of neat.”
“What would you do with them when they came?”
“I don’t know. Just hang out.”
“That’s stupid,” Jessica exclaimed. “I don’t see the point in that at all.”
The pancakes just laid there.
And on we went.
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in Monkeybicycle.)