Jimmy-Ray Carver said he’d been taken aboard a UFO. Telepathically probed and . . . sexually stimulated by the alien. The weirdest thing was that his friends all believed him.

Love Toys of the Gods

by Pat Cadigan

Jimmy-Ray and the UFO
Photo illustration by Robert K. J. Killheffer. Images: Michele Cornelius (mscornelius / 123RF Stock Photo), mackoflower / 123RF Stock Photo.

The night Jimmy-Ray Carver got nailed by the alien, he ran five miles without stopping, all the way to Bill Sharkey’s house, and busted in on our card game, screaming and yelling and carrying on like a sackful of crazed weasels. Good sex will do that to a person.

We all just sat and watched while Bill poured three fingers of Wild Turkey and tried to get the glass up to Jimmy-Ray’s mouth without losing any, which is interesting enough that we all start laying bets as to whether Jimmy-Ray’s gonna get outside of the Turkey or not and if he does, is he gonna puke it right up again on account of being over-excited and all. Shows you what kind of cards we were holding — talk about a cold deck.

Well, eventually Bill gets him sat down on the couch with the glass in his hand and Jimmy-Ray comes back to himself enough to know what he was holding and he starts sipping on it, calming down a lot although the hand holding the glass was shaking pretty hard still. So we all say fuck it and toss in the cards and Bart Vesey collects the pot because he bet that Jimmy-Ray was gonna keep the booze down, and we’re all surprised and he ain’t. Bart’s always had a lot of faith in long shots.

“I’m standin’ there in the little woods back of my house,” Jimmy-Ray starts saying for about the millionth time, “and all of a sudden, there she is, right over my head and not a sound, swear to Christ not a sound, and then I can’t move, I’m frozen there with my head up and then there’s this bright light in my eyes and the next thing I know, it’s like beam-me-up-Scotty —”

It wasn’t like anything you couldn’t have read in any supermarket tabloid, but we all sat and listened because Jimmy-Ray’s one of us and he needed us to. Only Al Miller looked bored, but that’s Al. If he was any more bored, they’d have him down to County Medical on a respirator.

“— what it was, but it’s lookin’ at me and I’m lookin’ at it, I mean, I’m tryin’ to look at it but that light’s all funny and my eyes can’t focus, and then I’m feelin’ the goddamnedest thing, someone touching me — touching me” — Jimmy Ray looks around at all of us, scared-like — “touching me in my head.”

Al Miller yawned right in his face but Jimmy-Ray’s still freaking too much to pick up on this particular social cue. All Jimmy-Ray knows is, nobody threw a net over him yet so it’s okay to go on.

“There’s something lookin’ through my head like somebody leafin’ through a magazine and then it hits on what it was lookin’ for all along, I guess and —” He stops to take a drink and he’s gotta hold the glass with two hands. “Oh, Jesus, even I don’t believe this, but it happened. I know it happened.” He looks around at all of us again and Bill gives him a pat on the shoulder.

“You go on and say, Jimmy-Ray,” Bill says. “You’re among friends here.”

“Yeah,” Jimmy-Ray says, like he’s not so goddam sure about that. “It was just like when I was down in the little woods. One moment I’m one place and the next moment I’m another and wham! like that, I’m in this thing that’s like a cross between a hammock and a trapeze —”

I’m impressed. I sneak a look at Bart, who’s kinda smilin’ to himself while he’s suckin’ on a can of Rolling Rock.

“— and I’m all het up like I’m fifteen years old and I got a free ticket to the fanciest cathouse in the world —”

Het up. Only Jimmy-Ray would have used an expression like that. But that was Jimmy-Ray all over. If he’d been anybody else, he’d have just been calling himself plain old Jim. Grandmother raised him in church; what can you do?

“— I don’t even know what it is and I don’t even care, like I’m goin’ for some kinda world record, look out, it’s John Henry the steel-drivin’ man —”

Bill makes him take some of the Turkey and winks at the rest of us.

“— and then, oh, Jesus, Jesus, no, I can’t tell you this part,” Jimmy-Ray pants.

“Now, now, I already told you, you are among friends.” Bill pats his shoulder and looks to me. “Right, Fred?”

“Right,” I say, and toast him with my own can of Rolling Rock, just because I feel like I should do something right then.

“Damn straight,” adds Jack, and Bart says, “You betcha,” and Al goes, “Uh-huh,” through another yawn.

“You don’t got to tell what you don’t want to,” Bill goes on, “but if it’ll make you feel better, spit it out and don’t worry.”

Jimmy-Ray’s eyes look like a trapped animal’s but what he’s got to say is too big to hold inside. “It had me,” he says hoarsely. “I mean, it had me.” He lets his breath out in a rush, shaking his head and staring at the booze like he’s gonna see something in it. “And it wasn’t against my will, either.” Now he looks around at all of us with his chin kinda lifted up, defiant, waiting for someone to call him something. “I said, ‘Oh, you want to have me? You have me, go ahead and have me, any old thing you want.’ And I guess I know what you-all think that makes me, and maybe I’d think it myself but, son of a bitch, I still don’t know what it was, whether it was a woman or a man or both or neither or chocolate frozen yogurt. But I swear to you as I’m sittin’ here, it was the best, the goddam best that I have ever been through. And fellas, I’m scared.”

He finishes the Turkey and Bill pours him two more fingers. Jimmy-Ray gulps down half of it and I see Bill take the bottle off the end table and put it out of sight. First aid’s one thing, but he’s not letting Jimmy-Ray get tanked on the good stuff. If he wants to get hammered now, Bill will point him toward the Rolling Rock in the fridge.

“I’m scared because either I lost my mind and it didn’t happen, or it did happen and now I’m a — I’m a — I’m a alien-fucker! Like all those people in them papers in the supermarket. And I don’t know what it mighta done to me — aw, hell, what if it laid some eggs inside me and next week they come bustin’ out like in that movie —”

Jimmy-Ray goes positively gray at the thought and Bill puts the bottle of Wild Turkey back on the end table. “Now don’t go gettin’ all hysterical again, JR,” he says in a fatherly voice. “There’s some things we all know and some things we’ll never know, but I can assure you beyond the shadow of a doubt that you ain’t in the family way.”

Jimmy-Ray blinks at him.

“You ain’t pregnant,” Bill says patiently. “No eggs, no need to go worryin’ that you’re gonna belly-out or explode or anything.”

“You believe me?” Jimmy-Ray goes bug-eyed again, which makes me think of how we used to think aliens was bug-eyed monsters but the only bug-eyes I ever seen are right here in front of me.

“Well, of course I believe you. We all do. Anybody here not believe Jimmy-Ray?”

Jimmy-Ray looks at all of us and we’re all shaking our heads. “I believe you,” Bart says, and I give him thumbs-up and Al gives him a good view of his tonsils with another yawn.

“See?” Bill says. “Told you you were among friends.”

“Well,” Jimmy-Ray says doubtfully. “Don’t think it’s like I don’t appreciate it or nothin’ but . . . why? Why do you all believe me when I can’t hardly believe it myself?”

“Well why do you think?” Al says, yawning again. “Hell, do you really think you’re the first person ever met up with a Unidentified Fuckin’ Object?”

“Say what?” Jimmy-Ray turns to me, maybe because I’m sitting right next to him on the couch, or maybe because he’s married to my second cousin, which makes us legal if distant family.

“Jimmy,” I say, “we all believe you because we know you’re tellin’ the truth. We know. Okay?”

“You got to spell it out for him, Fred,” Jack says, laughing a little. “We all been where you been tonight, guy. Welcome to the Alien-Fuckers Club, glad you could make it. I’d say that calls for a toast.”

Bill gives him a look as he takes the Wild Turkey off the end table again. If Jack wants to toast, he can do it with his can; Bill ain’t pouring him any of the Turkey, which is what we all know Jack’s hoping. Bill starts to say something to Jimmy-Ray, but Jimmy-Ray’s looking around at all of us like we’ve all sprouted two heads and there’s horns on both of them.

“You’re lyin’,” he says, and I can see in those scared, trapped-animal eyes he knows we’re not. “You’re all lyin’ because you think I’m crazy and in a minute, one of you’s gonna go say he’s gotta call his wife, but really, you’ll be callin’ County Medical to come throw a net over me, put me in a canvas jacket in the psycho ward —”

Even while he’s saying it, I can tell he would prefer this to the other, and why he would is beyond me, but there you have it. “No such of a thing,” Jack says, pointing a finger at him. “Come on, pull yourself together. Unless you’re not plannin’ to go home tonight.”

Jimmy-Ray’s eyes bugged out again. “Oh, sweet Jesus. How the hell am I gonna go home to Karen after this?”

“Well, that’s something else we can tell you,” Bill says, smiling. “Don’t worry, it didn’t spoil you for humans. I like women as much as I ever did. Maybe even more than I ever did. They ain’t aliens, but it’s all a matter of acceptin’ everyone for what they are and not penalizin’ ’em for not bein’ what they ain’t.”

Jimmy-Ray’s mouth has dropped open and I can’t tell whether it’s the alien stuff or Bill’s preaching the gospel of tolerance that’s got him so shocked. “Nah . . . nah . . . wait a minute here . . .” He looks at Bill and then me and then Jack. “It’s a put-on,” he says. “It’s a joke. Y’all drugged my food and set me up.”

“That’d be a neat trick,” Bart says. “Tell me, how’d we get into your house and figure what you were eatin’ tonight? How’d we get Karen to go along with it? And while we’re at it, who’d we set you up with? I sure do want to meet her. Or I would if I hadn’t met the alien first.”

“Jesus,” Jimmy-Ray says and his eyes get so big I’m sure they’re gonna just roll right out on the carpet like marbles. “Jesus, you mean to tell me — you mean to tell me —”

“Seems like we just did tell you,” Al says, too bored to live. “Now will you just for chrissakes pull it together here? We all got wild the first time and even the second time, and we had to take Bill’s truck out and drive along behind Jack his third and fourth times because he was runnin’ up and down the roads and we was afraid he’d get hit by a car. But we all got adjusted and you can, too, if you put your mind right.”

“But — but what about your wives?” Jimmy-Ray says, not to Bill who lost Sara in a car wreck nine years ago, but to the rest of us.

“What about my wife?” Jack says, a little belligerent. “You want to say something about my wife, you better make it a compliment. And a tasteful one, too.”

“How can you do this to them?” Jimmy-Ray says in a little hoarse voice, and then puts a hand to his head like he can’t believe he’s asking this.

“I’m not doing anything bad to my wife,” Bart says.

“Nor me,” adds Jack. “I love Irene and I respect her.”

“But you just told me you’re all goin’ to this alien — and then you go home? To your wives?” Jimmy-Ray shook his head. “God, what if they knew?”

“Who said they don’t?” says Al, too bored even to yawn now. “Come on, what do you think this is, 1955?”

“A wife isn’t just a part of the furniture, you know,” Jack says. “She’s a whole person in her own right, and she’s entitled to a life of her own besides what she shares with you.”

I almost bust out laughing at the expression on Jimmy-Ray’s face while he’s hearing this stuff come out of Jack Foley, who looks like the kind of redneck who might proudly announce that he believes in beating his wife once a week whether she needs it or not. Which just goes to show you that looks don’t tell you much.

“Listen here, Jimmy,” I say, “we all been through some changes since the alien came.” Jimmy-Ray gives me the fish-eye. “Uh, showed up, I mean. They ain’t bad changes, either. I know that, even if they ain’t the kind of changes your pastor would give his blessing to.” I paused, thinking. “Well, actually, your pastor would. Now. Well, anyway, we’re all different. And that’s all of us I’m talkin’ about, which includes wives.”

Jimmy-Ray’s blinking and his mouth is opening and closing and he doesn’t know whether to shit or go blind. Then he turns green, shoves his glass at me, runs to the bathroom, and pukes like there’s no tomorrow.

After a bit, Bill goes to see to him while Jack tells Bart he ought to turn the pot over to him because he’d bet Jimmy-Ray would puke and Bart’s arguing that the puking time-limit has expired. Al’s too bored to referee and I’m too tired. I go and call Joan and tell her I’ll be a little late tonight. Somebody’s got to take Jimmy-Ray home and I’m the only one going in that direction.

On the way to Jimmy-Ray’s, I keep talking sense to him, quiet and calm, hoping he’ll catch some of my mellow and smooth out. He still looks like he’s seen a ghost or ten, but at least he’s not freaking anymore. That’s probably more the Turkey finally kicking in. By the time I leave him off in his front yard, he’s bleary enough that I know he’ll just go straight to bed and pass out. In the morning, maybe he’ll just figure it was some kind of weird dream, which will let him cope okay for a while, until the alien picks him up again. After his second time, I figure, he’ll straighten out, understand what a good thing it is we all got going here. Might take a third time, but Jimmy-Ray’s young, not even thirty-five, and the younger you are, the faster you adjust.

And that just goes to show you how wrong a person can be. A little over a week later, I get a phone call from Bill right after supper. “Fred, you gotta get out here to my place. It’s Jimmy-Ray.”

“What happened?” I say. “Alien pick him up again already?”

“Nah. I don’t wanna get into it on the phone. Just get your ass out here fast as you can.”

I’d have been imagining all kinds of things except I didn’t know what to think, so I just get my ass out to Bill’s place and there’s Jack and Bart and Al and it ain’t poker night.

“That goddam Jimmy-Ray,” Al is saying, almost showing a little life. “I say we call County Medical and have them send out the guys with the nets. What the fuck, who would argue?”

“What’s he done?” I say, getting myself a can of Rolling Rock from the fridge.

“Oh, this is a good one,” Bill says. “The little fucker went and talked, is what he done.”

“Talked? To who?”

“To anybody and everybody he could get on the phone. He called every paper and TV and radio station in a five hundred mile radius and when they put him off, he called a bunch of those other papers, those fuckin’ scandal rags that run all the stories about two-headed babies and guys that eat their own foot. They’re comin’ out to his place tomorrow to get the whole story and take pictures of the little woods behind his house.”

I laugh like hell. “Well, so what? Jimmy-Ray gets his picture in a tabloid next to the story about the latest Elvis sighting. That should pretty much take care of him.”

“Sure, it would,” Jack says, all grim, “if the FBI weren’t comin’, too.”

I think my chin hits the floor. “Jimmy-Ray called the FBI and they just said, ’Okay, Mr. Carver, we’ll be right over’?”

“Not on the first call,” Bill says, and lays it out for me. Jimmy-Ray called the FBI ten times a day every day for like three days until they sent a couple agents out. Apparently, that’s how the FBI deals with cranks, all the people who call up and claim the KGB is controlling their thoughts with microwaves from space satellites and all that shit — they actually send out a couple of agents to talk to them and give them a story about how they checked on the microwaves and set up a machine to block them, nothing more to worry about, blah, blah, blah. It humors the cranks and gives the agents a chance to decide if they’re harmless nutsoids or the kind of flakes who’d think they had to go assassinate the president on orders from space creatures.

So the FBI paid Jimmy-Ray a visit and somehow he got them out in the little woods and they found something — traces of the beam the alien used to pick him up, still sticking to some underbrush or something. Now that was a real stunner, because none of us ever saw anything in the way of traces or evidence, but Bart said he thought it was because Jimmy-Ray had spread so much poison around out there, trying to kill all the ticks. Jimmy-Ray was scared shitless he’d get Lyme disease. The poison must have reacted to the beam somehow, and whatever the reaction was, it was strange enough that the FBI guys took samples back to their lab to get analyzed. Nobody knew exactly what the results were, but the FBI was coming back with a whole lab team.

Jimmy-Ray got back on the horn and called all over to tell everyone about that development, and there was going to be a regular media circus out at Jimmy-Ray’s place in the morning.

“Yeah, but still, so what?” I says. “Whatever the FBI lab guys find still ain’t gonna prove there was a UFO or a alien, just that Jimmy-Ray put a lotta poison in the little woods. You can’t tell me the FBI believes it’s anything like aliens —”

“Prob’ly they don’t,” Bill says, “but it’s gonna be on the TV and the radio and in the papers and there’s plenty others that will believe him. Like some of those people on the East Coast, including that guy that wrote those books, What’s-His-Name. And maybe he’ll decide to pay Jimmy-Ray a visit, and Jimmy-Ray’ll take him out in the little woods some night. Maybe it’ll be exactly the right night. Or the wrong one, I should say. And the guy goes and tells his UFO pals, and then they come out here and Jimmy-Ray takes them out to the little woods. Are you startin’ to get the picture?”

Am I ever. “Okay. So what do we do?”

Bill smiles. “Like the man said, I’m glad you asked that question.”

Well, that would be the morning I have a dead battery. Finally get the truck started and I get out to Jimmy-Ray’s half an hour later than I’d planned, and it’s already pretty crazy out there. There’s a bunch of reporters from regular papers as well as from those scandal rags and even a couple of TV crews, and the FBI’s got them all corralled well back from the house, but then they had to call in some of the Highway Patrol for crowd control because just about everyone and their brother has shown up, too. Jimmy-Ray got serious telephone-itis after the FBI said they were gonna send out a lab team.

I push my way through the crowd and find Bill and the others right up front at the barricades the Hypos put up.

“No action yet,” he says. “The lab team’s later than you are.”

“Couldn’t be helped. I had a dead battery.”

Bill kind of chuckles. “Not so loud. Everyone’ll be saying aliens did it to keep you home.”

I look over at the reporters and TV crews. “Anyone talked to them yet?”

Bill shakes his head and then points. Jimmy-Ray is coming out on the front porch with a couple of guys who are FBI for sure, along with the county sheriff, Ed Bailey, who’s looking pretty serious. I hear cameras clicking away and there are some videocameras going and people are calling out to Jimmy-Ray. Then Karen comes out and she’s obviously at a loss with this circus all over the place, but what can she do?

Then the lab team shows up in a big van and they don’t waste no time. Jimmy-Ray and the FBI guys take them right out to the little woods. Bailey starts to tag along but the FBI guys say something to him and he gets a sour look on his face. Then he goes over to where the press is corralled.

“FBI says y’all might as well hold yer water, they gonna be out there awhile takin’ samples and lookin’ around.”

One reporter starts calling to Karen, saying he wants to interview her, and then another one just starts shouting questions at her and she blushes and puts a hand up to hide her face. Karen Carver’s a quiet person, no shrinking violet but not much for being the center of a lot of noisy attention, either, and this is something completely beyond her, a real assault on her dignity.

Ten minutes later, the FBI lab team comes back around the house and they look real put-out. Jimmy-Ray’s running along behind the agents, talking real fast, but they’re not listening. One of the lab team is pushing a wheelbarrow full of cans and bottles and he looks the maddest of all. Maybe it’s because he got stuck with the heavy work. While the rest of the lab team goes right to their van, he stops right in front of all the reporters with his load.

“Just for your information,” he says in a loud voice, and everyone shuts up to listen, “we found this in the wooded area, very clumsily camouflaged under some brush. Just a lot of insecticide and weed-killer and chemicals you can buy in any hardware store, and it’s all been splashed around with a liberal hand. Mr. Carver’s eagerness to provide evidence of an alien landing is a lot greater than his concern for the health of his trees and the indigenous wildlife.”

“Now, wait a minute,” Jimmy-Ray says, “I don’t know how all that got there —”

The guy with the wheelbarrow rolls his eyes and goes on to the van with the rest of the team and they just drive on out. Jimmy-Ray’s running around trying to get the FBI guys to stay but they’re not having any more of him.

“I been set up!” Jimmy-Ray yells, and then he sees me and Bill and Bart and Jack and Al. “There! There’s my friends, they’ll tell you!” He runs over to us with this pleading look. “You got to back me up on this. You got to!”

“You’re sure that’s what you want, Jimmy-Ray?” Bill says.

The Hypos are removing the barricades now and everyone starts milling around, waiting to see if there’s going to be any more show. The press is starting to pack it up.

“It’s now or never,” Jimmy-Ray says and looks at me. “Fred? You’ll do it, wontcha? You’ll tell ’em I’m not fakin’ this?”

I give a sigh and nod and Jimmy-Ray goes running over to the press yelling he’s got corrobation.

“That’s ‘corroboration’!” Al calls after him, but he doesn’t hear.

Bill gives me a little shove. “Well, go ahead. Get it over with.”

The press doesn’t seem too inclined to pay Jimmy-Ray much mind and I’m not so sure they’ll pay any attention to me, either, but I give it a try.

“Ladies and gentlemen of the press,” I say, “Jimmy-Ray here is telling you the truth. He has been set up. Somebody set him up to look like a liar. I know for a fact that Jimmy-Ray has been visited by an alien.”

A few of them stop and give me skeptical looks.

“I know, because I been visited, too. Just the way Jimmy-Ray has.” I get a few laughs on that and then Bill is standing next to me. “It’s a fact,” he says. “I met the alien, too.” He turns to the sheriff. “And so’s Sheriff Bailey. Ain’t that right, sheriff?”

“Dammit, Bill,” says the sheriff, “if you wanna tell everybody about your private life, that’s your affair, but why’d you have to go spill the beans on me for?”

Jimmy-Ray’s mouth is so wide open it might get jammed that way. It occurs to me that’s the only way I’ve seen him lately, and it ain’t a good look for him.

“You might as well make a clean breast of it, Ed,” Bart says to the sheriff. The press is definitely interested again. A couple of Jimmy-Ray’s friends backing him up is one thing, but a sheriff is something else.

“Hey, what I do on my off hours ain’t nobody’s business but my own,” Bailey says. “Just because I’m havin’ sex with aliens doesn’t mean I’m not in my cruiser ready to roll when somebody needs help. I take my beeper up to the saucer with me.” The expressions on all those faces make me glad for Ed that he’s retiring at the end of the month.

Jimmy-Ray looks like he’s gonna bust something important. “I never told them it was sex!” he yells.

“Well, what did you hold out on ’em for?” yawns Al. “That’s the best part. Otherwise, they’d just be a bunch of funny-lookin’ tourists, even if they are from another galaxy.”

“Did they say which galaxy?” one of the reporters calls out.

“Andromeda,” Al says, boreder than shit. “Where else? It’s the closest one, easy trip by space warp.”

“Andromedans,” says Bart and gives a sniff. “You can have ’em. I like the ones from our own galaxy better. They’re all flat-headed, about yea high” — he puts his hand out at waist-level — “so I always got a place to put my beer.”

“You don’t like the ten-foot-tall ladies?” Jack says.

“I don’t know as you can call ’em ladies,” Bart says.

“Hey, they’re aliens. Don’t make no difference, you might as well call ’em ladies. They sure look like ladies. Great, big, beautiful ladies.”

“I wasn’t thinkin’ of their looks,” Bart says, so prim I almost bust out laughing. “I don’t like my aliens that aggressive. Could spill the beer.”

Then Bill jumps in talkin’ about snake-people from Aldebaran and Jimmy-Ray about wets his pants. “It’s not like that!” he yells. “It’s not like that! It’s something beautiful and wonderful and there’s no snake-people, there’s no flat-top beer-holders, there’s —”

“Jimmy-Ray, I think you better come back in the house now and quiet down.” Karen’s there suddenly, pulling at his arm and kind of wincing at all the reporters.

There’s no ten-foot-tall ladies!” Jimmy-Ray screams, and everyone shuts up and looks at him.

“Well, maybe not for you,” Jack says, after a long moment. “You got your preferences, I got mine. I don’t know what you been foolin’ around with, but the ten-foot-tall ladies kinda spoiled me for anything else.” He turns back to the reporters who are sticking microphones and little tape recorders in his face. “See, they’re big, but they got these little teeny-tiny —”

“Stop it!” Jimmy-Ray sobs, and breaks down crying. This is just too embarrassing for Karen, who lets go of him and moves away. I go over to her and pat her on the shoulder.

“It prob’ly won’t last too much longer,” I tell her.

She just rolls her eyes and a couple reporters break from the pack and come over. “What about you, Mrs. Carver? Did you know about these aliens?”

You leave my wife alone!” Jimmy-Ray yells, and he runs over, but a chunky guy with a camera steps in front of him to get a picture of Karen.

“Well, of course I knew,” she says, resigned that she’s not gonna get away without having to do her part. “Jimmy-Ray and I don’t keep secrets from each other. He knew when I had Elvis’s babies, and he was completely understanding. He knew it was a childhood dream of mine, to be the mother of Elvis’s children. It only took about six weeks — aliens are so much more advanced than we are —”

Jimmy-Ray has gone positively incoherent and he’s either gonna bust a blood vessel in his head or start swinging. Bill and I drag him away kicking and screaming while Karen is still explaining how Elvis was really an alien and had to make like he died when he started to metamorphose into his new appearance, which was when he was getting fat and all.

We take Jimmy-Ray around the other side of the house and let him work it out. It’s like watching a giant child have a temper tantrum and I really think he’s gone over the brink and we’ll never get him back. Maybe we should have just called County Medical in the first place, because it looks like that’s where he’s gonna end up after all.

But in about fifteen minutes, he’s all blown out. He can’t think of another bad thing to call me and Bill and everyone else except Karen, and it’s just as well because he’s starting to lose his voice anyway. Finally, he’s just sitting on the ground with his fists on his knees and his face all red and breathing hard. Bill squats down and says, “Okay. Feel better?”

Jimmy-Ray looks at Bill and then at me. “Why?” he croaks. “Why?

“Why?” Bill shakes his head. “Jimmy-Ray, are you completely stupid? Why in hell do you think?”

Jimmy-Ray just stares at him.

“You just make me so mad sometimes.” Bill gets up. “Explain the facts of life to this chucklehead,” he says to me. “He’s married to your cousin.”

Second cousin,” I say automatically, and kneel down next to Jimmy-Ray. “Look — you had a nice time that night, right? What kinda person kisses and tells? Did you used to do that in high school?”

“Get off it,” Jimmy-Ray growls.

“Okay, right,” I say, glancing at Bill, “it’s not that. Suppose you got someone to believe you. Suppose you got a whole bunch of people to believe you, and they all came out here to wait for the alien and the alien picked them up. What do you think would happen?”

“I’d have corrobation,” he says defiantly.

“ ‘Corroboration.’ You’d also have crowds. They’d all tell their friends and their friends would tell more friends and pretty soon we’d have the whole damned country comin’ here. Now you think on that for a minute. The whole damned country. People from New York City. Rock groups, and all their groupies. Republicans. Murderers on weekend furloughs. The goddam President and the whole Cabinet, too, and movie stars, not to mention the rest of California. Geraldo. How about that? You really want to share the alien with Geraldo? When your own wife goes there, too? What kinda person are you?”

Jimmy-Ray just keeps staring at me and I get up, brushing my pants off.

“We got a good thing here,” Bill says, “and we ain’t lettin’ anybody spoil it. If Geraldo or anyone else wants an alien, let ’em go find one of their own. You got two choices: you pull yourself together and you go back and tell the reporters how you were proud Karen had Elvis’s babies or any other crazy thing, the crazier the better. Got it? Or you’re cut off. No more alien.”

Now, that’s the only lie we’ve actually told him because as far as we know, the alien doesn’t actually talk to anyone and nobody seems to have any influence on it. It just shows up, beams you aboard, and has a good time with you. And that’s not always sex, except for the alien, because it thinks of everything as sex all the time.

Anyway, we figure we got to throw the fear of God into Jimmy-Ray to make sure he behaves. And after a while, he comes around the house and tries a couple of lame stories about lizard-people that can lick their eyebrows. But all the reporters ignore him, maybe because they’re all sure that lizard-people don’t have eyebrows, or because it’s too similar to Bill’s snake-people. That’s good enough, though, and after everybody leaves, we all go home, too.

Well, the story makes one scandal rag before it dies a natural death and life goes back to normal. Sometime after that, we hear Karen Carver’s pregnant.

So that’s nice, we all say, and think nothing else of it. But nine months later, we hear she delivers at County Medical and Jimmy-Ray just runs off and leaves her. Her being my second cousin and all, I go see her after she gets home, figuring she must be pretty upset.

“We had a terrible fight right in the delivery room,” she tells me. “I just couldn’t believe it, and neither could the doctor or any of the nurses. They had to make him leave. Then I got home with the baby and all his clothes and things were gone.”

“That’s awful,” I say. “But some men are like that, Karen. Can’t handle major responsibilities. Maybe he’ll straighten out after a few weeks, though, and want to come back.”

“I wouldn’t take him,” she says. “He’s been a complete mope since that other business a while ago. I think it’s just as well. I got plenty of help with the baby.” She brightens up. “You want to see him?”

“Sure,” I say, and she takes me into the baby’s room.

Well, do I really have to tell you that then and there I see why Jimmy-Ray run off like he did? Karen nods at me. “You want to hold him?” And then without waiting for an answer, she picks him up and puts him right in my arms. “Don’t worry, he won’t break.”

Having held three of my own and numerous others of relatives and friends, I ain’t worried about that. I was just took by surprise for a minute there, because never have I seen a baby that looked just like Elvis. There are lots of real strong resemblances around here, of course, but no babies that were ever born with the sideburns. Not a single one.



This story copyright © 1993 by Pat Cadigan. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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