Robust and greasy was the pig cooked for that night’s winter feast. The fire sparkled in the half barrel, and the pig rotated on the spit, mechanisms pulled from an old motorised bicycle that Professor Norbert Harridan used to ride down to watch the game of football on on the weekends. Harry Norbert was childless. That’s why nights like this were so special to him. He lacked the tear ducts and spirit to appreciate dotage like this. Most happy, shiny greetings were met with mumbled thankyous and blessings from the town meet’s loudest band member, the player of a set of bongo drums that had been purchased in the Perth and brought home on the train to Bunbury in his youth, just after he’d met his wife, mostly to impress her. Mrs Harridan would sit at times like this with a pack of old girls, talking of the up and coming event, of which there were many, and Norbert would be attached with some bloke from up the street, and at least one of his students, one of the poorer ones who didn’t have many friends at school due to their general patheticness that is, whom he always saw fit to invite to shin digs like this, which he held at least thrice a year, if not more if new year seemed like it were going to be an appreciated adage to the Christmas celebrations.
The back yard was thick with people that night. It was Norbert’s birthday. The punch was flowing, children crept up to the flames of the small bonfire sporting marshmallows, and the young men of the church and the neighbourhood were creeping out the same girls that they had been creeping out for most of their lives. Oh yes, the ghost lives over the plain, at the old church yard. I swear it to be true.
Norbert was stirring up the coals, nodding thoughtfully to Dolan’s anecdote.
‘So, anyway, I was sitting on my porch, eating crackers and cheese like I usually do, drinking a beer like I usually do,’ said Dolan.
‘Oh, so you made another batch did you?’ asked Norbert, looking up and nodding congenially at Dolan, the barrel chested man who was in double sweaters and had a beanie on, a mechanic whom Norbert got along with quite well with. He saw him often at the football games, and a few times he’d been invited to dine at his house, but the general consensus between them was that they both liked each other, because they both worked with engines.
Dolan smiled and winked, ‘Yes sir, Norbert. I made some chilly beer this time. Goes awful well with that Capel brand chilly cheese you bought me in that hamper when business was low.’ Norbert was kind like that.
‘And the avocado too, I suspect.’ There was an avocado tree in Norbert’s back yard. He used it, besides for himself, to grease most deals he had in the town. His avocado tree was especially good at producing nice big avocados. And when there was yabby to be had, he liked to eat yabby cocktails, which were avocados with the yabby and some mayonnaise.
‘Did you eat it with yabby and mayonnaise, like I suggested?’ Norbert asked.
‘I did, I shared it with Ken for his birthday. Yabby we found on our camping trip, and it was a damn sight hard thing for me to convince him to keep some of the yabbies till we got home.’
‘Good for him,’ smiled Norbert, poking the flame. Jim was nodding his head solidly, one of three students he’d invited to the party among those who Norbert had thought would make good friends under better circumstances had they had any confidence.
‘Anyway,’ continued Dolan, ‘I was sitting on the porch, and my sight was going blue around the solar lamps that line the street, I’d had three so far. But then I got this tingly feeling in my toes, as if there was an electric current running through them. And I seen this light. Just for a second. But it was strong enough to leave a streak burnt into my retina after passing.’
Norbert blinked. ‘You’ve got to be joking.’
Jim was goggling at the eyes. ‘You saw a UFO?’
‘That’s what I recon,’ replied Dolan with a proud shuffle of his feet. He took a sip of his punch. ‘Makes you wonder what’s out there, you know.’
Norbert did know. Many times had he wondered who might be out there, waiting to help Earth if only they had the star charts. They conspired about what kind of creature might be in such a craft, if that were what it had been for a while. Then Jim came up with a theory of his own. What if it had been a robot.
Norbert cut up the pork, people came out with their plastic plates, which were a precious commodity in the current post apocalyptic landscape, and then he sat down by his wife to eat, thinking about robots. What if robots were really what UFO’s were. A hard shell exterior with a mechanical hand inside, organising star charts and diagnostic equipment. He could see the benefits of such a system.
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