Gracelyn Polk stood in front of her social studies classroom and cleared her throat as she looked down at the paper she held in her hands. She moved her head up, addressed the empty desks with her eyes and smiled.
“For my report on the person I most admire, I chose someone that I just met. You may wonder why that is and how could such a notion come to be… The truth of the matter is, I’m often quite lonely. I don’t have a lot of friends and my family is all long gone. I don’t really know where they went or why. But here I am, before you today.”
She paused and looked out at the empty room. She started to feel foolish but went on with her speech regardless.
“My new friend’s name is Farm Guy.” She chuckled. “No, it’s not a joke this time. His name really is Farm Guy and I know that sounds awfully peculiar, but once you get to know him, it fits somehow. He’s a very nice man and a very smart man, too. He knows a lot about life and history and how to build things… And how to make the most delicious chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever had. And he’s nice to me. And in a world such as this, I suppose that’s the best thing a person could be… And worthy of my admiration. Thank you.”
Gracelyn waited for the applause that never came and then went over to the large desk at the front of the room that once belonged to a teacher. She opened a drawer and pulled out a red marker. She yanked off the cap and sniffed at the tip, careful not to get any ink on her nose. “I just love the smell of markers,” she said aloud to herself. And then she moved her hand down to her social studies report and wrote A+ at the very top and circled it twice. She held it up in front of her, smiled with pride, and then went back to her own desk.
Astron Puffin looked down on planet Earth as it spun there on its fragile thread in the cradle of space.
“It’s set to snap,” said a strange voice from behind him — a deep voice, a slow voice, like a tape recording playing back on the wrong speed.
Astron turned his head. “And then where will the world go? Doesn’t it have to go somewhere?” he asks the one that looks different but is the same — his skin an oddly green color, but richer than that of himself, the eyes the brightest blue there could ever be, strange hair.
“It will drop out of the universe like a Price Is Right Plinko chip… And there will be no prize.”
Astron let a small, haunting laugh escape from his throat. “Price Is Right?”
“Come on down,” the alien said in his slow, monotone, deep voice.”
Astron turned away to look out the incredibly large window again. The Earth was still there. “I don’t ever want to go back,” he said. “Please don’t ever take me back.”
But then Astron’s eyes were closed for him, and when he opened them back up, he was lying on his back in the middle of a cabbage field. It was a very large cabbage field, seemingly endless except for the low hills at the furthest edges, the color of green mist. The air around him smelled of good dirt. He looked up and the sky with its dying sun was there — an ocean of blue filled with the white sails of cloud ships. He stood up and looked around him, turning slowly in a circle like a searchlight. It was an unfamiliar place to him for it was not his own farm. Deep in the distance he saw something that jutted up out of the horizon. It was a house — a large and welcoming house of yellow. He decided that was the direction to go in.
Gracelyn set her bicycle down in the front yard of Farm Guy’s big, yellow house. She bounded up the front porch steps and excitedly knocked on the white door with the inset frosted glass window. It wasn’t long before it opened, and the man was standing there in a plaid shirt and denim pants. A bright smile came over his face.
“Well, well, well,” Farm Guy said. “If it isn’t the infamous Gracelyn Polk.”
“It is me. I wanted to bring your cookie container back and I have something to show you.”
“Then please come in,” he said, spreading out a long arm before him in a gesture of welcoming. His eyes then quickly darted around the outside world with a hint of suspicion before he closed the door behind them.
Farm Guy took a seat in his favorite living room chair while Gracelyn sat on a small sofa across from him. The girl looked around the cozy room that reminded her of Christmas when there was a Christmas. A fire crackled gently in a large fireplace, even though it wasn’t extremely cold outside. The heartbeat of an old clock pulsed in rhythm atop the mantel. The view out a large window was lonely. She saw old pictures of other people scattered about the room on walls, tables, and shelves. Some of the people looked strange, different in an unexplainable way.
She set her backpack to the side, unzipped a pocket, and pulled out a piece of paper. She stood and took it to him.
“What’s this?” he wanted to know.
“I did a report about you.”
“A report? About me?”
“That’s right. And as you can see, I got an A+.”
Farm Guy reached to his chairside table, fished for a pair of reading glasses, and placed them on his face. “I’m going to have to take a look at this very closely,” he said, smiling and tipping his head forward, eyes looking out from above the frames of his readers. He held the paper before him and began reading it, his eyes half squinting as they intensely glided across the words. He let out brief snorts of wonder and charmed humility as he went along. When he was finished, he set the paper aside and withdrew his glasses and looked at her.
“What do you think?” she eagerly wanted to know, sitting on the edge of the sofa now.
“I’d have to say that’s just about the finest report I’ve ever read,” he answered. “And I don’t say that just because it’s about me. Do you mind if I keep it?”
“It’s all yours.”
Farm Guy got up from his chair and made his way out of the room. He motioned to her to follow. “What do you say we take this in the kitchen. I’ll hang it up on my refrigerator. Come on. How about some peanut butter cookies?”
Gracelyn sat at the kitchen table with a tall glass of milk and a plate of peanut butter cookies set before her.
“Can I ask you something?” she said.
“What’s that?” the man said as he stood, his back to her, admiring the girl’s report that he had just attached to his refrigerator with a Las Vegas souvenir magnet.
“How do you have all this stuff?”
“What do you mean?”
“The milk and the cookies… And the good electricity. Everything. I mean, it’s all just like a regular house from how it was before. Where does it all come from? How does it work?”
Farm Guy turned to look at her quizzical young face, her upper lip now striped with milk. He went to sit at the table across from her and struggled to think of a suitable answer, a serious tone morphing his face. He reached for and then handed her a napkin. “Do you believe that life extends far beyond what we experience here?”
She wiped her mouth and thought about it. “Do you mean on this planet?”
“Yes. But not only on this planet… I mean all around us. Even here. Right next to us right now in this very room. There’s so much more happening around us than we ever even acknowledge.”
“You mean you get all these things from somewhere else?”
He leaned back and studied her. “I suppose that’s a pretty good way of putting it,” he said, moving his head around to look at everything. “It all comes from somewhere else.”
“And what about you?” Gracelyn questioned. “Do you come from somewhere else?”
He looked at her intently, tempting to reveal himself completely, but at the last moment pulling the punch.
“Of course, I do. I’ve lived in many other places. Haven’t you?”
“Absolutely… At least it seems that way,” the girl said, and she tilted her head to the side and gazed at him with wide eyes “Can I ask you something else?”
“You can ask me anything.”
“Why do I never die?”
TO BE CONTINUED