I gotta hand it to Michael and Isabel. They dont jump me and attack me viciously, although i deserve it. Michael accepts what i did stoically and Izzy gets a little bitchy but i expected much worse. After school we have stopped at a fast food place (not the Crashdown!) For a heart to heart. Idly i wonder why some people cannot talk business without strapping on a feedbag. I’m not even hungry. To me eating is just filling a hole.
One down side of being an alien is that we dont have the taste buds humans do; everything tastes like cardboard so we usually soak our food in tobasco sauce. A human couldnt eat it. The tacos we have been served are all disgracefully cold but we know how to correct that.
I cant believe any of this Max, Isabel sighs. I finally convince myself i can have a human life and you blow it in some fit of lunacy.
Fuming, she looks across at Michael and says, How did you let my demented brother do this?
Hey, dont turn this around on me, he says stolidly. I’m not his mother.
Look, i said i was sorry, i say to them defensively.
You’re sorry, Izzie says. You’re sorry? You break a moral covenant and that’s all you can say? It’s against the rules, Max. The rules all three of us made.
You use your powers all the time, i say to her, trying to change the subject.
Izzie sighs and looks at me and says, I use them recreationally.
You mean you use them privately, i correct her.
Yeah, that too, she says, placing her palm an inch above the cold taco that is in front of her. She can heat food up just by doing that. I used to wonder how that was possible, focusing that kind of heat in the frail tissue in her hand that seems mainly human. Until i figured out she doesnt focus heat at all. It’s a rapidly reversing magnetic field she generates like the one in a microwave. The water molecules in the food are highly polar and the reversal spins them around very fast and the friction heats or cooks the food.
The important thing is damage control, she says pontifically. We need deniability. We just need a cover story for little miss scientist.
I say nothing but drink my warm pop and avoid her eyes.
Mother of God, Izzie says to me. You told her!
I didnt have a choice. i say. Look, it’ll be OK.
But Isabel is just getting warmed up. She says, Dont you see how everything’s changed?
No it hasnt, i say, glaring at her. You getting bent like this accomplishes nothing.
She’s right, Maxwell, Michael says. We’re all fucked. It’s time to leave Roswell.
Michael gets up and gets his taco and the bottle of tobasco sauce and starts walking toward the jeep. Isabel and i walk after him.
Michael, dont get your panties in a wad, i say. We cant just leave. We dont even need to.
Yes we can, he says dismissively. We always knew this day would come. We said when it did we’d be prepared.
Michael, where are we gonna go? Izzie says. You know Roswell’s home. Such as it is.
Roswell’s not home, he says to her. It’s not even in our star system.
This is the closest thing to home, i say.
For you two maybe, he says. You were both picked up in the desert and adopted by the Evanses. You both have a nice middle class family. I live in a trailer in a trailer park with a drunken old son of a bitch of a foster dad that just keeps me around for the monthly checks.
I get into the driver’s seat and buckle in. While they are buckling up i throw dirty looks at them.
This is all going to be alright, i say resentfully. We just need to lay low and…and go back to school and act normal.
Act normal? Izzie says. Is that the best you can do, Max? Dont you see it’s just a matter of time before they find us and give us to some government agency where they’ll exterminate us?
I start the engine and slam my head against the steering wheel three times before i pull off onto the desert highway.
Feeling better, dear? Izzie says.
No, i say.
Lapsing into a roiling silence as we roll along the desert. Nobody wants to say anything. Izzie holds a CD in her hand, using her powers recreationally to play it without a CD player and it is loud. She’s playing Jean Joseph Mouret’s Rondeau. You know it as the theme from Masterpice Theater. Last month it was Gregorian chants. My big sister has class. Or at least great taste in music.
But the music’s too loud and it gets on my last nerve.
Izzie, could you please not do that, i snap at her.
I hate it when you call me Izzie, she says.
Sorry. Isabel’s a mouthful. Please turn that off.
Yeah, like a CD’s the problem, she snaps at me.
I couldnt just let her die, you know, i say.
I look over at Michael, who is still working on his taco.
How can you eat at a time like this? I say to him.
Cause i’m hungry, he says.
And of all times a cop in hiding appears with flashers flashing gets behind us.
Is he pulling us over? Michael says. Max, get us out of here.
Stop freaking, Michael, i say. You know you cant outrun a cop. And stop acting guilty.
I pull off the highway and onto the shoulder of the road and so does the cop. He gives us an extra blast of the siren for intimidation after he stops his car.
Sensing the emotional storm around me i say with calm desperation, He always pulls kids over. He does it all the time. It’s a big game to him. A game called intimidation. Now relax and stop acting so guilty. It’s nothing.
Yeah, nothing, Michael says.
When the cop gets out of the car and puts on his sheriff’s hat and starts walking unhurriedly toward us i see that this long tall drink of water is none other than Jim Valenti. I think maybe if he were an emphysemic, pot gutted caricature of a southern sheriff i would feel less afraid. I take a few deep breaths so i wont start babbling senselessly.
When Valenti is three feet from me he says, May i see your license and registration, please.
Of course, sheriff, i say, quaking. I hand them to him and he makes a big show of studying them before he hands them back. Then he says, Thank you, Mr. Evans. We had some trouble at the Crashdown yesterday. You kids be careful out there.
Yes, sir, i say like a little marine.
Watch your speed, he says. Arrive alive.
And he turns and walks back to his car.
We will, i say, my voice cracking.
You sure know how to pucker up, Maximillian, Michael says.
Fuck you, Michael, i say. You’re the one that panicked and wanted a chase scene.
After Valenti drives off i move my hand to start the engine but Michael yanks the keys away.
Michael, i tell you everything is going to be fine.
That’s what they said on the Titanic after it hit an iceberg. No, it will not be fine. Our cover’s blown. And i will not hang around and wait for them to catch us.
I say nothing.
I gotta leak, he says, getting out of the car and walking toward the arroyo that runs parallel to the road.
I say to his back, No one’s caught yet. And maybe there is no them.
He turns and points at the desert and says, What happened to our real parents? What happened to everybody else on the ship? They didnt just disappear. They were murdered. And you know that, Max. You know it.
Liz wont tell anyone, i say. She’s different.
Really? He says sardonically. So how’d she react when you told her? ‘Great, you’re an alien. Excellent. Fantastic.’
After a brief, thick silence Michael says, No, i didnt think so.
And i thought i was pissed, Izzie says.
STFU, Isabel, i say. I have had just about enough of both of you for one day.
Walking quiescent streets after nine PM. This is a small town, folks. Everything shuts down early. Not that there’s much to shut down. In the cloying dampness after a rain my feet are slowly carrying me to the Crashdown Cafe, which will be closed but i know Liz’s room upstairs has a window facing the street. I’m going to see her. I hope it’s not the last time i’ll do this. I dont think it will. Maybe her window will be open. Or better still she could be sitting in the roof garden. That way we could avoid waking up the whole house.
IDK about Liz. Sometimes she seems like the kind of human that can actually handle aliens and sometimes she acts like such a twinkie. IDK it yet but she actually writes all that happens in an old fashioned schoolgirl diary. One day it will disappear and she will have a bird. Maybe it’s better to write it down on paper like that and keep it off your hard drive. And love means always making excuses for your beloved.
Why did old man Parker decide to invest in a heavily themed fast food place here, where most of his income will be from tourist seasons? There is nothing here. If you want to do this in a place where there is something, why not Alamogordo, or even Socorro, near White Sands where they detonated the first nuke? Now there’s a place about something. I’ve heard that the bomb left a crater of melted sand that solidified into something like smooth glass.
I guess you could call your place Fast Fred’s Fallout Food. Think of the fun you could have with the menu. Some Mushroom Cloud Soup for you, sir? How ’bout a China Syndrome Salad? Or maybe a Plutonium and Cheese?
She is right smack on the roof garden and sees me and i stop and thrust my hands into my pockets. Hey, Liz, i say quietly. I have to talk to you.
I wait anxiously as she goes down into the house and finally appears at the front door of the restaurant and unlocks the doors and lets me in. We walk into the dark, empty restaurant and do not sit down but remain standing ten feet away from each other. A chilly reception indeed.
She is uncharacteristically silent as she waits for me to start. Finally i manage to say, I cant imagine what you must feel like right now. But i’ve thought about telling you a thousand times.
You have? She says guardedly. Me?
I snicker and struggle to keep a straight face.
What, she says.
Sorry. I just…er, keep picturing you in that dress with the uh…cupcakes on it.
What? She says, screwing her face up.
Forget it, i say. That was a long time ago.
OMG, she says, face palming. That’s…that’s right. I cant believe i actually wore that thing.
I feel myself grinning at her.
I had that dress in kindergarten, she says. But i didnt know you until third grade. Wait a minute, she says, getting panicky. Did you like, read my mind or something?
No! I say strenuously, walking toward her. I dont read minds. But when i healed you i made this-this connection. It was involuntary. I saw a rush of things. And an image of that dress passed by and i knew how you felt about it.
She says frostily, How did i feel about it?
It was and still is the supreme embarrassment of your life. But your mom made it. She was so proud of it. She’d never made a dress before. So you wore it anyway. For her. That’s what you’re like, dushka.
What did you call me?
Dushka. It’s Russian. Nothing obscene. It just means dear or sweetheart.
Liz nods like a bobblehead in slow motion. As i walk closer i say, I’ve never tried this before but…well, maybe i could make the connection work the other way. So you could see that i’m still me. I had a glimpse of you and never gave you a look at me and that seems so unfair.
By now i am standing right in front of her, in ideal kissing range. Kissing her would be easy and i want to. The spacing is so right but the mood is so wrong.
But i’ll have to touch you, i say.
She doesnt flinch or move away when i gently put my left hand on the side of her face.
She says, Is this like a Vulcan mind meld or somethin’?
I guess it is, i say, struggling not to laugh. I just dont have the pointy ears. Now relax and empty your mind and open it to me.
This time the impact is gentle enough. The room dissolves into a barely forgotten yesterday, my sister Izzie and i walking naked in the desert on a chilly night, a truck’s blinding headlights as it pulls up beside of us. We are both maybe three years old and oddly unafraid but somehow instinctively wary. I know i am seeing what she is seeing and feeling what she is feeling when she feels it. The dead end loneliness of a life lived in a house of secrets. She even sees herself as i see her. And she knows that in my eyes she is beautiful.
As i remove my hand i say shyly, Did it work?
You know it did, she says.
Just before i pulled away i got a thought from her: Max Evans you have really put a force on me. I always knew this would happen but i never would have thought it would be an alien.
When the bond is safely broken i think, Hey, ho. I think i got a live one.