Roswell 19 Michael’s Vision

MAX

Earphones are a wondrous thing, how they shut out a very disagreeable, Earthling dominated world.  But sometimes you hear somebody coming before you see them, and earphones get in the way of that.

But it’s okay.  It’s just Alex.

I take off the earphones and force myself to smile.

Still listening to Mozart?  He says with condescension.

Sonata number 11, i say.

Tum-titty-tum-titty-tum-tum-tum.

You’ve said that three times now, i say.

Well, he says in a huff.  It certainly bears repeating.  Austrians do everything to excess.

They do?

Foreigners laugh at them.  Ask someone to name a famous Austrian and they’ll say Julie Andrews.

That’s funny, Alex.  Does your contempt extend to more recent compositions?

Sure.  Just gimme a name.

Well, uh…Paul McCartney.

McCartney.  He never learned how to finger pick.  And those silly-ass songs he wrote.  Plinka-plinka-plinka…

I got to go, i say.

 

MICHAEL

Michael has another vision within a dream, the same as the one he had when he touched Valenti’s key but with an urgency that is unsettling.  He picks up a pencil and a sheet of paper and begins to sketch.

 

Next day Michael shows up for art class.  It’s been over a week since he was there.

Mr. Guerin, the art teacher says sardonically.  To what do we owe the pleasure?

What pleasure is that?  Michael says, scratching his head.

You of course.  I mean it’s Thursday and i dont think i recall seeing you since Monday.  Monday of last week.

Yeah, uh, sorry bout that.  But i kinda just really want to draw.

You just kinda really want to draw?

Yeah, Michael says.  I didnt when they made me take this art class but i do now.  I’m just gonna take this easel here…

Knock yourself out, Mr. Guerin, the art teacher says.

 

MAX

I am shelving books at the UFO center.  Milton Ross sees me looking thru a book and says, That’s a good read there.

I smile and say nothing.

Of course, Milton goes on, Szcerbiak’s theory that the military coverup of the ’47 crash was financed by an international consortium lacks credible evidence to support it.  Still, it debunks several fallacies that have long troubled me.  But if you’re going to be working here, then for my money these are the best books to read.

Uh-huh.

Milton picks up a heavy volume from the shelves.  Walton, he says.  Rubbish!  Ah, yes.  Here.  James Atherton.

He hands me the hardback with a paper cover intact.  Among Us, i say.

A bit on the alternative side, Milton says.  Atherton had an underground following, never truly embraced by the UFology mainstream, such as they are…but it might be of interest to a true believer like you.  Take a look.  Tell me what you think.  I know you want answers, Max.

Yes i do.

 

MICHAEL

Max, Michael and Isabel sitting in the Crashdown.  Michael is sketching his vision frantically.  It begins with a semicircle that has geometric shapes superimposed.

Izzie says, Michael, do you think you should be doing that?  In here?

Doing what?

Drawing that thing, she says.  Whatever it is.  In public.  Here.

It’s getting clearer, Michael says.

It’s getting weirder is what it’s getting, Izzie says.  Max, will you please tell Michael this isnt a good idea?

Max hears her vaguely but does not answer.  He is deep into Among Us by James Atherton.

Max, wake up!  Izzie says.

Huh?  Yeah, yeah.  No, it’s just Atherton.  Listen to this.  He says…this guy’s nuts.  He says that aliens wouldnt possess the lung capacity or brain capacity for more than short term survival on Earth.  Brain capacity?

Where does he get that?  Michael says.

Earthlings, Max says, In their limitless talent for self-congratulation once believed that their supreme intelligence was demonstrated by the size of their brain.  There is an evolutionary sequence of increasing cranial capacity from lower proto-humans to Homo Sapiens but it’s language and opposable thumbs that really make the difference.  Then someone pointed out that since elephants have several times the brain size of humans they must therefore be many times more intelligent than humans.  That shut ’em up.  But in Atherton’s day they still believed in that.

So he was ignorant, not crazy?  Michael says.

He was ignorant about brain capacity like everyone back then but he writes like a fruitcake.  Still, there’s something about his mythology that is compelling.

Max, Isabel says patiently, will you say something to Michael?  He’ll listen to you.

Michael sighs indulgently and produces his sketch.

That looks really good, Michael, Max says.  Maybe you have some real talent.  IDK what that thing is but i could swear i’ve seen it somewhere before.

I’ve been working on it in art class, he says proudly.

Max, this isnt right, Izzie says.  We’re getting careless.

Isabel, it’s just a sketch, alright?  Michael says, angry now.

We cant keep pretending that what we do doesnt matter, that what we do isnt noticed.  Because it is, Izzie says, getting huffy.

Isabel, STFU!  Michael is shouting now.

 

Back in art class Michael continues to sketch a vision of something both in and outside himself.  He starts painting and colors emerge and blend meaningfully in the geometric shapes.  He even works on it after school.  Finally Izzie and Max go to see the original.

This is not good, Izzie says, shaking her head.

It’s pretty good, huh?  Michael says like a seven year old going to Mom and Dad for approval.  I didnt even know i could paint.  But Mr. Cowan says it’s the best thing to come out of art class this year.

Michael, this isnt right, Izzie says doggedly.

What isnt?

A public display!  Izzie says indignantly.  Your thing just sitting here like this.

It’s not a thing!  It’s…well IDK exactly what it is but…

What Isabel is trying to say, Michael, is that it’s not a good idea.  It might even be dangerous.

How could it be dangerous?  It doesnt mean anything to anybody.  Including me.

Max says, We shouldnt be taking chances like this.

You did, Michael hisses.

Max knows that what he did will never be forgotten or put aside.

Yes, Max says, but…

But what?  You can take chances and i cant?  You can roll the dice with our lives but if anyone else does, god forbid.

No, Max says weakly.  I saved someone’s life.  I wasnt just dabbling in the arts.

Michael looks hurt and walks off and Max curses himself.  Michael is right.  What he’s doing is harmless.

Izzie, Max says, white with anger at himself and her, You are the worst goddamn nag.  You owe Michael an apology.  We both do.

 

Michael, back in art class.

Very good, Mr. Cowen says.

Thank you, Michael says self-consciously.

But dont you think it’s time to draw something else besides a geodesic dome?

A what?

Sorry, Michael.  I guess that was before your time.  It’s a type of house, architecturally post modern.

It’s a house?  Michael says incredulously.

That’s right, Michael.  A house.

 

MAX

At an outdoor table in a desolate corner of the schoolyard.  Trying to defend Michael i say awkwardly, Michael’s drawing isnt one of our most pressing problems, Izzie.

Does that mean there’s a problem i’m not aware of?  Izzie says shrilly.

Paranoid today, arent we?  I say.  I cant take my eyes off that Atherton book but there’s something familiar about Michael’s drawing i cant quite place.

RU still reading that?  Izzie says.

Nasty habit, i say.

Michael stares blankly into space.

Wake up, Michael, i say.

I just wish i had more answers, he says sadly.  The dome, you know.  What’s the point of having a vision if it means nothing?

Patience, i say, yawning and stretching.

Izzie takes the Atherton book and speed reads it as she flips the pages.  Boring, she says dismissively.

When she puts the book down the flyleaf falls open.

Max!  Michael!  Look at this!

What’s wrong?  I say.

This!  She says.

There on the flyleaf is a photo of James Atherton standing in front of his house, a geodesic dome in the middle of the desert.  Beneath the picture are his birth and death dates.  Atherton died November 16, 1959.  The same as the corpse with the alien handprint in the postmortem photograph that was in Valenti’s office before the Feds took it away.

Michael, it’s your vision, Izzie says, shaking visibly.

 

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Roswell 18 Holmes’ Bad Day

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MAX

I have just exchanged a couple of monosyllables with Liz, acting like i barely know her, seeing a look of perplexity and hurt in her eyes.  I am trying really hard but this just isnt working.  I walk, seething, into the bathroom that looks deserted but isnt.  I dont see the feet of someone who is sitting on the crapper until i’ve hit the stall wall so hard it comes loose and falls on whoever is inside.  Then i see that the squatter is Michael.

When Michael emerges from the stall he says impassively, Gandhi feeling frustrated?

STFU, i say.

We are both washing our hands when Michael says, Lemme guess.  You’re in love with a girl and she’s with another guy.

You can be such a prick, Michael, i sigh.

Come on outside, he says.  I have just the thing to elevate your mood.

We both watch as…

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Roswell 18 Holmes’ Bad Day

MAX

I have just exchanged a couple of monosyllables with Liz, acting like i barely know her, seeing a look of perplexity and hurt in her eyes.  I am trying really hard but this just isnt working.  I walk, seething, into the bathroom that looks deserted but isnt.  I dont see the feet of someone who is sitting on the crapper until i’ve hit the stall wall so hard it comes loose and falls on whoever is inside.  Then i see that the squatter is Michael.

When Michael emerges from the stall he says impassively, Gandhi feeling frustrated?

STFU, i say.

We are both washing our hands when Michael says, Lemme guess.  You’re in love with a girl and she’s with another guy.

You can be such a prick, Michael, i sigh.

Come on outside, he says.  I have just the thing to elevate your mood.

 

We both watch as Kyle goes to his locker.  When he unlocks it, it will not open.  It wont even budge a little.

I take Michael by the arm and march him right back into the bathroom.  WTFRU doing?  I demand.

What am i doing?  Helping you out.

No.  You’re not helping me out.  You promised me you wouldnt do anything to those guys.

No.  I promised i wouldnt hurt those guys.

You’re putting us in danger.

You’re the one who put us in danger when you saved Liz.  Let’s hope we can trust her.

Of course we can trust her, i say.

Well.  I dont trust anyone these days.

 

KYLE

The janitor cannot open Kyle’s locker.  He has to take a crowbar to get it to even move.  As he is trying to pry it loose it suddenly comes off and the momentum throws him into Kyle and Kyle’s nose gets busted.  Blood and snot fly everywhere.

Sorry, buddy, the custodian says.

‘Sa’right, Kyle sniffles.

Oh that’s weird, the janitor says.

What’s that?  Kyle says.

It looks like it was melted.

 

MAX

When Liz comes to the front door it is long since dark and i have settled down enough i resent the intrusion even before i know who it is and i dont want to see her anyway.  Because she’s trouble.  Trouble i have brought on myself and i dont want to see her.  But there she is.

Can i talk to you for a second?  She asks.

Outside, i say tonelessly.

We sit on the wooden bench under the ancient Maple in the front yard.  There’s an awkward silence that i make no effort to assuage.

Finally Liz says, I’ve been thinking about why i called you.  You know, that night from the hospital.  Because i…i knew it was against the rules and it led to that whole…er…awkward moment…

I sigh rudely and look up at the pagan moon to show my boredom and impatience at someone who talks around everything and just will not come to the point.  And i think how a casual observer might glimpse us and see Liz dangling and swinging her legs over the high bench and think how cute and typically teenaged we were and how nothing could be further from the truth.  I almost laugh.

…but i called anyway, she drones on and i have to fight to stay awake.  I sorta couldnt help it, she says, yawning and scratching her neck.  Because when something like this with my grandmother happens you dont reason, you just do things from the heart.  And my heart told me to call you.  Because you were the one person in the world i really wanted to talk to.

Without affection i say, If you werent so self-centered you’d have figured out by now that nobody does anything rational.  They always do what they want and rationalize it after they’ve done it.

Do you have to be so mean?  What i’m trying to say is my heart told me to call you.

You little bitch, i say angrily.  Have you ever gone without anything your whole life?  If you didnt have a cute face you’d have had to root for things instead of having them handed to you.  You’ve been so indulged you could afford to do whatever the fuck your heart told you to do.  So WTF do you know about it anyway?

Undeterred, she says, You were the one person i really wanted to talk to.

It’s cold out here, i say.  Will you please get to the point?

I’m really sorry to ask you this…

What do you want of me?  I spit at her.

Is there anything you could do for my grandmother?

See?  Now was that so fuckin hard?  Why didnt you just spit that out to begin with?  You wasted my time and took all that verbal abuse from me because you wouldnt just come out and say it.  I was able to save you because you were shot.  It wasnt your time.  It was easy to do that because it was just trauma.  I cant stop natural aging.  Maybe someday i’ll figure out how but i’m a long way from it.  I’ll never be able to do it in time to save your grandmother.  I cant just heal people.  I’m not god.

I know it, she says.

 

KYLE

Kyle walks with his associates within the mean perimeters of the alley behind the school among trash cans and skulking feral cats bowbacked and starving.

So the locker just melted shut, Kyle says.  How do you account for that?  It has to be about 500 degrees to melt.

Maybe it was that Max guy getting back at us, says the cretin walking beside Kyle.

Getting back for what?  Kyle says innocently.

The cretin looks at the two fools behind him and laughs and they laugh.  He says, We beat the dogshit out of the bastard.

What?  Kyle says, stopping cold in his tracks.

You told us he was hitting on Liz.

Enraged, Kyle shoves the cretin so hard he almost falls on his ass.  You fuckin morons!  Kyle screams.  You know what you did?  You didnt discourage Max.  You played right into the little faggot’s hands.  Now i’ve got some explaining to do.  I could lose Liz over this, goddamn you!

Kyle picks up a metal garbage can and throws it at his friends.

 

Later Kyle waits outside the hospital room door.  When Liz comes out he says plaintively, How is she doing?

Holding her own, Liz says.

I need to talk to you, Liz.

When they are outside the building he says, I know you have other things on your mind but i want you to know i had nothing to do with what happened to Max.

What happened to Max, she says, puzzled.

Tommy and Paulie, those guys.  They’re moral degenerates.  They’re fuckin animals and i had no idea they were going to do that.  They were freelancing.  I didnt know anything about it.  I never thought they’d take it on themselves to do that.

Do what?  She says.

Holmes senses dimly that he has made a grave tactical error.

You didnt know?  He says anxiously.  They held him down and beat him nearly senseless.  It mustve been awful.

Why did they do that?

IDK why.  They just…they thought they were helping out.

Kyle is in verbal quicksand.  The more he struggles the worse it gets.

How would that help out, Kyle?

I told them it was wrong, Liz.  I told them how fucked up it was.

How can you be friends with guys that would do that?

Come on, Liz.  They’re good guys, he says, improvising desperately.  They’re just not very bright.

No, Kyle.  They are not good guys.

Why RU getting like this?

Like what?

So moralistic.  So judgemental.  I’m just trying to explain some things and you’re getting all bent about it.

You must have said something to them about Max that set them off.  They mustve had a reason.

I’m not their mother!  I’m not responsible for them.  They’re children.

To do what they did…

Why RU so worried about Max?

Because he got his ass kicked for nothing.  He’s the last one in this town who’d want to hurt anybody.

So you are, arent you?  You and Max are together, arent you?

No we arent.  And as of now, neither are we.

What?  He says, stung.

Kyle, we just cant be together anymore.

So you’re breaking up with me because my friends knocked Max around.

No.  It isnt that simple.

It’s because of Max, he says.

No!  I told you that Max…

Liz!  Max is trouble.  My dad’s got his eye on him.

I gotta get back, Liz says.  I’m sorry, Kyle.

No you arent, he says indignantly.

None of this is as simple as it seems.  Kyle wasnt smart enough to keep his mouth shut, but Liz is just using this as an excuse to do something she’s been working herself up to for some time.

Holmes is having a very bad day.

 

MAX

As i enter the hospital room noiselessly Liz mumbles over the supine figure that is a tired old woman almost as tired as scared but not quite.  When Liz notices my reflection in the window she says, Hey.

I cant stop what is going to happen, i say.  But maybe i can buy you some minutes to say goodbye.

When i sit beside the bed and touch the old woman the touch is painful.  More painful than when i healed Liz because i wanted to do that but not this.  There is no vision of the old woman’s life, just the feeling of someone terrified and hanging on by a fingernail to keep from being sucked down a sewer and drowning.  Someone who could slip and drag me down with her.  Unbearable effort, feeling that i’m carrying a brick shithouse on my back.  Finally i am able to will the old woman back just a little and then i break contact.  She looks wildly around the room and at me until her eyes come to rest on Liz.

I get up and drag myself to the door.  There i pause and say, Talk fast, Liz.  And i leave the room.

 

I am too tired to safely drive but i take Liz home in the jeep.  I just sit there in front of the Crashdown and say nothing and she says nothing.

Max, she says awkwardly, Thank you for…

Dont, i whisper.

You dont like me much right now, do you, Max?

I say, I took a beating for you that couldve killed me.  Because of you.  I’m not saying it’s your fault or that you arent worth it or that i wouldnt save you if i had it to do over.

Max…

Shut up!  Listen.  I can be just as petty and mean as any other asshole.  I dont want to be.  I try not to be.  But i guess i am and all else is just vanity.  I resent you.  Not just because of that beating.  I object to you because you’ve had somebody kiss your ass all your life and i havent.  Because all you’ve had to do is smile at a man and look at him with those big brown eyes and ask him to do something for you and he’ll always do it.  You know he’ll always do it because they always have and you’ve learned that.  The way you talk to Kyle, the tone you use.  It’s shameful.  You talk down to him like he’s seven years old.  And as soon as a man does anything for you, you lose respect for him.

Max, i’m…

I have delayed reactions, i say, ignoring her.  Sometimes big ones.  Right now a lot of chickens have come home to roost and when i’m like this i dont even know how i feel.  People think i’m moody and self indulgent but i’m just overwhelmed.  Right now i want to take this jeep and leave Roswell forever.  Never see any of you again.  Not you.  Not Michael or Izzie.  I am so tired of you all.  You’re too much to endure.  I dont think i can handle any of this.

Well, i guess you got me told, she says, smiling a crooked smile and trying to make nice.  But i’m not having any of it.

Go home, dushka, i say.

But…

Go home!

She gets out and walks a few steps and turns around and comes back and throws her arms around me.  I gently remove them from me and say, Go home.  I’ll see you at school tomorrow, maybe.

She does not move.

Go on, now, i say.

At last she walks to the doors of the Crashdown and unlocks them and goes inside without looking back.

I look up at the firmament.  Even here in the middle of town i can see the Milky Way on a clear cold night like this.  Looking right at the crowded heart of the galaxy that hides the central black hole, quarantined from us forever because of the cosmic speed limit.

Where out there is home?  What is home?  Does even the idea of home have any meaning except that i’m trapped in a foreign country where i will never be safe or satisfied?

I start the car and drive home to the burbs.

 

 

 

Roswell 17: Max’s Story

It was those jocks from the football team, wasnt it?  Michael says.  I have never seen him more angry.

Kyle and his friends?  He says.

Kyle wasnt there, i say.

I’ve seen them giving you these looks.  It was them, wasnt it?

It doesnt matter who it was, i say.

I’m gonna kill ’em.

Michael, no.

So what are we gonna do?

Nothing, i say, feeling castrated.

What do you mean we’re gonna do nothing?

Michael, listen.  This is bad.  Kyle does something to us so we do something to him.  This kind of thing gets all over school, all over town.  Rumors fly.  The thing about me healing Liz starts coming up again.  I never thought the gossip about that would die, but it’s already started to.  People got bored with it and started to gossip about something else.  We get exposed if we do anything at all.

I say we go and shut those guys up right now.

Michael, we have to stick together now more than ever.  We have to go back into our shells.  You cant do anything to hurt those guys.  And i have to stay completely away from Liz.  That part will kill me but i dont have a choice.

 

I am at my new job at the UFO center stuffing plastic intestines back into the little plastic alien that is getting autopsied.

Izzie surprises me.  Whatcha doin?  She says.

Some kid pulled these out, i say.

Great job you found, Max.  Real dignified.

I grin at her and say, Here’s looking down at you, too.

No less than seventeen people at school asked me about your face.

I step out of the shadows so Izzie can actually see it.

What happened?  Izzie says.  She really does seem shocked.

Michael and i were just fucking around on the basketball court.

Michael told me that same story about the basketball court.  What really happened, Max?

Some guys roughed me up last night.

Why?

They’re friends of Kyle.  I guess Kyle’s upset about me and Liz.

You were going to hand me that cover story like i couldnt handle the truth?

I guess i knew how upset you’d be and i dont…i cant stand it when you’re mad at me, Izzie.  We all have to stay deep in the closet right now.  Be really careful.

Max, this whole thing with the sheriff’s son…

I know.  I’m staying away from Liz.

Izzie takes my head into her hands and looks at my face.  Pretty raw, she says.  Why dont you just heal all this?

Because it has to heal normally.  Everything has to be normal.

 

I cant sleep.  I’m just lying in bed waiting for something to happen and it does.  The phone rings and after the recorded message Liz’s voice comes on.  I want to pick up but i force myself not to.

Liz says, Hi, Max.  It’s Liz.  I’m at the hospital.  Something happened to my grandmother.  She had a stroke right in front of me and they dont know if it’s serious or not but i think it’s really bad.  I can see it the doctors’ eyes no matter what they say.  I’m really scared.  Look, IDK why i’m calling…i guess i just wanted to hear your voice.  Um…now i feel completely stupid.  Look, dont…dont come here or anything because everybody’s here.  I’ll see you at school tomorrow.  Sorry for the weird call.  Bye.

I sit up in bed and ponder this for a few moments.  Then i get dressed and leave.

 

When i walk into the waiting room i see Liz and Kyle and Liz’s mom and dad.

Hey, Liz says to me.

Hey, i say to her.

My grandmother had a stroke, Liz says.

Oh.  Sorry.

Kyle is giving me fierce, dagger looks.  I decide to ignore them.   

I say, RU alright, Liz?

Yeah, thanks   Everybody, this is Max.

Hi there, says Liz’s mom.  Her dad, who is among the legion of people in this town that hate me, nods curtly.

Hello, i say.

So what RU doing here?  Kyle demands.

My cousin got into an accident, i say.

I’m sorry, Liz says.

I dont think it’s serious, i say.

Kyle’s evil looks are starting to annoy me.  I give him an even nastier look before i move my eyes away.

I better find out how he’s doing, i say.

I feel better when i get out of the hospital and into the parking area.  Too much feeling of events getting out of control.  Feeling that everyday things familiar and safe are about to turn around and bite me.

I get into the jeep and start the engine and turn on the lights. When i do i see Kyle standing right in front of the jeep so i guess he wants to talk.  He walks around to my side and gets so close he is practically leaning into the open window.

So how’s your cousin?  He says.

Fine, i say.

Your cousin wasnt really in an accident, was he?

He made a miraculous recovery.

Max, i know that something happened between you and Liz the day of the shooting, that you helped her out or whatever.  She was shaken up and you calmed her down and i appreciate that.  What i dont appreciate is that ever since then you’ve been all over her.  I see it, Max.  My friends see it.  The entire school sees it.  Now, i like Liz.  A lot.  And i dont want you around her.

Yeah, aint that a bitch, i say, grinning at him.  Holmes, did you see how Liz looked at me?  She never looks at you like that.  So if you want me to stay away from Liz, keep Liz away from me.  If you can.  She’s supposed to be your gf, not mine.  Can you do that?  If you cant then you have very little control over her.  Or perhaps i have more.

I gun the engine and say, Watch your toes, Holmes.  You dont want to spend the rest of the football season in a cast.

 

 

 

Roswell 16: Max’s Story

Liz and Maria and i at the Crashdown near closing time.  Some of Kyle’s brutish, thuggish hoodlum friends are sitting quietly in a booth at the far corner of the room but i hardly notice such riff-raff.  Liz makes calf eyes at me as she takes a customer’s order and i return the wistful look with one of my own, a look borne of all the sweet, impossible  loves that never were and never could have been.  Maria sees this and says to Liz, Why dont you two just get a room?

Liz walks to where i am seated and says unnecessarily, It’s an orthodontists’ convention.

Sure it is, i say as Kyle’s friends stir restlessly in the booth where they’re seated but i have no reason to think i should be worried.  I guess i dont notice the anxiety in them that has no reason to be there, even among such primitives.

Liz says, RU waiting for Michael and Isabel?

No, no, i say, clearing my throat.  I think i’ll have an Alien Blast…

Me too.  Oh!  I’m sorry, she says, face coloring.  I mean…

She looks down to conceal a grin.

I know what you mean, i say.  This is…

She strokes my calf with the inside of her foot.

This is the first time you have ever actually flirted with me, Parker, i say.

You like it?  She says.

No, i hate it.  It offends my priesthood.  Of course i like it.  I want to be your bf, not your bff.  And i’d like my gf to bring me an Alien Blast.  Mush!

The intimate little laugh we share then probably provokes the numbnuts over in the corner but i’m so wrapped up in Liz i dont even think about that.

When i’m ready to leave i ask Liz on impulse to take me out the back way.  IDK why, just something nagging at me from below my threshold of consciousness.  It didnt help but i tried.  Part of my mind did anyway.  I try to assess my uneasiness as i go thru muggy kitchens and a succession of storeroom that were once cellars.

Outside a bloated vampire moon drains all nocturnal color from the world.  Everything seems slate gray and ill defined, all but things in reflections from the streetlights in store and car windows.  A faithful helix of aspiring insects seeks the ecstasy of the lights to fulfill some imperative arthropod fate.

The numbnuts that were in the Crashdown are waiting for me on the shady part of the street away from the Crashdown.  Two of them step in front of me to block my path.  That means the attack, when it comes, will come from behind.  I got careless and stupid.  This shouldnt have happened.  Now i’m fucked.  Ich werde gefickt.

How may i help you gentlemen?  I say wearily.

Evans, right?  One of them says.

Never heard of him, i say.  It’s mistaken identity.  My name is Rasheed Abdul Hasaan and i’m a member of the Taliban.  We terrorists all protect out own so i suggest you get out of my way or my brothers will come for you in the night.  They’ll fuck you up real bad…

Stay away from her, the one doing the talking says.

Stay away from who?

Liz Parker.

Never heard of her.

The punch doesnt come from the back but from the front.  Most of these roundhouse redneck right punches are slow but this one has zip to it.  If i hadnt seen the punch coming just in time to move my head i would have needed reconstructive surgery and dentistry bad.  But i slip the punch so it only grazes me and the boy restraining me from behind gets hit harder than i do and i manage to get free of him.

I’m not a kung fu killer but even if i were i know that when three of them jump you, you are in deep shit no matter who you are.  I’ve gotten to my feet and just have started to run when one of them trips me and i fall.  That’s when the real beating starts.  Rolling around on the pavement it’s hard to remember just who i’m supposed to be.  Liz Parker’s guy?  Kyle’s mortal enemy?  Public enemy number one on Valenti’s list?  A suspected alien that can kill with a mere touch and that every federal agent has wet dreams about killing?

The first time they land a solid punch it’s to my stomach.  It doesnt take my wind, so i say, My mother hits harder than that.  My remark infuriates him and he comes at me with fresh rage, but by having three of them they literally get in each others’ way and i can use that to avoid some of the damage.

Sometimes you just have to take one for the team.  And that’s what i’m doing.

After they get bored with me and leave i assess my internal condition and it’s pretty bad, but i can heal my serious injuries because you cant see those.  Concussion, fractured skull, internal bleeding.  Three broken ribs from being kicked when i was on the ground.  Collapsed lung from a piece of broken rib.  Ruptured spleen, bruised kidney.  But i cant heal the injuries you can see because people would notice and start talking and then here comes another witch hunt.  The external injuries will have to heal normally.

But the worst part is being able to protect myself but being forbidden to do so.  With a mere touch i couldve sent enough joules thru them to turn their bones to dust, or atoms for that matter.  But if Liz Parker’s resurrection caused us trouble, imagine what would happen if we were branded violent aliens who can kill with a mere touch.  We’d be kidnapped by the FBI and disappeared into Syria.

 

Roswell 15: More Than Human

MAX

I am on break from class, hidden, i think, from sight.  Apparently not, because i see Alex but not before he sees me and starts over.  Alex has always been big buddies with Liz and has known her even longer than i have.  IDK him well enough to decide whether i even like him or not.  To me he’s just another nerdy kid with a guitar who has a half-assed garage band and dreams of being a rock star and who is always in a captious mood.

I’ve been listening to something classical and i guess he is drawn by the marvelous chess game of sound.  He comes over to me and stops but does not sit down.

Hey Alex, i say pleasantly.

You like Mozart?  He says incredulously.

Doesnt everyone?

Tum-titty-tum-titty-tum-tum-tum.

I thought everyone liked Mozart, i say.

This seems to infuriate him more.  Dont talk to me about Mozart, he says petulantly.  We musicians are enslaved by his memory.  We’re prisoners of his memory.  Prisoners of Mozart and his eighteenth century music.

I see, i say and nod.  I give up any hope of assuaging him.

Dead composers!  Everybody likes dead composers.  When Mozart was alive they seated him with the servants.  He ended up in a pauper’s grave.

Uh-huh.  You dont really hate Mozart.

Tum-titty-tum-titty-tum-tum-tum.

Consider, i say authoritatively.  The psychological insight, the dramatic integrity, the musical elegance.

Bullshit!

Does your attitude toward dead composers include more recent stuff?

It does.  Same for Kobain and Hendrix and…

IG2G2 class, i say.

 

MARIA

During the Cold War the Stasi were the East German Secret Police, one of the most effectively and successfully repressive of any such cabal in any country behind the Iron Curtain.  They rivaled even the KGB for sheer brutality.  Their headquarters in East Berlin was in a gray, sepulchral building on the Normannenstrasse where many went in but were never seen coming out.   The Sheriff’s office in Roswell, NM is hardly that but to Maria Deluca the difference is one of trifling degree.  To someone with a phobia of snakes a little garter snake the size of a shoelace looks ten feet long and hissing.

Maria has been put in Valenti’s office to wait for a half hour to soften her up before The Man himself comes in to interrogate her.  She is screaming inside as she watches the overhead fan stirring up flies’ corpses on the windowsill where the paint is cracked and where Michael came in to steal a stupid key.

Valenti comes in and sits at his desk and eyeballs her.  Finally he says, What RU afraid of, Miss Deluca?

A lot of things, she says carefully.

You know what i think?  I think somebody’s controlling you.  Controlling you thru fear.  Am i right?

You think someone’s squeezing me?  She says cooly.  That i’m a victim of extortion?

I’m here to help you.  You know that dont you?

Yes, sir.

Then tell me what has you so afraid.  What you saw the night of the Crash Festival?  You were there to meet who?

Nothing, she says awkwardly.  Just headlights.

Was there someone there waiting for you?

IDK.  I was unconscious.

Maria, we both know why we’re here, right?  So what do you say we stop lying to each other. Okay?

Okay, she says.

He comes around the desk and pulls a straight chair over and sits in it assbackward facing her, to be more intimate or more intimidating or both.

Now, he says.  Who is Isabel Evans?

Um, she’s a girl at school.

Why does she make you so nervous?

I’m not nervous.

Isabel and her brother Max.  How well do you know them?

Uh, not well, Maria says.  Not well at all.

You know, i think you and i have something in common.  I never got to know my father very well either.  He was a sheriff around here 40 years ago.  Did you know that?

No, sir.

Yeah, he was.  A strong man.  And he had this theory, you know, about aliens.  That they were real.  Sounds awfully silly, doesnt it?

Yes, sir.

That’s what everybody thought.  But my father was a very stubborn man.  And he wouldnt let it go.  He believed.  And he lost his job over it.  And he lost his family over it.  Now i would hate to see that happen to any other family in town, wouldnt you?

Yes, sir.

Now there’s one more thing that you and i have in common, isnt there?  We’ve both seen things recently that have made us start to wonder.  Made us question ourselves, our beliefs.  And if we share those things with each other we’re both going to feel a lot safer.

Maria is crying now.  Silently, in little sobs, but she is crying.  Valenti thinks he’s got her.

Now, Valenti says.  Isabel Evans.  She’s just a girl?

She’s a special girl, Maria says.

And what makes her so special?

Where she comes from.

Where is she from?  Maria, where are they from?  Where do they come from?

A very nice family, Maria says, drying her tears with the back of her hand.  And like you said Sheriff, we wouldnt want to destroy any other families, would we?

 

MAX

Waiting with Liz and Michael and Izzie in the back lobby of the school.  It’s deathly quiet now because everyone else is in class.  We all have a free period and would rather be somewhere else than this sewer.  There’s always a shithouse smell of ancient urine that no amount of disinfectant can completely remove.  We decided to wait here for Maria.  She agreed to come back here after Valenti interrogated her.  If she doesnt it’ll mean she talked and then IDK what we’ll do.

Michael paces the floor, his hands jammed into his pants pockets.  Liz is sitting quietly next to me.  Izzie is sitting with her arms around her knees, silent as a corpse.  I rarely see her this quiet so it’s easy for me to forget how vulnerable and frail she is under all the bluster.

IDK, Liz says.  Maria was just, like, nervous.

Nervous like overexcited nervous?  Michael says.  Or so nervous she’s gonna crack nervous?

Michael, i’m sorry, Liz says.  I’m not really sure what she’s gonna say.  I’m not sure of anything anymore.

You’re not sure, Michael fumes.  That’s fine.  That’s just great.

Sit down Michael, i say.

He looks at me and finally does what he’s told.

Max, i’m sorry, Liz says.  I never shouldve told Maria in the first place.

Prob’ly not, i say.  But you did it because you trusted her in the first place.  And you needed to tell somebody.  It was only human.

So why did you tell me?

It was more than human, i say, smiling a pallid, wintry smile at her.  You’re both too nervous.  Maria will be fine.

Why, Max?  Because you hope she’ll be?

Any of you take a psychology class?  No?  Sometimes under extreme stress people who are always cool and collected that everyone depends on go completely unglued and the hysterics like Maria become icy calm.

You think Maria will be icy calm?

I’m convinced of it, i say.

 

When Maria walks into the lobby and stops Izzie says, You lied for us, didnt you?

Like a criminal, Maria says.  Because i realized what it’s like to be you.

You look awful, Isabel says.

There is an uncomfortable silence.

Maria says venomously, Yeah, thanks for saving our asses, Maria.  Oh, sure Isabel.  Any time.

After more silence i see that Maria is about to cry or do god knows what else and that somebody needs to do something.  I walk over and stop in front of her and say, Dont ever let anyone tell you that you’re weak, Maria.

No?  She says.

No, i say.  You’re stronger than you know.  And your greatest moment is yet to come.

I carefully embrace her and say, I’m proud of you, my human sister.  You did good.

I give her the lightest of kisses on the cheek, then move back.  I make the sign of the cross and say, I hereby designate you an honorary extraterrestrial.  And that’s an honor that even little Miss Perfect over there…I incline my head toward Liz…that even Liz doesnt have.

Everybody laughs but me and Maria.  I sit down and wait for something to happen.  Maria sniffles and wipes away an inchoate tear and walks away.  Liz starts to get up and walk after her and i say sharply, No!  Leave Maria alone.  She’s fine.  Leave her alone.

Michael gets up and says, I’m outta here.  Izzie drifts silently away like a ghost into the mist.

How did you know?  Liz finally says.

That Maria would be okay?  I didnt.  I’m not a fortune teller.

But you knew!  

I surmised, i say.  But…

You thought she was more afraid of Valenti than you?  Or more afraid of you than Valenti?

Neither, i say.  I think it was because of how Izzie approached her and tried to make nice at the Crashdown.  Izzie’s effort didnt amount to much, but it was something.  And the timing was perfect-it was right before Valenti walked into the Crashdown that time and talked to her.  Maria realized that Valenti was just trying to use her to get at us and that we’d never really done anything to her.

You’re something else, Max, Liz says.

Explain.

One minute you’re sitting there like a Vulcan telling everyone to be calm and the next you’re…you’re handling Maria like some godfather talking up one of his own.

Well.  If i start to get fat Like Tony Sprano, remind me not to eat so goddamn much.  Liz, somebody needed to stroke Maria, a little, and no one else was doing it.

I get up and walk over and look out the window at the urine colored sun.

Do you like sunsets?  I say.

Guess so.  Why?

I think i’m gonna take the jeep out into the desert and look for one.  Come with me, dushka.  We can look at the stars and try to guess which one has my home planet.

Sure, she says.  Why not?

Bring a sweater, i say.  It gets bloody cold out there at night.

Yes, mother, she says.

 

Roswell 14

MAX

At closing time the UFO center is quiet and pleasant as i go inside.  It’s well air conditioned and comfortable.  I think the basement used to be one of those public fallout or blast shelters in the nineteen fifties, so it’s really built.

I stand in the dark watching Milton doing something with the plastic ETs in the exhibits.  I wonder if i could make my eyes glow in the dark; the truth is we havent begun to explore our powers because we’ve always been so busy concealing them, even to ourselves.

I step out of the dark alcove and go over to Ross and say, Excuse me.

It’s closing time, he says brusquely.

It’s Max Evans from yesterday, i say.

Well, he says with fluttering hostility.  I thought you were playing hard to get.

Oh, i wouldnt do a thing like that.  But i do have to go to school, you know…

Alright, kid.  Cut to the chase.  What do you know about 1959?

I thought you had something to show me.

Is that how you want to play it?  He says as he puts his arm around my shoulders and walks me across the room.  Then he says, I’m about to show you unmitigated proof that aliens walk this earth!

He digs in his pocket and roots around in there until he finds his wallet.  As he pulls it open a panoply of credit cards wrapped in plastic tumbles out and he has to dig in there for whatever he’s looking for.  Finally he brandishes an ancient black and white snapshot seamed with age and hands it triumphantly to me.

The photo is of a dorky little kid with Roy Orbison glasses and an ice cream cone in his hand standing in front of an ice cream parlor.  It was obviously taken in the summer because of how he is dressed and because of the tables with beach umbrellas arranged to be just adjacent to the sidewalk.

Ross says, I was that boy next to that alien shadow.  That close.

When i look at the photo again i see a shadow that could have been cast by one of the long, lean aliens that kidnapped Mulder’s sister in The X Files.  Or it could have been cast by practically anything.

Now.  What do you know about 1959?  He demands.

Suppressing laughter i hand the photo back and say, The same thing everybody knows.  That there was a sighting near this ice cream parlor.

Damn, he says, practically dancing in frustration.  I thought you had something.  Listen.  I know you’re hooked.  I can see it in your eyes.  I could use a guy like you around here.

Indeed?

Minimum wage, he cautions.  Long, hard hours.  But just think of the rewards when we make the discovery of a lifetime.  You smoke?

No.

Good.  I cant take any chances with my archives so close.

Archives?  I say,in mild surprise.

Just the most complete collection of UFO facts and findings ever compiled.  Right up those stairs.

You have information on sightings?

Look, i know this is a tourist trap cash cow but every penny i make goes into my research.  Everything you want to know about extraterrestrials since 1947 awaits you behind that door.

Your archives, i say.  Are they open to the public?

Oh, you’re hungrier than i thought.  And you remind me a lot of myself as a confused, pained adolescent.  Ever since then i’ve spent my entire life searching for aliens.  And i swear on my sainted mother’s grave that one day i will stand in front of one of these creatures and say, ‘I told you so.’  Now what about my offer?  What do you think?

When do i start?  I say.

 

MARIA

Maria is working at the Crashdown.  It turns out to be providential that Izzie’s there, smiling pleasantly.  Maria is so torqued out by Izzie that when she turns around she jumps and shrieks when she sees Sheriff Jim Valenti sitting at a table in plain clothes.

Sheriff, Maria says, breathing hard.  What RU doing here?

I enjoyed the Coke so much i decided to have a meal, he says.  Anything special you’d like to tell me about?

No, she says.

Well, the board says you’ve got corned beef hash.

Right.  Sorry.  Uh, yeah, Heavenly Hash special.

Izzie watches all this surreptitiously  but is no longer smiling.

Is that what you recommend?

Oh, absolutely.

You seem to know a lot about what goes on around here so i’ll trust you.

Right.  One Heavenly Hash special.  Uh, to go?

No, he says after specious deliberation.  I think i’ll eat it here this time.  Oh, BTW the insurance company took care of everything.  It’s good to have a strong, dependable institution like that on your side.

Maria is too terrified to even manage a word.  Just a nervous chuckle.  She walks over to the counter to get away from him but he follows her.  Izzie continues to watch with paranoid attention to detail.  It’s all she can do to keep from banging her head against the cheap formica countertop.

How’s your neck?  Valenti says to Maria.

My neck?

Yeah.  That was quite a lick from that car the night of the festival.

Oh, that.  That was nothing.

You seem mighty accident prone lately, though.  Tell you what.  Why dont you stop by my office tomorrow.  You and i can talk.

Okay, Maria says in her smallest voice.

Oh, he says.  I think i’ll take that order to go, he says.

 

IZZIE

Izzie sits across the desk from Topolsky.  It’s time to go over the career planning questionnaire everybody filled out.

You said in our first meeting you wanted to be a supermodel, Topolsky says.

You work with what you’re given, Izzie says with a condescending smile.

That’s quite a jet-set career for someone who puts family first, craves security and stability and leans toward caregiving fields, Topolsky says as she hands the print out to Izzie, who pretends to study it before she hands it back.

Well, i never did trust computers, Izzie says.