Bewildering Stories

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The Further Misadventures of Who and What — The Bovine Trouble

by Jason Akers

Horace James had seen a lot of strange things in his life. Most of the strange things he had sighted while he sat atop his rusty old tractor. Most of the things he had seen had been the result of equal parts combination of a faulty carburetor and sunstroke. He had never seen anything like the silver object that streaked past his house that late summer night however.

Based on a rough visual trajectory, the object would have landed in one of Horace’s backfields. Horace decided on the standard redneck way of welcoming the visitors. He grabbed his Remington shotgun from the antlers of a deer head and racked the slide.

“Wo—man!” he yelled, “Where’s my dern buckshot et?”

She came into the room where Horace was gazing down the shotgun barrel and she had a big iron pan in her right hand.

“Quit yer yellin’ old man. I aint seen yer damned ole bullets,” his wife Maureen bellowed loudly.

“I’ll knock ya into tommorow,” he threatened.

“I’d jes like to see ya try,” came the pretty standard response.

“I’ll do it.”

“Try it.”

“Ah,” Horace exclaimed as he grabbed a handful of number 7 Π shotshells. He kicked the squeaky screen door open as he was shoving the shells into the magazine. He dropped some on the ground but he stepped over them in disregard.

“I’m gonna see what all that dern commotion was woman,” he said. “When I git back, you better have some supper cooked.”

“I hope its aliens,” she said in her best mocking voice, “an I hope they eat you, asshole an all!”

He didn’t stick around to listen to her last exchange. He racked a shell into the chamber and headed to the now glowing backfield. He passed the first rise into the first field and the glow was more pronounced. Over the second rise he suddenly came upon a strange scene.

He ran and hid where he had a good view of the silver object. Large floodlights illuminated the field around the object. Horace could see his cows sleeping around the ship. He pointed the barrel of the shotgun toward the ship just in case and waited.

Slowly the ramp to the silver craft opened and two small pale green figures walked down the ramp. The theme of 2001: A Space Odyssey played from the ship’s loudspeakers.

Horace could hear voices but they originated inside his mind. He could tell by their motions that the voices came from the two creatures, “...and these Earthlings find the biggest bovine and they push and push and the bovine falls over. Isn’t that funny What?”

“That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard Who,” What said. “We did not travel One hundred and sixty nine light years just to go cow-tipping. Our mission is to bring one of these bovine back with us. You know how the Grand Prime loves steak.”

But Who just chuckled stupidly, “sixty nine, sixty nine.”

What slapped him as hard as his little green hand could muster and he quieted.

Horace watched in amazement. He contemplated blasting away but he decided that he should see what they were up to first.

Who and What walked over to one of the few cows that was standing and awake. Carefully they positioned themselves directly before what they had assumed was the front of the bovine.

“Greetings bovine,” What began, “please come with us. We require your uh... wisdom on our planet. Yeah... that’s it... your wisdom.”

“Mooooooooo,” the cow said at the opposite end.

What angrily grabbed Who, “I think we were talking to the wrong end.”

Horace was forced to cover his mouth, lest his laughter convey his covert position to the invaders.

The two aliens repositioned themselves in front of the cow’s real head. What repeated the request for the bovine to board their ship.

“Mooo...oooo,” the cow answered angrily.

“It is clear that we will have to take this creature by force Who,” What said sternly.

With all of their collective might, the two diminutive creatures pushed and What even went to the front and pulled, trying to budge the mammoth beast but it did not budge.

The cow ‘opened’ up and Who evacuated the area quickly as a burst of gas issued forth. He sniffed and curled up his face where a nose might have been.

“Methane,” Who said. “What, I have an idea,” he stated.

What quit pulling and the two conferred silently for a moment where the cow could not hear. What nodded and Who ran back onto the ship for a moment and then back out. He held a strange device in his right hand. The two visitors went to the rear of the bovine again and waited.

When the cow opened up again to expel the methane, Who acted. He lit the strange device and pressed it to the opening. At once a massive blue flame erupted from the rear of the cow and it rocketed forward and not of its own power and at the same time of its own power.

“Moooooooooeeeeee!” the cow exclaimed in surprise as it streaked through the night.

It shot across the field and hit the silver spacecraft several feet from the ramp; its intended destination. With a mighty thud the bovine lay dead on the ground.

Horace was beginning to understand why he was always hearing about mutilations in the supermarket papers. If these things had that much trouble getting a whole cow on board, it would be a lot easier to take only what was needed.

The thought had no sooner than crossed Horace’s redneck mind than he saw the aliens emerging from the ship with devices that looked like laser pointers. They walked to the cow and began to survey where they would cut.

What switched on his laser and pointed it near the bovine’s neck. His cuts were clean, symmetrical and purposeful.

Contrastingly, Who was having more difficulties. He switched on his laser clumsily, “Hey What, watch me write my name in the cow.”

What sighed and continued cutting.

Horace decided that he had seen enough. He figured he could get a pretty penny for an alien. Dead or alive, it didn’t really matter. Slowly he flanked the invaders and snuck up behind where the small figures were hunched down doing their work. He admired the silver ship as he snuck closer.

When he came to an acceptable distance he brought the shotgun to bear and clicked the safety off.

“Did you fart,” Who asked What amid the stench of the bovine.

“It is the bovine, dumbass,” What answered.

Horace cleared his throat and the aliens both quickly stood and turned. They hid the lasers behind their backs.

“Jes what do yall think yer doing?” Horace asked.

“Yall?” What asked.

“Yall!” Horace said.

“Oh, you mean ‘you all’,” What said.

“Make fun of my grammer will ye?” Horace said as he sighted down the shotgun barrel.

The two aliens stood with shaky legs.

“What are you...all doin’ here?” Horace asked again more properly.

“Uh...,” Who said.

“Your bovine was ill sir, we were trying to repair it,” What answered.

“Really?” Horace asked, obviously fooled. “What xactlys wrong with it?”

“Uh...,” What stuttered.

“Deviated Septum,” Who answered quickly.

“Yeah...that’s it,” What said. “I’m afraid it will have to be put down.”

Horace teared up and stumbled over to the cow. He laid his head on the huge furry bulk and sobbed, “Oh Bessy. I always liked you best.” He turned to Who and What, “I think she’s already dead.”

Who wiped away a tear.

“Mr...,” What tried.

Horace got back to his feet and introduced himself as he wiped away his tears, “James, Mr. James.”

“Mr. James,” What continued, “coincidentally we require bovine flesh on our planet. There is a great shortage of it there. We will trade you items of advanced technology for a cut or two of this animal.”

“Some coinkedink you got there little feller,” Horace said as best he could with a fresh pinch of tobacco. “What kind of vanced things you got?”

Who ran onto the ship and came back with an armful of assorted gadgets and gizmos. He laid them on the ground before Horace who stared in awe.

What picked one object up and held it before Horace, “this is a shrink ray.”

“Do you have any largement rays?” Horace asked with obvious evil thoughts on his mind.

What shook his head and picked up another larger silver device with flashing red and blue buttons, “This is an ionic air freshener.”

“I seen one of those on TV,” Horace said.

“This one does have a peculiar side effect Mr. James,” What argued. “It seems to block out all vocalizations by females on your planet.”

Horace’s eyes lit up in wonderment, “I could use me one of them, boys.”

Horace spent the greater part of the night helping Who and What butcher the ‘bovine’. He showed them where the best cuts were and how to cook it. He told them which had the best flavor and how to season the meat properly.

Afterwards he led his new friends to his moonshine still, which happened to be located not more than a hundred yards from the ship. For most of the night the three drank and told stories about their misadventures in life. As everyone knows, aliens can’t hold their liquor very well but their efforts were admirable.

At dawn he watched the silver saucer-shaped craft shakily lift off and fly out into the cosmos.

“Drive safe,” he yelled as he lost sight of the craft though shine-goggles.

When Horace came staggering through the creaky screen door, his wife Maureen was waiting with a rolling pin and a mean scowl on her face. Horace smelled of shine and he was covered in blood from the butchered cow.

“Where in the hell have you been?” She asked.

“You wouldn’t believe you if I told me,” he drunkenly sputtered.

She cracked him right across the forehead with the rolling pin and he staggered backward. Then her tirade began.

“Of all the low down dirty things. I don’t even wanna know where that blood came from. Ye aught to be shamed of yourself Horace. You’ve been out gallivantin’ again and I won’t stand fer it...”

She droned on in the background as he remembered the device in the front pocket of his coveralls. He produced it from his pocket and pushed the two red buttons, just like his friends had shown him.

“You do it again an...” she went silent.

Her mouth moved but no words came out, and strangely, the room smelled like lavender. Horace sniffed willingly and sighed contentedly.

********** DISCLAIMER **********

No cows were harmed in the making of this short story (no real cows anyway).


Copyright © 2002 by Jason Akers