T’other day I walked up the holler to ask Uncle Hant about space aliens. It’s because Hant knows everything ? most nearly.
It was spring and birds were hooting and hollering in the rail cut through the woods to Hant’s place and bugs were shrieking. The he-bugs, anyway. They rub their legs together like fiddle bows and screech so maybe the she-bugs will get smitten and the he-bugs will get laid. Then she goes away and leaves his kids in a pile under a leaf, all twelve million of them, and he never sees them. I don’t see how evolution’s made much difference.
We get lots of space aliens in West Virginia, like May flies around a porch light. Nobody knows why. Maybe they like trailer parks. Some folks reckon they believe the satellite dishes are little cute saucers and come to visit. Anyway, last week Miss Brody Lou Callister, that nice old-maid librarian, was down by the rusty tipple by the tracks. Sure enough, this strange light came from up in the air, the way it always does, and sucked her up like a Hoover-matic. She met Elvis and Hitler and got the weird sexual examination. Well, she pitched a tent by that tipple and lives there, hoping.
Hant was out back at his still, cutting wood to fire the cooker. He’s a real moonshiner, and sells to yuppies out of DC. Actually he gets authentic bulk-lot alcohol from Buffalo, Moonshine Flavor from an outfit in Taiwan that does coal-tar chemistry, and real antique stoneware jugs from a toilet factory in Newark. He adds a little rust-dissolver to give it a kick. He says they got lots of yuppies in Washington, so a few here and there don’t matter.
“Hant, you have to tell me about space aliens, and Extra Terrestrial Intelligence.” He’s a long tall sucker, kind of stiff with age now, and looks like nine miles of bad road. He wears a floppy hat that you just know used to be something else before the flatbed ran over it.
He leaned on his ax so he’d be picturesque and said, “Son, if it’s terrestrial intelligence, it damn sure ain’t extra.”
Sometimes Hant’s hard to talk to. I tried again.
“Hant, the lady on the satellite said this flatlander scientist named Serge done gone and hooked together about a million computers to find space aliens. I reckon he’s one of them Russians. Probably a comminest.”
He sat on a stump and reached for a jug. He’s got a jaw like a backhoe that needs to shave and doesn’t look natural unless he’s leaning on something. Of course, he usually is.
“Want a swig?” he asked.
“That death dew got rust-cutter in it?”
“Not hardly. I like the enamel on my teeth. This here’s Beam. Who’s this Serge rascal?”
“Serge for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence. That CNN lady said the Air Force has a whole barn full of space aliens in New Mexico. And they think space is just crawling with them.”
“Can’t be,” he said. He had that smug look he gets, like a man that’s got a date with somebody else’s wife and just drew five aces too.
“Can’t be anything in space, or it wouldn’t be space. Ain’t nothing there. That’s how you can tell it’s space. Any fool knows that.”
I hadn’t thought about it that way. Hant’s pretty smart, considering he don’t exist. He’s just a filament of the imagination.
“Maybe they ain’t in space, but the CNN lady said a flying saucer crashed out in Roswell, that’s a town in New Mexico. They got’em stacked up like cord wood and the Feddle Gummint wants to find more.”
Hant got that funny embarrassed look like he wanted to change the subject.
“The Feddle Gummint couldn’t find next week with a month to hunt.” He was quiet for a moment. Then he took a big three-gurgle hit on the jug and looked thoughtful. I could tell he was about to show off.
“I remember that night. I guess it was my fault.” You could see he was proud of himself.
I figured he must have got a running start on that jug before I got there.
“Ol’ Joe Float come up that night and bought two gallons of shine. Yep, it was my fault.”
Joe Float was the local drunk when I was just a kid. His name wasn’t really Float, but he drank so much people thought he ought to, so that’s what they called him.
“Next morning we found him in a field that was scorched in a circle. The jugs was next to him, empty, but he was stone cold sober. We were afraid the shock might kill him.”
From all I heard about old Joe, being sober would at least have confused him considerable. He hadn’t tried it since he was about nine years old.
“I guess them old space aliens must of sampled that panther sweat. Joe said that saucer was flying upside down and sideways before it spit him out. Everybody just rattled around, Hitler and Judge Crater and the Lost Tribe. ?Course they didn’t have Elvis yet.”
“Hant, you aren’t making this up, are you?”
He didn’t say anything for a minute, just looked at me all sorrowful like he’d just noticed that I’d poisoned him.
“It’s getting so don’t nobody trust a literary apparition these days. Seems like it ain’t worth getting out of bed in the morning.”
He was just trying to be pitiful. You couldn’t get him out of bed before noon with a bird dog and a buzz saw.
Still, he could have been telling the truth. They made this movie once in Bluefield about space monsters that crashed in the mountains and starting turning folks into cocoons. People would go out at night and you’d find them hanging in trees, all wrapped up. They looked like big tent-caterpillar nests.
It must have been a pretty good movie because it played in drive-ins all over the country and everybody said the teenagers would have liked it if they’d seen it. The reviewer in Wheeling gave it three thumbs up, and ever since then Hollywood’s tried to get movies reviewed in West Virginia.
So maybe that’s what happened. Seems like space aliens don’t drive too good anyway, and with that brain paralyzer Hant makes, they wouldn’t have a chance.
I told you Hant knows everything.