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HOT LINE

by Bill Vernon

 

I was making my assigned calls, part of my work at the Women's Center Hot Line, talking to Janeen Wilson, when I heard this light tapping on the door. Seemed like nothing more than the wind kicking up dirt against the house so I just went on and said, "Hope you was awake to see the pretty sun that come up over Big Nose Butte. It's gone from an orangish-red to a yellow that was so bright, it blinded me, coming in the winder." She said, "Hell, I can't see Big Nose, girl. I'm ten miles west of you, clear cross town with a big condo spoilin' my view ever which way I look. You're in the last house on the eastern edge of the city, and I hope you know how lucky you are?"

I could hear her slurping coffee and, in between swallows, snorting. Crabby, a handful when she first got up, but I like cantankerous women, and she was definitely in the running to become my best friend. We'd met in the support group called Women Against Common Killer Ordeals, or WACKO. I asked, "So, you doing all right? That male chauvinist pig been giving you any grief?"

"Hah! Henry won't show his self around here! He knows I'd take a piece out of his hide, and I can tell you for sure it'd be a piece he'd miss a whole lot."

Course, I cackled. She was something! Then the tapping on the door got louder, like it might actually be somebody there and not just little pebbles hitting the wood.

"I got to go, honey," I said. "You have a nice day."

"Ever day's nice since my divorce." She hung up.

I did too, went to the back door and flung it open.

"Howdy," said this little toad-like man standin' there.

Course, I got upset right off. Not only was he ugly, but why in the hell was a man in my backyard -- if you could call it a yard. I glanced over his head at nothing but miles of sagebrush and tumbleweed out there, rising up into low purple ridges and, behind them, the high, tan mountains.

Then it hit me. That critter was standing there naked as a jaybird -- except for this maroon ten-gallon hat on his head. Who'd ever seen one colored like that? I mean this guy was like something from a bogus tourist trap. If that hat was real Mex, there'd be tassels and beads and doodads hanging all over it.

Plus it looked as big as his whole body, which itself wasn't much to look at, if you want my opinion. He didn't have one bulging muscle, and his do-whopper was so small, I couldn't even see it. Fact is, I told him to wait a minute, went to the sink, got my glasses on, came back, had another good look and figured it musta been curled up somehow down there between his scrawny legs. Frankly, I'd seen better looking legs on chickens I ate at that fancy buffet I go to on the res a couple miles north of my place.

"Okay," I said, "what you want?"

Then I realized he didn't have no mouth and I figured, what the hell! Here I was stuck with a deaf mute. Wait a minute. He had said hello before.

Sure enough, I heard him plain as day. "I'm real thirsty. Can you gimme something to drink."

I laughed. "You a ventriloquist or something?" Weirdest damn thing. I heard words, but where'd the sound come from? Skin didn't move one bit on his face. Plus, I wondered, how's he gonna drink anything? That I had to see. "Come on in here, boy, or whatever you are. I got all the water you want to drink."

I dipped a tin cup of water out of my pail, handed it to him, and watched. He raised it up to his eyes, and out of each socket at the lower corner next to where a nose should be, from beneath each big-ole dark eyeball, came a white tube like an elastic straw. They dipped down into the glass, emptied it in a second, withdrew back into the head, and he gave my glass back.

"Boy, you're full of tricks. Want some more?"

"No thankee, ma'am," I heard so he musta said it. "You can answer me this. What's a doodad and a do-whopper? I never come across them words before. They the same thing?"

I stared at him for a second, then laughed and just at the last second stopped my right hand from slapping his thin little shoulder. Mighta knocked him over. "Well, they both dangle down, but they is different."

"Aha, so I see," he said, leaning his head my way.

I could feel it then. His mind was penetrating mine. He was in there rummaging around like my brains were a closet he could look through and take out whatever he wanted.

"Stop that," I said. "What you're doing's a violation of my right to privacy. Ain't no one allowed in my mind unless I let 'em. Plus, I don't know if you're getting the right idea of what I'm thinking anyways."

"Maybe you're right," he said. "Doodad don't come across to me very clear, but this here has to be what you mean by a do-whopper."

With that, he held his right hand up, pointed with his index finger, and lo-n-behold it swelled up, got real red, glowed on the end, and became the exact picture of what had been more than once in my dreams.

"My God! It's a miracle," I gasped, thinking quick. "Look here, stranger. I heard tell how you all do inspections of us earth people. See, I reckernized you right off 'cause I was born and raised in Roswell where we learn 'bout creatures like you from the minute we start bulging up in our mama's belly. So I'll tell you right off, I volunteer. This here kitchen table's as good a place as any to have your way with me. I mean for you to examine my body. Give me a second to take off my duds and you can get at it."

Wasn't but a second until I was laying there like a human sacrifice spread out on the altar before him. "I believe in world peace," I told him. "Universal peace for that matter."

He didn't say a word, but I could feel him crawling around in my mind again, wiggling around, stumbling, reminding me of a pinball bouncing from one thing to another. Like many men before him, he didn't know what to do next.

"Come over here beside me, you big ole green horny toad. I'll show you just how a woman's body operates. My name's Evelyn, by the way. Evie for short. What's yours?"

"Chester," I heard. My favorite, most romantic name in the whole language! I was already imagining Chesty Puller standing right there where that little green man was. I'm an ex-Marine, see, and he's one of my all-time heroes.

"Howdy do," I said, shaking his hand. And shaking and shaking his hand, and shakin' it even some more if you all have to know the truth.

I got to thinking as our love transpired that maybe what I had there was the kinda man I'd always needed. Seemed like he'd do whatever I said, didn't have to ask what I wanted, and understood pretty good what I meant. Plus he was half my size so I could kick his ass out real easy if he ever gave me any problems.

Okay, he was a little different, but I thought this might be the start of something big. Maybe, it occurred to me, the start of a whole 'nother species.*

  

Story copyright © 1999 by Bill Vernon <verwill@aol.com>

Illustration copyright © 1999 by Andrew G. McCann <andy@planetmag.com>

 

 

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