Jedediah, Memaw, the Skeet, and a New Window by Jeff Stehman

Jedediah was strolling down the trail one fine autumn evening, shotgun across his shoulder, when he found the alien. It looked like one of the bug types, with a thorax and six long spindly limbs, but it had the hood up on its saucer and was fiddling underneath, so Jedediah couldn’t get a good look at its head.

“Got a spot of trouble?”

The alien banged its head against the hood, hissed something Jedediah figured he was happy not to understand, and extracted itself from the engine. It was a skeet, with big black eyes and a long proboscis. It hissed and buzzed at Jedediah.

“Sorry, I don’t speak skeet.”

The alien fussed around, pulled out a small box, and flipped a switch. A red light came on. The skeet held the box out toward Jedediah, who spoke slowly into it.

“Jedediah. ‘Merican. Earth.”

A light on the box turned green. The skeet clipped the box onto its utility belt. “How about now?”

“Loud and clear,” Jedediah said. “Having some engine trouble?”

“Yes, dagnabbit. Heck of a place to get stuck, too.”

“Have you checked the flux capacitor?”

“This is a spacecraft, not a time machine.” Skeets didn’t have much in the way of facial expression, but judging by the pause before it spoke, the reply was a bit snippy.

Jedediah stepped closer to the engine and tapped the barrel of his shotgun against a large cylinder. “Flux capacitor.”

“Well, I’ll be.”

“Yep, it’s amazing how similar FTL and time travel are.” Jedediah leaned in and sniffed. “Smells fried all right. When these things go, they often take the flange modulator with ’em. I don’t know why they put the two in line. Just lucky you were sublight when it went.”

The skeet turned to Jedediah. “I’m Curtis.”

“How do.”

“Can you to fix it?”

“Sorry, I’m doing good just keeping my truck going. Can’t get the parts ’round here anyway. Have you called for service?”

“Yes, but they said they won’t be here until this afternoon.”

“Galactic time? Wouldn’t that be next week?”

Curtis looked up in thought. “Dang it! That is many of your days, and I’m getting hungry!” It looked at Jedediah, its proboscis quivering.

“Getting dark, too,” Jedediah said. “Tell you what. Why don’t you come up to the shack? Memaw brewed up some ice tea earlier today.”

“Sweetened?”

“It don’t come any other way.”

“Thank you so much—” Curtis stopped and looked back at its ship. “Umm…”

“Oh, it’ll be fine.”

“I was thinking of myself. We’re not supposed to go outside the range of the ship’s defenses.”

“Gotta personal shield, don’tcha? That oughta stop buckshot.”

Curtis looked at Jedediah. Its proboscis quivered again. “Very well. Lead on.”

They passed the time with small talk, although Curtis seemed awfully interested in how many people lived in the hollow.

“Memaw!” Jedediah said, clomping up the stairs. “We got a guest. Can you bring some ice tea?”

“Be right there!”

Jedediah led Curtis into the sitting room.

“Here we are.” Memaw carried a tray into the room.

“Memaw, this is Curtis. Having some engine trouble. I thought he could wait here for the tow.”

“Of course!” She handed Curtis a glass.

“Thank you kindly.” Curtis inserted its proboscis into the glass and sucked down the tea. Curtis quivered once, twice, and sighed. “Delightful. Thank you so much. So, just you two out here?”

“That’s right,” said Memaw.

“And, Jedediah, you said no neighbors close by? It sounds very peaceful.”

“That’s the way we like it. Ain’t that right, Memaw.”

Curtis drew a slender wand from its belt and pointed it at Jedediah. “That’s the way I like it too. You’ve been mighty kind, but I’m afraid I’m gonna have to—”

“Curtis?” said Memaw.

When Curtis turned its head to look at her, she sprayed him in the face with Bug-B-Done. Jedediah hit the floor as the skeet convulsed, triggering its weapon and disintegrating a two-foot round hole in the wall. It dropped the wand, convulsed again, then a third time before toppling over. It landed flat on its back, limbs curled up over its body.

“Nice shooting, Memaw.” Jedediah climbed to his feet. “Good thing they still use gas permeable shields in these parts

“Oh, look at that.” Memaw pointed at the hole in the wall. “What a lovely place for a window.”

“Tell you what,” Jedediah said. “You call them gov’ment boys and let them know we got another one. I’ll look for a piece of glass that might cover that hole. I gotta go to the shed to reset the flux disruptor anyway.”


Jeff and his wife live in the woods of northern Minnesota, where he divides the seasons into canoeing, cross-country skiing, and those few weeks in between when his writing output improves. His fiction has appeared in Daily Science Fiction, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Jim Baen’s Universe, and the Unidentified Funny Objects anthology from UFO Press.

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