Issue 140, Fall 1996
I never thought I could fall for a spaceman. I mean, you see them in the newspaper and they kind of give you the willies, all skinny and hairless and wiggly-looking, and if you touched one, even to shake hands, you just know it would be like when you were about fifteen and you were with an earth boy and you were sweet on him but there was this thing he wanted, and you finally said okay, but only rub-a-dub, which is what we called it around these parts when I was younger, and it was the first time ever that you touched ... well, you know what I’m talking about. Anyway, that’s what it’s always seemed like to me with spacemen, and most everybody around here feels about the same way, I’m sure. Folks in Bovary, Alabama, and environs—by which I mean the KOA camp off the interstate and the new trailer park out past the quarry—everybody in Bovary is used to people being a certain way, to look at and to talk to and so forth. Take my daddy. When I showed him a few years ago in the newspaper how a spaceman had endorsed Bill Clinton for president and they had a picture of a spaceman standing there next to Bill Clinton—without any visible clothes on, by the way—the spaceman, that is, not Bill Clinton, though I wouldn’t put it past him, to tell the truth, and I’m not surprised at anything they might do over in Little Rock. But I showed my daddy the newspaper and he took a look at the spaceman and he snorted and said that he wasn’t surprised people like that was supporting the Democrats, people like that don’t even look American, and I said no, Daddy, he’s a spaceman, and he said people like that don’t even look human, and I said no, Daddy, he’s not human, and my daddy said, that’s what I’m saying, make him get a job.
But I did fall for a spaceman, as it turned out, fell pretty hard. I met him in the parking lot at the twenty-four-hour Wal-Mart. We used to have a regular old Wal-Mart that would close at nine o’clock and when they turned it into a Super Center a lot of people in Bovary thought that no good would come of it, encouraging people to stay up all night. Americans go to bed early and get up early, my daddy said. But I have trouble sleeping sometimes. I live in the old trailer park out the state highway and it’s not too far from the Wal-Mart and I live there with my yellow cat Eddie. I am forty years old and I was married once, to a telephone installer who fell in love with cable TV. There’s no cable TV in Bovary yet, though with a twenty-four-hour Wal-Mart, it’s probably not too far behind. It won’t come soon enough to save my marriage, however. Not that I wanted it to. He told me he just had to install cable TV, telephones wasn’t fulfilling him, and he was going away for good to Mobile and he didn’t want me to go with him, this was the end for us, and I was understanding the parts about it being the end but he was going on about fiber optics and things that I didn’t really follow. So I said fine and he went away, and even if he’d wanted me to go with him, I wouldn’t have done it. I’ve only been to Mobile a couple of times and I didn’t take to it. Bovary is just right for me. At least that’s what I thought when it had to do with my ex-husband, and that kind of thinking just stayed with me, like a grape-juice stain on your housedress, and I am full of regrets, I can tell you, for not rethinking that whole thing before this. But I got a job at a hairdresser’s in town and Daddy bought me the trailer free and clear and me and Eddie moved in and I just kept all those old ideas.
So I met Desi in the parking lot. I called him that because he talked with a funny accent but I liked him. I had my insomnia and it was about three in the morning and I went to the twenty-four-hour Wal-Mart and I was glad it was there and it was open—I’d tell that right to the face of anybody in this town—I was glad for a place to go when I couldn’t sleep. So I was coming out of the store with a bag that had a little fuzzy mouse toy for Eddie, made of rabbit fur, I’m afraid, and that strikes me as pretty odd to kill all those cute little rabbits, which some people have as pets and love a lot, so that somebody else’s pet of a different type can have something to play with, and it’s that kind of odd thing that makes you shake your head about the way life is lived on planet Earth—Desi has helped me see things in the larger perspective— though, to be honest, it didn’t stop me from buying the furry cat toy, because Eddie does love those things. Maybe today I wouldn’t do the same, but I wasn’t so enlightened that night when I came out of the Wal-Mart and I had that toy and some bread and baloney and a refrigerator magnet, which I collect, of a zebra head.
He was standing out in the middle of the parking lot and he wasn’t moving. He was just standing still as a cow and there wasn’t any car within a hundred feet of him, and, of course, his spaceship wasn’t anywhere in sight, though I wasn’t looking for that right away because at first glance I didn’t know he was a spaceman. He was wearing a long black trench coat with the belt cinched tight and he had a black felt hat with a wide brim. Those were the things I saw first and he seemed odd, certainly, dressed like that in Bovary, but I took him for a human being, at least.