Zero Hour

Oh, I was to be so jolly! What a game! Such excitement they hadn’t known in years. The children catapulted this way and that across the green lawns, shouting at each other, holding hands, flying in circles, climbing trees, laughing. Overhead the rockets flew, and beetle cars whispered by on the streets, but the children played on. Such fun, such tremulous joy, such tumbling and hearty screaming.

               Mink ran into the house, all dirt and sweat. For her seven years she was loud and strong and defiant. Her mother, Mrs. Morris, hardly saw her as she yanked out drawers and rattled pans and tools into a large sack.

“Heavens, Mink, what’s going on?”

“The most exciting game ever!” gasped Kink, pink-faced.

“Stop and get your breath,” said the mother.

“No, I’m all right,” gasped Mink. ”Okay I take these things, Mom?”

“But don’t dent them,” said Mrs. Morris.

“Thank you, thank you!” cried Mink, and (boom) she was gone, like a rocket.

Mrs. Morris surveyed the fleeing tot. “What’s the name of the game?”

“Invasion!” said Mink. The door slammed.

In every yard on the street children brought out knives and forks and pokers and old stovepipes and can openers.

               It was an interesting fact that this fury and bustle occurred only among the younger children. The older ones, those ten years and more, disdained the affair and marched scornfully off on hikes or played a more dignified version of hide-and-seek on their own.

               Meanwhile, parents came and went in chromium beetles. Repairmen came to repair the vacuum elevators in houses, to fix fluttering television sets or hammer upon stubborn food-delivery tubes. The adult civilization passed and repassed the busy youngsters, jealous of the fierce energy of the wild tots, tolerantly amused at their flourishing, longing to join in themselves.

“This and this and this,” said Mink, instructing the others with their assorted spoons and wrenches, “Do that, and bring that over here. No! Here, Ninny! Right. Now, get back while I fix this.” Tongue in teeth, face wrinkled in thought. “Like that. See?”

“Yayyyy!” shouted the kids.

Twelve-year-old Joseph Connors ran up.

“Go away,” said Mink straight at him.

“I wanna play,” said Joseph.

“Can’t!” said Mink.

“Why not?“

“You’d just make fun of us.”

“Honest, I wouldn’t.”

“No. We know you. Go away or we’ll kick you.”

Another twelve-year-old boy whirred by on little motor skates. “Hey, Joe! Come on, Let them Sissies play!”

Joseph showed reluctance and a certain wistfulness. “I want to play,” he said. “You’re old,” said Mink firmly.

“You‘d only laugh and spoil the Invasion.”

Page 2

The boy on the motor skates made a rude lip noise. “Come on Joe, them and their fairies Nuts!” Joseph walked off slowly. He kept looking back, all down the block. Mink was already busy again. She made a kind of apparatus with her gathered equipment. She had appointed another little girl with a pad and pencil to take down notes in painful slow scribbles. Their voices rose and fell in the warm sunlight.

All around them the city bummed. The streets were lined with good green and peaceful trees. Only the wind made a conflict across the city, across the country, across the continent. In a thousand other cities there were trees and children and avenues, businessmen in their quiet offices taping their voices or watching televisors. Rockets hovered like darning needles in the blue sky. There was the universal, quiet conceit and easiness of men accustomed to peace, quite certain there would never be trouble again. Arm in arm, men all over earth were a united front. The perfect weapons were held in equal trust by all nations. A situation of incredibly beautiful balance had been brought about. There were no traitors among men, no unhappy ones, no disgruntled ones; therefore the world was based upon a stable ground. Sunlight illumined half the world and the trees drew in a tide of warm air.

Mink’s mother, from her upstairs window, gazed down. The children. She looked upon them and shook her head. Well, they’d eat well, sleep well, and be in school on Monday. Bless their vigorous little bodies. She listened. Mink talked earnestly to someone near the rose bush—-though there was no one there.

These odd children. And the little girl, what was her name? Anna? Anna took notes on a pad. First, Mink asked the rose bush a question, then called the answer to Anna.

“Triangle,” said Mink.

“What’s a tri,” said Anna with difficulty, “angle?”

“Never mind,“ said Mink.

“How you Spell it?“ asked Anna.

“T-r-i—“ spelled Mink slowly, than snapped, “Oh, spell it yourself!” she went on to other words. “Beam,” she said.

“I haven’t got tri,” said Anna, “angle down yet.”

“Well, hurry, hurry!” cried Mink.

Mink’s mother leaned out the upstairs window. “A-n-g-l—e,“ she spelled down at Anna.

“Oh, thanks, Mrs. Morris,” said Anna.

“Certainly,” said Mink’s mother and withdrew, laughing, to dust the hall with an electro-duster magnet.

The voices wavered on the shimmery air. “Beam,” said Anna. Fading.

“Four-nine-seven-A-and-B-and-X,” said Mink, far away, seriously. “And a fork and a string and a–hex-hex-agony–hexagonal”

At lunch Mink ,gulped milk at one toss and was at the door. Her mother slapped the table.

“You sit right back down,” commanded Mrs. Morris. “Hot soup in a minute.” She poked a red button on the kitchen butler, and ten seconds later something landed with a bump in the rubber receiver. Mrs. Morris opened it, took out a can with a pair of aluminum holders, unsealed it with a flick, and poured hot soup into a bowl.

Page 3

During all this Mink fidgeted. “Hurry, Mom! This is a matter of life and death! Aw—“

“I was the same way at your age. Always life and death. I know.”

Mink banged away at the soup.

“Slow down,” said Mom.

“Can’t,” said Mink. “Drill’s waiting for me.”

“Who’s Drill? What a peculiar name,” said Mom.

“You don’t know him,” said Mink.

“A new boy in the neighborhood?” asked Mom.

“He’s new all right,” said Mink. She started on her second bowl.

“Which one is Drill?” asked Mom.

“He’s around,” said Mink evasively. ”You’ll make fun. Everybody pokes fun. Gee, darn.”

“Is Drill shy?”

“Yes. No. In a way. Gosh, Mom, I got to run if we want to have the Invasion!”

“Who’s invading what?”

“Martians invading Earth. Well, not exactly Martians. They’re–I don’t know. From up.” She pointed with her speed.

“And inside,” said Mom, touching Mink’s feverish brow.

Mink rebelled. “You’re laughing! You‘ll kill Drill and everybody.”

 “I didn’t mean to,” said Mom. “Drill‘s a Martian?”

Part 2 of the story coming next week.

About carolinebotwin

Caroline Botwin and her husband Mike are retired educators who have always had a yen for travelling: he with a PH.D and teaching Architectural Engineering plus California wine education, and she having taught high school English, speech and drama. Both wanted to learn first hand about other cultures. While Mike predominately studied buildings and structures and met with winemakers, Caroline hunted for ancient sites and peoples. And kept journals of all their travels. Kevin Klimczak, extraordinaire, is the website designer and editor of the blogs.
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