Me and Penny were out on the back porch resting our bones when it happened, and truth be told, if we’d still been in the kitchen putting up them sweet Elberta peaches, we would’ve plumb missed it. It was that unspectacular.
It came down out of the dusky sky on a glimmer of light and a whooshing whisper of sound, a thin trail of dark smoke whipping the air behind it like a pissed-off sidewinder, and landed somewhere on yon side of the corn patch. A bit of a rumble followed, vibrating the boards under my bare feet and Penny’s white belly.
Penny raised her head off her paws, her yellow ears perking up. I leaned forward and eyed the deepening shadows amongst the drying cornstalks t’other side of the back-yard fence, wondering what might’ve come down.
An August-sticky breeze ruffled the stringy brown tassels hanging on the few remaining corn ears, and fanned out over the porch, bringing with it the acrid smell of something burning. Not wood. Not dead grass. Not old tires. It was a burn I didn’t know.
I squinted harder into that dark nest of corn, a tad-bit of unease settling inside my gut. I wondered what might be hidden by that corn patch. Little gray men or some such aliens? Pshaw—most likely, just one of them there space rocks had come down.
I reached down and ran my hand over Penny’s back. “Now ain’t we a sight, two squirrely old gals skeert of a rock.”
Penny’s head came up a couple more notches. She flicked her ears. Then with a grunt that sounded a whole lot like me when I rolled out of bed of a morning, she got to her feet and walked over to the edge of the porch. And whined.
Knees popping, I pushed out of the cane-back rocker and shuffled up beside her. “Something out there, gal?” Though Penny was older than me in dog years, her hearing still beat mine any day of the week. Why, she could hear Isabelle’s car when it was still more than a mile off. Yep, when I saw Penny crawling up under the bed, I knew that in a few minutes I’d see my granddaughter’s black Explorer come bouncing around the curve out by the mailbox, bringing groceries and her two rambunctious boys for their weekly visit.
Penny looked up at me and chuffed softly. A milky film covered her blind eye, but the good one was as clear as it’d been when she was a pup, and every bit of her smarts still shined bright in it. And it was telling me there was something out there all right, but it weren’t nothing to be skeert of.
Now, I’d always been a curious sort–that’s how come I’d ended up having Josh six months after me and Pap had gotten hitched up–and Penny too, so I figured neither one of us would rest easy till we’d seen what was out there.
“Well, I reckon we’d best go have a look before it gets dark.” I went back inside the peach-smelling kitchen, rounded up a flashlight and my cane, then pulled on the stiff boots that’d belonged to Pap before he’d passed.
Penny was waiting for me at the bottom of the steps. It took me a while to maneuver my way down them, but she sat there like she had all the time in the world, that whatever lay on the other side of the corn patch would still be there when we got there. And if it weren’t, well, most likely it wasn’t worth seeing anyway.
The sunbaked grass crunched under Pap’s boots. If something had been stomping this a’way through the corn, I couldn’t have heard it for all the racket I was making. Made me kind of nervous, the not hearing. But Penny didn’t look nervous, just curious, so I did my best not to be nervous either. Continue reading