by Stephen Graham Jones

photo courtesy of Jerry Lodriguss

Every time Donald saw a UFO, he got an erection. The problem, of course, was that UFO’s didn’t seem to be quite as common a phenomenon as they’d been in his youth. Dr. Collins smiled politely, in appreciation, and studied the holes in the tops of his loafers.

“So what you need then . . . ” Dr. Collins said, narrowing his eyes to keep up, to record all this for his wife, “what you need is some way of bringing the aliens back, yes?”

Donald didn’t have to look away to answer. There was never any eye contact during the examinations. Dr. Collins had given up on that years ago; it was why he’d had the large window cut into the room – to give his patients trees to study, birds, squirrels, life. Anything but the fourteen -thousand dollar chair in the corner, the tile around it splashed with iodine.

“Maybe if they could just do a flyby once a week or something,” Donald said, smiling. “Flash their lights a little for the wife, y’know?”

The wife. Dr. Collins filed that one away too, crossed the floor to the side counter, for the prescription tablet he had to keep locked in the drawer now. The reason for Donald’s visit, according to the chart he’d filled out in the waiting room, was prostate, which he’d spelled prostrate. It meant to throw oneself facedown on the ground in humility.

Without looking up from his tablet, Dr. Collins asked, “Is that all you need, then? Some more, um . . . close encounters?”

“You can arrange them?” Donald said, his voice rising, incredulous, his hands gripping the examination table.

Dr. Collins signed his name with a flourish, letting the s trail out longer than usual – a comet tail, he thought – and shrugged for Donald, said, “You still have to provide the candles, I guess.”

Donald laughed with him, and for a moment they were just two gentlemen from different generations, each raised well enough to know how to discuss delicate subject matter. The way Dr. Collins would tell it to his wife, he knew, would involve some of the things he should have said, about implants, maybe, about how the discs they were both talking about were essentially the same, it was just a matter of scale, of provenance: one came glittering down from the sky, the other across the counter of a pharmacy. But then Donald stepped down, took the prescription Dr. Collins was offering. He looked from it up to Dr. Collins, then out the window again.

“I assure you -” Dr. Collins started, trying not to smile.

Donald didn’t let him finish, interrupted not so much with words but by centering Dr. Collins in his old man eyes, his face still angled slightly away, as if he were embarrassed.

“I think you maybe misunderstand, Doc,” he said, still picking through his words in a way that Dr. Collins could tell there were a lot not being said. “I didn’t get the hard – I didn’t get excited about the UFO’s myself, see. No, no. They never were much but a bother to me, with what they did to the corn and all.”

Now he was handing the prescription back. Dr. Collins looked at it between them like it was from another planet, and from it up to Donald, just as alien now.

“Then . . . what?” he said, not sure if he should be ready to smile or not.

Donald shrugged, rubbed his rough chin with the side of his hand in a way that Dr. Collins couldn’t tell if it was the hand itching or the chin.”The wife, I mean, y’know?” he said finally, looking outside now, but up, too. Dr Collins looked with him. “Every time they buzzed our house back then, me, I’d go for the barn, to keep the horses from kicking their stall doors out. But the wife, she’d run out after them, see? Then come back – God – come back to the porch an hour or two later, corn silk in her hair, spider web trailing off thesleeves of her dress like a shawl I guess, her chest just rising and . . .”

Dr. Collins studied the sky long after Donald was gone, his new prescription not a prescription at all, but a referral, for his prostate, spelled without the r. That’s what he had really been there for. Dr. Collins didn’t tell his wife about that part of it, though. Instead, the next morning, Saturday, he found himself awake in the house earlier than usual. No coffee in the air, no cars outside. Just dawn, seeping in through the blinds over the kitchen window in beams that, for a moment, seemed to be feeling, scanning.

Dr. Collins – Stan on the weekends – walked through the beams to the front door, and out onto the different world of the porch, the automatic sprinklers flowing up into silvery mushrooms, the whole landscape of the neighborhood suddenly alien, so that, until his wife came gasping up from
the street, her morning run complete, he knew he believed.

“Getting too old for this,” his wife said when she could, her hands made into fists around the knees of her sweatpants, her lungs trying to wring all the oxygen they could from Earth’s thin atmosphere, and Dr. Collins shook his head no about that. She wasn’t.

Stephen Graham Jones is the author of three novels: The Fast Red Road-A Plainsong, All the Beautiful Sinners, and The Bird is Gone: A Manifesto. His first book of stories, Bleed into Me, was recently published by University of Nebraska Press. His latest novel, Demon Song, is forthcoming from MacAdam/Cage. An Assistant Professor of English at Texas Tech University, Jones is really, really into Elvis.

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