Author of The Last Prince of the Mexican Empire, etc.

C.M. Mayo < Publications < Poetry < or Short Fiction <

UFO, 1990


Originally published in Gargoyle #50
Four different people who live near the Grand Forks military base told the newspaper they saw a flying saucer hovering above the football field. One of them is the man who mows the lawn around the nuclear warheads (yep there is someone who does that). His wife trims my hair once a month. Her name is Sharon.
Sharon's feathering my bangs when she tells me her brother just got back from Saudi (yep that's what they call that place).

"Sand bugs ate half his face away," Sharon says, looking carefully at mine in the mirror. "He woke up in his foxhole and when he touched his cheek, he felt bone."

I say, "Yucky," because what else can you say? Last month Sharon told me the PX was selling canned snails. But I don't know Sharon, not really.

She holds the scissors point down above my scalp as she goes on about how they gave her brother plastic surgery and then—her scissor's blades flashing—she tells me what they did is they took skin grafts from his thigh, "which the surgeon said can be—" she turns away and coughs into the sleeve of her shirt—"a surprisingly complex and painful process."

I say, "Sounds like it."

Sharon says, "You betcha." (Yep that's the kind of thing they say around here).

Later, when my hair is perfect, when she's pulled down the strands on each side to be sure they're even (and they are exactly even), I've gone back to thinking about that UFO. A snapshot of Sharon's husband is tucked into the bottom frame of her mirror. He's a heavy set man with kind sleepy looking eyes and a nose that looks like it's been broken, and more than once. He's wearing a UND baseball cap and squinting into the sun as he holds up a wiener on a barbeque fork. I've seen him around. He looks like his picture.

I can see him mowing the lawn around a nuclear warhead, sitting in the little bucket seat rrrr, steering it ‘round the corner. How loud did that UFO have to be for him to look up? Or was it the shadow of thing easing itself by?

I venture, "Your husband is... kind of famous."

Sharon shrugs and says, "Yep," and aiming it like a gun at my ear, she switches on the blow dryer.