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by Kevin Grauke

Walker Pinkston claims to have something locked away in a safe at his house. He tends to bring it up only after he’s had too much to drink down at the Chaparral.

“Do you know what happened two hundred miles west of here in 1947?” This is how he tends to get warmed up if you’re not a regular on the barstool next to him. You shouldn’t do this, but if you tell him you don’t, he’ll remind you all about Roswell, New Mexico, and the alien spaceship that crashed there. “Of course, the government said it was nothing but an experimental weather balloon, but who believes that horseshit?” Without waiting for you to respond, he’ll plow on, pushing the calendar back twelve years further, back to April 14, 1935, the day that came to be forever known as Black Sunday. “That’s the day the worst dust storm in American history hit, in case you didn’t know. The wind moved three hundred million tons of topsoil from one place to another like it was no more than a single grain of sand. And in the middle of all that, do you know what happened?” At this point, he’ll stare at you silently for too long, even if you’ve already told him you don’t know. “A flying saucer choked in the dust cloud and crashed on my granddaddy’s land, that’s what happened. An alien flew all the way here from wherever the hell in outer space it came from, but was it prepared for West Texas during the Dust Bowl? Hell, no. Most of its ship burned up and turned to ash, but Granddaddy was still able to save some and take it home. And since his daughter, my mother, always thought he was at least half a bubble off plumb, I’m the one he passed it down to. And I’ll tell you this, it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Because that’s exactly what it is: nothing you’ve ever seen before.”

Plenty have tried to talk him into showing it to them, but nobody’s ever had any luck, not even Daisy, his ex. If she happens to be at the Chaparral at the same time, she’ll shout from the other end of the bar, “Don’t you listen to him! There’s not a goddamn thing in that safe but stale air!”

He’ll shout back with something about her being nothing but a drunken whore, which inevitably leads to them lumbering toward each other, swinging and swearing and spitting. Drinks spill as all the other drunks do their best to keep them from drawing blood from the other. By the time peace is finally restored, Walker’s usually been flung out the door by the belt and collar, and Daisy’s been escorted to the ladies’ room. Meanwhile, all that talk of alien remnants disappears into the haze of hangovers, not to be remembered by anyone until Walker, drunk at the Chaparral yet again, spies a fresh face at his elbow.

Kevin Grauke grew up in Texas but now lives in Philadelphia. He teaches at La Salle University.