"Hoo... Hoo... Hoo...."
It was the weirdest of sounds I had ever heard. If it's Brad, it was utterly uncalled for.
"Brad! Is that you?"
The stove was on and I had a meal to prepare. So I ignored the sound and proceeded with the recipe.
"Place the cleaned vegetables (whole, uncut) in a large pan. Add water and salt and bring to a boil," I read from the recipe.
"Salt!" I often talk to myself, especially when cooking. I call it conversational cooking. From the shelf by the wall, I picked up the salt jar and flipped a half-teaspoonful of its content into the pan.
"Hoo... Maaa....", it came again. It was a booming sound that filled the whole room. Yet I could not locate its source. Deciding to investigate, I grabbed a spatula, which was the handiest object, closed the lid on the pan and tiptoed away from the cooking range. The sound had gone. Except for the gentle hiss of the gas flame, all was quiet.
As I approached the kitchen window, I saw something stir outside. A piece of fur jumped amid the junk lying outside. Then the head came into the view, the mouth holding an oblong, orange-coloured object that was attached to what looked like a lid of a trash can. "Squirrel!" I said aloud, "And just what is he doing with that carrot?"
Just then, the dog jumped sideways, in an undogly sort of way, and started running. Running? But why is he going sideways? The entire carrot-lid assembly moved with him as if being propelled by a mysterious force. I ran to the back door which leads to our junkyard, I mean the backyard, and opening it I yelled, "Squirrel! Come back here!" It was hard to tell who was pulling whom. The next moment, Squirrel and the attachment had jumped in the air, and for a moment I imagined he was hovering, defying gravity! As he touched the ground and went up again, I realized something was amiss and that he was being taken for a ride by something or someone. There are plenty unscrupulous elements in the neighbourhood; even the strays and wild creatures from the woods nearby are often up to some prank, I've come to believe.
"Brad!" I yelled turning my head toward the house but without losing the sight of the airborne dog, "Git me the gun!"
Brad, who's usually hard of listening, responded promptly to the word 'gun' and appeared in the doorway, almost instantly.
"What the – –" The sight of the dog floating in the air stopped him mid-sentence, saving the expletive. He rushed back inside and reappeared with the gun. By then the dog-carrot-lid complex had risen several metres high in the air and was moving away. I snatched the gun from Brad, cocked it ready and aimed.
"Mom! Careful! Don't hurt Squirrel."
"Don't worry, kiddo. I've got this."
The three highschool trophies that sit in our bookcase are a testament to my sharpshooting skills, and Brad wouldn't generally doubt them. It's just that the sight of his favourite pet flying away like an airborne turtle made him nervous.
"Shoot, Mom! It's getting away!"
"Wait." I knew, in a second they would be over the lake--well, it's a pond actually, but we prefer "the lake"--and I was waiting for that second.
Clang, Spiffetty, spiffetty, scratch, scratch. Thud.
In a single shot, I sent the trash-can lid--the carrot still hanging from it--tumbling out of sight into the woods at the other end of the lake, while Squirrel splashed into the water below. The clang and the thud were rather louder than expected, but maybe I imagined that.
"Squirrel! You alright?" Brad ran through the junk to the edge of the lake. By then the wet fur had bobbed to the surface and Squirrel swam to the shore and into the arms of his young master who had waded in.
I went back to the house to get a towel for the wet dog. As I passed the kitchen, I smelled gas. The pot had boiled over, putting out the flame. Turning the gas off, I opened the kitchen window and then went to the bathroom closet and picked up a small towel.
We brought the dog in. He was alright; just a bit shaken. And wet. Brad wrapped him in the towel. In the kitchen, I opened the lid of the pan on the stove and looked inside. The carrot! It must've been the carrot that made that awful noise earlier. It had gone all mushy, when the other veggies in the pan were still firm and barely cooked.
"Tierney!" I called out.
A few seconds later my daughter was standing in the kitchen doorway looking all grumpy.
"What's it, Mom?" She asked in a half-bored, half-hostile, teenage tone.
"Where did you get this carrot, lady?" I asked.
Her face turned crimson and she stuttered, "I, I, ..."
Realizing that Brad was standing next to me with the wet puppy, I said, "It's ok. Tell me about it later. First, go, give Squirrel a good drying down with the hair dryer."
As she and Brad walked toward the bathroom with Squirrel, I sat down on a chair by the kitchen table and sighed.
"Teenagers," I said to myself.
Then, the thought of the other carrot entered my head. I rushed out the backdoor again and headed for the lake to find the trash-can lid.
Skirting the water's edge, I searched amid the undergrowth of the thicket to the eastern side where I reckoned the thing must have fallen, and soon discovered it. A babbling, crackling sound emanated from it, which was what helped me locate it. The carrot lay there all trashed, its mushy innards spilled out in pinkish-orange strands. The upper half was still stuck in a hole at the centre of the lid. I turned the lid over. On the top where the handle usually goes, was a round hood, sort of like a motorcycle helmet, but having the same dull, corrugated look as the trash-can. I pulled at the carrot and the head came out of the hole. It was just like the top of a regular carrot, without leaves, of course. Two wires dangled from the hole. The crackle came from one of them. It had a small, soft plug at the end. Instinctively, I inserted the plug into my ear and held the other, 'quiet' wire to my mouth. A sudden dizziness came over me and I blacked out momentarily. Could be those margaritas I was having in the kitchen earlier? I couldn't tell. I closed my eyes and tried to regain composure. When I reopened them, everything around me had turned black, white, or grey. I didn't actually count, but there must have been more than 50 shades of grey, arbitrarily speaking.
The crackling babble had become discernible into spoken, comprehensible words.
"Come in, Pooft, come in," a shrill voice was calling out repeatedly.
The whole future of Planet Earth flashed before my mind's eye in the brief second that followed. All the sci-fi flicks I had watched in my entire lifetime so far were quickly reviewed by my brain. The end of the carrot lying before me looked like a cone, so I settled for the "Coneheads" scenario.
"Danger, danger!" I shouted into the wire in front of me. "Return to the home planet. Too risky to attack this one."
A flap of metal had come out from the innards of the helmet when I had pulled the carrot top out of it and now I could 'read' the scratches on it.
"Better go to Alpha Rom – –, no wait, that's this one ..., go to... er, Beta Julietta in Sector Seven. This planet is too hostile."
"We read you, Pooft. Will you two be alright?"
"Don't worry about us. We have had a little trouble with the spacecraft and we are trying to fix it."
"When it's fixed, remember to press the red button after you get aboard. It'll bring you home."
"If it fails, we'll just settle down here."
"And populate! We salute your valour, Pooft. But be warned. Don't let them get you. Be particularly wary of the Hoo Maa and the Rabies."
"You mean, the humans and the rabbits?" That was a no-brainer.
"You've picked their language well, Pooft. Just beware, they might mistake you for their food, so be extra-cautious."
"Okay, then. Find a warm, dark place and perpetuate the species. I wish you success, Pooft. Take care. Poffet out."
"Okay. Poffet―I mean, Pooft―out."
Phew! That was a close call!
As I pulled the wires away, colours rushed back to the trees, grasses and flowers around me and the sky was blue once again. Using an old, discarded fork I found nearby, I dug a little hole in the soft ground and interred the carrot-alien. I brought its spacecraft back to the house and cleaned it.
It now sits next to my three trophies. I can't close the bookcase, because it's rather large, but that's okay.
The real shock came about a month later.
Tierney came up to me one day and said in an unusually soft, guilty voice, "Mom, don't get mad at me, but I think I'm pregnant."
I stood aghast. Watching me freeze like that, she continued, "No Mom, don't get me wrong. It's weird, I know, but true, I swear, I didn't sleep with anyone."
I stood aghast some more, realizing that it must be that carrot! I remembered, how, when I'd picked it up to clean, it had looked, strangely to me "blissfully happy".
I don't know how long this 'pregnancy' is going to last, but I hope that trash-can lid can still fly when it's delivery time, because I'm gonna send that carrot kid back to its daddy's home.
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We hope to reopen in 2017.
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