Alienating Parents

by Richard L. Trulson
September 20, 1994

"Somethin' fishy's goin' on at home," stated Danny. He rubbed the back of his overly long sleeve under his nose. His mother bought the flannel shirt two months ago when school started. The shirt was a size too large so Danny could wear it longer. With the cooling weather, Danny simply used the extra sleeve length as a handy handkerchief for his draining sinuses.

"Whad da ya mean?" questioned the other little boy. Tony and Danny became friends near the beginning of the school year. Danny was aware that most of the other boys in class wouldn't associate with Tony. His clothes were adequate, but not the latest styles and fads that everyone was wearing. Their friendship formed when Tony gave Danny a picture that he drew of an airplane. Danny thought it was the coolest drawing and gave it a position of honor on his bedroom wall.

Shrugging his shoulder and shaking his head, Danny replied with a mumbled "I don't know" that all kids use to answer questions. He knew something was off somehow; he just didn't know the specifics to properly explain. "Mom and Dad are just actin' weird."

That seemed to satisfy Tony's curiosity for the moment as he leaned back over his Matchbox cars and continued playing. Goosebumps ran up Danny's spine when a sudden wind blew across the schoolyard. He knew his days playing in the schoolyard were dwindling quickly as winter approached.

Danny stared absently over his friend toward the other boys playing kickball. He suddenly wanted to play kickball with them instead of playing cars with Tony. However, Tony had asked first, so he felt obligated to stay with him. When Tony finally said something again, Danny refocused his attention on his friend who sat there expectantly as if holding secrets to the universe. A befuddled "huh?" was all he could say.

"Aliens have your parents. They're slaves now." Tony said this as if it was the most logical explanation in the whole world. "That's why they're actin' weird."

Danny laughed when he realized what was said. "Ain't no such thing as aliens." He cleared away the spittle from his face with his sleeve again and sniffed.

Red flashed across Tony's cheeks briefly. "Remember that movie we saw? They suck their brains out to control 'em." Tony became more flustered when Danny snickered again. He exclaimed, "How do you know, smarty pants?"

"That little thingy ain't stickin' out of their neck." Even though he sounded confident, Danny didn't feel 100% sure. His parents had been acting weird lately. He wiped his nose again before resuming play.

Tony gave a defeated "oh" and pushed his toy car along the makeshift road that he had paved through the dirt and grass. Teachers were starting to bring their students in for the day. The cooling weather usually gave the children colds.

* * *

The ride home was a chorus of shrieks, laughter, and squeaks from the bus and children. Danny stared absently out the window at the blur of red, orange, brown, and yellow leaves that signified winter was near. Normally he would be busy talking to Tony, but today Tony had gone to get a haircut after school. Danny pondered what Tony said about his parents being aliens. They had been acting weird lately and he wasn't sure why.

First, Danny's mother had taken him shopping for new clothes. Since his mother had gotten his school clothes several months before, these new clothes had to be for something else. Besides, these clothes were weird. The boots were bulky like winter boots, but not as warm. Then she had him stand straight while she held a big cloth bag up to him. With the opening at one end, it reminded Danny of a giant sweater for his entire body.

Secondly, Danny's mother made several unusual phone calls lately. Whenever he stopped to listen, she would motion for him to go play. She also made all kinds of marks in her planner. Her notebook was smaller than his, but just as thick. Danny never could figure out why she Franklin was written on her planner instead of Sumner, their last name.

Then there was the cleaning. She must have cleaned the entire house twice in the last week. If she didn't dust, she vacuumed. If she didn't wash, she organized. Danny had slipped on the slick kitchen floor more than once. His mother usually cleaned once a week, but never once a day.

The only other time he remembered her cleaning this much was a shortly before his baby sister was born. The thought suddenly occurred to him that maybe he was about to have another baby sister. Then he remembered how fat his mother had been then. She was no where near that big now.

Of course, his father acted strangely too. He normally got home just in time for dinner. However, for the past week or so, he seemed to be getting in later than normal. In fact, Danny had to go to bed one night before his father even got home.

Maybe his parents were controlled by an alien from outer space. Danny imagined a huge alien creature shaped like a human-sized octopus ensnaring his mother. A free tentacle snaked into her right ear. She screamed into the night but no one, not even Superman, came to her rescue. After she went limp, the tentacle slithered out. On the back of her neck, a small antenna had grown.

A backfiring car caused him to jump slightly off his seat. He blinked his eyes to refocus his view outside his window. Danny was only a few blocks from his drop-off point. If the car had not backfired, he would have daydreamed past his house.

Danny made his way carefully toward the front of the bus. Danny said "bye" to the old busdriver, a long-armed man with wrinkled skin, as he walked down the steps into the waning afternoon light. He was glad his mother made him wear his jacket to school since the afternoon was much cooler than the morning.

Halfway up the sidewalk, Danny remembered to stop dragging his new bookbag and slung it on his shoulder. As he opened the door, he shouted "I'm home." A moment of silence made him pause in the doorway. Where was his mother? She was always home when he got in. Finally, he saw his mother coming into view from the kitchen.

"Hi, honey," came the cheerful voice of Danny's mother. She held out her arms for a hug as she approached. Danny slid off his bookbag as he closed the door. He ran into his mother's arm almost knocking her back. He hugged her tightly as the disturbing image of the octopus attack resurfaced. Just for safe measure, he felt the back of her neck and found nothing. He eased his way out of her embrace and headed upstairs to do his homework. Thoughts of alien creatures and strange behavior forgotten for the moment.

* * *

After dinner that night, Danny heard his parents talking as he walked past their room to bed. Talking wasn't exactly what they were doing. They were using short, hushed tones as if they didn't want him to hear.

Danny strained to hear. Unfortunately, the walls muffled almost everything but a few words and phrases. What he heard, or what he thought he heard, made him afraid. He ran back to his room and shut the door while his heart pounded in his chest. He heard something about "he'll have to go" and the "big surprise" would be "tomorrow." He wasn't sure what they meant. If it was something good, why weren't they telling him about it?

When his parents came in to kiss him goodnight moments later, Danny nearly jumped off the bed in fright. When his mother hugged and kissed him, she asked, "Honey, are you all right? You're shaking."

"Yeah, Mom, I'm fine." Again, the back of her neck showed no signs of the little antenna. He was no longer confident that aliens did not exist. Seeing the concern in his mother's eyes, alien controlled or not, was of little assurance. He quickly added, "I'm just a little cold is all." She pushed the covers up to his chin.

When his father leaned over to kiss Danny goodnight on the forehead, Danny gave him his usual hug. However, when Danny did, he felt something small and round on the back of his father's neck. His mind raced to remember if he had ever felt it there before.

"Goodnight, Son." said his father in a low, authoritative voice. He squeezed his son's shoulder gently and left.

"'Night, Dad," was all Danny could manage to say. Despite how stupid it seemed to him, the aliens in the movie last weekend had somehow managed to take control of his father's body. Worse yet, they had his mother on their side without even having control. They were going to get rid of him tomorrow. Fortunately sleep came quickly to Danny's trembling body.

* * *

The routine of daily life kept Danny's mind off his alien controlled father during the day. During recess at school Danny and Tony's had much more important matters to discuss (like who was the best superhero, Batman or Spider-man) than to worry about aliens from another world. Danny didn't think of the "surprise" until he started doing homework that afternoon. He looked in his science book for an example when he came across a picture of an octopus. Snippets of the night before rushed through his head.

"Danny!" shouted his father from downstairs. "Could you come down here for a minute? We have a surprise for you." Not only was his father home early, but he was about to receive that "surprise" he had been dreading. He paused, momentarily afraid to go downstairs. He figured the greater evil was to disobey his father's orders.

Still clutching his book as a shield, Danny crept slowly down the hall. He couldn't see anything down the stairwell into the living room. His hopes fell with each agonizing step down the stairs. Once at the bottom, , he looked around hoping not to see the horrible octopus creature hovering over him.

Instead Danny saw his smiling parents sitting in their chairs. To Danny though, their teeth were fangs of the tiger ready to devour his little sister sitting quietly in her mother's lap. A shaky voice said, "yes, sir," in a questioning plea for mercy instead of a statement of respect.

At that point Danny heard the shuffling noise coming from the kitchen. He imagined how the octopus creature would walk in on four of it's eight legs and ensnare him with the others. Danny heard the creature's labored breathing approaching and turned to face his doom.

"Howdy, my boy!" exclaimed a large man in his late forties. "How are you?" The man reached out and shook Danny's hand enthusiastically.

At first all Danny good do was stare while his mouth hung open in confusion. He recognized the man for who he was and not some creature from outer space. "Hi Uncle Charlie." He then put his arms around the man's huge waist as much as he could and squeezed. Relief spread over him like an avalanche. He then realized Tony had just walked up behind his uncle and said, "hi" to him as well.

"Surprise, Danny," began his father. "We decided to go on a weekend camping trip with your favorite uncle and best friend. We've been working hard all week to get caught up on our work so we could go too. That's why I've been working late the past week." Danny's father reached up to scratch the back of his neck where the tiny mole itched.

"Ain't it cool?" said Tony with a big grin on his face.

"Uh-huh," said Danny as he turned to hug his mother in appreciation. When he hugged his father, his hand brushed across that little knob of flesh. Danny thought for a moment that maybe his parents were taking him camping so he could be given to the aliens in the quiet woods. He had his uncle and best friend with him now to help battle the evil aliens should the need rise. Until then Danny would run through the trees in the daytime and watch the campfire flicker in the night.


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