Copyright 1956 by Carl L. Biemiller

Illustrated by Kathleen Voute

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Chapter Eleven

From her sewing room window on the second floor of the house Mrs. Jenks could see Johnny tear across the pasture and vanish into the fringe of woodland. Her son had grown in many ways this summer, she thought. He was still all legs and motion, but he was also less useless noise and somewhat more thought. More like Remo, as Remo was like Johnny. She wondered idly where Remo was, and just as idly she guessed that the meeting downstairs was over. George would be yelling for coffee soon. Then through the closed door of the sewing room she heard voices, loud ones, and clumping feet. She rose quietly and opened the door and heard the angry tones of Colonel Wingate.

“I’m telling you, Jenks,” snapped the colonel, “we’ll hold you directly responsible for returning that boy at once.”

“He’ll be back when he’s ready, if at all,” her husband said firmly. “We frightened him, and I warned you that trying to take him from the house was foolish. The lad’s a guest, this country’s and the whole world’s guest…”

The men were just inside the living room and their voices rose up the stairwell clearly. She heard Mr. Kimber’s quietly worried tone. “I suppose we’d better go find the boys.” She heard Mr. Murphy’s voice, “But let’s go quietly and with some dignity. I’m not very pleased with my part in this…”

“Orders are orders,” barked Colonel Wingate, “and, if I have to do it, I’ll have a cordon of men around this area that an ant couldn’t get through, much less two boys.

Mary Jenks went up the third flight of steps to the children’s room in the attic. The coverall suit that Remo had worn the day he arrived in the flying saucer was not in his drawer of the big bureau he shared with Johnny. His boots were gone from the closet. The clothing he had worn to lunch, shorts, T-shirt, crumpled red socks, and moccasins were on the floor by his bed.

Mary Jenks was a good mother, a wonderfully warm-hearted woman. Queerly enough as she stood there in the boys’ room she remembered Arcon’s words. “There’s a woman much like you in my home, Mary Jenks.”

There was a battered overnight bag in the closet. She packed it. Shorts, T-shirt, socks, moccasins. She took it with her and descended the stairs to her own room, opened it, and added one more item, a snapshot of Remo and Johnny taken only a few weeks ago.

A mother on a faraway world, a G-type star in some hidden galaxy, might appreciate those things, if only to know for certain that her son had worn clothing like other boys and had been as much a part of a real family as it was possible to make him.

The men’s voices were still blended in restrained argument. Mrs. Jenks went downstairs with the little bag. She paused momentarily at the entrance to the living room. “George,” she called, “would you come here a second, please?”

The voices softened and a breath later her husband stood beside her, his face pale. “You hear?” he asked.

There is a oneness about mothers and fathers.

“He’s gone?” queried Mrs. Jenks.

“Yes,” said Mr. Jenks, “and Johnny after him. I don’t know for sure, but when you see him, say goodbye for me, if you think you know where to look.”

“The woods near Applegate’s line. I saw Johnny running into the,” explained Mary Jenks. “He’s had a hide-out there for a long time. I’ll take the car and drive down the side road to Applegate’s. You can truthfully say I’m going on an errand to a neighbor’s.”

Mrs. Jenks left the house, turned the car around in the driveway, and spurted out the side road.

In the living room Mr. Kimber was taking the precaution of letting his superiors in Washington know that plans had changed temporarily, that they might be late getting back to the capital. When Mr. Kimber finished talking, Colonel Wingate used the telephone to ask his superiors for what he called a course of action. He sensibly explained that an organized search, if one wasn’t necessary at all, might alarm the entire countryside and thus let more people than necessary know that a secret existed. Colonel Wingate never bothered to explain to his superior that Mr. Murphy had called such a situation to his mind.

Mr. Murphy just sat in his chair and looked sadly at George Jenks. Doctor Thompson twiddled his thumbs. When Colonel Wingate slammed the telephone back on its base and turned to face the group, he said softly but firmly, “If those boys aren’t back here in a reasonable length of time, there will be an air cover over this district for the next forty-eight hours. The planes will be searching for flying saucers. Washington implies strongly that a great opportunity has been missed due to a mistake in judgment made much earlier this summer.”

Mr. Murphy was a man of character. He said,” “Phooey! How many planes have caught how many saucers so far?”

Nobody answered his question. They sat and let the room grow unfriendly about teach other.

While Remo and Johnny were racing for the tree cave in the woods, a decision was being made on the Applegate farm. Old Mr. Applegate had finally taken his curiosity out of his mind for a good look. He decided to go over to the Jenks and talk about some of the things which had been puzzling him. When Mr. Applegate decided something for sure, he acted.

He backed Trixie, his Model-T Ford, out of the barn, tried to push the forward pedal through the rattly floorboards as usual, and roared down his lane to the side road.

He almost slammed right into Mary Jenks and the Jenks car. Brakes squealed from each automobile. Each vehicle stopped, stalled!

“Hey,” yelled old Mr. Applegate, “you’re just the person I want to see. Got some things to ask you.”

“Oh, no, not now,” cried Mrs. Jenks, “I’m in a dreadful hurry. Have you see the boys?”

It was the worst question Mary Jenks could have asked. Mr. Applegate’s curiosity simply bellowed for attention. Mrs. Jenks was upset in the first place and she had no way of knowing that Mr. Applegate’s curiosity was screaming for information.

“No, I haven’t. I want to talk to you about them,” said Obed Applegate, being stubborn. “What’s the matter? Were they in trouble?”

“No. Yes. I mean… Well, they’re in your corner of the meadow woods and I just have to talk to them.”

“Well, drive past here and take the driveway lane past my house,” said Mr. Applegate. I’ll go with you.”

Ordinarily Mrs. Jenks was the politest of persons. She wasn’t now. “No,” she said. “Stay home.”

“I won’t. I love those kids,” said the old man gently.

The word was magic.

“Come on then,” cried Mrs. Jenks. It was right, thought she, utterly right. Mr. Applegate had been there since the beginning, right from the day his hay burned and Arcon put out the fire. The children had spent as much time with him as almost anyone else, and certainly as much time on his farm as anyplace else. Furthermore, they liked him. Mr. Applegate was definitely part and parcel of the situation.

“What’s the matter?” he yelled into her ear as they wiggled and swerved down the sandy lane toward the woods.

“They’re trying to take Remo away from us,” she screamed back at him.

“Where’s he belong?”

On another world,” she cried.

“You’re overexcited,” shouted Mr. Applegate “Just don’t take on so. What did you say?”

“Another world!”

“My scrambled old brains,” moaned Mr. Applegate.

The Jenks’ car came to the end of the lane. Together thy slid from the seat and hastened into the trees. The small overnight bag went with Mary Jenks.

Johnny’s flight through the pasture and into the woodlot robbed him of breath, and his certainty that Remo was about to go home had tangled sobs with his lack of wind. He arrived at the tree cave unable to do more than tumble into the brushy pit beneath the old, up-torn roots and become a tangle of arms and legs with Remo who was waiting for him. They pounded each other weakly and then they just sat. It was minutes before Johnny noticed that Remo was wearing his coveralls, the space uniform. Still longer before he realized the new gravity in his manner.

“You’re really, really going home,” said Johnny, and being a direct boy, he added, “When?”

“Pretty soon now,” answered Remo. “I’ve contacted my father. The visit was almost over anyhow, Johnny. My people had it timed.” His voice was soft. “And Johnny, I’ve got all the memory of my home back again. It came back when your men from Washington tried to take me with them. It would have come back no matter who tried to take me from your home and parents by myself. It was set in my head that way. You can understand that now.”

“How did you get in touch with your father?” asked Johnny.

Remo grinned. He took the space-a-tron from his pocket. “You remember when you first saw this a long time ago, when you first met Arcon, my dad, what he told you it would do. It’s a think-machine, and I have more with me, which I was told to forget. They’re in the buttons on these cuffs. Besides, our units were never very far away.”

“Can I stay until you go?” asked Johnny sadly. He was going to be lonesome.

“You certainly may. I wish I could see your folks to say good-bye too, your mother especially, and your father…almost everybody,” he added, “Mr. Murphy and Mr. Applegate… Your people are fine, Johnny, and I’m going to have a lot to tell my own.” Remo’s voice thickened ever so slightly. You and I will always be friends.”

Words come slowly to boys, especially words about the things that are hard for anybody to express, the feelings and affections, the wonderfully strange warmths. It’s easier to say those things in symbols, in “remembers,” like days at county fairs, at baseball games, in pigpens and cow wallows and freshet pools, in beds counting fireflies, in star-watchings.

That’s why Johnny and Remo didn’t hear Mrs. Jenks until she squeaked about a root-caught heel, and Mr. Applegate until he caught his pants in a wire bramble and told the thorns about it.

“Mother,” yelled Johnny. “Here we are.”

They burst from the cave to greet her.

Mrs. Jenks swooped Remo into her arms and hugged him tightly. “Sonny, sonny, sonny,” she said.

Old Mr. Applegate put his hand on Remo’s arm.

“Young man, answer me on question?” he asked. “Where are you from?”

Johnny laughed out loud. The secret was out.

“Mr. Applegate,” answered Remo seriously, “you’d call my home out of this world. It is located in another galaxy than your own in outer space. You call it Andromeda. I came here in a type of ship that you call flying saucers. And, sir, I’m going to miss you when I leave…”

Mr. Applegate was flabbergasted and he showed it. His Adam’s apple bobbed up and down in his throat like a yo-yo.

“Well sir,” he said. “I believe you. The trouble is that I don’t quite believe myself.”

Mrs. Jenks was practical. She asked the same question that Johnny had asked. “When do you leave and from where?”

Remo grinned at Johnny. He was remembering something else. “I leave at exactly three minutes past three and from Mr. Applegate’s lower alfalfa field. That’s ten minutes from now and it’s time to go.”

“Don’t fight about the time,” said Mr. Applegate.

Together they skirted brush until they reached the lane’s end where Mrs. Jenks had left the car. They walked past it, through the scraggly hedgerow, up a gentle embankment to the lower hay field.

“I want your mother to have this bag,” said Mrs. Jenks to Remo.

There wasn’t really too much to say.

Johnny saw it first, that eerie deepening of the usual blue of a brightly vaulted day. Then they all caught the blurring of light, the sense of whirling glints as if something were stirring sunshine with a stick. The hum was in the air, high-pitched; the noise a note above the noise which could be heard as noise. Then the sky blanked out above them and there was a saucer hovering overhead. It settled, almost brushed the alfalfa blooms with their tiny bluish flowers.

Remo danced with glee. Johnny shuffled his feet with anticipation. Mrs. Jenks stood rigid and tense. Mr. Applegate’s Adam’s apple almost beat a tattoo against his chin.

“Glop,” he said. “Glop.”

The door in the saucer opened and out dropped Arcon, tall and tan, his silver hair like a minted coin, with a smile on his face. “Mrs. Jenks,” he said, “My thanks. My little earth boy…and my son “ He lifted a quizzical glance at Mr. Applegate.

“He’s my friend, Dad,” said Remo.

“It’s enough to know, sir,” said Arcon. “Come, Remo, it’s time to go.” He looked at the little overnight bag in Remo’s outstretched hand. “It’s for Mother,” explained Remo. “Mrs. Jenks wants her to have it. Father, could I leave Johnny the marsquartz?”

Arcon frowned. “you know the rules,” he said.

“Please, Dad...” Remo grinned. “Take it out of my pocket, Johnny, if you can that is…”

For the last electric time they played the game and only for brief seconds and Johnny’s face was locked and tense. Slowly the little ball left Remo’s pockets, hung in mid-air, and stayed as fixed as the saucer itself.

“Take it, Johnny,” interrupted Arcon. “I see you know it well enough to be trusted with it, and once again in our friendship I can only hope it won’t get you into trouble. And now, farewell.” Together they stepped upward into the open hatch of the ship. “Say goodbye to your husband for me,” called Arcon, and looking past Mrs. Jenks’ upraised face, he waved a casual hand. “I think he’ll be a little late to do it himself.”

The hatch closed. There was a simple shimmer in the bland air and the saucer vanished.

Remo was headed home.

Behind the watching trio in the field there was a roaring motor and against the embankment at the edge of the field a car slid to a halt. Out piled Mr. Jenks, Mr. Murphy, and Mr. Kimber to look and see only the blank face of space. The saucer was gone but high in the heavens two white lines appeared as if bewildered students were drawing on a blackboard for lack of something better to do. There were jet planes aloft; first two and then four and eight trails… They too were late, not that they could catch a saucer anyhow.

“I’m going home,” announced old Mr. Applegate suddenly. “I want to take a nap.”

“We’re all going home,” said Mr. Jenks.

It was too much to expect that Mr. Applegate would stay home for any length of time. He showed up at the Jenks’ farm early the next day. He talked to Johnny.

“Johnny, it’s possible for men to build ships like the one I saw yesterday. I saw us leave the horse and use the automobile in my own time. I listen to radio and see television and talk over a telephone and read the newspapers about flying to London for lunch any day at all. When you come over to the house for milk and cookies this afternoon, bring your father. We’ll talk about the best science laboratory a country farm school ever had. It’s high time we had a good one for you boys.” He paused. “Might as well keep all the queer things that happen around here right in the neighborhood so an old man won’t miss them.”

“May I bring my rockets and fire them?” asked Johnny.

“Do that,” said Mr. Applegate. “Maybe I’ll live long enough to see you ride one of them…” He nodded his head vaguely upward toward the sky. “Out There,” he said.

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Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten
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