Waddya Know, Joe

That crazy guy is making a u.f.o. in Miller’s field. He’s Joe Miller. He owns the lot. The kids have always played in it. He didn’t seem to mind. His house, adjacent to the field, is obscured by a lot of trees and shrubbery. No one ever saw him.

On Monday he started welding something in the middle of the field. He had to put up a make shift rope fence with a sign, “No more baseball, etc.”. Somebody said, “Waddya know, Joe?”

“Building the hull for my space ship” Joe replied flatly.

Not only did the kids have to go all the way down to the park to play ball, ride bikes or what ever, but there was a crazy guy in their neighborhood. To the few adults who had met him, Joe seemed nice. A recluse. Quiet. Kept his yard nice and his adjacent lot mowed and trimmed. We never saw him in church. Maybe getting out was hard for him. Was he doing something dangerous? Has he becoming senile? Do we call the cops?

The space ship grew larger; and rapidly. In a week it was almost half a house. It looked like pieces of metal scavenged from scrap yards. A car junked long ago had sat in a yard at the end of the street. Joe offered to take it off their hands. Some hated to see it go. Joe hauled it on a flat bed trailer, disappeared into his 2 car garage, and reappeared with a flattened car. How he did that was another question entertaining the neighborhood.

Old Joe had flipped. The kids knew it. They spread the news to each other. The nut who owned Miller’s field had gone crazy. No one ever saw him. Who was he? Some old retired guy sitting in his house. Now he was welding a flying saucer together in his field. Soon the paddy wagon would come and drag him away.

The sheriff cruisers parked on the street, looking very official and out of place. Mild mannered deputies were up on Joe Miller’s front porch, a small unremarkable block of concrete with a hint green algae growing on it. They chatted casually. Joe went into the house. The deputies waited. They were hard to read. Was there trouble? Or not? Or…? Joe reappeared. More chatting. They looked like extras in the background of a movie scene. The deputies returned to their cruisers and rolled away.

The next day Joe was out there adding a big chunk of metal to his space ship. The next anyone looked, a van from wsvt 36 sat at the edge of the field. Doors open. Equipment out. Antennae propped up and extended. Samantha Regan looked out of place in a form fitting business skirt next to Joe in his overalls. And they were doing an interview.

“No, I can’t stop work on it, it’s the hull for my space ship. Been working on the main drive for a while; now it’s ready.”

Samantha maintained a polite, jovial smile.

“Word around town is that it’s art, folks are calling it performance art… what would you say to them?”

“Nah, it’s a space ship,” replied Joe, looking distracted up at the top of it. Then he smiled at her, a smile that seemed to have a subliminal wink, which made Samantha feel more at ease. She’d interviewed crazy, before. You could tell when you were talking to it.

“A space ship”, said Samantha appreciatively. “Now, Joe, some people might call that crazy.”

Joe stopped. “Crazy”? He paused. “Compared to what?”

Samantha answered cheerfully, “The whole world?”

Joe laughed. Then said, “The wage slave state? You humans jail nonviolent perps and leave the violent ones in the street. You live as if you’re immortal, as if you’re going to be here forever. You send your kids away to be raised by the State and when they’re teens you say, why are my kids like strangers? You preach peace while worshiping violence like it’s the one true God. You have enough technology to never have to work, again, but you put yourselves in debt so your debtors can keep you working to an early grave. You tell stories about heroism and forgiveness and dying and none of you know what a hero is, or care to forgive, or know how to die.”

It came out at a fast clip, like a weather report at 11 o’clock at night. Whipped out, report made, done.

“Yeah” he said, slowing down. “I’m nuts.”

Back at the station, anchorman Dave Schrock wrapped up. “Alright. Well, the sheriff says tomorrow is the deadline to have the structure removed. Looks like an all day job at this point.”

Night fell. Kitchen lights glowed. Folks settled in. Tv stations signed off. Lights went off. Crickets chirped.

The morning routine. Raise window blinds. Open curtains. Start the bacon and eggs and pancakes etc.

The kids titter excitedly about something. Miller’s field is empty. The story is a straight forward one. It was all so he could give us a piece of his mind on tv. Some weird, elaborate performance art right here in the mid west. The kids would tell the story while playing in the field for the next 2 generations, at which point the life will have drained from the neighborhood, and a land developer will install the biggest, chunkiest, ugliest and above all, most efficiently constructed model home available squarely on Miller’s field.

While throwing a ball around, the kids would talk about how Joe Miller had also disappeared. The sheriff walked through an unlocked front door to do a well-being check. Clothes were neatly arranged in drawers. Dishes were washed and neatly put away in cupboards. Everything was neatly in place. The home owner was nowhere to be found and stayed that way forever. If you don’t believe it, call up the news. Call Samantha Regan. She still lives in town and did the follow up story. No one ever saw Joe, again.





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