Velma knew she would lose this argument, but she had to try.
“Harley William Higonbotten the Third, you old mule, you should not be in that seat. Get out. Have some sense.”
“Now now, my beautiful, dear Velma. You know your knee is acting up. It’s only a few miles. I’m OK. Look, I still have my coffee from this morning. I’m drinking some now.”
“My knee is better than your brain, you ol’ fool. If we left when I said … but no, you had to sit there at the bar with Everett for all those gosh-dang hours.”
“I shouldn’t have to nag at you like some old biddy.”
He stayed quiet and started the truck.
He could tell from the tone of her voice — and the sound of her seatbelt snapping into place — that she wasn’t going to push the issue. He figured he’d just stick to the back roads, guzzle that coffee and get back to the vacation house as soon as possible.
On the first turn out of the rod and gun club, though, he miscalculated and had to jerk the wheel so hard that he hit a hole on the berm of the road, bouncing his rifle in the air behind him, almost up and out of the worn old rack he had refused to replace. Velma just tsk-tsked loudly, clutched her purse on her lap and stared straight ahead.
Harley turned on the radio. KRSW Outlaw Country announced itself and, after a Kubota Tractor commercial, played the 10 p.m. news.
“Federal authorities had promised a news conference at 9 p.m. but that time came and went without new word on the crash of the strange aircraft into Table Rock Lake. Numerous news agencies are reporting that tall gray creatures were killed in the crash, and many more survived. Again, we have not confirmed any of this but at least two reporters from our area have sent images from the scene that appear to show living, moving non-human creatures along Moonshine Beach.
The FBI and federal transportation authorities have taken control of the scene and have not yet made an official statement. Miles around the area have been cordoned off. Meanwhile, at least three other aircraft have been reported down in other Missouri and nearby lakes, the closest being Bull Shoals in Arkansas …”
Static interfered as the pickup rounded the bend toward a high limestone escarpment.
“Well, I’ll be damned. Creatures!” Harley said loudly. “What in the name of all things holy do they mean by that?”
Velma ssh’d him, trying to hear more.
But the Outlaw had moved on to George Strait now and Velma knew the mountains wouldn’t let her pick up any other stations at least until they got to what she called the “cabin.” It was their summer home away from home, small enough to be easy to maintain but big enough for their daughter Jill and her husband Dan to visit with the grandkids.
The boys actually loved staying in the little barn just south of the cabin. They said they felt like they were cowboys in the Old West. Harley had fixed up the barn just enough to be secure, with new swinging cedar doors and a hay loft, but left it rustic enough to preserve its character.
Velma told herself she would open it up when they woke up tomorrow, air it out for a few minutes at least, in case Jill drove the kids up to visit this weekend.
“In all the world, you’ll never find …” Harley started singing along with the radio.
With an arm flourish, he bowed toward his wife and belted out: “…a love as true as m-i-i-i-i-i-ne!” She had to shout at him and smack his arm when he veered within inches of the rocks off the east berm of the narrow road.
…to be continued