General Fiction posted May 14, 2024

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What to do, what to do

It Can't Be... But It Was

by Wayne Fowler

The uproar sounded catastrophic. We thought the roof was coming off the house, that this clear, brisk, spring day had spawned a tornado. I’d been outside piddling with a cedar log with my chainsaw, the main reason that I hadn’t been aware of the onslaught earlier. My wife, Debbie came bursting from the back door pointing skyward. Shutting off the chainsaw, I looked at the saw more closely – the noise so loud I believed it continued running. It didn’t take long, an instant maybe, for me to realize that the uproar was really a downroar, coming straight out of the sun.

An Osprey appeared, bearing down in its vertical landing mode directly onto the small clearing we called our backyard. By this time Debbie was clutching my side, her head snapping back and forth from the airplane to me and back.

This can’t be real. But it was.

As quickly as it landed, two men sprang from an open door: a United States Marine Corps full bird colonel in a class A uniform, a full cabbage patch adorning his left breast above the pocket, and a civilian in a suit that even I could tell did not come from a rack.

“Mr. Anthony Fowler?” the colonel asked, by then standing an arm’s distance in front of us.

“I go by Wayne, but yeah, that’s me.”

“I’m, Colonel Byrd. You know of an entity named Ohmie?” He didn’t wait for an answer. “I’m here to take you to the White House – immediately.”

The civilian nodded, saying something I couldn’t get, him being a soft-talker.

“Sir,” the colonel commanded, “you and your wife can have about one minute to gather medicines, or whatever. We’ll get you anything else you might need. The clock’s running.”

I suppose it was my hesitation that elicited his next. “Sergeant Fowler, you are now reactivated. Move it, Marine!”

I did. Half dragging Debbie to the house, the civilian close behind, I yelled to Debbie to get her ditty bag as I ran for mine, throwing pill bottles and such into it.

“No time for clothes, Ma’am,” I heard the civilian tell Debbie.

“This can’t be real!” I heard Debbie shout.

But it was.

In about seventy seconds we were climbing aboard the Osprey, being handed headphones as we were guided into seats and buckled in by a Marine Corps staff sergeant. Col. Byrd was already speaking before I managed to adjust Debbie’s headset.


I gleaned that in the intervening fifty-one years since my discharge, I’d jumped from E-5 to O-3, from enlisted non-com to a ranking officer. With the monumental pay raises enjoyed by the servicemen since ’72, I fathomed a guess at my salary. Forcing myself to concentrate, I found Col. Byrd’s eyes. They were quite serious.

Debbie was squeezing my hand, her eyes already riveted on the colonel’s. “You wrote a story about Earth’s electrical field, the polarization… ions?”

I nodded.

“As you know, Jimmy Buffett passed recently away.”

I wondered what Jimmy Buffett had to do with why we were so abruptly whisked from our home. Then I thought back to an Ohmie story that featured Jimmy Buffett. I struggled to stay in the present.

“…Eullalas… You are aware of last week’s solar flares and the brilliant aurora borealis?”

I nodded.

“It wasn’t a geomagnetic solar flare that caused it.” The colonel paused long enough for me to say the words.

“The Eullalas are here.”

The colonel nodded. “And we need to know how you defeated them. You and Ohmie. The world’s top scientists have been pouring over your book…”

“Story,” I interjected, turning back to Col. Byrd. “It was a thousand-word story.”

The colonel waved off my words. “We need the secret to your anti-matter blaster ray gun, with the thousand-foot activated-carbon barrel, balanced by an antennae array. The whole of the United States of America, the whole world for that matter, are at your disposal, Ohmie, I mean Sergeant Fowler, I mean Captain Fowler. The harvesting has already begun.

“Now, what are you going to do about it?” After a glance at his wristwatch, he resumed. “We see the President in forty-four minutes.”

“This can’t be real,” Debbie and I said to one another. I was sorely tempted to holler, “You owe me a Coke!” due to the simultaneous articulations.

“We have the mechanics built, the thousand-foot activated-carbon barrel…”

“Parabolic design?” I asked.

“Yes, yes,” Col. Byrd replied, his head making like a dashboard bobblehead. “But what is an amplificatory? That’s where the scientists are stuck.”

I nodded like I imagined Einstein might have, pursing my lips between my thumb and forefinger, hoping Col. Byrd would consider me in deep thought and give me a moment. Remaining so,  Col. Byrd left me alone, during which time I took a little nap.


“Captain Fowler,” the President began, standing and walking around his desk-as-big-as-a-boat to shake my hand, “have you seen the ray gun?”

“Yes sir. And very pleased to meet you, Sir. They got the parabolic backwards, but we can easily invert it when we reassemble at the north pole.”

“Good good. Now the matter at hand. They told you we have less than a week before we reach critical mass?”

“Yes sir. And considering the reverse osmosis affect, all mamalia won’t last but two or three days beyond apogee.”

The President looked to his side where one of his aides stood leaning in, whispering to the President’s ear. “That’s us, Sir.”

The President nodded understanding and turned back to me. “So, Ohmie, what are we going to do about it?”

I assumed my most determined posture. “We’re going to stop them, Mister President! By redesigning the anticoagulatory. Making it more resemble Mr. Buffett’s famous lost salt shaker, the amplificatory will do its job.”

“Good, good. Tell me when I can make my speech. And I already have people polishing your merit medal.”

I looked over to Darlin’ Debbie. She was just beaming. I didn’t blame her. I was kinda proud myself. We would have to add another chapter to ‘Ohmie to the Rescue!”

It Can't Be...or Can it? contest entry


Osprey - military aircraft that can land and take off vertically
ditty bag - tote for personal items (overnight bag, usually)
cabbage patch - the ribbons representing honors and certifications worn on Class A uniforms
Class A - dress uniform that include jacket and tie (in the Army, Air Force, and Marines)
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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