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“Molly, have you seen my telescope?”
Since I have just about set my bag down on top of it twice, I knew the answer to my dad’s question. But I gave it a few moments before I spoke up. Just for the entertainment factor.
“It’s wherever you left it, dear,” called out mom pleasantly, from somewhere around the kitchen. The sudden crash of shovels, rakes, and hoes in the garage told me dad was not looking anywhere near where he left it.
“That’s really not a big help, Hun.”
“Well, when did you have it out last?” asked mom in that same tone.
Shaking my head, I went back to loading the truck. For the hundredth time I looked up as a car came past hoping to see the bright blue of my girlfriend Tasha’s, Mom’s van. Nope, just a Camry.
“Bags on top, Jim. You know that.” The clunk of a metal box next to the truck startled me. “Boxes underneath, bags on top.”
“I know that. I thought you already had all the boxes loaded.” Pulling back out two bags I shifted things and grabbed the box. Good god, that thing was heavy. Must be the seismograph. Looking up, I felt my face split into a grin as I saw the familiar, blue Kia turn the corner.
I walked down to the end of the driveway to help her get her stuff out.
“Morning, Jim,” her mom called out to me. I waved from the back of the van as she popped the gate open. Tasha came around to my side and gave my hip a bump with hers. She and I shared a grin.
“Hey, Emily.” My dad leaned on the passenger side window. “Sure we can’t talk you into going with us?”
“Ummm, let see. A night out in the desert with a few hundred U.F.O. Hunters, or a night watching American Horror Story? That a tough one.” She smiled at my dad. “I think I’m going to have to pass. Oh, hey Molly. Bill, your kind, and loving husband here, was just offering to take me out into the desert tonight and show me something.”
Leaving my mom and her mom to traumatize my father, Tasha and I walked up to the truck and started finding a place for her bags. I gave her a kiss while they were not looking.
“Hey! Hey you, get your hands off my daughter!”
Chuckling, I leaned my head around the side of the truck.
“It’s her hands on me,” I called out.
“Tasha, get your hands off that man!”
“Mom… Hush.” Tasha caught my shirt and pulled me back out of sight.
I was blushing a little as I heard our parents laughing. The sparkle in her eye told me my girlfriend liked it though. She and I shared a grin over the plans we had for tonight. Hearing a horn honk, she leaned around and gave her mom a wave as she drove off towards the rising sun.
“Now… the telescope?” I heard my dad ask.
“Well, where did you leave it?” my mom answered.
** ** ** ** **
The trailer hooked up and the truck loaded at last, I leaned back against the tailgate and Tasha leaned in against me as we waited for my dad. My hands came to rest on the small of her back. She snuggled her head against my chest and gave a yawn. Lifting my foot, I let it rest against the trailer’s yoke, and Tasha used my thigh to lean against. She murmured a soft contented sound as she nuzzled her way closer.
Through the front window I saw Dad give Mom a quick kiss. I wondered, as I held the girl I loved in my arms, will I be like that one day? Will passion give way to creative ways to annoy one another and quick kisses? Closing my eyes, I leaned my head down into Tasha sweet smelling hair. She already enjoys teasing me. Will that be where our love will end up? My nose filled with the smell of wild-berry shampoo. I felt my fingertips drift onto the warm skin under between the back of her shirt and the top of her pants. She gave a sound of approval as I caressed the little valley along her spine.
“Hey, you two, come on. You can sleep on the way,” called out my Dad as he walked past jangling the keys.
Tasha opened her eyes and looked up at me. I leaned into the kiss she offered.
“Come on, chop, chop!”
With her tucked under my arm, I walked around to the passenger side. When I opened the back door for her, she crawled in and wiggled around till she got comfortable in the back seat. She moved a few bags and made a nest for herself. Closing her door, I took a second to look back at the front door, then hopped in next to Dad as he started to pull out. I waved to Mom as we cleared the end of the driveway.
“Alright, ten hours to Vegas, then about another hour up the ET highway and we’ll be there.” Dad gave a wave to our neighbor, Mr. Miller, as we drove past. Holding a cup of coffee, a dog leash, and his morning paper, the old man just nodded back. His little black and white Papillon wanted to chase us though.
Seeing dad’s hand stray toward the radio, I started to dig out my ear buds. Mom may have had me babysitting dad, so his weird friends didn’t get him into trouble, but I could not endure ten hours of cowboy music.
~ … centered 130 miles North East of Las Vegas, last night’s seismic tremor, measuring a 4.7 one the Richter Scale, shook up a lot of gamblers ice cubes. Spokesmen güvenilir bahis for the National Geo….~
Dad chuckled as he switched off the news to one of his stations. I felt a cringe build at the twangy sounds.
“Yeah, I bet it did. Seismic tremor… good cover word for it. Yeah, likely frigging story you buncha… ” muttering to himself, Dad turned up the music.
~ … through the ages I’ll remember, Blue eyes crying in the rain. Someday… ~
I was hiding from Willy and the boys behind my ear buds and under my eyelids long before we passed Albuquerque.
** ** ** ** ** ** **
The truck-stop men’s room was all its terrible publicity built it up to be. I was sure I would never have to trim nose hair when I get older after the first minutes in the place. By the time I was leaving I was sure I had lost brain cells to urine ammonia and Pine-Sol. Walking back out to our truck I walked over towards Tasha only to stop and just admire the view as she bent over to stretch out her back.
“Boy, that ass is going to get you in so much trouble.” I heard whispered next to my ear as Dad walked past. He handed me a long bag with a wink.
“Professor Edward…” my girlfriend started to say as she turned around.
“Tasha, out of the classroom you can call me Mr. Edwards, or if you like, I will even answer to Bill.” Grinning, Dad handed her a bag with her Subway sandwich.
“Mr. Bill…” she began.
Dad started shaking his head even as I started chuckling.
“No, that won’t work at all. I’ll spend the whole day looking around for Mr. Hands to squash me.”
Chuckling, Dad sat his sandwich on the hood of the truck and started tapping down a pack of Marlboro cigarettes on his palm. I caught his eye. “YOU, didn’t see me smoking, and I didn’t see you doing… anything… this weekend. Got it?”
I quickly nodded and looked away.
“Now, Tasha, just call me Bill, and what can I do for you?”
“Well, Prof… Bill. Sorry… Mom wanted me to ask you if the government, like, arrests all of us, will your position as a college professor help get us, like, out of jail?” The little girly way Tasha asked it had me grinning.
“First, we’re not going to be arrested. The government still has to acknowledge that its citizens have the right to assemble in peaceful protest. And second…” Dad unwrapped then strategically rewrapped his sandwich so he could hold it. “…given that being a college professor didn’t help Carl Sagan stay out of jail, I don’t think it will help me.”
“Carl Sagan got arrested for doing this?” I asked Dad, as I pulled green peppers out my sandwich. He knows I don’t like them.
“Yep. He did, so did Kris Kristofferson, Martin Sheen, and Robert Blake.” Dad took a bite of his sandwich and chewed while we just looked at him in shock. “Along with about four hundred others.”
“How are we not going to get arrested when they did?” I quickly asked my father. I could see that Tasha was suddenly looking a lot more uncertain about this trip.
Dad slowly chewed his sandwich to let us stew a few more seconds.
“Because we’re not going to… storm the gates and try to enter the site.” Dad wiped mustard from his mouth and smiled. “This is a peaceful, non-violent protest of the nuclear testing.”
“How many will be there?” Tasha asked.” It’s not, like, just us right?”
“Probably a few hundred. Maybe even a few big name stars to get the press stirred up.” Dad shrugged. “It’s not about the wasting newspaper ink though. It’s about the environment. Earth Day needs to become ‘The Day’ when the world protests what’s being done to it. Well, the world can’t speak, so we have to be its voice.” “But isn’t all the testing, like, underground now?” asked Tasha. I inwardly cringed at the question.
“And that has what to do with the price of penguins?” Dad set his half-eaten sandwich down on its plastic bag and crossed his arms. The moment he did that I knew the “Professor” was about to speak.
“Tasha, please don’t get him started,” I said, as soon as I could get my mouth clear of bread.
Dad looked at me for a moment, then looked down ruefully. He took his pack of cigarettes and peeled off the plastic wrap. He lipped out a single smoke and lit it before he looked back up. “Yeah, don’t get me started.”
The sad tone and dejected look was hidden quickly, but his silence spoke that it was just under the surface. As we got back in the truck, Tasha leaned into the space between the front seats.
“My mom also said to say that she thinks you’re a complete wacko.” She smiled at my dad sweetly.
Smiling, Dad tossed the half smoked cigarette into his coffee dregs. It hissed out as he grinned. “Well, tell your mom I said the feeling’s mutual.”
“She, like, meant it in a nice way, I think. She says you’re cute. That you, like, kind of look like Kevin Costner.”
Laughing, dad pulled out and headed down the road.
** ** ** ** ** ** **
Tasha’s voice woke me from my nap. Looking around I saw the setting türkçe bahis sun was starting to make the sky go an incredible number of colors.
“Yes, it is.” I said sitting up.
“It is beautiful, but that’s pretty too,” said Dad pointing out the front windshield.
The long endless road full of cows had finally given up something man made. I saw a small cluster of buildings, but I could tell what dad was pointing at. There was a small herd of silver topper RVs and travel trailers gathered together just off the road. I saw people in small groups moving between the impromptu trailer park and a low building with a large, white roof. “Are we here?” asked Tasha from the back seat.
“Yes. The world famous Lil’ale’Inn is to your left, and we’re going there.” Dad pointed towards the trailers.
“Do they have a bathroom? At the little whatever?” asked Tasha.
“Let me out!”
Chuckling, Dad watched her sprint across the road and around the corner.
“I think she had to go pee,” he said chuckling. “Well, help me park this thing and you can go save her before the aliens eat her, or something.”
With the last light of day fading, I had a time getting him to park straight, and then he called back to me to stop being picky.
“It’s a damn desert! It doesn’t matter if I’m perfectly parked.” Shaking his head, he shut off the truck’s engine.
“Yes, but Bill, as crooked as you are parked the government drones will think us unprofessional,” called out a voice from a nearby RV. “After all, we have a reputation as kooks to maintain.”
When Dad went over to shake the man’s hand, I looked towards the white-topped building. Just as I was about to start to walk over, I saw Tasha walk out. I noticed at once she had a baseball cap on her head now. As she got closer. I started to laugh.
“Kidnapped by aliens at Groom Lake and all I got was this stupid hat,” was printed in a brilliant neon green-on-black. There was the face of a little gray alien on the side, giving a peace sign. She walked up to me and slipped herself in under my arm.
“That place is strange,” she said with a chuckle.
“Well, there are, like, dollar bills on the ceiling from all over the world. Then, there are, like, all kind of Area 51 toys and other… stuff. It’s, like, everywhere.”
“Yep, sounds strange,” I said.
“But the food smells good,” she added after a moment.
“It is good… not great, but good.” Dad handed me a couple of twenties. “If you would, go grab us a few alien burgers. Do some souvenir hunting while they cook and I’ll be getting a fire going in the pit.”
“Alien burgers? Sure.”
The food? I would have to say it was… memorable. And I got a hat.
** ** ** ** ** ** **
“So is this where we are doing the protest, Professor? Oh sorry… Bill?”
My dad looked at her kindly.
“You’ll get it right about the time for geology class Monday.” He wadded up the burger wrapper and tossed it onto the fire. The greasy paper caught quickly and burned bright. “No. We’re going to go to the Back Gate. It’s about a mile down the road, then ten miles across the desert.”
“The Back Gate? And that’s where the protest is going to be?” I asked, after a moment of chewing. Finished with my food, I pulled Tasha closer to me as the night chill got worse. Yeah, that’s as good an excuse as any.
“One of them,” he said, settling back with his feet towards the fire.
“How many protests are there?” asked Tasha
“One at every gate.”
“So why are we at this one? Why the Back Gate?” she asked, puzzled.
“Because,” said a voice from the dark, “if there is a true gate to Area 51, that’s it.”
The man that walked out of the dark into the light of our fire was a dead ringer for Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy. For a half-second that was who I thought he was. He had the salt-and-pepper beard the shoulder length hair and the build.
Dad smiled and pulled a beer out of the cooler next to him. Half rising up, he handed it to the man.
“Kids, I would like you to meet and old friend of mine. This is…”
Dad and the guy both laughed at Tasha’s startled question.
“No, but you’re not the first one to make that mistake.” said Dad as he pulled him out a beer as well.
“Of course she’s not. That little Hollywood punk stole my whole look.” The guy unfolded a chair as we laughed. “I think I should sue him.”
“He has more money than you. And probably a better lawyer.” Dad grinned at him and the guy nodded and took a long sip. “Jim, Tasha, this is Dr. Miles Kenton. He is a specialist in Paleogeology, Geodynamics and Applied Volcanism.”
“Wow. You specialized in, like, three fields?” Tasha sat up and gave him a better look “I thought, like, I was pressing my luck trying for two.”
Dr. Kenton smiled away the praise and gestured with the bottom of his beer towards my dad.
“I’m not much more than Bill, here. I’ve spent my life studying rocks the same as he did.” He kind of raised his beer in salute to my father.
“Ah, güvenilir bahis siteleri no, Miles,” Dad shook his head, then pointed at his chest. “I studied them in a lab and in the field to some extent. You’re the one crazy enough to go stand on the volcanoes while the basalt’s being formed under your feet. I saw the YouTube video your student filmed of you on Kilauea. You’re nuts.”
The man smiled and shook his head.
“I got a little too close.”
“A little? You had boulders the size of SUVs that were glowing from internal heat, hitting and exploding next to you. A little too close?”
Dr. Kenton smiled and took a sip. His eyes moved over to the two of us sitting there cuddled up together.
“You guys two of his grad students?”
“I’m sorry,” my Dad said before I could answer. “Miles, this is Jim, my son, and his girlfriend Tasha Williams. Tasha is one of my students. One of my better ones in fact.”
His smile made her blush beautifully.
“So… Geology and what? You said you were taking two?” Dr. Kenton asked Tasha.
“Material science. Mineralogy,” she answered, almost shyly.
“So you like rocks?” he asked with a smile.
“Crystals,” said Dad giving Tasha a grin. “Her mom is a full-fledged Crystal Healer.”
“She studied with the Hopi Indians!” said Tasha in her mom’s defense when both men chuckled.
Dr. Kenton smiled softly, then nodded.
“The Native American tribes set a lot of faith in the power of the Earth to heal. Here.” He reached into his pocket. “Can you tell me what this is?”
The small rock he handed her was hardly bigger than my thumb. I noticed that it had a lot of greenish reflectivity. Growing up with my dad, I knew most of the types of rock on sight. When she shook her head, I took it from her hand and held it towards the light.
“Is this green glass?” I asked a few minutes after I got a closer look at the green dots covering the stone.
He nodded after a second.
“Of a sort.”
Dad took the stone, looked at it a moment, then smiled sadly. He handed it back. I looked at dad.
Tasha next to me nodded, but I was still at a loss.
“It’s glass made by a nuclear bomb,” my dad explained, after seeing my expression. “The fireball sucked sand and other minerals up with it. The heat fuses it, and it rains back down to the desert floor as glass. If it’s flat, like that piece, it hit the ground still at about two thousand degrees.”
“Give or take,” said Dr. Kenton. He took a sip of his beer and turned the rock over in his hand. “Found this little beauty about two days back. I guess it got lofted when the fireball mushroomed.”
We sat in silence for a few minutes then Tasha cleared her throat.
“Yes, Miss Williams?” asked my Dad.
“I have a question. But it may like seem silly or stupid.” she pulled me a little tighter as if hoping for support.
“Ask away. The only silly question is the one you didn’t ask, and the only stupid one is one I can’t answer.” Dad opened the cooler and offered his friend a second beer. Then he looked at me and Tasha, pulled out two and passed them towards us. “Don’t tell your mothers.”
“Thank you. I won’t.” Tasha, got very quiet after she opened the beer and for a second I didn’t think she was going to ask her question. “I was, like, wondering. If we are here to protest underground nuclear bomb testing, why are we at the alien conspiracy place and not the Nuclear Test Site gate?”
Dad smiled and looked over at Dr. Kenton.
“Well, it’s all one big base.” Dad took a sip of his beer. “But the Area 51 part of it is also a bomb testing site. The official records show that most of the bombs were detonated on the other side of the facility. Say, about fifty to seventy miles across the desert. The thing is, that fifty miles… looks like the surface of the moon. It’s nothing but huge craters.”
“How many were set off here?” I asked, after a slow sip of beer. The hop taste covered my tongue wonderfully.
Dad and the doctor looked at each other.
“Officially… about twelve hundred,” said Dr. Kenton. He kind of shrugged. “Just how many have really been set off… only a select few people in the government know that for sure.”
Tasha smiled. “So you’re like Professor Edward. You think the government is hiding things from us.”
“No,” he looked at her suddenly very seriously. “I don’t think they are. I know they are. And about a lot more than just nuclear testing.”
Tasha sat up. I smiled inwardly as I saw her face. This was what first attracted me to her. When she believes she was right about something she would argue with a fence post that it wasn’t really wood.
“So the government?” she began. “The government that couldn’t hide the Iran Contras scandal, Watergate or any of the other ‘gates’ and scandals, is keeping this big conspiracy of secrets? I’m sorry. I just find that hard to believe.”
Dad and Dr. Kenton shared a smile.
“Let me ask you a question, my dear. You’re no doubt aware of the big conspiracy surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy?” he asked, settling in. I could see him slip into lecture mode, just like Dad does. Must be a teacher thing. “The fact that many believe there was a second shooter that day in Dallas?”
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