CHILENO VALLEY: At 8:35 p.m. a woman said a man in flip-flops was walking around her trailer, saying something about his spaceship and asking if she was an earthling.
–from the Point Reyes Light, December 7, 2020
Could be plain insanity, and nobody’s going to argue that with the kind of year this has been, certainly not her, a woman alone in a trailer out there in the middle of Kingdom Come, so solitary that the howls of coyotes give solace, so wound tight with restlessness that a trip to buy cigarettes—mask on, hands washed—even that brings a sense of adventure.
There she sits on this evening like all the evenings in front of it, folded into a bathrobe that used to be passable chenille before the elbows got rubbed smooth. Drinking coffee strong enough she can practically chew it, or maybe it’s all the sugar makes it thick. Shivering as she watches the gibbous moon light the weedy pasture, stars winking with untold secrets.
She wishes after the company of that mean-eyed feral cat skulking for the saucer of milk left beneath the steps. Wonders, will he ever welcome her touch?
And riding on that thought, a figure materializes, emerging from the direction of the road, shuffling off-kilter as if learning to navigate a new body, muttering gibberish like a man gone mad, shirt flapping in the brisk air, flip-flops slapping the heels of his feet.
Too late to retreat to the safety of the trailer: She holds her breath, waits. He is almost upon her when he stops, words frozen, eyes drawn to the pure white gleam of milk. She motions for him to take it. He laps it eagerly. Licks the bowl.
“Earthling?” he says, or maybe she just imagines that, because his mouth doesn’t seem to form the words. Then he gestures towards the road. “Spaceship.”
Her eyes track to a glow, not a disk like in all those cheap movies, but a throbbing glimmer, the vibration rumbling up from the earth through the thinning soles of her moccasins. Can she dare hope it will whisk her away from mean-eyed cats and creeping earthling disasters? Beyond the waning moon and its cohort stars? Beyond the Blue Beyond? Her travel bag has slouched near the front door since summer fires threatened. Toothbrush, meds, extra underwear. Would she even need all that?
Cat’s eyes blink from somewhere near, circling the empty bowl, tail flicking. That greedy villain will never miss her. Could surely catch rodents in her absence. Would certainly find another old woman to torment.
Skittering leaves chase the wake of the silhouette now disappearing down the drive, the tug of voided space loosening wisps of her hair. She rises as the rumble fades, then hobbles inside to fetch more milk from the icebox.
Linda Saldaña is an escaped tech writer who lives in San Rafael, California and navigates the pandemic via Zoom. Her work has most recently appeared in MacQueen’s Quinterly, Poydras Review, and Ocotillo Review.
A Song for Linda