by Bernadette Miller
A mysterious orb hovering over a married couple's house
unexpectedly changes their relationship.
Published: Enigma, July 2004
Against Long Island's night sky, a large, glowing orb streaked past enormous, isolated homes, and hovered above a backyard's heart-shaped swimming pool. Young Stephen Jordan, shoving his glass under the refrigerator's ice machine, glanced through the kitchen window and spotted the strange object. Mouth agape, he bounded into the large living room where his parents, seated on white leather furniture, watched television on a gigantic screen. "There's a flying saucer outside!" Stephen shrieked. "A flying saucer!"
"Stephen, don't bother us with nonsense," Marc Jordan said irritably, watching Lives of the Rich and Famous, his bare feet propped on a leather hassock. "I'm trying to relax after a hard week at the office."
"But, Pop, honest, something's outside. Come and see!"
"Maybe we'd better look," Brenda Jordan said. She rose from the armchair near the fireplace, smoothed her Norma Kamali jumpsuit, and hurried to the kitchen.
Sighing, Marc wearily groped for his Bill Blass slippers, and followed his blonde, blue-eyed wife. Grouped at the kitchen table, the Jordans stared in solemn amazement at the orb hovering above their canvas-topped pool in the crisp autumn air.
"Is it a UFO?" Stephen asked.
"I...don't...know." Marc peered closer, his nose nearly touching the window glass.
"Should we go outside and investigate?" Brenda said timidly.
"Let's wait and see what happens," Marc said, glancing from her slender body back to the window. "I'm glad I finally insisted on taking off from work. I wouldn't want anything to happen to you and Stephen."
"I'm surprised you're so concerned," his wife said. "You're hardly around--how would you know if anything bad happened!"
"Brenda, I promised to make you happy. It takes years of hard work to provide decently for a family."
"Haven't you provided enough? We're not starving."
"What about the Gucci fur I bought for your last birthday? And the Haviland china for Christmas? You didn't seem unhappy unwrapping the packages."
His wife sighed. "I'm not discussing what you bought us."
"In other words, no matter how much I give you, it's never enough."
"Oh, what's the use." She stopped speaking as Marc turned back to the window.
Shielding his eyes, he surveyed the tall pines separating his property from a neighbor's. "Wonder if the Taylors know about the object? It's hard to see their windows from this distance."
Brenda, staring at the orb, said, "Why not phone Bobby? I know you two have been arguing lately, but he used to be your best friend."
"Oh, he's jealous of my new promotion to vice president." Marc shrugged. "Ah, the hell with the Taylors! Let them fight the intruders. My primary obligation is to protect my family." He was startled by Brenda suddenly heading toward the hall closet. He rushed after her. "You're not going out there!"
"I...want to see what... the aliens...are like." She opened the coat closet and removed the Gucci sable. "Marc, as I've tried and tried to tell you, it's lonely out here on three acres surrounded by trees, with my husband constantly away, and we're separated from our nearest neighbors because of a stupid feud--"
"Oh, boy! Stephen interrupted, hopping up and down. "Let's go see the aliens!" He turned and fumbled inside the closet. "Mom, where did you put my denim jacket from The Gap?"
"It's downstairs in the dryer," she said, donning her Gucci sable.
"The dryer! Oh, gee, Mom, my favorite jacket. What am I supposed to wear to meet the aliens?"
"Well, what about that heavy white pullover Aunt Bertha knitted for you?"
"I can't wear white--I'll stick out like a sore thumb. Gee whiz!"
Marc swung toward them. "Now, listen, you two, nobody's going outside! We'll wait and see what they do. Maybe they plan to kill us and conquer the planet. Brenda, have you considered that possibility?"
Brenda snickered. "How melodramatic--conquer the planet. You've become so entranced with your promotion, you're losing touch with reality."
Marc flushed. "Well, that damn thing outside must be real--both of you saw it!" He riffled his black wavy hair while he struggled for self-control, and then he continued in a soft voice, "There's no point exposing ourselves to possible danger."
"Well, you might be right." Brenda reluctantly rehung her fur. "But let's see what they're up to."
They hurried to the kitchen window, and gaped at the orb which began shimmering mint green, like old-fashioned juke-boxes.
Stephen said, "Gee, wish I had a Gap tee shirt in that color."
"Yes, it's quite lovely," Brenda said.
The family admired the orb's color subtly changing to turquoise.
Then, Stephen said, "Mom, is there any peanut butter? I'm hungry."
She sighed. "All right, dear. I'll fix a sandwich."
"How about some multi-grain crackers with goose liver fois de gras?" Marc said, watching the turquoise change to lavender.
"No fois de gras, but there's sweet and sour prawns." Frowning, Brenda glanced toward them. "We just had "Beef Wellington three hours ago." She paused, studying Marc and Stephen gaping at the window. "Will the prawns be okay?"
"Yes, fine," Marc said. He dashed to the living room for a tall Danish rosewood bar stool and set it before the window so he could have a better view.
Stephen propped a Spiegel mail order catalog on his kitchen chair so he, too, could see better.
"Boy, this beats television," Stephen said as the orb continued changing colors.
"I don't know why I have to miss all the excitement," Brenda grumbled as she removed prawns from the refrigerator, and used the electric can opener beside the pasta maker. "I'm expected to be Super Wife. Supervise a housekeeper so we can run a ten-room house with a child, four baths, recreation and laundry room, and solarium with parrots and tropical fish, and patiently wait for my husband who might turn up someday."
"Hey, Mom, look!"
She hurriedly set the prawns on the multi-colored granite counter, and ran to the window.
From atop the orb, two silver antennae slowly rose to a height of about five fee, shining luminously.
"Ohhh..." the family chorused in fascination.
"Think anybody will come out?" Stephen asked.
"Let's wait and see," Marc said.
"What about the food, Mom?" Stephen's gaze was still glued to the scene outside.
"I'm getting it!" She quickly squirted Tabasco sauce on the prawns and shoved the tray into the microwave, spread peanut butter on bread, and poured a glass of Orange Sparkler. Finally, she snapped on the percolator, served the food, and looked outside. "Anything happening?"
"Naw!" Stephen ate his sandwich and licked his fingers. "Maybe the aliens are afraid of us, and that's why they're not coming out?"
"Afraid?" Marc nodded thoughtfully. "Maybe..." He tasted a prawn. "Brenda, it isn't spicy enough."
"Here!" She shoved the Tabasco jar at him. "Help yourself! I'd like to see that thing outside, too."
"Don't be so touchy." Balancing the Tabasco on his lap, he squirted sauce onto the prawns and studied the Haviland plate for a moment. "No crispy noodles?"
"For heaven's sake, Marc. It's past our bedtime, and you're complaining about noodles! You can't stand for me to rest for a minute, is that it?" She ran to the hall closet, removed the sable, and thew it at him. "Here! Take back your Gucci and everything else you've given me: the Cartier diamonds, Oleg Cassini perfume, the Cadillac. I'm not your paid servant anymore!"
Looking bewildered, he stared at the beige fur slung over a kitchen chair. "Brenda, I don't understand...When we got married, you were so sweet and eager to please. Sorry, I just wondered if there were any crispy noodles--"
"It's dancing!" Stephen shouted, waving his arms excitedly.
The Jordans swerved to watch the orb slowly sway from side to side. It seemed ghostly, almost transparent, as if one could pass through it. Then, it swayed in a figure eight, its rainbow-hued lights shooting out from the sides.
"It's doing The Twist," Stephen said, and giggled.
The orb next radiated a deep rose pink.
The trio gazed with pleasure. "Oh, how beautiful," they murmurred.
Brenda's gaze became dreamy. "I wore a deep-rose gown to our college graduation dance. It was a Christian Dior with silver-sequined bag and matching heels. Remember, Marc? "
"Yes, the night I proposed." Sighing deeply, he set his plate on the butcher block table. "It's been years since we danced." He suddenly embraced her for a lingering kiss.
"Oh," she murmurred in surprise when they withdrew. 'You haven't kissed me like that in a long time."
"Too long." He tenderly ruffled her long, blonde hair, and whispered, "How about a quickie?"
"Pop, let's go outside, please," Stephen said. He gulped his Orange Sparkler and set the glass on the table in eager anticipation. "Let's go out, please, please."
Marc shook his head. "Maybe later, son," he said with a gentle smile. He put his arms around Brenda's waist, and kissed the nape of her neck. "Right now, I want to hug my gorgeous wife."
Smiling, she leaned against his shoulder, and they watched the orb radiating crimson.
Marc, watching her, said, "Any chocolate angel food cake left?"
She tensed, then suddenly burst into laughter, and rose to serve the cake.
"What's funny, Mom?" Stephen smiled as he watched her laugh.
"Chocolate angel food cake?" She laughed and laughed, wiping tears from her eyes with the back of her hand.
"Honey, are you okay?" Marc said, rushing to embrace her.
"Somehow," Brenda said amidst bursts of laughter, "they're affecting our marriage."
"What do you mean?"
Nestled in his arms, she laughed again. "Nothing." She continued laughing.
He studied her; the laughter was gleeful and contagious, not bitter. Sitting beside her, he chuckled. "It is funny. Unknown aliens have invaded our back yard, possibly to kill us and confiscate our property, and we stuff ourselves. Maybe that's their plan--forcing us to snack to death!"
Stephen, watching his parents, erupted into giggles. "Yeah, the aliens will be our masters. No more school work, no more exams... Oh it's funny... We'll all be slaves...slaves...Oh, it's so funny." He sat at the table and held his stomach.
The family laughed and laughed.
"I haven't had this much fun in years," Marc finally gasped, quivering with laughter. He squeezed Brenda's hand. "Honey, let's eat out tomorrow and dance at The Rainbow Room like we used to."
"I'd love it."
"I guess all this laughter is coming from...nervous tension...waiting for the aliens to attack," Marc gasped amidst guffaws.
The family nodded and continued laughing until Marc finally paused and said, "I wonder what those rascals are doing now?"
Stephen rushed to the window. "It's gone!"
"What!" Marc hurriedly joined his son, and stared at the moonlit yard. It was empty.
"Where do you suppose it went?" Brenda said calmly as she sliced chocolate angel food cake onto Haviland plates. "Think it will come back?" She set the plates on the table.
"I don't know." Marc shook his head. "I almost feel...cheated. First, they trespassed on our property. Then, they didn't even bother to step outside with a friendly greeting. They're just plain rude! And yet... " He turned toward his wife with a pleasant smile. "I feel so content."
"Well, have some cake. We'd better get to bed soon. You have to get up early for work, and Stephen has school." She poured a cup of freshly-perked coffee and set it before Marc.
"Boy," Stephen said, munching his cake at the table. "Wait 'till I tell the other kids it was right in our yard."
Marc gazed at Brenda sitting beside him. "Honey, I wish...I had more time with you and Stephen. Remember the first year here, how I planted roses around our house? And I'd enjoy playing tennis again with Bobby Taylor at their court. We were such close friends."
She nodded over her cup of coffee.
"Maybe...I should quit the ad agency..."
"What?" She stared at him in disbelief.
"I know it sounds crazy. But, it seems like something's gone wrong. We hardly spend any time together."
"Are you sure you want to quit?"
He caressed her hand. "Let's join the Peace Corps and save the bromiliads from extinction. What do you say? Can you be happy living in a Brazilian rain forest?"
"As long as we're together," she whispered. She returned his grin and they contentedly sipped their coffee.
"Does that mean we'll move?" Stephen said, staring at his parents.
"Yes, dear," Brenda replied.
"I wonder where it came from?" Marc said, and gazed at the window. "UFO...Unattained Forgotten Objective."
While the family continued chatting, the orb hovered again over the pool, and then soared above the house, it's painted sign still darkened by a malfunctioning battery:
SEE THE PEACE MACHINE INVENTED BY PROFESSOR LIVINGSTON.
ON DISPLAY AT THE OLD FAIR GROUNDS IN FOREST HILLS. NEXT WEEK ONLY.
Brenda smiled at her husband gazing toward the window and the empty yard. "As you were saying, dear?"
He drained his cup, and smiled back affectionately. "Good coffee."