by John Knouse

I just don't know, Will, I just don't know. Yeah. . . well, uh, I guess I'm kinda jumpy. It's just been-- oh, Hell, I'll just tell you the whole thing, you may not believe me, but it's what happened, swear to God.

I was--it was, what, Saturday night, this past weekend--and I was really tired, out digging in the yard and diddling in the basement all day, and I was grubby and stinky, so I'm lying in my recliner in my shorts and it's dark outside and I'm watching TV and drinking a beer. And there comes this knock on the door. A weird knock, like several people tappity-tap-tapping at once. I threw on my bathrobe and took a look through the peephole, and there are these, like, people, really strange-looking people, all dressed up fit to kill. As soon as I look through the peephole, they're--well, it was like they were looking back at me, it was weird.

So I open up the door and this little fellow says, this little shrimp says, Mr. Cardroe? Mr. James Q. Cardroe, born July 6, 1955 in Albuquerque, New Mexico? I mean, you know, this is like ten-thirty at night and it's totally dark out and here's these really weird people asking if I'm me. This little guy, he looked kind of like Hercule Poirot on PBS, only thinner, but speaking perfect English.

So what could I do but say yeah, I guess I am and what's this about? Is there a problem? And another one of them chimes in, a woman who's about a foot taller than the little guy, looks like someone forgot to finish molding her face, and she says, Oh, no, no. We're here to apologize. We're the official envoy from the Galactic Coordinating Alliance.

That is correct, said the little guy. We're here representing the galaxy to give you an apology. On behalf of the galaxy, and, indeed, of the entire universe, we are very sorry for what you've gone through, most terribly sorry.

This other thing-person speaks up, well, this one was hard to describe, kind of like I couldn't quite focus on him, even under the porch light, and he says, Yes, Nobody should ever have to go through what you went through.

So, Will, I'm looking back and forth between them, bewildered, and then naturally I thought of you. My mind's focus zeroed right in on you. Another one of Will's sicko jokes, I figured. So I say, oh, so Will sent you! And the woman says, Will? But we're here now.

Yes, and we must apologize, the thing-person says. We see from your appearance how traumatic it has been for you. But at least please understand that you are truly one of the incredibly fortunate ones; it is so rare that anyone can make it through this type of experience with all of one's body parts--or even most of them.

We are so glad to see you intact, indeed, the little man says. This never, ever should have happened.

The woman said, And we'll do everything possible to make sure that it never happens again.

These people seemed really serious, like dead-serious. I mean, they were earnest. And I finally say, Look, I have no idea what you're talking about, I was just working all day and haven't cleaned up yet, and the worst thing that's happened to me lately is watching my college baseball team lose last week.

They looked kind of puzzled. The woman kind of glanced at the others and said, Amnesia? The thing-person said, No, he seems okay, more or less. And the woman says, Again, you ARE James Quentin Cardroe, 46 years old, called Jack for short, born July 6, 1955 in Albuquerque, New Mexico, mother's name Rita Cinderella, born Helpern, father's name Hector Woodrow Cardroe? And you have a little tattoo of a rocketship right above your pubic area?

Yeah, yeah, I know I never told you about that tattoo, not exactly the sort of thing I broadcast, having gotten it under an altered state of consciousness back in college. So, I got this really eerie feeling long about now, maybe you didn't send them. But how would they know all this stuff? And I said, Yes, that's me. Couldn't possibly be anyone else who's ever lived on Earth, not with parents with names like that.

But how could this be? The little guy asked. And the thing-person says, Uh-. . . oh. . .uh, Mr. Cardroe, what is the date today? So I tell him and a look of horror comes over all their faces. And the little guy says, Oh, Mr. Cardroe, we're SO sorry, while the thing-person is whispering to him, We're too EARLY!

We've gotten the wrong person, the thing-person says. And the woman adds, Oh, yes, do we have egg on our face. We have totally mistaken you for someone else. Please forget this slight peccadillo.

Oh, yes, the little man added, Please. We were never here. This never happened. Just a little bureaucratic snafu.

And they all kind of went, Bye-bye, and turned around and marched on out to the street and up the sidewalk, and start pointing at each other and saying It's your fault, No, you got the date wrong, and so forth. As soon as they went around the corner of the corner store, which was closed, I ran out and followed them. They went to the parking lot behind the store, where it's really dark, and in the darkest corner, they got into some kind of vehicle but didn't see me. And I'm thinking, I gotta get their license plate number, when--well, Will, no car I've ever seen looks like a silver potato and just shoots up straight into the air way up high and then disappears with a flash.

Oh, you think this is a joke, do you? This is serious, look at me. I'm a 45-year-old wreck. Yeah, I know they said 46. Check out the date, Will. Remember all the big fireworks at the park last night? My parents used to say, because I was the oldest, that dependency day came two days after Independence Day.

You'd be pretty jumpy, too.

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