Anna & Amber's Secret Powers
CHAPTER 3:NOW & ZEN pg. 6
Now the girls were in trouble. The light which had come on over the garage door while Amber was peeing changed shape as a man stepped in front of the light and blocked it except for his silhouette.
"Who's that? Come out from there," he demanded. He seemed to be carrying a baseball bat.
"I'm just going pee!" blurted Amber.
"Come out from behind there," he ordered again.
"Please, we were just walking, we couldn't find a bathroom," pleaded Anna.
He leapt backwards with a start. "Oh, there's another creature here too!" Apparently the man hadn't seen Anna in the dark near the walkway by the side of the road. "Where did you two come from?" He swung the bat a little at his side, tapping it in the dirt. "Are you aliens?"
"We're from Rancho Cucamonga," replied Anna.
"Same thing," the man said gruffly.
"All babies come from their moms!" slipped in Amber, who by that time was creeping forward per the man's orders, but who was still using the large boulder as a shield to keep between her and the man.
"Ha!" the man let slip, amused. "But which alien mom did you come from, eh? Come over here and let me see you."
Amber stepped from behind the boulder and into the light. She looked small and terrified, like a squirrel caught with a nut.
"Please, we're just walking to the Padua to take the van to the Zen Center," Anna said. "We have to get there by 6."
"You could be aliens dressed up like kids," he said doubtfully.
"But we're not," said Anna.
"No!" confirmed Amber.
"I've seen lots of aliens up here," he said, rubbing his chin. "When it gets dark they like to steal my lemons."
"We don't want any lemons," said Amber.
"Of course you don't, they're not in season," said the man. "But maybe you want my tomatoes."
"We don't want your tomatoes or your carrots or corn either," protested Anna.
"So, so..." he said, seemingly weighing her response in his mind. "So, you know about my carrots too!"
"We don't want any of your vegetables!" Amber protested.
"Why, what's a matter with my vegetables? Are you saying they're not tasty?" He accused.
"No," Anna backpedaled. "I'm sure they're tasty."
"So. You admit you've tasted them!" He thought he had caught them this time.
"No, that's not it at all. We don't know if they're tasty. If you farmed them I'm sure they are. But, we just don't want to eat your vegetables or any vegetables at all."
"So, you want to eat me! I knew it!" The old man raised his baseball bat again.
"No!" they both cried.
"We don't want to eat anything!" Anna tried to explain.
"So, you don't eat vegetables? What's a matter with kids, all they want is sugary treats these days!" he exclaimed. "Unless its because you're really aliens, and that's why you don't eat vegetables." He seemed to point the bat he was holding, as if he knew where they had come from. The bat wavered in the air, its point indicating the stars which were twinkling in the sky above them.
"But if we don't eat vegetables, why would we come to steal them?" Anna reasoned.
"So you admit it, you've been stealing them!"
"No!" exclaimed Anna.
"Yes!" exclaimed the man.
"No!" exclaimed Amber. "If we don't eat them, we wouldn't steal them, so...what would aliens want with your carrots?"
"To trade them for our technological secrets!" the man said, stating the obvious. "Its obvious!" he added.
"We don't want any technological secrets," Ana interjected. "We just need to get to Padua."
"Also, if aliens came," Anna offered brightly, "the distance they would have to travel would be so vast that its a sure bet they would send robots instead, same as we sent to Mars, before they would come themselves. And there would be no secrets to steal, since they would have superior technology already that got them here."
"You seem to know a lot about it, huh?" The man raised the bat again at them, pointing with it as he delivered his conclusion. "So you're robots. That's it!"
"No!" they both cried.
"Robot children. It makes sense!" he said. "They're easier to fit in a spaceship."
"No, we're not robots at all!"
"Well, who's stealing my tomatoes then?" He demanded.
"And my lemons!"
"Maybe its rabbits," Anna volunteered. "Plus, a robot is a robot. They don't have babies or anything, so a small kid-sized robot is not a robot child, its just another robot that's small." Anna was stickler for facts and logic, and wasn't afraid to state the truth to anyone.
"But we're not robots," added Amber. "Its probably rabbits that are stealing your vegetables." That sounded like it might convince him.
The man whistled like he had just learned a new and amazing fact. "Well, I'll be! Now they got robot alien rabbits!"
Amber decided to take a different approach. "Yes, sir, that's right. That's who's stealing your lemons and carrots and tomatoes."
"Not us," Anna insisted.
"The lemons are out of season," he reminded them.
"True," Anna acknowledged.
"How do you know this?" the man asked.
"Because lemons are in season in the summer, and its already fall." Said Anna sensibly.
"No, how do you know that its the robot rabbits doing it?" He looked perturbed but anxious at the same time.
"Um, we saw it on the Discovery Channel." Anna rallied.
"The Discovery Channel," the man cocked his head.
"Yeah," Anna continued. "TV. Basic cable. They said you could tell it was robot alien rabbits, or tigers, or bears."
"Tigers!" the man exclaimed. "I knew it!"
"And a scarecrow," added Amber, pushing her luck.
"Ahh, yes... I remember when I discovered the Discovery Channel. I invented it. I was sailing the seas and I was on an island. And there were thousands of them, in Indonesia, after the war in the pacific against Japan in World War II. That's where I discovered the idea for my salad dressing."
The girls could hardly follow. "On the Discovery Channel?"
"No, that's different. That, I saw on TV at the hospital after the war."
"The Thousand Island Dressing they used in the hospital when I gave it to them," he admonished. "Are you not keeping up with this conversation?"
"Sorry, sir. We don't each much salad."
"They told me that Thousand Island Dressing was already being made by the Wishbone Salad Dressing Company of North America and that I was crazy."
"Well, I guess it wasn't a discovery then," Anna offered.
"It was new to me," he said. "New to me. And if I am so crazy, why does it sell so well in the stores?"
"Thousand Island dressing was first made in America in about 1902 and the islands are a bunch of small islands on a river between Canada and America." Anna remembered that from a recent online history tutorial her mother had made her take.
"You know how to take the fun out of it like that, with facts and stuff," the man said dejectedly. "You robots got no sense of humor."
"We're sorry sir, we just need to get to the Padua theater before 6 pm to catch our ride, that's all."
The man glanced down at his watch. "You're gonna be late," he observed.
"We're meeting our mom up there," offered Amber. "But we had to go to the bathroom."
"Well, ok," the man nodded. "Just don't pee in stranger's yards next time."
"But you're not a stranger anymore, we've been talking a lot already," Anna pointed out.
"True," said the man, though he didn't sound confident. "Well," he concluded, "next time, hold it until you find a yard of someone you already know."
"Oh, there won't be any next time!" Amber assured him, relieved. She did almost a little skip when she realized he wasn't going to be mad.
Now that she was in the light too, she could see the man a little better. He was what looked about 70 years old, or at least as old as Wai Gong, but he looked less healthy and strong. He stooped a little, as if the bat was too heavy for him, and when he spoke she could see he was missing some teeth. He hadn't shaved, and a little white fur formed like a bit of moss around his chin. He was wearing a shirt that said Food Not Bombs on it and jeans.
"How far is it to Padua?" asked Anna, getting up her courage.
"Too far for kids to walk in the dark," the man almost sneered.
"Oh no," Anna let a little worry in her tone escape into the air.
"Oh yes, oh no! Oh no!" echoed the man. "You're gonna miss meeting your mom unless you hurry."
Then he turned to the truck that was in his driveway. "Well, ok then, get in," he said.
And with that, he opened the door to his truck and got in the driver's seat. "I was on my way that way anyway. I'll give you a ride," he added, when both of the girls didn't make a move.
They didn't know what to think. He seemed friendly, but they were cautious. "I don't bite," he offered. "Get in the back of the truck and hold tight. Its not far."
He waved at the open truck bed behind him. "You can jump out anytime you don't like my driving," he grinned. "Or, you can walk." He watched them as they hesitated, trying to make up their minds.
"We can just jump out the back if he tries to kidnap us," suggested Anna. "When he stops we could jump out, right?"
"We'll be late any other way," agreed Amber.
And so with that they cautiously climbed into the truck and sat down on the little bumps above each of the truck's wheels.
"My name's Richard Armour Jr.," said the man. "Pleased to meet you." He slid open a small window in the glass on the back of his cab and extended his hand.
"Thank you, sir," said Anna, but neither of them wanted to reach out and shake his hand. He clucked in disappointment, then eased the truck out the back of his driveway and onto the black tar of Monte Vista Ave.
"Call me Rich," he said, "Like my father."