“They’re a lot like us except they’re purple and have webbed feet and live on a planet called Vetrix. Well, most do. A few are secretly here on Earth. They help protect us from evil alien species like the…Hello? Hello?”
Flipper stared at his dead cell phone in disbelief. Had the Snaders sabotaged it? Surely not! He had only been home from Vetrix for a day. How could they have followed him to Earth already?
When he realized the truth it horrified him even more than the thought of attacking Snaders.
His mom marched into his room with her I’ve-made-a-decision-and-don’t-even-question-it eyes. He knew better than to say anything.
“I deactivated your phone. Who were you talking to?”
Flipper hung his head. He wasn’t doing anything wrong; only telling the truth. It wasn’t his fault his parents didn’t believe him.
The next words caught in his mom’s mouth and it took her a moment to get them out. “You talked to the national media?”
“They called me.”
“I don’t care if the President of the United States calls. You are not to tell him you were with aliens.”
She was serious.
He wanted to protest, but he had used every argument with his parents yesterday. They were furious with him because they didn’t believe his story about helping the Gudes save their planet Vetrix.
“How many reporters have you spoken to?”
It was vague, but Flipper honestly had no idea how many he had spoken to, which was sure to make his mom’s head explode. Thankfully, she didn’t press him further.
“Your father called Principal Collins at his home. He agreed to instruct the teachers not to mention or allow the students to mention aliens in their classes tomorrow. The quicker we can get this all behind us the better. Do you understand?”
Flipper gulped, fighting back a wave of tears and anger. He managed a nod.
His mom left the room; left Flipper alone, frustrated, and confused.
The students of Roswell Middle School stared as Flipper walked by, quietly whispered when he passed, and surely laughed out loud once he was out of sight.
Three days removed from saving the planet Vetrix and he was the laughing stock of Roswell. If this was how his friends were treating him, he couldn’t imagine how the rest of the world was making fun of him.
Well, yes he could.
His parents banned Flipper from watching television, but late last night, well after he was supposed to be asleep, he snuck to his parent’s bedroom door and listened as the news reporter from CNN made fun of the boy from Roswell who disappeared for a week and claimed to visit another planet. He also listened to his mom weep and his dad try to console her.
Flipper wanted the story to go away for his parent’s sake. He hated seeing them upset. But General Jaxxen had said the Snaders might try to attack Earth. Shouldn’t he try to warn everyone? Maybe if he could find just one person to believe him.
“There were over two hundred spaceships in the underground colony.”
Flipper recognized Baxter’s booming voice before he saw him. Baxter was the first sixth grader to go through puberty.
Josh, his back to Flipper, was telling his tale to Baxter, who’s eyes were intensely focused in on Josh. Maybe someone believed!
A crowd quickly gathered as Josh told his story and Baxter hung on every word. Hope sprang alive in Flipper. Maybe the whole crowd believed. They looked like they did. Maybe they could recruit a group of middle schoolers to spread the word of the coming aliens. Or even better, they could come up with a plan to stop the Snaders.
“Then the spaceship chasing us exploded!”
The bell rang.
“I thought he didn’t believe in aliens,” Flipper heard one girl say.
“It should be a movie,” another commented.
“Did you wear your alien costume down there?” a third shouted at Josh.
As the students dispersed to their classes Baxter placed his hand on Josh’s shoulder. “That was a great story! You should be a comedian.”
Baxter noticed Flipper and their eyes met. Baxter pointed his direction. “There’s your partner with more alien comedy material.”
“Quit mocking him!” Flipper had never been confrontational, but after facing Snaders, run-of-the-mill bullies didn’t intimidate him.
“Yeah, leave him alone!” Allison stepped to the other side of Josh.
Baxter waved his arm like he was swatting at a fly. “It’s not fun once he realizes what I’m doing.”
Josh breathed through clenched teeth as Baxter disappeared into a classroom. “I thought he believed me. The whole time I thought he believed me.”
Flipper patted him on the back. “I know, I did too. Let’s get to class.”
Flipper took his seat beside Allison and behind Josh. Mrs. Smith quieted the class and Flipper dreaded her reaction. What happens when she looks at me? Will she say anything? Surely not. Will she laugh? Will her eyes linger? If they do, what will everyone else think?
He knew he should pay more attention to Mrs. Smith’s voice as she reviewed the material the class covered last Friday, but he was fixated on her eyes. Minute after minute passed and they didn’t once land on him. He glanced at the ticking clock on the wall and rushed his eyes back to Mrs. Smith. Twenty minutes into her lecture and she hadn’t once looked at Flipper. In fact, he was almost certain she hadn’t looked at Allison or Josh either.
It was game on now. He unabashedly stared at his teacher, willing her to return the gaze. He knew if she looked at him he would instantly look away. He still didn’t want her to look at him, but he also double-dog dared her to with his eyes.
Just before the bell rang she wrapped up her lecture. “Now, if you will take out your homework from the weekend I will come around and pick it up.”
She started down the far aisle. With her back to him, Flipper gave up and pronounced himself victor, though it was a shallow victory because he would have declared himself victor whether she looked at him or not.
Allison’s eyes were wide with panic. She mouthed to Flipper and Josh. “What are we going to do?”
Flipper shrugged. They didn’t know about the homework because they weren’t here. Surely Mrs. Smith will give them a couple of days to catch up. What was the big deal?
As Mrs. Smith collected each assignment she praised the student. “Well done! Thank you, Baxter. Nice organization, Tessa.”
It was sickening and over the top. She had never been this nice in her entire life — Flipper was sure of it!
“Allison, do you have your homework.”
Flipper wanted to shout. Mrs. Smith knew Allison didn’t have the assignment done. She hadn’t even known about it until now.
Mrs. Smith waited, her foot tapping, as Allison tried to hold it together. Finally, she managed, “No, Ma’am.”
“You realize this is worth ten percent of your semester grade.”
It wasn’t a question and Mrs. Smith was no longer looking at Allison but at Flipper.
“I expect you to have it turned in by the end of the day, no exceptions.”
Flipper wanted to look away but was too afraid.
“But it’s unfair,” Josh protested.
Whew! Mrs. Smith took her eyes off of him!
“It is not unfair. You have unexcused absences for a solid week.”
The bell rang but no one made a move to leave. Flipper wanted to run but his legs wouldn’t move.
“But we were looking for Flipper,” Josh continued.
“I’ll hear none of it.” Mrs. Smith spun on her heels.
Mrs. Smith had just chastised Allison and Josh both. Flipper had to say something; he needed to take the blame.
“It’s my fault. Allison and Josh were just looking for me. If I wouldn’t have left with the alien then they wouldn’t have missed school. Punish me, not them.”
The class roared. He knew as the words left his mouth they didn’t sound quite right. Something had happened between his brain and his mouth that scrambled what he meant to say.
“You are not to speak of aliens in my classroom. Is that clear?”
By now the next class began arriving. Still the students from his class remained and the classroom was nearly full. Flipper blushed at the thought of everyone watching him.
“Good.” Mrs. Smith seemed oblivious to the crowd. “Was there any part of your last statement that wasn’t true?”
“Why don’t you be completely honest then? Tell us the truth.”
Flipper bit his tongue. He couldn’t make her happy without lying and he couldn’t lie and betray Allison and Josh and Jake and Alya and Chezlor and Fox and Nicole and General Jaxxen and Dr. Needles and Brianna.
Mrs. Smith crossed her arms. “Well…?”
“I didn’t exactly go with an alien,” he mumbled.
“I’m sorry.” Mrs. Smith looked around and motioned to the other students. “We didn’t hear you.”
Other classes had apparently gotten word of the exchange and were scrunching in to get a view of the confrontation. All remained silent, staring at Flipper and awaiting his confession.
“I said I didn’t go with an alien.” His voice was clear and he made sure those in the hall that couldn’t see him heard what he had to say. “I was asleep and the alien took me. Kidnapped me. I woke up on a planet called Vetrix and helped them fight off the Snaders. I had to — it was my only way back home.” It was the truth and if they didn’t like it, so be it.
Flipper peered nervously across the desk. “Can I stand?”
“If you like.”
Associate Pastor Owen Rodgers had a kind smile and relaxed demeanor. Flipper liked Pastor Rodgers, but he had never been alone with him.
He paced slowly as he moved his thumb and middle finger back and forth causing Owen’s name plate to flip up and down in his hands. He recounted the recent events, including being kidnapped twice, saving Vetrix from the Snader attack, and the pressure he felt because no one believed his story. Of course, Owen didn’t believe Flipper either, but he smiled, was non-judgmental, and didn’t interrupt except to ask clarifying questions.
In fact, when Flipper had finished, Owen didn’t chastise him for lying, or laugh at him, or excommunicate him, or anything like that.
“You know, Flipper, rejection is a normal part of life. Do you know the story of Moses? The burning bush, the ten commandments, the parting of the Red Sea?”
“Sure.” Flipper knew these lessons well from Sunday School, but he wasn’t sure what they had to do with aliens.
“When Moses first tried to lead his people, the Israelites, out of slavery in Egypt they didn’t want to go. After some time, the Israelites agreed to leave, but Pharaoh refused to let them go. Moses was rejected by two nations of people.”
Flipper saw the connection. Just like Moses was rejected by his country, Israel, Flipper was being rejected by the United States, his country. “So you believe me about the aliens?”
Pastor Rodgers chuckled. “No. But I believe that you believe it.”
Flipper stared at Owen with a scrunched forehead. “Huh?”
Owen leaned back and put his hands behind his head. “Let me put it this way. Why did your dad bring you to visit with me?”
“Dad says that if you’re in trouble the best person to talk to is the pastor.”
Boy, was Flipper in trouble! The national news and radio talk shows were making fun of the trio of kids from Roswell, New Mexico, who pulled a hoax, disappeared for a week, then claimed it was all because of aliens. To his parents chagrin, Flipper continued to insist his story was true, as did Allison and Josh. Their parents were furious, but also concerned, because they didn’t know where the kids had been all week. Finally, Flipper had argued with a teacher about the aliens and now had detention through his third year of college.
“I’m guessing your parents have lectured you over and over about telling the truth?”
Boy had they!
“I don’t think you need another lecture on being honest.”
“As I listened to you tell your story the emotion I picked up on the strongest related to your feelings of rejection. It has to be a terrible burden to have so many people not believe you, make fun of you, condemn you, reject you. You must feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders.”
Wow, he nailed it! Flipper felt like Pastor Rodgers had reached his finger inside his body and scraped a raw sore and caused it to start bleeding again. The pain was unbearable and he had to sit.
“I want you to know that you’re not alone. Most of the prophets in the Old Testament were made fun of by friends and family. Many lived lonely lives. Even God’s own son, Jesus, was rejected. His disciples abandoned him when He needed them the most. Rejection is a natural part of life and it’s important to be able to handle it.”
The pastor had hit on something deep and painful. Flipper was a hero on Vetrix. On Earth, he was a joke.
“It’s important to know that God is always with us. He was with the prophets in their loneliness. God comforted Jesus when he cried in the garden moments before he was arrested and crucified. And God is with you now.”
Jesus cried too? He wished Jesus had two good friends like Allison and Josh. He knew what Jesus did to prove He was right; He came back from the dead. Flipper needed a different idea. How did Moses and the prophets convince others?
“Flipper, do you mind if I pray for you?”
This gave him an idea. “Yeah. Pray that the whole world will learn the truth that aliens exist.”
Pastor Rodgers smiled. “Okay, Flipper. Okay.”