“No!” he answered, unlocking a pair of basement doors. “Youcametoseethefantasticcraft that crashedherefrompointsunknown, lo thesedecadespast.”
We went down concrete steps to the edge of a big dark room, and the Chief turned to face us with his hand near a row of switches on the wall.
“I give you…pause for dramatic effect…the flying saucer cue music cue smoke machine cue lights.”
As he flipped the switch, music began to play, and a machine somewhere rumbled and hissed thick fog into the room, and flickering green and blue lights outlined a dim shape about as wide as a kiddie pool and twice as tall. The fog was mysterious. The lights were mysterious. The music was “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.”
“Sorry,” said Chief Shouting Bear. “I put on some Ella Fitzgerald after everyone left town. Used to be ‘Thus Spake Zarathustra.’ Very stirring. Hold on.”
He turned off the music.
“The flying saucer!” he said again, and threw a final switch.
The main lights winked on, revealing the absolute worst UFO in the universe. I mean, this was elementary school–play kind of stuff. It was misshapen but mostly saucer-shaped, made out of papier-mâché, and covered in tinfoil. It stood atop three legs made from PVC pipe and old satellite dishes. In the side was the round door from a front-loading washing machine, and it still said Speed Queen along the rim. Topping the whole thing was a TV aerial.
“Can I take a picture?” I asked.
“Knock yourself out.”
“Go up to the yard and look for that telecloner,” I whispered to J.Lo. “I’ll keep him busy down here.”
“Can you just…go around the corner into the room,” I said to Chief Shouting Bear, “so I can get a clear shot? Thanks.”
With the Chief out of sight, J.Lo scrambled up the steps and was knocked over by the Great Dane. I fumbled around with my camera until he recovered. Then the camera flashed and a picture snapped out the front.
“Old Polaroid,” said the Chief. “Don’t see those anymore.”
“Yeah. Uh, thanks for showing us the UFO. I can’t wait to tell everyone I’ve seen it. Y’know, the famous Roswell UFO. And all.”
He gave me a funny look. “An’ you don’t find anything unusual about this thing?” he said, waving toward the saucer. “You don’t question its authenticity?”
“Um…I dunno. I like to, you know…keep an open mind. Why? Don’t you think it’s real?”
“I have things to do, girl. Where did that little spook kid go?”
“He’s my brother.”
“Fine. Where’d he go?”
“I’m sure he’s around.”
Chief Shouting Bear pushed past me and climbed outside.
“This isn’t a playground. Hey, Spook! Time for you an’ your sister to go.”
On the opposite side of the junkyard, J.Lo walked around, inspecting different pieces of scrap, and keeping a wary eye on the Great Dane. It stayed one step behind him, sniffing at his ghost costume—like they were reenacting a Scooby-Doo cartoon.
“Lincoln sure likes your brother,” the Chief said. Or the way he smells like fish, I thought.
“I don’t think the feeling’s mutual,” I said.
“Lincoln’s harmless. Unless you’re allergic to dog spit.”
“Why do you live in a junkyard?”
“I trade it and sell it,” the Chief said. “Or I used to.”
“Oh. Is there…a lot of demand for junk?”
“More than you’d guess.”
I thought about mentioning that we’d nearly been killed in a junkyard in Florida, but I wasn’t sure if it would sound friendly or not.
We were interrupted as J.Lo ran toward us, waving his hands under the costume, Lincoln loping behind him. With his arms in the air he was hoisting the sheet up a few inches, and you could make out Boov feet if you knew what you were looking at. I stood and blocked the Chief’s view as I caught all thirty pounds of J.Lo right in the gut.
We fell in a heap, and Lincoln straddled us and put his wet nose in my eye.
“Hoof,” I said. “What is it? If this is about the dog—hey! No licking, Lincoln. If this is about the dog, you are totally overre—Knock it off, Lincoln!”
It wasn’t about the dog. J.Lo got to his feet and snapped his little sheet-covered hand over mine, pulling me up.
“I think he wants me to see something,” I said as J.Lo yanked me to a shady corner of the yard.
“What? What is it? Did you find it?” I said when we were out of earshot. Lincoln turned circles around us until J.Lo stopped right in front of a weird metal cage the size of an elevator. Some of the bars were blackened and warped at the bottom, but right away I could tell this wasn’t human junk—the metal didn’t look right, and there was some Boovish-looking machinery piped into the back. And at each intersection of the metal bars, the cage had a tiny plastic nozzle, like a rosebud. Other parts had been removed, it seemed, and were arranged on a towel nearby.
“Is the telecloner!” J.Lo hissed.
Just then I heard the dirt crunch behind us, and turned to see the Chief.
“Your brother’s a smart kid,” he said. “Could tell this thing doesn’t belong here.”
“Yeah…” I said. “What, uh, what is it?”
“Not sure. Have some theories. Suppose I can tell ya it belonged to the aliens, though. The new ones. Heard some explosions last night, drove out there, stole this thing while the aliens were fightin’ each other.”
J.Lo was hopping all around the telecloner, inspecting it from every angle. Each time he stopped looking at a spot, Lincoln would approach and lick it for good measure.
“So,” I said. “Do you usually drive toward explosions?”
“I’m a junkman,” the Chief answered. “Explosions are like dinner bells to us.”
“And you just picked this thing up yourself?”
“It’s lighter than it looks.”
I nodded. So far, every alien thing I’d held was lighter than it looked.
“So…” I said, “what do you want for it?”
“Want for it?”
“Sure. You sell and trade junk, right? How much for it?”
“It’s not for sale, kid.”
I couldn’t accept that. Here we’d found something the Boov had been trying to get their hands on for decades. The Chief didn’t even know what it was. But J.Lo could probably figure out how it worked and make more.