I wrote this piece of fiction in 1993, as part of a college creative writing course. I dug it up recently and decided to share it here.
None of us in Mingo Corners gave much thought to Larry despite his strange ways. Heaven knows we had our share of oddballs in town, and Larry seemed to be just another one of them. No one really knew him, although I think I was one of the few who really tried. He lived alone in a dilapidated house that he had inherited when his mother had died suddenly in 1989.
One day Larry freaked out.
That’s the only way I know to describe it: he just plain freaked out. Told everyone he was an alien from the planet Zorbene or something like that, and that he had decided on the fate of humankind. Said that we would all be exterminated. Exterminated. Like a bunch of goddamned cockroaches, he told us. Said we weren’t worthy to exist in a noble universe, whatever that means. Went down to Randy’s Hardware and tried to buy $5000 worth of guns and ammo on credit.
That did it.
“We have to do something about Larry,” someone said.
“He needs to be put someplace where he can’t hurt himself,” said another.
They appointed me to go talk to Larry. “You know him best,” they said. So reluctantly I went to Larry’s house to see him. I asked the sheriff to meet me there, just in case.
When I arrived, Larry was sitting on his front porch.
“Larry,” I said. “I know you’ve been reading a lot of science fiction lately. Mrs. Hollister at the library told me so. I know you get these… these ideas. But this time you’ve really spooked some people in town. They think you’re off your rocker. You’ve got to knock it off, man. What do you say?”
Larry sat there motionless. He seemed to be meditating or something.
“Larry, man, have you heard anything I’ve said?”
After what seemed like half an hour, Larry turned to me. His steel-gray eyes seemed to be looking through me, into my soul. I shuddered.
“Frank,” he began, “how long have you known me?”
“All your twenty-seven years, Larry,” I replied. “We went to school together. What’s your point?”
“In all those years, Frank, have you ever known me to say anything, y’ know, weird?”
That was a tough one. This was the man who had once told me he was the illegitimate son of Elvis. I paused for an uncomfortable few seconds. Luckily he went on.
“This is hard for me, Frank. Look, you think you know me, right? Good ol’ Larry Martin, the village idiot. But that’s not really me, y’ see? That’s somebody else. I’m the guy who holds the fate of all humanity in his hand. That’s one hell of a responsibility, Frank.”
“Uh, yeah, that’s why I’m here, Larry. Man, you’ve got to cut out all that crap. These people in town, they’re serious, man. Sheriff Hanks even wants to have you committed.”
He looked at me like I was some kind of pathetic animal.
“That’s my point exactly,” Larry said, his voice rising. “You humans, when faced with something a little out of the ordinary, something different from yourselves, you want to get rid of it. No matter whether it might do you some good.”
At this point, I decided to try a different tack.
“Okay, Larry. Say you are this, this, creature from out there somewhere. How can that be? My mom remembers when you were born. Doc Grigsby said you were a normal baby. How do you explain that?”
“I don’t have all the answers, Frank. All I know is until six months ago, I thought I was one of you. Then I had these… visions. In the visions, my real father explained to me telepathically who I was and why I was here. Now that I understand, some of my memories from my real life have come back. I know who I am, and I know why I’m here. As to how I got here, I can’t say.”
I was getting impatient.
“So how come you came to Mingo Corners, Kentucky for crying out loud. Huh? Tell me that!”
“Look, Frank, I said I don’t know everything. Maybe my father thought this place was representative of all mankind.”
“Okay, Mr. Know-it-all, tell me this: how do you decide the fate of a species, anyway?”
Larry turned away at that. He seemed to go back into his trance, and he sat there for several minutes while I stewed. When he turned back to me, his eyes had changed — they suddenly looked very old — and very sad.
“That was quite difficult. I can’t really explain it all. But after a few days, I just knew. I just knew…” His voice trailed off and his eyes misted.
Obviously, my plan wasn’t working. How do you reason with someone who is delusional?
“Larry, I think you really do believe what you’re saying, don’t you?”
Those sad, ancient eyes pierced me again. I looked away.
“Frank, I shouldn’t tell you all this, but,” he looked around as if to see if anyone was watching, then continued, “you see, mankind was just an experiment gone bad. My father told me all about it. Now my people realize that there’s no way your species will ever mature and become noble. So we plan to exterminate you from the planet and try again. A planet as beautiful as this one can’t be wasted, y’know.”
By now I felt as though I needed to be committed. But strangely, I wanted to hear more. I nodded for him to continue.
“You see, Frank, my people have created many races of creatures on many worlds. We ourselves are immortal — but we can only create mortal creatures. Some races mature and become noble, almost as noble as we. Sadly, though, the vast majority are like humans: they just don’t seem to have the capacity to be noble. But we usually learn from our mistakes. I think your successors will be asymmetrical.”
“Uh, huh. This will in theory allow greater dichotomy between the two brain hemispheres and cause the species to be more open to new ideas.”
I closed my eyes and shook my head. This guy had barely graduated high school. In five years. I was no longer hoping to talk some sense into him. Now I just hoped to occupy him until the sheriff arrived. So I humored him some more.
“Look, Larry, I admit we have our shortcomings. But can’t your people just give us a warning or something? I mean, The death penalty — that’s pretty stiff.”
“Oh, we’ve tried to warn you before. My people have been sending messengers to try to open your eyes for eons. Two thousand years ago we sent a man to teach you to be nobler. You crucified him, then perverted his message.”
“Jesus Christ, Larry!”
He nodded. “Jesus Christ, Socrates, Buddha, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and dozens more. They tried to teach you to live together in peace, in harmony. You killed most of them.”
“Now hold it right there, bucko!” I shouted. “now that’s blasphemy, and I don’t have to listen to it. I’m out of here. And I’m telling the sheriff to come and get you today. You’re friggin’ crazy and you ought to be locked up!”
Suddenly Larry’s expression changed from one of sadness to extreme anger. I had never seen a human being change expression so quickly.
“You’re single-handedly proving my case, Frank! See, you can’t even listen to other ideas without getting out of sorts. Is it any wonder you humans have so many wars!”
Just as suddenly as it came, the anger vanished. The sad old man returned.
“Oh, Frank, this has really been hard. Look, you’ve got to see it my way. When was the last time you went out of your way to help someone, or to get along better with your neighbor?”
“Well, I, um,” I stammered. “I give ten bucks to the United Way each month.” Why was I still talking to this idiot?
“Frank, what about your neighbor, Mr. Nixon. Have you ever offered to help him carry in his groceries?”
“I guess he does okay for a man of 89. Anyway, he never asked for my help.”
“And what have you done for your community? Do you volunteer your time to help illiterate people learn to read? Are you a volunteer firefighter?”
“Hey wait a minute! Just last week I…”
He interrupted me.
“And Frank, what about that man whose pickup truck broke down near your house on that cold, rainy night. You wouldn’t even let him in your house to warm up.”
“But, Larry, that was George Henderson, he’s … you know … well I don’t know him very well, and I mean … ”
“You mean he’s black, Frank.”
“Look, Larry, it’s not that at all! It’s just that, well, you know how it is around here.”
“Yes, Frank. Unfortunately, I do know how it is.”
At that moment I felt about as comfortable as a bootlegger at a prayer meeting. Where was Sheriff Hanks?
Larry was back in his trance. I knew better than to continue this conversation, but I was feeling indignant. Almost like I was really talking to an alien bent on wiping us out.
“For crying out loud, Larry. Snap out of this! This is stupid!”
No response from Larry.
“Larry, there’s a big hole in your so-called logic, man. If this ‘superior race’ is so damned noble, how can they justify obliterating a whole species? It’s like.. well like…”
“Like what your ancestors did to the native Americans, Frank?”
That was when I noticed the sheriff’s patrol car coming up the street. Thank God! Please take this lunatic away!
Then a thought occurred to me.
“Larry,” I began, “I never told a soul about the incident with Henderson. How the hell did you know?”
He just looked at me with those sad old eyes. Then he looked at Sheriff Hanks coming up the walk, with two deputies following behind.
“Afternoon, Larry,” the Sheriff said. “Wadda ya say, Frank.”
“Wadda ya say, Joe,” I replied.
“Uh, Larry…,” the lawman stuttered.
“You needn’t say a word, Sheriff,” Larry said stiffly. “I know why you’re here and I’ll go willingly. Just let me go inside and get a few things. I’ll be five minutes.”
The sheriff looked at me for a cue, and I nodded slightly.
“Sure, Larry,” he said. “But make it fast.”
When Larry was inside, the Sheriff asked me what I thought about Larry.
“He’s an alien,” I said matter-of-factly.
“C’mon, Frank, I’m not in the mood for bullshit today. What’s the deal?”
“Look Joe,” I said. “Just be kind to him, okay? And don’t ask him any questions.”
That was six months ago, and it was the last time we saw Larry. I read in the paper the other day that he had been released from Eastern State Mental Hospital and was killed by an off-duty police officer while robbing a liquor store in Lexington.
“Poor Larry,” we all said. “What a pity.” No one would admit that we all felt relief at Larry’s death.
I started volunteering down at the nursing home last month and raised my United Way contribution to 20 dollars a month. One day I stopped by the Henderson’s just to say hey. Mrs. Henderson gave me the best piece of blackberry pie I have ever eaten.
And just yesterday, I offered to help old Mr. Nixon with his groceries. He accepted.