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.

  • Pete Koutoulas

    Pete is an IT pro­fes­sion­al work­ing in Lexington. Formerly of Campton, he and his wife have lived in Winchester since 2015. Pete is a for­mer week­ly news­pa­per pub­lish­er and for­mer colum­nist for the Winchester Sun. These days, when not work­ing he can often be found on his back porch read­ing or writ­ing, in the back­yard tend­ing to his toma­to plants, or put­ter­ing around in his garage or work­shop. Reach Pete at pete@wincitynews.org.