Winter 2013 — THE POTOMAC

Mr. Nipple Has A Secret

  Bonnie ZoBell

Everyone knew Mark Nipple didn't believe in UFOs. That's why after seeing one up close on his way home from Giggling Graphics, his graphic design firm, he wasn't sure how he'd ever tell his family. His doctor had censured him for doing nothing about his fatigue, true. His boss had ordered him to take time off. His wife Anita told him he should cabezada and stay in his man cave a while. His son Aubrey the rock musician said his dad needed to chill before he'd even consider allowing Nipple to sit in on Neon Narcissus's remake of Saliva's "Ladies and Gentlemen." His daughter Samantha, gracing them with a visit though she never wanted to come home from college anymore, hadn't believed anything he'd said since she was eleven anyway. He could only imagine what she'd say about a spaceship.

But that's exactly what he saw landing on the school playground several blocks from home that night. Instead of the usual flying saucer, this ship resembled a coffee cup. Nipple wondered what the handle held—extra fuel? A powerful pathogen? Private brew? So familiar was he with the playground that the faintly flashing umber lights stuck out, though maybe no one else noticed. Nipple immediately parked behind a tree and stepped out to the fence to see better, but not too close.

The handle of the coffee cup lowered like a drawbridge. Three short beings marched out. The leader of the triumvirate and his two followers resembled human males, except for light green skin with a yellowish tinge and their heads seeming to have been squashed in a vice. They wore harem pants.

Nipple's mouth hung open. He glanced away and then back in case what everybody was saying about his exhaustion was true. But the little men were still there.

"Earthling," the leader said. "We come in peace." His voice projected past the swing set and monkey bars, like he was standing right beside Nipple, who tried to further disappear into the shadows by aligning himself with the tree, his arms in an L shape to mimic the lower branches. What if they hurt him? What if he never saw his family again?

"Do not hide. We are brothers." The voice could have been Nipple's conscience, it was so close. He worked too late at night and was tired because he wanted to give his family a good life. Maybe he'd take them on vacation instead.

He should get in his car and drive the two blocks home. Anita would be angry and say, "You swore you'd fix the little rubber dealy-bob inside the toilet tank before leaving this morning. Qué cojones?" Aubrey'd refuse to let him riff with the new drummer Neon Narcissus was interviewing until he removed his Dead Kennedy's t-shirt. This even though Nipple's college band had been hot, much hotter than Aubrey's would ever be—they could have made it big in a New York minute if Anita hadn't gotten pregnant. Samantha'd be trying to nurse Twig, the baby she and her lover Gabby had adopted. One or the other woman always had one or both breasts exposed trying to get Twig to suckle. "Not just pregnancy makes women produce milk, you know," she said when Nipple suggested that maybe Samantha and Gabby could keep their chests covered in the common rooms. Samantha hadn't spoken to him since.

"We come to make a peaceful offer," the little green man said.

Right. The whole thing was crazy. These little men were crazy.

"We do not embody psychological disorders." Were they reading his thoughts? "Please step forward so that your military services do not surveil and arrest us for being multicultural. My name is Xyyttgiz."

With that, Xyyttgiz advanced a few steps into the field. The two other small men followed. And then, as if sucked through a vacuum cleaner, Nipple was standing right before them, so shocked he tripped, then reached for the pain in his knee. Standing, he saw the men had electrodes all over their heads.

"To make Earth more habitable," Xyyttgiz said. The men came up to Nipple's waist.

Somehow, there was now a Dos Equis in Nipple's hand. He'd been fantasizing about having one the minute he got home.

"We propose a week on Mars for your extended family in a crater made into a virtual Acapulco with a pool and lounge chairs and a margarita machine. Fashionable apparel has been selected. All we ask is that you allow us to examine you and learn about relationships between Earth families. You may ask us any questions you like. We will come by for your family in one hour."

"But what if . . ." Nipple said.

Instantly he was in his car headed home. He sat in the garage, listened to the engine tick while trying to gather himself.

The moment he stepped inside the kitchen door, baby Twig wailed from upstairs. Setting his briefcase on the floor, he poured himself a Jameson. Anita swung through for a glass of wine. "Honey, you look terrible," she said, before returning the way she came. "Better lie down before we go to Mimi and Dan's."

He did lie down, the back of his hand over his forehead, one leg dangling to the floor. Aubrey and the prospective drummer did a quick circuit through the family room. "Better shake a leg, lard ass," his son told him, then muttered, "thinks he God's gift to punk rock."

Nipple closed his eyes, just for a second. When he opened them, Samantha was standing over him, her shirt hiked to her neck, baby Twig nursing. She stuck her tongue out, padded away.

Mark Nipple paced the living room, finally called upstairs, "I need you all to come down here." He was willing to risk ridicule if revealing his thoughts made them closer. The floorboards above him didn't creak with movement. No pounding thuds raced down the stairs. "There's something important I have to tell you," he said, but when he looked up, nobody was in the room.

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