By H. L. Cornetto
The sign on the door has hand-drawn UFOs. Beneath the drawings are the words ‘ETAA Meeting 2-Nite @7:00!’
ETAA stands for Extraterrestrial Abductees Anonymous. The group has been using the basement of the abandoned church as a meeting place for a few months. Sharon is the group leader. Meetings consist of abductees showing up and sharing their stories over coffee and Little Debbies. Sometimes there are doughnuts.
At 6:50, attendees start wandering in. The ones who come early are eager for a mug of steaming coffee. They start filling in folding chairs which are neatly arranged in circles. Most people skip a chair between themselves and the next person. After all, you never know when the other person might be a weirdo.
At 7:02, at least half of the chairs are filled in. A small white dog is curled up in one of them. Sharon stands and clears her throat. “I’d like to call this meeting to order. For those of you who have been here before, welcome back. For those of you who are here for the first time, we thank you for joining us. This is a judgment-free zone: a healing space. Say whatever you need to say here, without fear of judgment or mockery. Many people don’t believe our survival stories, so we tell them to each other. Would anyone like to share first?”
Raymond stands and pulls up his jeans. Despite his belt, they immediately start to slip down again. This puts him in the awkward position of having to constantly tug his pants up as he speaks. “Hello, everyone. I’m Raymond, and I had an alien encounter.”
Sharon nods. “Go ahead, Raymond. Share your story.”
“I was driving the tractor on account of I needed to do some plowin’. I drove to the cornfield and saw that I had some of them crop circles. ‘Cept they were squares. I had crop squares. I parked my tractor right in the middle of the square, and then I saw a bright, shinin’ light. Next thing I remember, I’m butt naked in the middle of the field.”
A man wearing a straw hat and overalls raises his hand. Sharon nods. “Yes, Taylor?”
“You sure it was squares and not rectangles? You know, buncha folks say squares when they really mean rectangles.”
Raymond tugs his pants upward. “Well, I thought it was squares, but come to think of it, it might’ve been rectangles. Just saw it wasn’t round. I thought maybe them aliens did a bad parking job or some such. Can’t even make a proper crop circle.”
Sharon stands and claps her hands together. The group joins in the applause for Raymond. “Thank you for sharing. Who would like to share next?”
Tina stands next. She’s got slippers on because her feet swell. She is a size 22 woman squeezed into a size 12 leopard print dress. Tina shares at every meeting.
“Hey, ya’ll. I’m Tina, and I’ve been abducted by aliens.”
Sharon rolls her eyes. She knows what is coming next.
“Them aliens came to my bedroom again last night. I had just finished reading a chapter of Outlander. I put the book down and was getting ready to sleep when suddenly my bed was surrounded by little green men. They started touching me and said they was gonna take me aboard their spaceship. Honey, I can’t tell you everything I remember. It’d make you blush.”
Sharon stands up again and pats Tina’s shoulder. “Yes, we appreciate it. We wouldn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.”
Taylor raises his hand again.
“Yes, Taylor?” Sharon asks.
“I, for one, would like to know more about what they did to Tina. You know, for science.”
Tina opens her mouth, but Sharon cuts her off. “Perhaps you can talk after the meeting?”
Satisfied, Taylor nods.
Sharon glances around the room. “Who else wants to share?”
The little white dog uncurls himself from his position and walks over to stand in the circle. Sharon looks down at it, perplexed. “Well, hi, there. What’s your name, little guy?”
Taylor pipes up again. “That’s Bupkiss.”
“Yeah, uh-huh. He was called Butt Kiss by Evelyn Thomas’s boy Dawson, on account of how he’s always licking hisself. Evelyn said he needed a proper Christian name, so now he’s Bupkiss.”
Sharon looks down at the dog. “So, Bupkiss, do you want to share with us this evening?”
The dog barks once. Some of the attendees who were half asleep now look up. Bupkiss stands on his hind legs and waves his front paws at the people seated in the circle. He then lowers himself back onto all fours and circles twice before he rolls over and plays dead. He crosses his two front paws over his face.
Everyone stands and applauds.
“What a brave little dog!”
“So courageous to share his story…with a different species, even!”
Sharon wipes away a tear. “Thank you for sharing, Bupkiss. That is all we have time for this evening. Drive carefully on your way home, and remember, keep your eyes on the skies.”
Sharon watches the attendees exit the building and folds and stacks the chairs neatly away. She walks through a backroom and lifts the wig from her head. She grabs a zipper at the back of her neck and steps out of a rubber suit. She glances in the mirror and wipes away the beige complected makeup, and her skin reverts to its natural gray. “Little green men, indeed. Lady, you couldn’t pay someone to probe you.”
A voice from behind causes her to jump. “How was progress, 7812B4?”
“Drunks, lonelies, and wishful thinkers.”
“The dog knows too much.”
1262Q0 nods. “We’ll have to take him with us.”
“I hope he’s housetrained.”
Later that evening, several residents of Etowah county would report seeing a UFO take off from an abandoned churchyard. But not the Thomas family. They would spend the evening searching for their lost dog.