The following story was written some time ago while I was a member of the Riverside Writers’ Group, an excellent fiction workshop led by the equally excellent Bill Roorbach in the late ’80s here in New York City. It’s autobiographical, in the sense that all fiction is autobiographical to one degree or another, though I’ve never been abducted by aliens (as far as I know), nor have I ever met Tuesday Weld.
The man and woman wearing matching motorcycle jackets were walking down the street hand in hand, yelling at each other. Taylor watched them from his fifth floor apartment, disturbed and yet excited by the violence in their voices. He pulled his head in and closed the window, wondering how many blocks they’d get before one of them punched the other in the face. Well, at least they were together.
Taylor sat back down in front of the television where he’d been watching Bugs Bunny cartoons when the angry shouts had brought him to the window. But now he couldn’t concentrate, and after a few more minutes of watching Bugs and Elmer going round and round, he turned it off and put the disk away with his other cartoon DVDs.
He thought about the couple in the street. Taylor was nearly forty-five and he didn’t even have anyone to fight with. Whose fault is that? he thought. Maybe if he’d do something besides feel sorry for himself. He turned from the bookcase filled with DVDs and walked once around the room, trying to focus on something.
Taylor went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. His beard was coming in nicely. He stroked under his chin. He was good-looking enough, or so he’d been told; he dressed okay; he was an interesting guy; he just didn’t seem to have much luck with women. But what was luck, anyway? Don’t we make our own luck? He made some goofy faces in the mirror, then stopped, frowned, and sat down on the closed toilet seat. He couldn’t figure it out.
He thought about Marie. Marie had lived with him for six months, and he hadn’t missed her until she’d left. Maybe if he’d missed her a little while she was still there, things might have turned out differently, though he doubted it. It was like when he’d gotten those two kittens a few years before. That lasted all of a month. Taylor had wanted them around when he wanted them around, but they were there all the time.
He’d had a fantasy about getting rid of the kittens, dumping them in the Hudson tied in a bag, or just turning them loose in the park. And that put the image in his head that every time he’d leave his building, these starving cats would come mewling around his feet while he hurried away pretending not to know them. Finally he’d just given them away, and then, typically, missed them terribly.
Taylor ran his hand along the rim of the tub. When he was out of work a few months before, suicidal images had taken on a disturbing clarity, a shape and hardness that had threatened to overtake his fantasies. He’d had a clear picture of being naked in the tub, his wrists slashed, watching the tub fill with blood. Then he’d started wondering how much blood was in the human body and how deep it would get in a tub this size. It would have to be enough to cover his crotch, because the idea of someone breaking in and finding him dead with his penis poking out of the congealing blood was just too humiliating to contemplate. Or he could put a plastic bag over his head and go out like that, but that way seemed too real, too possible, and it frightened him.
Taylor stood up. He had to get out of the apartment for awhile. He changed to his running gear. He would go to Central Park and run a few laps around the reservoir, which might at least make him feel like he was doing something.
On his way out Taylor made sure his phone was on. He didn’t get many calls, but you never knew. Lately he was getting calls from people misdialing a fast food chicken place that had a number close to his. He often thought about pretending to take the order and promising a quick delivery that would never arrive, or quoting absurd, insulting prices, but he never did.
Taylor was feeling okay by the time he reached the park, though he thought it odd that the reservoir track was deserted this cool Sunday morning. It was overcast, the grey clouds hanging low. Taylor pictured, as he often did, being abducted by a flying saucer, picked up from this track, and taken to a distant galaxy where he would be studied having sex with a young and willing Tuesday Weld as she was in 1968 in Pretty Poison. What a great movie.
Taylor was coming around the north side of the reservoir. He could see the midtown skyline in the distance to the south. By the time he heard the sound, it was already all around him. He stopped and turned, then looked up. A large silver ball the size of his parent’s house was descending from the heavy clouds until it was just above him. An apparatus extended downward and quickly, gently, drew Taylor up into the sphere. He lost consciousness with excitement.
When he came to, Taylor was strapped to a comfortable chair in front of a smooth, bare desk. Watching him from across the small, circular room was a slim reptilian creature, humanoid in shape, wearing a Daffy Duck t-shirt and faded denim jeans ripped in the knees. The alien came forward and sat down across the desk from Taylor.
“We thought you would be less anxious if you saw something familiar,” it said in a calm, soothing voice, pointing to the cartoon image on its shirt.
Taylor nodded. He tried to smile. He suddenly felt foolish in his running clothes. The alien leaned slightly forward.
“Do not be afraid. You are wondering if this is really happening, and if so, how is it possible that this is so close to a fantasy you often have? Months ago we put this idea into your mind. We have targeted you, and others like you, people with no one to love and little hope for happy or meaningful lives, people who won’t be missed and won’t mind going. You will be taken to worlds beyond your imagination while we study and help you. You will be leaving this…” — the alien gestured and a three-dimensional image of the earth appeared just above the desk — “…behind forever.” The alien gestured again and the earth winked out.
Taylor felt giddy relief spreading through his body, like he’d just been fired from a horrible job he didn’t have the guts to quit. The alien spread its clawed hands on the desktop and continued.
“If you think that this isn’t real, that it is childish wish fulfillment, and that you are in fact insane, well, if that were so, what difference would it make?”
The creature paused dramatically. “And now there’s someone here who wants to meet you.”
The alien looked to its left. Taylor followed its gaze, his grip tightening on the arms of the chair. He held his breath as a panel in the curved wall slid open with a whisper. Tuesday Weld walked naked through the door.