- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Because Angela seems to have become a totally different person and tells of being abducted by aliens and living among them, her friends change their minds about her.
Lisle (A Message from the Match Girl, 1995, etc.) gives readers so much to ponder that those seeking a UFO encounter will be easily distracted by the more intricate trappings of human intercourse. A thoughtful, resonantly written puzzle.
Georgina Rusk was certain what they had seen that night were helicopters.
She said they were helicopters at least ten times, until her friend Poco began to peer at her strangely.
"Are you sure?" Poco asked. "You can say if you're not."
"Trust me," Georgina said.
But of course Poco wouldn't.
There had been sightings near the old Wickham Reservoir before. It was one of those places where people saw things: spinning saucers and dancing points of light and shadows that hovered in the dark above the water. Over the years, all sorts of stories had grown up.
Poco said, "Remember those dogs they never found? The ones that disappeared from their own backyards? Mrs. Anthony from down our block thinks her Rambler was sucked up by a giant light beam."
"Oh, Rambler," Georgina said. "That yapping mutt. Someone let him out and strangled him probably. People will believe anything if you let them. And please don't bring up that stupid flying doll."
"Why not?" said Poco, who had just been about to.
In this strange tale, the doll of a younger girl they both vaguely knew had been surrounded by light before her eyes one night, and then floated out her bedroom window. The girl had insisted her story was true, though no one believed her—until two days later.
"They found the doll in a ditch," Poco recalled now, "far across town—too far to walk. It makes you wonder."
"About what?" Georgina asked.
"Well, what if aliens were after that girl but somehow, in the rush, they picked up her doll. Then they saw their mistake and dropped it."
Georgina looked away, disgusted. "Sure, if you believe in aliens. Personally, I don't. They're not scientific. I think that little girl made everything up. She wanted attention and she got it."
"Scientific?" Poco squinted in her foggy way. "Does that mean what we saw was—"
"Nothing!" Georgina roared.
Poco Lambert had become an embarrassment that fall. The chief trouble was, she never seemed to grow and by now had turned into such a small person that Georgina disliked going about with her. Georgina was sure people would think she was younger than she was, or that, having no friends, she was settling for toddlers.
And there was something else: Poco's endless bird chats with a robin that lived in the Lamberts' backyard. Over the summer, Poco had grown more and more attached to him. She couldn't go for five minutes without wondering where he was or what he was doing, or if he was thinking fondly of her ... which he never was, of course, being only a bird, with a brain fixed mainly on warm baths and worms.
"Poco, you can't expect him to feel anything back!" (Georgina was forever having to cheer her friend up.)
"Really, Poco, don't worry, he'll come home again. He has not crashed into a sliding glass door!"
Eventually, he would return. Then he would parade in front of Poco's nose without a thought for the agonies she had suffered. But she was always so thankful to find him safe that she only tried harder than ever to please him, in hopes that he wouldn't go off again ... which he did anyway. He was heartless. Heartless!
In fact, as Georgina might have pointed out, the bird was the reason they'd been awake that night, and had seen what they had in the still, black sky. Helicopters probably. Or was it something else?CHAPTER 2
Poco had been sitting rigid on her bed, keeping watch for the robin out her window. Georgina, who was spending the night, lay yawning beside her. Across town, a church clock had rung twelve slow strokes, each one answered by a dismal echo. Midnight, times two. Poco stood up.
"He's always here by now. Something's happened, I know it."
"No it hasn't." Georgina yawned again. "I'm sure he's all right."
"He's not. He's fallen. He's broken his wing."
"He'll be back by morning. Come on, let's go to sleep."
"George, how can you be so uncaring?" Poco whispered in a furious voice. Everyone else in the house had gone to bed hours ago. "I can't stand it anymore. I'm going out to find him."
"You can't do that! It's the middle of the night."
But Poco had done it. She had gotten up and tiptoed down to the kitchen, where she let herself out the back door. Georgina, as her guest, was forced to follow.
They stepped off the porch and walked across the grass, feeling strangely light in their summer pajamas. It was early September but still quite warm. Under the old apple tree, Poco came to a stop.
"George, hoist me up! I can't reach the branch."
"Okay, okay. Stop kicking."
"Sh-sh! Mom will hear. Just push me up ... there! Now let me step on your shoulders...."
"Okay, but wait Ouch!"
After this, there was silence, except for the noise of Poco scrabbling upward in the tree.
"Georgina, I can see his nest!"
"He's not in it."
"I thought maybe he'd come home and fallen asleep at the bottom. Robins do that sometimes."
"Really." By now, Georgina had climbed up, too. She sat back indignantly on a branch. They were quite high off the ground, she noticed, glancing down.
"Let's just stay here for a while," Poco whispered from above. "Maybe, if he sees me, he'll figure out I'm worried and fly home."
"He does care about me, whatever you think."
Georgina did not even bother to argue. She turned her eyes upward to the stars and thought of going home. But her parents were away at an overnight party. That was why she was staying with Poco.
The air in the apple tree felt thick and still. The leaves made a latticework screen around them, through which the sky's vast depth was visible in patches. It was one of those nights when the eye opens wide and the mind slips its cage and makes for wilder regions. Georgina took a firmer hold on her branch.
Below, the yard shone dimly, illuminated by a single light on the Lamberts' back porch. There was a shadow with a long-nosed profile on the lawn. Could it possibly be a wolf? A twig snapped in the underbrush.
"George, what's that?" Poco was pointing off to their right.
"That creature. Slinking along the ground over there. It looks hairy."
Georgina turned and caught her breath. But then she let it out again. Poco's mind must have escaped into wild places, too; the hairy creature was only a cat. In fact, it was Poco's own, Juliette. The old Siamese appeared to be on a hunting expedition. She was moving slowly, head low to the ground. All at once, she leapt on a clump of bushes.
"Oh!" Poco gasped. Then she recognized her, too. "Oh, it's only Juliette."
"I think she's caught something." Georgina strained to see.
They heard the brutal sounds of a body being shaken and dragged farther into the underbrush. Most likely, it was one of the little chipmunks that lived along the yard's borders. Juliette had a taste for them.
Poco covered her face. "Don't think of it," she said.
The night fell into silence again. There was no moon. Except for the far-off prickle of stars, the sky beyond the leaves was blacker than a cave. Georgina shifted on her perch. A phantom claw of wind scraped through the tree, and in that instant, she felt something new. A premonition of movement rippled through the leaves, of clouds gathering or armies on the march. Georgina glanced up.
Above, a squadron of round, bright-lit objects hovered in silence, sharply etched against the night sky. Georgina and Poco leaned back and stared. Five ... no, six ... no, seven gleaming forms paused overhead in an investigative way.
"They're like glass marbles. You can see right through." Georgina's voice came out as a whisper.
"What's all that stuff floating inside? George, I think they can see us, too."
Georgina felt her eyes heat up. For a moment, it did seem as if the objects were staring down, had found them in the dark and paused to examine them. Then zip! Her spellbound eyes were released. The ghostly marbles flew away. Or melted. Or maybe vaporized? It was hard to find the word for what they had done. One second they were there, and the next, vanished.
"What were they?" Poco was cowering on the branch.
"I'm not sure."
"They looked like—"
"Don't say it." Georgina rubbed her eyes. "They were probably just planes. Or helicopters—that must be it."
"But they were so quiet."
"Sometimes spotlights catch on things in the sky and make them look completely different."
"It could have been a flock of geese migrating south. Or was it—" Poco stopped. "Oh no, robins! Maybe he's left for Florida."
"Come on," Georgina said, "let's start climbing down. I think I want to go in." She felt shaken.
"Will you help me watch again out my window?"
"Oh, Poco, he'll come back whether we watch or not. It's the one thing that bird does that's reliable."
"You're right." Poco sighed. "Why do I get so worried?"
"Because you're caught. You love him. You can't help it."
Georgina said this in such a faint voice that Poco looked down.
"George? Are you all right?"
There was no answer.
"Yes, I'm okay. It's just so strange." Poco quickly climbed down beside her. Then they sat close together and stared up through the leaves, but the sky was vast and dark and unreadable.CHAPTER 3
There is no place further from the trackless realms of night than an ordinary bedroom flooded with morning sun. Georgina woke up and glanced about with relief. Everything seemed back to normal. Poco sat hunched by the same window, but now her face was flushed with contentment.
"George, look, my robin's here." He was perched on a sprig of the apple tree, grooming his wings with self-important pecks. "He certainly believes in neatness."
Georgina sniffed. "He probably has lice."
From the foot of Poco's bed came a heave of cat fur. Old Juliette had come in with them last night and crept upstairs to her usual sleeping spot. Now she roused herself, padded over, and gazed with her powerful blue eyes out the window. Whatever she saw seemed to interest her, because a minute later she eased her big body off the bed and made for the door with a stiff-legged gait.
Juliette was not as quick as when she had first come to live with Poco. That was last fall, when Angela Harrall, Poco and Georgina's friend, had moved to Mexico with her father for a year. Unfortunately, Angela's parents had decided to get divorced, and then had gone off in very different directions.
Her mother was accepted at a famous law school in California. Her father bought into a South American business. There was no room in these plans for an aging cat, so Juliette was left behind with the Lambert family—where, shortly after, she was run down by a car in the street and then had disappeared for several mysterious weeks.
Juliette was quieter when she returned, and she had slept a great deal. Last summer, she'd collapsed twice from the heat, causing everyone to worry that her time was near.
"I hope Angela comes back soon, or she'll miss saying good-bye," Poco's mother was always murmuring sadly.
To which Poco would answer, "Not good-bye. Farewell. Juliette has a lot more lives to go on to." It was one of those notions she insisted on.
From under the covers, Georgina watched as the cat struggled by.
"Whatever life Juliette has coming up next, she's certainly turned into a wreck in this one. Angela will hardly recognize her," she said in a rather mean tone to Poco.
Juliette had always made Georgina nervous. The cat possessed a queer hypnotic stare that seemed at times to take control of people. And what was one to make of the tiny silver box that had appeared around her neck last winter? Georgina glimpsed it now as Juliette passed by. The box contained catnip, a strong-scented herb associated with ancient, vanished worlds.
"And she's so skinny," Georgina went on, sitting up more boldly as Juliette's tail disappeared into the hall. "Her shoulders stick out like two chicken wings. Angela will think she isn't being fed."
Angela this, Angela that. Lately, Georgina kept bringing her up. She had missed Angela during her year away, and felt increasingly impatient to see her again.
"Poco is nice, but she's not scientific," Georgina told her mother. "She's in love with a robin. What does that say?"
"That she has imagination?" Mrs. Rusk ventured.
Perhaps Poco felt Georgina's quiet shift away. She looked angry whenever Angela's name was mentioned.
"Of course Juliette is being fed! Anyway, why would Angela care? She wrote me exactly once to ask how her cat was."
"Well, I guess she's been a little busy. She had to learn a whole new language. In Mexico, everyone speaks Spanish, you know. Also, she had to make new friends."
"That," said Poco hotly, "is no excuse. You can't just go off and forget your old ones."
Georgina felt a pang. The truth was, Angela hadn't written to her, either. She hadn't telephoned after the first month. There had been one Happy New Year card. "From Angela," it said. That was all.
"So why does Juliette look so thin?" Georgina went on, trying to cover her feelings.
"She doesn't! She looks old. She still goes hunting. Remember last night, how she caught that chipmunk?"
Last night! With these words, Georgina was invaded by a frightening image: seven glass marbles glowing in the dark. She rubbed her eyes to make them go away.
"Well, it's sad to see a cat falling apart. Remember how you used to think Juliette could talk? She must be losing her special powers."
"No she isn't. We still talk if we want. But when people get to know each other, words are less important. They have other ways of saying what they mean. Have you ever seen Juliette with my robin? They are such dear old friends, they've given up words completely."
Georgina shook her head in a helpless way.
"If you don't believe me, come watch. My mother just let Juliette out the back door."
Georgina moved over to the window, where she witnessed the unremarkable sight of a cat and a bird staring at each other.
Poco sighed. "If you want to know, Juliette is the only reason my robin comes back at all. He likes her ten times more than me. And Juliette adores him, though she's too proud to show it. Neither of them would ever admit it, but anyone can see how they need each other. That, of course, is the true test."
"Of being friends forever." She didn't have to add, "Unlike Angela." Georgina leapt up and began to get dressed.
Breakfast was under way in the Lambert kitchen when the two girls arrived downstairs. Mr. Lambert was cooking banana pancakes, a Sunday family tradition, while Mrs. Lambert sat at the kitchen table in her bathrobe, giving him advice. Mr. and Mrs. Lambert had clearly not reached the state of friendliness beyond which words are no longer needed, because the whole proceeding was making a lot of noise.
"Well, girls!" Mr. Lambert said, cutting Mrs. Lambert off in midsentence. "A great day for you; I hear the Harralls are home from Mexico."
Georgina's eyes flew open. "Angela is back? But she hasn't called."
"I think it's only since last night. They came in on a late flight from Houston. Not Mr. Harrall, of course. He'll stay on in Mexico with his business. But Mrs. Harrall and Angela are here. And the older brother. What's his name?"
"Martin," Georgina said. "He's going to college."
"I guess that's why they've come tearing home. He has to leave Monday to get to school," Poco's mother said. "You girls are lucky. You have another week." She leaned forward and advised Mr. Lambert to flip his pancakes—unless he planned to serve banana buffalo hide.
"Would you like to take over?" he snapped back.
Meanwhile, Georgina had risen to her feet. "Poco, come on, let's go see her. I can't believe Angela's here after all this time."
Poco didn't answer. She looked at the floor.
"Come on! She'll be desperate to see us."
A scritch of claws sounded against the back screen door.
Poco got up and went to open it. "Will Juliette have to go back to the Harralls' right away?" she asked her mother in a low voice as the cat passed through.
"I suppose they'll want her."
"Could they at least wait till this afternoon?"
"I'm sure they can. They're probably still asleep. We'll wait for them to call us, okay?"
Poco nodded. She reached out and gathered the big gray Siamese in her arms and carried her to her seat. Mr. Lambert brought over their plates of pancakes. Poco looked dismally at hers. "It's not just Juliette," she murmured.
Georgina had sat back down and was helping herself to a vast sea of maple syrup. The thought of seeing Angela again had suddenly made her very hungry. She could hardly wait to tell Angela about everything that had happened and to laugh and joke around the way they always did.
Excerpted from Angela's Alien by Janet Taylor Lisle. Copyright © 1996 Janet Taylor Lisle. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.