Deducted by a UFO’s by Gary Benton
It was 1966 and Bubba, who was fifteen, was offered a job cutting grass for a dollar an hour. He figured it would take five hours to do the job and maybe three gallons of gas. Since gas was going for 29 cents a gallon, it would cost close to 87 cents for fuel. To his way of figuring, he’d clear over four dollars for doing the job. Of course, Billy Bob, his best friend, would help, so they’d end up with almost two dollars each. Not bad pay when most men were only making eight dollars a day.
He pushed his mower to Billy Bob’s house and an hour later, they were nearing old woman Sidwell’s farm.
As they walked, Billy Bob asked, “We doin’ the whole farm or just her front yard?”
“I ain’t sure and it don’t matter none to me either. The money is good and that’s all I need to know.”
“I don’t know about that. She must have a good ten acres of land around that house and it’ll be hot doin’s in this heat. It’ll take us all day today and tomorrow to do a job that big.”
“It don’t matter much, because it’ll give us some spending money. Besides, what else we gonna do on a day like this? It’s too hot to fish.”
“Okay, but I hope ya figured the cost of gas into all of this.”
“Did that, so relax and let’s get this job finished.”
At the farmhouse the old woman answered the door with about twenty cats seen in the background. Three old mix-breed dogs were barking in the barnyard, but didn’t come near, as Bubba asked, “Still need us to cut your grass?”
“Bubba Claremore, how are ya son?”
“Just fine Missus Stillwell and I’m here to cut your grass. Remember, you asked me Sunday, after church, to come over and do it for a dollar an hour.”
“Oh, now I remember. Sure, I want it all cut from the highway to the back fence. When you’re done let me know and I’ll pay you boys.”
Billy Bob looked at the steep slope running to the highway and knew the job would be hot and long.
Smiling, Bubba said, “Okay we’ll start in a few minutes.”
“Good, now I have to go and feed my cats. Just knock when you’re done and I’ll pay you boys.”
“Will do, and thanks for the work!”
“You’re a good boy, but remember I want an honest day’s work for the pay. You two do a good job and I’ll tell my friend about you.” She then closed the door.
“Ain’t likely she’ll remember we were here an hour after we leave,” Billy Bob complained.
“What you so sore about?”
“This is a tough job and we should be gettin’ more money than what she’ll pay us. It’ll take us at least two days to do this job.”
“Look, take your time, do the job right and it’ll be over before you know it. Besides, there ain’t many jobs for boys our age, so I think we’re lucky to have this one.”
“Bubba, this grass is a foot tall! You have any idea how many times our mowers will conk out on us?”
“You got something more important to do?”
“No, not really.”
“Then let’s get this job done,” Bubba replied as he pulled the handle on his crank rope and listened to the deep roar of his lawnmower engine. Smiling he started down the hill, but he didn’t get far. Within ten feet his mower sputtered and died, clogged with grass, he started it again and the same thing happened. Finally, growing frustrated, he raised the front of the mower about half a foot and had fewer stops after that.
An hour into the job, Bubba glanced over at Billy Bob, waved, and then ran over a water hose hidden in the grass. Billy Bob, who normally would have laughed, hit an old clothes line on the ground at almost the same time and let go of his mower to duck the twirling line. The line sounded like a thousand bees as it whipped out in all directions. Less than a second later, the young man ran from his machine, taking only one hard sting to his back before he reached safety.
Bubba had done the same thing, except instead of running, he fell to the ground to avoid the long arms of plastic whipping in the air overhead. It was just a few seconds later, when he noticed Billy Bob’s mower moving down the driveway toward the road at the bottom of the hill. He failed to see the mangled clothesline trailing behind the machine. Or, maybe because one of the old woman’s bra’s was flapping in the wind he simply refused to see it.
“Billy Bob! We got to get that mower before it gets to the road or a car might hit it!” Bubba yelled as he took off running as fast as he could.
Half way down the hill it was obvious to the two that the mower would not be caught in time, so Bubba stopped, breathing deeply from his run.
Billy Bob walked up and said, “Heck fire, Bubba, there ain’t no way we could catch that thing once it started down this steep slope.” He then leaned over, placed his hands on his knees, took a few deep breaths, and continued, “Let’s just hope it don’t hit nothing!”
At that second there came a loud crashing sound and when they looked at the roadway, Old man Hastings was trying to stop his truck, which now had a lawnmower housing for a hood ornament. There came a loud screech of tires and then truck ran off the road and into a ditch.
Billy Bob met Bubba’s eyes and said, “You just kill me now, because I know my pa will do the job iffen you don’t.”
Bubba shook his head and replied, “Let’s go down there and fess-up to it bein’ our fault.”
“You sure you want to do that? We’ll have to pay for the damages.”
“Look, it’s our fault and it’s what a man would do.”
As they moved toward the road, Billy Bob wondered how much a new 1929 truck would cost, not counting the old mower. As near as he could determine he had almost a dollar saved in the fruit jar under his bed, but he suspected he didn’t have near enough.
As the boys neared the road, Hastings opened the door, fell out and then crawled toward them.
“I was hit by one of them FUO’s I been hearin’ about!”
“Huh?” Bubba asked.
“I was a-drivin’ down the road and out of nowhere a FUO came, hovered over my truck and then shot me with one of them space cannons they got!”
Billy Bob replied, “They’re called UFO’s.”
“UFO, FUO, OUF’s, ya both know what I’m talkin’ about! Spacemen! Little green jaspers wearing shiny bib overalls!”
“Did you hit your head when you went into the ditch?” Bubba asked.
“No, and I ain’t crazy neither! I saw this thing flyin’, saw rope looking things spinnin’ all around, and then they shot that cannon! I must have hit the spaceship, ‘cause I got part of their engine housin’ on my hood! Ding dangest thing I ever did see! Me, William Lee Hastings, attacked by them green fellers! I cain’t wait to tell ma!”
“Mister Hastings,” Bubba said, “It was our lawnmower you hit and there wasn’t a spaceship.”
Hastings’ eyes narrowed, he tilted his head sharply to the left and asked, “Are ya callin’ me a liar, boy?”
Bubba knew the old man was a bit strange, but for a boy to call a man down south a liar was rear kicking time, and usually for the boy. If Hastings started a fight, Bubba’s father was sure to get word of his son’s poor manners.
Bubba replied, “Oh, no sir, I’d never do that.”
“Good. I didn’t think you’d do that, but it sounded like ya did.”
Billy Bob, now growing scared of the crazy old man, injected, “Bubba meant to say that spaceship shot our lawnmower too. When it blew up our mower I saw two of those things in the sky over your truck, not just one.”
Bubba gazed into Billy Bob’s eyes and shook his head.
Hastings gave a big smile and said, “By golly, two spaceships attack me and I survived. Ya two boys are witnesses too! I feared they’d try to deduct me or something. Heck, they’d probably put me in a Martian zoo or make a fur coat out of me.”
“Deduct you?” Bubba asked as he thought, fur coat?
“Ya know, take me back to Mars with ‘em. I read about an old boy they did that to over in Alabama, but I have my doubts it’s true, although I did read it in a magazine ma buys at the supermarket. I mean, why in the world would Martians deduct a feller out of Alabama, when they could steal a Mississippi boy? That part don’t make no sense to me.”
Billy Bob didn’t see any injuries on the old man, so he asked, “You didn’t get hurt did you?”
“Nope, nary a scratch. Let me check the truck and see iffen it’ll still start.” Hastings said and then returned to his truck.
Bubba said in a voice just a little louder than a whisper, “You lied to that old man.”
“I don’t see it that way. See, he would have told your pa we both called him a liar, and he believes a UFO attacked him. I just told him what he wanted to hear.”
“It still makes you a liar.”
At that moment, both boys heard the truck start and as they watched, Hastings backed the truck from the ditch. Rolling down his window he yelled out, “I’m takin’ this story straight to the newspaper folks and tellin’ ‘em what happened!”
He shifted the truck, pulled onto the road and the boys heard him say, “Me, William Lee Hastings, attacked by little green men!”
After the truck rounded a curve, Bubba said, “Let’s get back to work. It’ll be slower now, because your mower ain’t nothing but junk now. We’ll take turns.”
Near the end of the day, about a fourth of the yard was finished and both boys were exhausted. Bubba, who’d been mowing, cut the engine and said, “Looks like somebody’s comin’ to visit Missus Sidwell.”
Glancing at the road, Billy Bob saw six cars turn and drive up to the house. Once the cars parked, the two were surround in a matter of a few short seconds—by reporters.
“Are you two the ones who saw the UFO attack Mister Hastings?” A portly fellow asked.
“What’d it look like boys?” Someone asked from the crowd.
“Did you see them green men wearing the shiny bib overalls Mister Hastings saw?”
When the boys didn’t reply after a few seconds, it grew deathly quiet.
Minutes passed before Bubba said, “Mister Hastings is a good man, but maybe he saw something no one else could see.”
“Was he drunk?” A thin reporter asked from the back of the crowd.
“I ain’t got no idea,” Bubba answered and then added, “but I didn’t smell no alcohol on ‘em.”
The portly man suddenly turned to a thin one beside him and asked, “Didn’t he see judge Johnson ‘bout a year back on a moonshine charge?”
“It was either him or his brother. I know it was a Hastings.”
The big man grinned and said, “Well, I see a story in this, iffen we do ‘er right. Let’s get back to town, because I want to call the state mental health hospital, the county judge, and FBI.”
“F . . . FBI?” Bubba stammered.
“Sure, because iffen he did see a spaceship I need to report it and iffen he didn’t he’s a danger to society like he is.”
“Good golly!” Billy Bob exclaimed and then moved toward the mower.
As the men made their ways to the cars, the thin reporter said, “Sorry we bothered you boys. We’ll let you get back to cuttin’ your grass.”
A few minutes later, just as the last car turned from the driveway toward town, Billy Bob said, “The FBI! Billy Bob, they’ll lock us up and throw away the key!”
“I don’t think anything will happen. While Mister Hastings is strange, he ain’t no nut case, so they won’t take him to a mental hospital. And, I’m fairly sure they’ll not believe a UFO attacked his truck.”
“So what will happen?”
“We’ll collect our four dollars, go home and finish this job tomorrow.”
“Okay, but it’s a rough job and I still have to tell my pa the mower is gone.”
They walked to the door and knocked. A few minutes later Missus Sidwell opened the door and said, “Oh, Bubba and Billy Bob, what brings you two boys way out here?”
“We were cutting your grass.”
Her eyes grew dim for a few seconds, as she were lost in thought, but then she said, “So, that’s were that noise came from all day. Now, how may I help you?”
“We’ve come for our pay,” Bubba replied, proud of a half day of work.
Pulling a coin purse from her housecoat, the old woman asked, “How much do I owe you?”
“Well, we did four hours of mowing and you promised me a dollar an hour.”
The woman dropped a dollar and fifty cents in Bubba’s hand and said, “That’s all I got right now, but I’ll pay the rest tomorrow. Is that okay?”
Nodding, Bubba smiled and said, “That’s fine. We’ll be by around eight in the mornin’.”
As soon as Missus Sidwell closed the door, Billy Bob said, “We just lost two dollars and fifty cents!”
Bubba met his eyes and replied, “I just didn’t have the heart to press her Billy Bob because she’s an old woman who lives alone. I been thinkin’ too, the only money she’s got comin’ in is from her social security check and me and you are takin’ part of it.”
Billy Bob lowered his head and said, “Well, two dollars and fifty cents ain’t that much money anyway.”
“I think we should …”
Crossing his arms, Billy Bob interrupted as he said, “I ain’t doin’ this ten acre job for free and there ain’t no way!”
“She lives alone!”
“No she don’t, she’s got about twenty cats, three cows, two horses, a good half-dozen dogs and only God knows how many chickens and ducks. I ain’t workin’ for nothin’, old woman or not!”
Turning serious, bubba stated, “It’d be the Christian thing to do and while we won’t get rewarded on earth, God will not forget it.”
Lowering his head, Billy Bob said, “Dog-gone-it, Bubba, put the money on her porch and let’s get home. We have to get up early in the mornin’ to finish this yard.”
Missus Sidwell never saw the change on the porch, but her grandkids did and they divided it among them. Bubba and Billy Bob came back the next morning, cut the grass and then refuse payment for the job. The best part, according to Bubba years later, was they never told a soul what they’d done for a lonely old woman, who lived alone, with only her pets as her friends.