Mr. Big’s Little Secret
by Frank Summers
I knew I was in trouble the moment I saw her. I squinted against the summer sun’s glare as her mid-sixties Ford pickup truck whipped into Gulp-n-Go’s parking lot with dust billowing off the tires. Wrapped around the front axle, yellow police tape snapped in the breeze.
When she got out of the truck, my heart stopped. She was dressed a little weird, like Madonna– from the 1980’s Like a Virgin video. Her sandy-blond hair was tucked under a hat. She sported a frilly, flowery dress and black stretchy things covering her legs.
“You from around here?”
I looked around; no one else was within earshot. I swallowed my Skoal,(not wanting to look entirely like the hick I really am) and took a swig of Dr. Pepper to rinse it down.
“Can you give me a lift?”
I raised an eyebrow. The nearest town was at least ten miles away. “Having trouble with your truck?”
“Engine’s overheating,” she said.
If it was overheating, it was doing so in a very polite way: no steam billowed from under the hood.
“Are you sure? Maybe your gauge is out of whack.”
She moved closer. “It’s like this, Cowboy–” She pulled out a cigarette and jutted out her chin waiting for a light.
I patted my pockets and shrugged. She rolled her eyes and palmed me a Bic. I fumbled the flame into existence.
“–I’m in a bit of a hurry.” She looked over her shoulder.
Running from the law.
I’m not a complete idiot. I hadn’t been in jail for over two years. So I know I should have said “no.” But the closer she stood to me, the less my brain was doing my thinking. I tried to muster every excuse I could think of, some of which would have been completely legitimate, like: I’ve got to get back to work.
What came out was: “Let’s go.”
She smiled. And it was all over. She might have been dressed like Madonna, but she didn’t look a thing like her. This girl was pretty. She had sparkly, lively eyes, and high cheekbones. She spoke with a faint accent I couldn’t place… somewhere north of the Mason-Dixon. Maybe one of them Scandinavian countries… like Canada.
“Where to?” I asked.
“Thataway,” she motioned, back toward Stephenville.
Stephenville, Texas had been in the news recently with all that UFO business. I wondered if she was one of them tourists that came hoping to catch a gander at the aliens. She looked the part, but still, I wondered about her beef with the law, or theirs with her.
No sooner had we driven a quarter of a mile, a convoy of government-looking vehicles topped the hill. She ducked low in the seat.
Four dark blue Crown Vics zipped by followed by a dark blue Excursion.
I was in way over my head in just about every way. I checked my rearview. They kept right on going.
“Okay,” I said. “Talk.”
She sat up. “All in good time, Cowboy.”
“Name’s Spivey. Ricky Spivey.” I was doing my best James Bond imitation. Not the Johnny-come-lately Bond. The real James Bond: Roger Moore. The way that guy uses his eyebrows. Now that’s acting. She nodded as if not really paying attention.
I gave her another look over. Obviously a city girl. Not from the college. No girl at the college ever dressed like that.
“What’s with the–” I motioned at her outfit.
“The clothes? I’m like a virgin– like Madonna.”
“Well, the clothes… were touched for the very first time. I touched them. When I put them on.”
“Huh. Haven’t seen that kinda get-up in a while.”
Her brow furrowed, and she looked like she had just learned they had cancelled her favorite TV show.
“But it looks great on you.”
Her brow relaxed and she smiled.
Now there are a few things to know about this little stretch of road we were on. There are lots of dairy farms–one of which I work on. And especially in the July heat, with dairy farms comes…
“Ricky. What’s that smell?”
“Bovine excreta, ma’am.”
She nodded. “Take a left here.”
With a rock-like feeling in my gut, I turned. I don’t know every dirt road around here, but I know this one led into the sticks, and not back to town. It slowly dawned on me that maybe she was a serial killer–I hear they come in female–because we were no longer heading toward civilization.
“Don’t try to tell me you live out here.” I said.
As we rounded the next hill we came to another side road.
“Damn!” she exclaimed as we both saw an unoccupied blue Crown Vic sitting off to the side of the road.
“Pull over, hop out, and follow me.”
The sensible part of me said, get the heck out of here. But my inner James Bond egged me on.
Once out of the truck she took my hand. She pulled me across the road, and headed into a mesquite thicket.
“Where are we going?”
The Texas July sun beat down. Sweat beaded on my forehead and soaked my armpits–and it wasn’t just the heat. We came to a ravine. We went along to the end of it and then climbed a small incline. I wiped my brow with a bandana from my back pocket. She hadn’t even broken a sweat.
About fifty yards away, nestled in the brush stood a bright silver Airstream RV camper.
“What the hell?” I asked. “You live in that thing? How the heck did you get it down there?”
“Sh-h-h-h.” She crouched in the sagebrush and indicated that I should do the same. From behind the RV stepped two men in dark blue suits. They appeared to be walking the perimeter. “It’s just the two,” she said. “Listen, Ricky. You’ve been real sweet. But this is the end of the road. I can handle these two.”
She reached into her purse and pulled out a gun–not a sensible weapon like a Colt .45. It looked like a ray-gun from a grade B Sci-Fi picture.
“Whoa!” I gasped.
Even if I ran like hell back to the truck and was nowhere near when she pulled the trigger, I’d still be an accomplice.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “It doesn’t shoot bullets. It shoots radio waves that target specific muscle groups in humans– er– attackers. Causes complete loss of control over bodily functions.”
A recto/bladdo-matic. Jesus.
And in a different kind of loss of bodily function, the part of me that’s not my brain blurted out, “Can I see you again?”
“Ricky!” She gave me the stern face. Then she leaned close and kissed my cheek. “Thanks for helping me. See you around, Cowboy.”
Warmth rushed from my head to my toes. It wasn’t a “yes.”
It wasn’t a “no” either.
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I was falling in love. Maybe it was her big brown eyes. Maybe it was the danger; it’s always been a turn-on for me. Maybe…
“Go,” she said, shoving me gently.
As I crashed through the bush, I wondered if I would ever see her again. I stopped for a moment to catch my breath. The faint sound of voices echoed through the ravine. Then–Pop!
My heart pounded in my chest. She– Dang! I didn’t even know that girl’s name, but she needed my help. As I started back, a soft whine filled the air, and something silver and shiny rose into the blue sky. For a moment, the Airstream trailer hovered above me, and then zipped south, streaking out of sight.
“I knew that girl wasn’t from around here!”
It wasn’t like it was unusual for me to be late. More and more, I had a hard time dragging myself to work. There had to be more to life than milking cows.
If I was lucky, Mrs. Huckabee wouldn’t notice. But I was never lucky with Mrs. Huckabee.
“You fall asleep again at lunch, boy?” she asked, coming out of the milking barn.
“No ma’am. Trouble with my truck.”
“It’s always something, boy,” she said, wiping her ancient work-worn hands on her overalls. “For what I pay you I could afford two hard-working college kids, and get a lot more for my money.”
Her bark was always worse than her bite. Besides, for what she pays me, she couldn’t buy the services of a paraplegic leper. I honestly don’t know why I put up with that crap.
“It won’t happen again,” I said.
“Not ’til tomorrow,” she said, heading back to the house. “Look in on Beulah,” she said over her shoulder. “She’s been actin’ a might queer.”
Beulah, her best milk producer, always acted strange. But I held my tongue.
I screwed the pistol-nozzle to the water hose, and began hosing down the milking machines.
Beulah stood in her stall staring at me vacantly, chewing a mouthful of hay. I sat the hose down and patted the broad area between her eyes–an area wide enough for another entire head. I grew up with cows, and I still think they’re among the strangest-looking of God’s creatures.
“So what’s up today, Beulah? Ma’am says you’re feeling punk.”
Except for an occasional “moo”, Beulah never talked back.
I took up the hose again. “How’s your love life, Beulah? I know mine ain’t for squat. Maybe what you need is a man in your life.”
I might say a bad thing or two about the bovine species, but there is one thing I’ll say they’re good listeners. I don’t know what it’s like to see one of them highfalutin’ big city therapists, but I know that when I’m ailin’, there is no better listener than a big old brain-damaged cow.
“I can’t stop thinking about her, Beulah. Remember a couple of years ago when the Gaither’s left their bull over here to try to get you knocked-up?”
Beulah snorted. Dang. I might be getting through.
“Well this gal I met today. She’s a lot like that… only… prettier.”
I shut the water off long enough to slip a pinch of Skoal inside my bottom lip. I felt better. Ah. This was the best life. Except for the smell of the feed, and the bovine excreta, and the work.
I spit on the concrete floor and then hosed it off.
“I mean, I’ve seen some pretty gals in my day. But this one. She leaves ’em all in the dirt. Literally.”
“Having fun there, Cowboy?”
And there she was again, standing like a vision from heaven. This time she looked kinda normal. She sported a white Texas A&M t-shirt, and a pair of jeans that she filled out real nice. And her hair was straight… darker and longer than it was before. She looked like she had washed off all her make-up.
She smiled sheepishly. “Do you like this better?” she asked, gesturing at her clothes.
“I reckon I do.”
She was a natural beauty. Too bad I had just loaded up on Skoal. I swallowed. It burned real bad going down, and not having a Dr. Pepper to wash it with proper, I had to resort to water from the hose. I was smart enough not to try to drink from the high-power nozzle, so I unscrewed it from hose. I wasn’t smart enough to turn the water off first, so I got a face full.
I have to give her credit for not laughing outright. She smiled, though, and seemed a little embarrassed.
“Who were you talking to?” she asked.
“Well, don’t just stand there, she said. “Introduce me.”
“Uh, okay, well, this here’s Beulah. Beulah, this is the gal I was telling you about… “
“Dolly. Like Dolly Parton?” I cringed after I said it. Ricky, you idiot.
“Dalai. Like the Lama,” she said.
“There’s a llama named Dolly?”
“D-a-l-a-i… Never mind.”
“Anyway, Beulah, we just met this afternoon.”
Beulah seemed a little fidgety. She was usually a good judge of character. It bothered me a little that she didn’t much seem to like Dalai.
“You look busy, Ricky. I just wanted to thank you again. That’s all.”
She turned to go.
“Wait. Dalai.” I blurted. There were a million things I wanted to ask, like how she found me, and why she really came, like how she got an Airstream to fly, but this time I managed to blurt out something semi-intelligent.
“Why don’t you stay? When I’m done here, we could drive into town and for a chicken fried steak.”
Beulah mooed at that.
“Sorry, Beulah,” I said. “Anyway. How about it?”
“Okay. What should I do while I wait?”
“Uh… Why don’t you talk to Beulah while I finish up?”
“Okay.” She walked over to Beulah. “So, Beulah. How long have you two known each other?”
I could see this was going to be a real interesting date.
There’s not a lot in the way of county funds to fix the farm-to-market roads out here, so the ride into town was bumpy. Dalai didn’t seem to mind. As nonchalantly as I could, I gave her little sideways glances. I fought to resist the impulse to touch her to make sure she was real. My head reeled at having such a beautiful woman riding in my truck.
“So… you have a flying trailer?”
I could see her squirm out the corner of my eye. Dang. Was my small talk too big?
“Cuz, obviously, you’re not from around here. Where are you from?”
More squirming. Hoo, brother.
I was definitely going to have to work on my conversation skills. “If you don’t want to talk, what–”
“–You handled yourself pretty well in a pinch,” she cut me off. “I don’t see a lot of that. Most folks panic and go all catatonic.”
A feeling like smooth whiskey spread through my body. Watching all those old James Bond movies might just have paid off. Most folks panic. I’m sure I would have too, if I had given it half a thought. Good thing I avoid thinking most of the time.
Folks around here know the best place to get a chicken fried steak in Stephenville, is Jake and Dorothy’s Cafe.
We sat in my favorite spot, close enough to the front door to make a quick escape, and close enough to the counter to flag down the waitress for a piece of pie. Velma took our order and served it up real fast.
I love a good chicken fried steak smothered in cream gravy, and a thick vanilla milkshake. Dalai ordered a baked potato loaded with sour cream and cheese.
We talked. Dalai loosened up a little. We had a good time.
After dinner, we drove back toward the dairy, where Dalai left her truck.
By now it was dark, with a beautiful canopy of black sky and bright stars overhead.
Up ahead, flickering in the headlights sat a roadside park–a single concrete picnic table a few feet off the side of the road. I had made out with a girl or two at that very picnic table in high school. For anything more serious there were a million back roads.
I pulled over and she followed me to the bed of my pickup. We lay on our backs.
The Milky Way drifted like smoke from a nearby campfire. The only sounds were from an occasional passing car and cicadas in the nearby field. A falling star streaked overhead.
“Who are you really,” I asked. “And where are you from?”
“Can’t tell you,” she said. “But I can tell you this: something big is afoot. Something that might shake your little world to its very core.”
I thought about all the earth-shaking events that had happened in my lifetime, like Britney Spears shaving her head. I wondered if it would be something worse than that.”What’s it about?”
“I’ve watched you for a long time.”
My ears warmed to the point of igniting. “You’ve watched me?”
“No,” she said. “Not you. The collective you. The human
race. We hate what you’re doing to yourselves; the killing, the self-destruction. According to intergalactic law, we can’t interfere; we can only watch. But… someone here is meddling, or plans to very shortly.”
Why is it always about world domination? If I hadn’t seen her RV flying earlier, I would have thought she was a bona fide nut case. Of course that couldn’t completely be ruled out anyway.
“The point being?” I asked.
“I’m not sure. We think there’s a conspiracy to infuse some sort of… agent… into the mainstream of humanity with the intent to influence and dominate mankind.”
I’m just going to have to just roll with this.
“And who’s behind this plot?”
“Someone named ‘Mr. Big.'”
Mr. Big. Okay. Roll with it.
I lay quietly, listening to my heartbeat, and to Dalai breathing beside me. She took my hand, and held it tight. Her touch sent a tingle through me.
Then another tingle tickled my thigh, followed by a thin crackle of Take This Job and Shove It. My cell phone.
“That’s Mrs. Huckabee.” She never calls, but what there’s a problem. Against my better judgment, I answered it.
“Ricky, come quick. Beulah’s gone missing.”
Damn. We’d been lucky up to this point. The Hendersons lost a cow the week before and the Nelsons lost two head the week before that. No mutilations like you hear about on TV, though. Still. Everyone blamed the UFOs.
Suddenly, a bright light blinded me. “Don’t anybody move,” a man shouted.
Dalai was up in a second brandishing her sphincto/bladdo-matic.
Behind the searing flashlight beam I could see the vague silhouettes of two men.
“And don’t bother with your little ray gun, Missy. We’re wearing Depends.”
Just then, with the brightness of a thousand suns, a white beam burned down from the sky.
“What the… “
Before Dalai could answer, my truck fell out from under me. Illuminated in bright white light, I could see it getting smaller and smaller below. Above me, Dalai disappeared into the mouth of a giant flying saucer. The sound of ducks filled my ears, and in spite of the bright light, all went black.
When I came to, I was lying face down on a cold steel floor with my hands bound. I struggled to my feet to find Dalai, seated on a large plastic block shoved up against the wall. Her hands were tied as well. She was seated next to one of the suits, also tied up.
The wall against which Dalai and the suit were seated had a slight curve to it. The wall facing them was curved also, as if we were on the inside a giant inner tube.
“You okay?” Dalai asked. She looked like she’d been crying.
“Yuh-hunh. You?” I took a seat on a block across from her.
Just then little gray guys about three feet tall, with large veined heads, slanted oval eyes and withered bodies came out of a hatch and swarmed around me. One of them had a cattle prod. Another was a little shorter than the rest. He appeared to be in charge.
“You boys look just like you do on TV,” I said.
“Shut up, and sit up straight,” the smallest one said.
Cattle prod boy stood behind him, looking a little more trigger-happy than I was comfortable with.
Dalai nudged the suit. He didn’t seem to have gotten the message about sitting straight.
As if she’d thrown a switch, he started yammering. “John Smith. Special Agent–UFO Division. 69210467.”
Cattycorner from me, doors in the wall (they looked pretty much like elevator doors) began to shake and rattle.
“All rise for the honorable Mr. Big,” said the little gray man in charge.
Mr. Big. Dalai was right on the money.
Dalai stood, her eyes wide and alert.
Suit stood. “John Smith. Special Agent. UFO Division. 69210467.”
The doors shuddered open.
“Mr. Big!” the little gray men shouted and bowed low to the ground.
Mr. Big lumbered into the room.
My mouth dropped open.
“Beulah?” I blurted.
“Hello, Ricky,” Beulah said in perfect English.
“Mr. Big? Why do they call you that? Don’t they know you’re a female?”
“You humans are so–” Beulah paused for a moment, ruminating, as if to choose the precise word for the occasion. “–stupid.”
“This explains everything!” whispered Dalai.
“What does this explain??” I asked.
“Quiet!” shouted cattle-prod boy. He activated the prod and laid it against my ribs.
“Arg-g-g-g-g!” A fire-filled spasm wracked my body, sending me crashing to the floor.
“What do you think, Ricky?” Beulah asked. “A little trick I learned from you.”
The cattle prod. My mind raced to try to think of all the bad things I might have ever done to Beulah. Man! This could get ugly.
“What do you want from us?” Dalai asked.
“From you? Nothing. From the humans… that’s another matter.”
Beulah nodded toward Smith. “Him first.”
The little gray men scurried around Smith in a blur of activity. When they backed away, he was shirtless and covered with half a dozen electrodes.
“Now the substance,” Beulah said.
Another alien appeared with a stainless steel flask.
“What is it?” I asked.
“Bovine mammary secreta,” flask-boy said.
“Milk!” I uttered.
“It all makes perfect sense,” whispered Dalai.
“What makes perfect– ” I started, but cattle prod boy was in striking distance.
“Drink!” the alien said.
Another alien appeared with a funnel and hose and shoved the hose down Smith’s throat while the other poured the milk. Smith twitched and struggled. They yanked the hose from his mouth as he gasped for air.
“Well?” asked Beulah.
Another alien monitored a large screen. “Success.”
Beulah waddled up to Smith. “Speak.”
“I was born in Toledo, Ohio. My father was a clock maker. My mother a reporter for the Toledo Tribune.”
“The chemical I was talking about earlier? A milk additive,” Dalai whispered to me.
The sadist alien waved the cattle prod.
Beulah stopped him. “You are absolutely right, my dear.”
“Let me guess,” said Dalai, “You first came here for Earth’s tasty green grass. And for millennia you had it good. But then humans screwed it all up, and now it’s smelly stainless steel stalls instead of sweet green fields.”
“Ricky, your little girlfriend’s smart. But that’s not the half of it. Look at Ricky’s boots. And his belt. Everywhere, it’s leather, leather, leather. And let’s not get started on the bullfights, and the… animal husbandry,” Beulah said. She was now way too close for comfort.
“I don’t get it,” I said. Analysis was never my forté.
“It’s all a matter of acquiescence,” Dalai said. “The plan is to slip this secret formula into the milk supply of the whole planet. And the human race will be like Agent Smith here.”
“My first grade teacher was Ms. Stidham… “Smith said.
“And soon you’ll have a whole race of slaves who wait on you hand and foot,” Dalai continued. “You’ll probably keep a few on as veterinarians, and the rest?”
“Processing plants!” Beulah said. “And if there’s a need for leather, human hides will do nicely.”
“And I’m sure you have a backup plan for the lactose intolerant,” Dalai said. “And then it’s back to the bovine utopia you once knew and loved.”
“You are oh so right, my dear. Remind me to kill you soon. Ricky, you’re next.”
The aliens were all over me with razors and scissors and when they were done, I was shirtless and all wired up with icy electrodes just like Smith.
“Couldn’t you have warmed these up first, Beulah?”
“You ever warm your hands or the milking machines, Ricky?”
Funnel boy approached.
“You won’t need that.” I said.
“Ricky, no!” shouted Dalai.
“Just give me the milk,” I said.
Funnel boy grabbed my hair. Back went my head. “Woah! You don’t need the… ar-g-g-g-g-h, gurgle, eck!”
I gagged and rasped for air as they jerked the hose from my raw, aching throat.
“It’s not working,” monitor boy said. “This human has ingested a counter agent.”
“Counter agent?” bellowed Beulah.
Beulah clomped her hooves on the shiny black floor and snorted.
“Er… sorry,” monitor boy said. “Known to humans as… tobacco juice.”
The bonds on my wrist tightened, as did my belt and jeans.
“Uh… ” monitor boy said. “Something’s happening. I think… he’s mutating.”
“Kill him!” Beulah mooed. “Kill them all!”
My ropes, pants, boots, all ripped like paper and fell away and I stood, naked, towering at least four feet over everyone in the room. At least The Incredible Hulk got to keep his pants.
Cattle prod boy zapped me. It hurt less than a mosquito bite. I half expected to look down and see my skin turning green or some such, but I was still white, with freckles.
The aliens rushed me; I batted them away like limp rag dolls.
“Come on,” Dalai shouted, head butting a cluster of hapless aliens blocking her way. “This ship is a standard R350. The shuttles are close by. Agent Smith.”
Smith babbled on, even in my tight grip. “In junior high, I had a crush on Janet Jablonski. I used to… “
“Over my dead body,” shouted Beulah, now standing between us and the door.
“Not today, Beulah.” I laid my hand on her hind-quarters and shoved with little effort. She tumbled onto her side. Cow tipping. Like the old days.
Dalai led us to the shuttle room where four shiny Airstreams waited for the picking. She commandeered the first one. “Everyone inside.”
“My freshman year, I smoked my first marijuana,” Smith said.
“I hope that stuff wears off soon,” Dalai said.
“Yeah. Me too,” I replied, as I tried to find anything on board large enough to serve as a loin cloth.
Dalai twisted the controls with one hand, and radioed for backup with the other.
“What’ll happen to Beulah?” I asked, watching the “cleanup ship” disappear into the night sky.
“There will be a trial. She’ll serve hard time,” Dalai replied.
I felt my bicep. It had almost returned to normal size. The antidote worked fast. “And Smith?”
“I feel fine,” Smith said, stepping out of the back of the dark blue armored car.
“Agent Smith put in a good word for us,” Dalai said.
By now, the whole roadside park was swarming with suits. Smith’s word must carry a lot of weight, since the suits weren’t bugging us at all.
“I guess it’s so long, Cowboy,” Dalai said.
Even in the dark, I bet she must have seen my disappointment.
“Follow me,” she said.
She led me between vehicles. She started to glow, a shimmering blue. In seconds I was face to face with a short, woolly creature on four legs.
“The real me,” she said.
Dalai the sheep.
That would explain why Beulah didn’t like her… what with the range wars and all.
“Do I look all that ba-a-a-a-d?” she asked.
“Ewe… look like a million bucks,” I said. Who am I to judge.
She head-butted me gently then clambered aboard her Airstream and took off.
“What’s next?” Smith asked sidling up to me.
“I can’t go back to milking. I’ve kinda soured on the dairy industry. You?”
“Gonna need a new partner. Amidst all the action, my partner panicked and went catatonic. Some guys just aren’t cut out for the life.”
“What are the qualifications?” I asked.
“A pulse. A cool head. Love of excitement. Immunity to food additives.”
And that, as they say, is history.