Funky Friday Sci-Fi by Chuck Thurston

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My wife and I started a new Friday evening tradition.  I discovered that you can find old full length sci-fi movies on YouTube and play them  through your TV!  We’ve seen three so far and I believe that the common denominator is that all of the titles are misleading!

Take Devil Girl From Mars.  This is no girl, boys – this is a woman.  W-O-M-A-N!   She is here to recruit healthy, virile males to replace the increasingly wussy Martian men.  Furthermore, she is dressed in cape, high boots and shiny black vinyl.

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And she is having problems?  Her first mistake was landing her damaged spaceship outside a little Scottish countryside tavern.  She tries negotiation first (before she resorts to intimidation), but they have to put on a pot of tea and think it over.  I will never look at the Highland Games the same.

The Riders To The Stars don’t actually go to the stars.  In fact, they never leave low earth orbit. Even the cosmologists of 1954 knew better than that.  Scientists want to know why some meteors survive the atmosphere and strike the earth intact.  They suspect that they are coated with some substance – that if it were found  – could enable them to build spaceships that would stand the rigors of outer space.

They send three meteor-collecting rockets out there to capture some and bring them back. The pilots are all scientists with not as much as an hours flight time in a Piper Cub, but never mind.  Two of the boys come croppers, but the last (and best looking one) grabs a rock – using the last of his fuel and has to crash land in the desert.

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His space ship is torn to shreds, but he is a miraculous survivor and comes back to conscientiousness just in time to suck face with the gorgeous Doctor Flynn, who has lusted for him from the beginning.

A very young Robert Loggia is the lead in The Lost Missile, and he would probably be just as happy if this piece of work was left off his filmography.  Well, the missile isn’t lost at all.  It damn well knows what it’s all about.  It came from outer space and is circling the world at low altitudes and leaving a five mile path of destruction below it as it cruises along.

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Ultimately these orbits will leave the earth a cinder, so something must be done.  The film looks to have been made for Civil Defense footage and a lot of time is taken showing populations heading for underground shelters or fleeing the anticipated path.  Poor Ottawa is in the way, and school children are shown crawling beneath their desks, curling up in a ball and tucking their head between their legs.   Their next logical action should have been to kiss their patooties goodbye, given the scenes of Ottawa’s post missile condition that follow.

New York is next in the path, and I won’t spoil the ending for you.  Ask Robert Loggia, if you can contact him – but he may not own up to it.

Night Watch by Chuck Thurston

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Last night was supposed to be a good night for Perseid meteor watching. I waited until the last glow of evening – around 9:45 p.m. local time – and went out on my back deck to have a look. I hung onto the rail and craned my neck skyward. The sky was clear. I saw the Big Dipper and located the North Star. I saw four airplanes. I saw a lone lightning bug.

I turned around to all the compass points I could manage from my deck and scanned high and low. I saw what might have been a UFO low on the eastern horizon. It was just above the trees and looked like one of the big 18-wheeler rigs with all of the running lights lit. It hovered above the trees for a minute or two and disappeared below the treeline. It didn’t make any noise.

I saw my neighbor’s son pull into his dad’s driveway. He is older and married now, but he works odd shifts at his job and comes around to check on his parents now and then. A good son, to be sure.

I saw another lightning bug – perhaps trying to locate the one I spotted earlier. I didn’t see any more flashing, so perhaps they hooked up. I can understand that if not much else was going on. I considered lighting up a cigar myself, but decided it was too close to bedtime.

I saw a small dark form scurry across the back yard. It might have been one of two neighborhood cats I have seen now and then, or perhaps a rabbit. I wondered if it might be an escapee or perhaps a scout from the UFO I spotted earlier. I thought of going back into the house for a flashlight to check it out, but I was primarily interested in meteor watching so I bagged that idea.

I was out for a half hour or so. I was getting a stiff neck. I never did see a meteor. I went back into the house and had a small glass of port before I went to bed. I can hardly wait for the Ursid meteor shower in December.

Chuck Thurston is the author of “Senior Scribbles Unearthed” and “Senior Scribbles Second Dose” – both available on Amazon.  He has a third, “Senior Scribbles Bathroom Reader” in the works and will finish it if he stops wasting his time at other useless activities.

Down To The Crick by Chuck Thurston

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I recently got a Facebook post from one of our friends, a day after our annual church picnic:

“After the picnic Sunday, Drake and I played in the creek with Rosie and Amelia. I haven’t done that since I was a kid. We found crayfish, some eggs we could see the eyeballs of whatever they were going to hatch out as, a golf ball, and metal parts from a car or tractor.”

Does that paint a mental image from your childhood? It certainly took me back. We lived on a farm that had a sizeable creek running through it. In my mother’s West Virginal vernacular it was a “crick,” and that’s what it was to us, as young boys.

On any given summer day—after morning chores were taken care of—we’d respond to Mom’s question, “Where are you headed for?” with “Down to the crick!” She didn’t seem to fret about any great hazard associated with this expedition, and waved us away, if our work was done.

The crick was a source of endless fun. It passed under the two lane blacktop just a few hundred yards east of our house; we owned land on both sides of the road. On the downstream side of the bridge was what we called the “deep hole.” It was perhaps four feet deep and contained all manner of minnows, chubs, frogs, crayfish, water bugs, and an occasional water snake. We splashed among them all. We had no bathing suits, as such, but wore cutoff jeans that had worn through the first—or even second—generation of knee patches, and the bottoms hacked off.

The hole itself was not much larger around than a good sized hot tub, and just one or two strokes of what passed for us as swimming took you from one side to the other. We even fished in it. An occasional four or five inch chub would grab one of our hooked worms.

Additional delights were to be found along other stretches. When there was a fair volume of water running, we floated all manner of things downstream: cans, bottles, crude homemade boats, then, bombarded them with rocks. Ultimately, we would upgrade our arsenal to BB guns. These were the war years, and our targets were German or Japanese vessels, to be attacked from our shore batteries and sunk, before they bobbed out of range of our cannonade.

In the spring, the rains and snow melt would turn the crick into a fearsome torrent. We ventured down to watch it, and could hear large rocks being tumbled end over end by the force of the current. At these times, the crick was far from the gentle brook that would provide us with so much fun later. It seemed dangerous and threatening, and we kept our distance.

During the heat of a long summer, the stream was often reduced to a sluggish trickle. Pools would shrink and some disappear. This would reveal new wonders. Areas that had been scoured by the spring floods would have moved the channel a bit to one side or another. We would see new sand bars and pockets of gravel previously unknown. We would explore these endlessly, looking for the gold that we knew must be there. We never found any, but, now and then, as we wandered along the stream bed, we would come upon something intriguing—half buried in the sand. What in the world…? We would commence to dig.

It might be an old plow point, the tine from a harrow, a sheet of tin—perhaps blown from a barn roof—other metal objects the origin of which we couldn’t identify. It was all salvaged and laid away to await the next visit of the scrap man.

During the war years, parents—ours included—were genuinely terrified of the dreaded Infantile Paralysis—Polio. The disease and its means of infection didn’t seem to be well understood. Certain food items were associated with the affliction and were removed from our diet. I remember that peaches were one of the suspect fruits, and I don’t believe I was allowed one during those years. Turnips—which I could as well have done without—apparently passed the health muster, and I was permitted any number of them.

I am amazed, as I think back on it now, that the crick was not put off limits to us. By the end of summer we would be covered with stings, welts, cuts, bug bites, scratches—badges from our summer fun—and all bathed in the crick.

It drained the woods, fields and pastures to the north and east of our farm. It carried the flotsam of the farms and wilds it traversed. It was a watering hole for every critter known to those parts, and carried God knows what with it. But it also carried the joys of our boyhood. Perhaps in the great wisdom of nature, it also carried our immunization.