The Higgins boy hit a homer past the tree line in Hudson Township Park, something that might have guaranteed him “Hudson’s Most Valuable Player Award” had he lived. That same Saturday, as Tim Higgins’ baseball took to the heights and he ran the bases towards home plate, we all saw his ball had not been alone up there: a squadron of bright lights in a kind of vee formation zoomed across the afternoon sky.
“UFO’s!” my son Lonny decided. “They’re filmin’ our game!”
We all laughed. Lonny could always be counted on to bring levity to a situation. I thought to myself, if those lights were ships and extraterrestrials landed on this ball field, Lonny would step right up to them and make a citizen’s arrest for speeding.
The innings continued and the Hudson Hawks piled up enough batted-in runs to claim a third win over the Gothams. The sky lights we had witnessed did not return.
When the game finally ended, we waited in the van for the rest of the Hudson Hawks, including my son, to visit the boys room after a quick drink at the water fountain directly across from the parking lot. My wife made her usual annoyed face, threatened next time she’d stay home, all the while drumming her fingers on the purse in her lap.
“They’re excited,” I said in the boys’ defense. “They’re on a winning streak. It’s the first year they’ve been able to pull this off three times in a row. Cut them some slack.” Marcia screwed up her thin lips into a scowl.
Later in the week we heard Tim Higgins had been ambulanced to County General with excruciating abdominal pain. Chuck Higgins figured it for appendicitis. His wife suspected it was all that ice cream after dinner, but they were both wrong.
“Doctor,” asked Tim’s dad, “what you’re saying is my boy’s got bugs inside his belly?”
The E.R. doctor on the night shift nodded his bald head, pulled at the short blond hairs on his chin, and then said, “We’re as baffled as you are, Mr. Higgins. Somehow your son ate or perhaps drank from water where insects had laid their eggs.”
Then when Chuck let the punch of that revelation drain the color from his face, the doctor delivered one that nearly knocked him out. “We have no clue what species or even genus this insect belongs to,” then he paused before adding, “and they’re growing.”
Tim died the next morning. Or so the Herald-Record reported in a two-column obituary praising the boy’s achievements both in high school, on the ball field, and in his church choir. Not a mention was made about the cause of his death. Chuck Higgins said the paper didn’t believe the doctor’s tale of insect eggs hatching inside Tim. It was an urban legend that water fountains were breeding grounds for insects and even snakes. And as for being unidentifiable insects, the newspaper’s editor Conrad Bowles told the doctor to submit that line of bull crap to one of those gossip rags that would print it in a heartbeat.
From the moment I learned about Tim, I thought of Lonny. He too had drunk from the park fountain. If he had ingested the insect eggs there, Lonny might have… Then I remembered those lights.
Several evenings later I took a walk to the Higgins house to see Chuck and Donna. Before knocking on the door, I glanced through the pulled blinds of the living-room bay window. Both of the Higgins, stone-still, sat on the couch staring unblinkingly into the space ahead of them. On the rug beneath lay a grotesque creature with Tim’s face and the body of a giant winged roach-like insect. When the head turned towards me, I shoved the climbing scream down my throat and, panicking, ran the block for home.
“Dad,” said Lonny as I walked inside, “look at my arms. What the heck is going on?"
Copyright: © 2009 Salvatore Buttaci
Copyright: © 2009 Salvatore Buttaci
----------------------------------Salvatore Buttaci is a retired teacher. He is also an obsessive-compulsive writer who has no intentions of seeking a cure. His poems, stories, articles, and letters have appeared widely here and abroad. He lives in the "almost-heaven" state of West Virginia with his wife Sharon.