Channie Greenberg and Erika Cleveland

Erika Cleveland
“The Kranken were as High as Our House and as Wide as Our Car”


Channie Greenberg
Inspiration piece

I hadn’t meant to muster the outworlders. I’m no astrophysicist or clergy member. Gary says I’m just his stupid, ten year-old sister.

I’m ten, but I’m not stupid. Gary’s stupid, especially for an eleven year-old.

Anyway, it was a frore night. Our parents were at their weekly bridge and beer game. Gary and I were home, alone, tasked with babysitting our sister, three year-old Samantha, and our elderly dog, Ruff. Truth be told, Mom and Dad were only two houses down the block and expected us to be asleep long before they got home.

They forgot that age helps people like me find a willingness to enter into dicey behaviors. Not all young daughters apply their resolve to surreptitiously eating ice cream from the bottom of the carton or to making peanut butter and marshmallow fluff sandwiches for their older brother after curfew.

If I were honest, I’d admit to having been bored. All the IEPs in the world didn’t and couldn’t make school fascinating. Teachers get mad when you know more than them. Parents, what’s more, have little patience for helping square pegs fit into round hole-based education systems.

To cut a long story short, that night, I was contemplating the flash point of the grasses that stood like soldiers in our backyard. Mom’s a horse whisperer, not a gardener, and Dad, who’s famously busy with his craft beer business (yes, he supplies the local bridge players), except on bridge nights and those early evenings when he and Mom retire for “naps,” chose to regard those weeds as “a biome for local fauna,” rather than to mow them regularly.

The funny thing is those stands of foliage were not ornamentals like Pampas or Feather Reed Grass, but the descendants of Tall Fescue and Kentucky Blue. That I had manipulated their genetics remained unnoticed. As I said, the parents are busy, Samantha goes to preschool, and Gary is all in with his group of preadolescent male friends who listen to music like Aaron Carter’s “Not Too Young,” and Helen Shapiro’s “Don’t Treat Me Like a Child.” I can always hear the bassline from those songs thumping through our bedrooms’ shared wall.

That night, it was not my intention to burn down the backyard or to successful signal to a nearby UFO.  I had, in reality, wanted to read up on phantom kangaroos. You see, I meant to “dissuade” my brother from blaring further horrible tunes by conjuring imaginary marsupials. At least the pulsations of those beasts’ feet would drown out Gary’s iTunes selections.

Nonetheless, beyond issues with my research’s scope, I had problems with its actualization. Basically, it’s nearly impossible to summon critters from the crypt if one lacks a belief in demons. I might be a bit of an arriviste, but I go to church regularly.

So, rather than continue to hurt my brain trying to figure out how to call those fictitious fiends to me, I opted to contemplate the autoignition temperature of grass. I maneuvered equations for a while, realizing early on that I’d have to compensate for the frost that covered our lawn. Eventually, two wonderful things occurred; either Gary fell asleep or had remembered to switch to his headphones, and I had solved the math.

Every the good boffin, I didn’t hesitate to test my work. Mom had forgiven me for melting her favorite curry comb and hoof pick, and Dad was nearly at the point of pardoning my absconding with his very best mash/lauter tun. What can I say? Since my parents forbid me to invest in cryptocurrency and since I am a minor, I source materials rather than buy them.

In any case, my calculations indicated that all I needed was matches. How was I to know that beings from another galaxy find the aroma of red phosphorus exhilarating? I was more concerned with successfully oxidizing leaves and stems in an exothermic reductive reaction than thinking about aliens. I admit, though, I syphoned off a bit of gas from our car as it was accessibly sitting in our driveway.

Our town’s fire department was able to contain the resulting fireball. Those brave men and women, however, hadn’t counted on contending with eight-legged creatures from far away. When the spaceship arrived, the firefighters scattered.

Meanwhile, the lights, sirens, flames, and odor had roused my parents from their card game. They weren’t happy. Had it not been for the invaders, I would have gotten punished. For months, Mom and Dad had been threatening to take away my electronic communication devices if I didn’t stop my research program. Thankfully, that night, I had bidden something truly ferly.

The kranken were as high as our house and as wide as our car. They reached, with what seemed like curiosity, into our windows, ostensibly caring little about breaking glass. I think they would have efficaciously kidnapped both Samantha and Ruff had they not been greedy and tried to abduct Gary, too.

It turns out that my brother was not asleep, but bespelled. He had been smiling until his attempted capture. Fortunately, the extraterrestrials’ move had knocked off his earphones and the entire neighborhood was suddenly subjected to the music of preadolescent boys’ angst.

I never saw a rabbit run so quickly to its burrow or a bird fly so speedily to its nest as I and the rest of our neighbors saw those weird octopi scuttle back into their vessel and zoom away. I guess they didn’t like my brother’s music, either.

Mom still rehabilitates horses. Dad still sells his brew to any and all comers. Samantha still adores running, kicking, and throwing, especially if her actions involve freshly cleaned laundry. Ruff still sleeps for most of the day. Gary’s still annoying.

As for me, I retained my Internet privileges and have been able to keep all my social media accounts. Then again, those rights are conditional on my forgoing further experiments until I’m at least twelve.

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