Child of the Heart
As she turned into the driveway, Marty spotted the big white dog waiting for her and couldn’t suppress a grin. This routine never got old, the dog
waiting for her and running ahead of the truck all the way up the driveway. Angel and Buddy were waiting at the corner, and that too made her smile as
she rolled down the window to call a greeting. Intellectually, she knew perfectly well that the horses were anticipating their evening feed more than
her return home, but she chose to ignore it. As she backed into her parking spot, the geese began their usual ruckus, and she could hear the inside
dogs barking at the kitchen door and the usual flock of birds fighting noisily over spots at the feeder. It was good to be home.
Marty could never explain, even to herself, where her love of animals and country living had come from. As a child she’d moved all over the country
with her military Dad, but they always lived in a town or city. She entered the house, let the inside dogs out, changed clothes, and cheerfully began
her evening routine of “chores” - feeding, watering, and cleaning up.
The early sunset was only a minor inconvenience; as the sun sank behind the trees and the light faded she switched on her headlamp and continued to
work. A few moments later she switched it off again as the light behind her brightened again. She paid little attention until she realized that the
light was too bright to be the sun, and the wrong color. She turned abruptly to find the source.
A cigar-shaped craft bobbled awkwardly through the air and made a loud crunch as it plopped onto the gravel driveway. For a moment it crossed her
mind that the clumsy landing seemed odd for superior technology, then she was torn between fear and amazement and fought the urge to run. The manure
fork dropped out of her trembling fingers as a hatch opened, revealing the interior of the small vehicle.
Two of the occupants sat in padded seats in a semi-reclining position. The third was much smaller and was being held in the arms of what looked more
or less like a human woman. The woman beckoned to Marty, a “come here” gesture that was unmistakable in any language.
Marty took a deep breath and headed for the gate. How often had she dreamed of having such an encounter? If she ran away from it now she wouldn’t
be able to live with herself afterwards. Having remembered to close the gate behind her in spite of her overwhelming emotions and fear, Marty
approached the still beckoning woman.
The stranger held the child out to Marty and said three words: “ Hide. Protect. Promise.”
Marty recoiled. What was going on here? Why would a stranger - possibly an alien
stranger - want to give her a child?
“Please.” said the woman. “We die. Fall. Hide. Protect.”
“Fall?” repeated Marty questioningly. It was the only word that didn’t seem to make sense.
“Fall. Broken. Ship broken, fall. Hide baby.”
Marty tried to think. The craft is broken and they’re going to crash? But .. why? Why didn’t they just get out of it now?
“Crash.” said Marty aloud. “Don’t crash, get out.”
“Crash! Yes. Broken, must crash, we die. Hide baby. Promise please.”
Marty tried desperately to make sense of the broken English. The ship is broken so they have to crash it and will die .. but she doesn’t want the
baby to die? Marty shook her head and made a helpless gesture with her hands. What did she know about taking care of a toddler - much less an alien
The woman extended her arms until the boy was clear of the ship and then suddenly let him go. He would have fallen to the gravel road had not Marty
grabbed and caught him, but her reflexes and instinct worked faster than her mind, and she did catch him.
“Protect Calvin!” said the woman as the hatch closed abruptly. It would have hit Marty and the boy had not Marty stumbled backwards out of the
way in time, but reflexes saved them again. The ship wobbled into the air and flew jerkily off over the trees as Marty stood and stared, still holding
the boy. When it was out of sight, the boy turned to look at Marty, and she met his beautiful lavender eyes for the first time.
After a moment, the boy wiggled in a manner that even Marty translated to mean that he wanted down. She bent over and set him on his feet, still
staring after the ship. “Calvin?” she said absently. “Is that your name?”
“Calvin,” the boy agreed, sounding sad. Then Khan trotted up and licked him square in the face, and he began to giggle as he tried unsuccessfully
to push the large dog away.
Calvin’s presence had caused many problems, and although Marty had solved most of them, she didn’t know what to do or say now.
“He killed the dog!” her husband Josh shouted again angrily. “Your little pet monster killed Merlin.”
Marty had returned from feeding the animals to a scene of chaos. Merlin lay on the couch, Ringo was hiding under the coffee table, Calvin was
squeezed into a corner crying, and Josh was pacing the living room like a maddened tiger. She walked over to Merlin, touched his head, and looked into
his eyes. Still warm, he was undeniably dead but there wasn’t a mark on him.
“HOW did he kill Merlin?” Marty finally asked as Josh stopped pacing and glared at her. “I don’t see any marks. Did he choke him?”
“How the hell should I know HOW he did it!” Josh shouted. “He was petting the dog and then he said 'Dog hurt' and backed off. When I checked
on Merlin, he was dead.”
“Well, maybe Merlin just died while Calvin was petting him,” Marty responded in a calm voice. “Why do you think Calvin killed
him if you
didn’t see him hurt Merlin?”
“Bullcrap. Merlin didn’t just die. That little monster killed him somehow. Merlin was fine a few minutes ago.”
Marty tried to glance at Calvin without moving her head, but Josh caught the movement and was outraged all over again. “Oh, that’s great. You
care more about that alien THING than about me or the dog who’s protected us for 14 years.” Josh turned and stomped out of the room and then out
of the house, letting the storm door slam violently behind him.
Marty turned to look at Calvin, who met her eyes with that lavender gaze and said sadly “Josh hate Calvin.”
“No, sweetie, he doesn’t hate you. He’s just angry right now. What happened to Merlin?”
Calvin stood up into the light, and Marty saw the tears in his eyes. “Dog hurt,” said Calvin. “Calvin fix. Dog not hurt now.”
Marty froze, and for an instant rage rose in her and nearly choked her. “You DID kill Merlin!” she burst out, and turned away from the boy to
look at the dog.
Merlin looked asleep, and peaceful. There was something different about his face, she noticed. Somehow it was smoother. Her mind raced through
thoughts of all the discussions they’d had about Merlin and how much pain he’d been in. Marty had more than once suggested they take him to the
vet to be euthanized, but Josh wouldn’t hear of it. He loved the old dog and couldn’t face the idea of losing him, so he rationalized that Merlin
wasn’t really that bad. He still went outside, still ate, was still continent. It wasn’t time yet. Had Calvin felt the dog’s pain and somehow
euthanized him? Perhaps this was an act of mercy, not violence. She turned back to look at Calvin and found him still standing in the same spot, tears
rolling silently down his face.
“Good dog Merlin, “ he said. “Good dog.”
“Yes, Merlin was a good dog, “ Marty replied, glancing again at the still black form on the couch. “Did you help Merlin stop hurting?”
Calvin understood better than he talked, and nodded his head in agreement as Marty got it right. “Dog not hurt now,” he repeated.