PRIORITIES • by James Hartley

Lucy looked at the clock when the kids came in. It was only about two, still daylight out. Both Teddy and his little sister Pam wore dejected looks. “Why are you home so early?” Lucy asked.
“They closed the sledding hill,” answered Teddy. “The cops chased everybody away. But the snow was all messed up anyway, a lot of it melted so there’s bare ground.”

“Cops? Melted? What happened?”

Teddy turned on the local TV news channel. The announcer was saying, “… special SWAT team has now managed to get inside … wait, something’s happening …” He stopped talking and took a sheet of paper. He scanned it, and said, “Here it is, folks, there are ten or twelve blue skinned, four armed corpses inside. No survivors.”

The scene shifted to an aerial cam, and Lucy could see the large disc-shaped object, front edge crumpled where it had hit trees. As the aerial cam panned around, she could see the sledding hill about a mile from the object, with a wide track down the hill and across the flat area between the two.

“Was anyone hurt?”

“No, Mom. It made a lot of noise, we heard it coming, and all the kids went down the sides of the hill to get out of the way.”

“That’s good. Now, I heard it’s going to snow really hard tonight, so maybe the hill will be good enough for sledding tomorrow. I want you two to go to your rooms and play quietly.” The kids went. Lucy switched off the TV and turned back to the pie she was making.

A few minutes later Phil, Lucy’s husband and the town Chief of Police, entered. “Hey, Lucy, did you hear?”

She leaned over and kissed him, then said, “Yes, something crashed on the sledding hill. Teddy said it messed up the snow, and then your men chased all the kids away.”

“Well, what do you expect? It was a flying saucer, a UFO. Turned out all the aliens on board were killed, but we had to be careful.”

“How long are they going to be investigating?”

“My gosh, Lucy, this could go on for weeks, months. I don’t know.”

“Phil, Honey, that, that, thing is at least a mile from the sledding hill, and there’s supposed to be heavy snow tonight. If there’s enough snow for sledding tomorrow, I expect you to let the kids … all the kids, not just ours … back on the hill.”

“What? Lucy, are you crazy? I don’t think I can do that! We have to keep our priorities straight, and checking that thing out has to be a top priority!”
“No, Phil, you’re the Chief of Police and you can do it. As for the other, there’s another week of Winter Vacation left. If you think I’m going to put up with the kids in the house because they can’t go sledding … I have my priorities straight, thank you!”

James Hartley is a former computer programmer. Originally from northern New Jersey, he now lives in sunny central Florida. He has published a fantasy novel, “Teen Angel,” and stories in Illusion’s Transmitter, Written Word Online, Clonepod, Every Day Fiction, Lorelei Signal, KidVisions, Raygun Revival, and the “Desolate Places”, “Strange Mysteries”, “Book of Exodi” and “Christmas in Outer Space” anthologies. He is currently working on a second novel, “The Ghost of Grover’s Ridge.” He is a member of IWOFA and the Dark Fiction Guild.

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