The Bull and Bucket napkins were custom made, showing a picture of a little black bull kicking a bucket. The décor was old-world, but this was a car-park two years ago.
Across the chunky wooden table my wife was trying to get our niece to finish her meal. I sloshed the remnants of my pint of Real Ale round the bottom of my glass, and doodled circular shapes on my napkin.
The general commotion from outside the pub was getting louder. I stretched, turning round to look out the window. A small crowd had gathered outside. Some looked up at the sky, while some stood shaking their heads, or nodding in agreement.
I turned to my wife and smiled.
“I’m just going out for a breath of air.”
“Okay.” She sighed. “We’ll be out as soon as Wendy finishes her dinner.”
Wendy stuck her tongue out and crossed her arms, her mouth firmly closed.
A cool breeze carried the scent of wildflowers through the hot summer air.
“You can’t pretend not to see it,” a man shouted, pointing up at the sky.
The crowd gathered outside the ‘Bull and Bucket’ had already grown; all looked up, hands held firmly over their eyes.
“Look, it’s a UFO,” the man continued.
“It looks a bit like a big balloon to me,” an anonymous voice from the crowd ventured.
Several of the onlookers turned round to search out this voice of reason, with a look that screamed ‘sacrilege’ on their faces.
Helen, my wife, had come out of the pub with our niece in tow. She stood beside me, staring up at the shining metallic object; like the rest of the onlookers, her hands were clasped over her eyes.
The girl rubbed at her eyes. “It’s sore.”
Helen crouched down, examining the six-year-old.
“It’s okay, dear. It’s only a bent eyelash; it’ll be fine in a minute,” she said. “Look up there, Wendy love.” Helen pointed up at the sky.
“I can’t, it makes my eyes sore,” Wendy screamed.
Heads turned in our direction as more and more people began taking notice of the weeping girl.
“My eyes are sore as well,” said another voice from the crowed. A murmur of affirmation began to pass between the onlookers.
More eyes turned to look at the girl, then at the owner of this new voice in the crowd.
A woman screamed, and was given a little room as a small circle of space formed in the whispering onlookers that surrounded her. The woman bent down, and shielded her eyes from the metallic shimmer.
“Hide your eyes,” somebody shouted. Several more people began to shout and scream. Some crouched down to protect their eyes.
“Don’t be silly, it’s beautiful,” said another voice. The voice belonged to an elderly woman. She was one of the believers’ brood. One of those who had shot the sacrilegious looks at the balloon shouter.
The crowed jostled, each camp solidifying its stance before the force of the opposition. Some waved to the shiny object in the sky, some jostled and postured amongst themselves.
I checked my watch; almost six thirty. As I looked up, the UFO began to move off towards the wood, then over the nearby hills.
By this time all but a few of the onlookers had long since seen the demise of all reason — some small scuffles had broken out, and most of the people were either shouting to be saved or wailing to be spared.
Then, as the object drifted behind the hills, a strange calm settled over the crowed. They watched as the silvery shape slipped out of sight, getting lost behind the hills. They continued to stare up at the bright sky for some time before gradually going back about their business.
By this time Jimmy Smith, head of the ‘Midlands Amateur Model Enthusiasts Group’, would be packing up our latest creation, and storing it carefully in his old Ford pickup, the one with the ‘I want to believe’ sticker on the back.
Garry Grierson writes in Fife.
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Camilla d’Errico: A character designer and artist who dances on the tightrope between pop surrealist art and manga inspired graphics. Explore her paintings, characters and comics: Tanpopo, BURN and Helmetgirls.