The Shining Cow

Produced by Greg Weeks, Stephen Blundell and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net

This is NOT a story about sinister aliens from outer space. This is simply the story of what happened to poor Junius when she found herself much too close to a Flying Saucer, long enough so she could be analyzed and long enough to cause some strange happenings on that farm.

the
shining
cow

by ALEX JAMES

Robbie whined and acted like his eyes were burning, as if he’d gotten dust or something even stranger into them….

Zack Stewart stared sleepily into the bottom of his cracked coffee cup as his wife began to gather the breakfast dishes.

Mrs. Stewart was a huge, methodical woman, seasoned to the drudgery of a farm wife. Quite methodically she’d arise every morning at 4:00 A.M. with her husband and each would do their respective chores until long after the sun had set on their forty-acre farm.

“You’ve jest got to find Junius today, Zack,” Mrs. Stewart spoke worriedly, “Lord only knows her condition, not being milked since yesterday morning.”

“Yeah, I know, Ma,” Zack said wearily as he rose from the table, “I’ll search for her again in the north woods, but if she ain’t there this time, I give up.”

A dog suddenly howled outside. There was a brief instant when neither moved, then Zack suddenly exclaimed, “It’s Robbie!” and dashed outside.

In the light from the open doorway Zack saw the dog creeping along on his haunches, howling and whining, and scratching frantically at his tear-streaming eyes.

“Skunk finally got ya, eh boy?” Zack spoke sympathetically as the dog, fawning, came closer.

“Stay away, Robbie, stay away now!” he ordered the dog. Robbie whined and scratched again, furiously. Zack sniffed cautiously, expecting any moment the pungent smell of skunk fluid to hit his nostrils. He sensed nothing but the clean, fresh smell of the morning air, so he leaned closer. Within a foot of Robbie, he sniffed again. Nothing. He realized it wasn’t a skunk that caused Robbie’s eyes to burn. He knelt down and took the dog’s head tenderly in his rough, calloused hands and examined his eyes. They were bloodshot and watery. He took some water from the well and dashed it into the dog’s eyes as Robbie struggled.

“Hold still, boy, I’m trying to help ya,” Zack soothed. He took out a blue work bandanna and wiped tenderly around Robbie’s eyes.

“What did it, boy? How did it happen?” Zack asked. Robbie merely whined.

“What’s wrong with him?” Mrs. Stewart, broom in hand, asked from the doorway.

“Don’t rightly know,” Zack patted the dog, “acts like he got something in his eyes.”

“Skunk?”

“Naw,” Zack shook his head. “He don’t smell. Something else.”

“Cat?”

“No scratches, either. He acts like they’re burnin’ him, like he got dust or somethin’ in ’em.”

“Well, take him out to the barn and you better get after Junius.”

“Yeah, Ma. Come on, Robbie.” He led Robbie to the barn and made him lie on a bed of hay in one of the stalls then returned to the kitchen for his lantern. He put on his thick denim jacket and work cap and turned to his wife.

“If she ain’t in the woods, I’ll come back and git the truck and drive over to the Leemers and see if he seen her.”

He left the kitchen and shone the lantern around in the farmyard to get his bearings, then headed for the north end of his farm. He could see the faint glimmer of dawn in the east, more pronounced in the northeast, and even more so due north. He rubbed his eyes. A much brighter glow outlined the treetops in the north woods, that made the dawn on the eastern horizon look like a dirty gray streak. His first thought was of fire, but there was no smoke, no flame.

Zack walked dazedly toward the woods, his eyes glued to the light above the trees. Soon he was in the woods, and he could see the brightness extended down through the trees from the sky, on the other side of the woods. He approached cautiously as the light grew brighter, and came to the clearing where it was most intense. A thick bush obstructed his view, and Zack moved it aside then uttered a hoarse gasp, as he clutched at his eyes.

For a moment he felt he was dreaming. He squinted between the slits of his fingers. The glow was still piercing, but he could see the brightly lit Junius, radiating blue-white light, nibbling at the sparse grass in the clearing. Zack stood transfixed, his eyes widening behind his fingers. He felt the tears and the burning sensation, and squinted tightly, turning his head from the unbelievable scene.


Zack didn’t remember his return to the farmhouse, or incoherently trying to explain to his wife the scene he had witnessed. A stiff jolt of elderberry wine drove off the jitters and reasoning returned. His wife sat patiently, eyeing him oddly, as Zack muttered over and over again, “It’s unbelievable! It’s unbelievable!”

Mrs. Stewart rose. “I’m going out and see fer myself. And, Zack, if yer lying to me—”

Zack jumped from the chair, barring her way.

“Believe me, maw, it’s true. Don’t go out there. It might be too much fer ya.”

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