How to Be a Good Citizen

by Aidan Doyle

Originally published in Reflection's Edge

My Life in 1951
by Mrs. Doris Jones

They said to write about my daily life because that's what people of the future would be interested in. But I don't think you're going to be thrilled to read another essay on cooking, shopping, and listening to the radio. Mr. Simmons said there wasn't any point in having a time capsule that was due to be opened in 2001. Jesus' kingdom was coming long before that. So there's probably no harm telling you about the aliens.

You've probably heard of David Goldberg, the famous movie producer. You might have heard the rumors of how he was terrified of germs and how he died on the operating table after he ordered doctors to look at his colon. But there's more to the story than that.

I don't care what some people say about David Goldberg, he was a good man at heart. Sure, he made some mistakes, and he didn't exactly live his life by the Good Book, but not all of us are saints. Mr. Goldberg had a reputation with the ladies, but he was always a perfect gentleman when he spoke to me. And above all, he did a lot for our community.

I worked in the cafeteria at Mr. Goldberg's movie studio. That's where I met Bill. He was one of the cameramen. You ladies of the future sure missed out! They don't make them like my Bill any more. He could have been a movie star himself, but my Bill was too modest for all that. Mr. Goldberg came to our wedding and gave us the nicest present of all—a beautiful fur coat. I was the envy of all of Glenview.

During the war the studio made training movies for our boys and motivational films for the folks at home. You can bet we kept the wheels of industry turning. After the war, we had a couple of hard years. Mr. Goldberg said he had to get away for a while and took a vacation in New Mexico. It must have done him good. When he came back, he knew exactly what the studio was going to do. We started making social guidance films for schools.

They weren't like those boring Encyclopedia Britannica films. We added a touch of Hollywood entertainment to keep the kids interested. I lost count of how many teachers told us how successful the films were in the classroom. We taught children to become good citizens by accepting the decisions of the majority. There are no criminals in a beehive! Good manners, honesty and sportsmanship are the keys to true popularity. Knowing you're neat and clean gives you poise and confidence. You won't succeed unless you have good posture and brush your teeth regularly. Girls who park in cars aren't really popular.

Mr. Goldberg had to hire more workers to keep up with the demand for our films. Even with all the new employees, Bill started working much longer hours and often didn't come home till late. He was such a dedicated worker. We still had the occasional problem at the studio. One of Mr. Goldberg's friends told him to make a film that encouraged children to smoke marijuana!

Some of the crew threatened to walk out until Mr. Goldberg promised to have a stern word with his friend. To let us know he was still a patriotic American, we made a film warning everyone how the Soviets were smuggling in marijuana and threatening America's moral stability. The Chemical Coffin is one of my favorite films. I get a tear in my eye just thinking about how young Timmy falls prey to smooth-talking Boris, who tells him to blast off for Kicksville where the grasshoppers are really jumping. Thanks to us, kids won't fall for that trap any more.

Then we started to see the strange lights. Balls of orange light streaking across the night sky. Some people said they were just shooting stars, but most of us knew they were flying saucers. Mr. Goldberg had a big argument with Bill over our latest film. How To Be A Good Citizen was our biggest production ever, and Mr. Goldberg said it would have everything a child of today needs to become a citizen of tomorrow. It told the story of young Betty who disobeys her parents and goes out without a chaperone. Betty has broken the chain of command that starts with our political leaders and ends with our parents. Foolish Betty ends up sobbing to her parents that Russian sailors used her as a plaything.

We were a day behind schedule and Mr. Goldberg said Bill was spending too long setting up the shots Marianne Layton was in. It was Miss Layton's first film, but I immediately knew she didn't have a future as an actress. Such a common and slow-witted girl. Bill was only trying to make sure the light flattered her plain features.

That night Alice Turner disappeared. The police searched the neighborhood, but there was no sign of Alice. Everyone knew the flying saucers had taken her.

The next morning they found Alice Turner sitting at the bus stop. After a day of rest, she regained her state of mind but wouldn't talk about what had happened. Most people assumed the aliens had returned her after they finished their experiments. What surprised everyone was how much Alice's cooking had improved. Before she disappeared, Alice was widely acknowledged as the worst cook in all of Glenview, but now everyone agreed Alice's meals were the best they'd ever eaten. Bill asked me when I was going to be abducted. He was a real card, my Bill.

More people were abducted. They all came back within a day or two and wouldn't say anything about what had happened to them. Everyone who had disappeared was now a master cook. Mr. Andrews couldn't boil an egg before, but now he was preparing the most delectable dishes. The studio cafeteria was a lot quieter, because the abductees brought their own food into work.

Bob Carter said the aliens must be preparing the earth for colonization and wanted to ensure there was some decent food for when they arrived. Old Tom Wilson said it was a German plot. They couldn't beat us in a fair fight, so now they were going to make us all too fat to fight. Captain Bradshaw said it couldn't be the Germans because they didn't know how to cook. Their bread was harder than the armor on their panzer tanks.

Reverend Jacobs is a very progressive preacher, and said the color of their skin didn't matter. The little gray men were welcome in our church. Mr. Andrews why there weren't any black people in our congregation. The reverend said that was because they were quite happy in their own churches. We held a special Sunday afternoon fete in honor of the aliens, though they didn't turn up. Bill said the aliens have technology beyond our understanding, but they can't be too smart if they're not in church on Sunday.

Dolores Smith said people were always talking about the little gray men, but she wanted to know what the little gray women were doing. At home cooking dinner while the men were flying around the galaxy? Dolores Smith, of course, is a loose woman and a menace to the men of Glenview. She tells people that her husband was killed during the war, but everyone knows he ran off with a French girl.

Some men from the air force turned up and did some tests on the abductees. I didn't think I would see someone as brave and handsome as Captain Bradshaw so frightened, but he was really spooked. He said the men weren't really from the air force.

Then one Friday evening, Bill didn't come home. I kept a vigil by the lounge room window, watching the orange lights darting all over the night sky. I told myself not to worry. Everyone else had been returned, and if I was lucky Bill would be able to help with the cooking. I stayed up until the early hours of the morning and finally the front door opened. Bill came in and I burst into tears and held him tight. Bill said the little gray men had grabbed him and he didn't want to talk about it. Then I noticed the lipstick on his collar. He said one of the makeup girls was carrying a tray of lipstick and had accidentally bumped into him. I marched him into the kitchen and demanded he cook a steak. Bill protested, but I told him that unless he wanted to sleep on the couch, he had better start cooking. He burned the steak to a crisp.

I kept a close eye on Bill after that. Then Anne Cahill told me she'd seen Marianne Layton winking at Bill. I asked Anne where I could lay my hands on that little tramp. She told me Marianne had moved in to Mr. Goldberg's house! That's why the films we made are so important. Children watching them won't grow up to behave like that. If only we'd started making films earlier!

I wasn't going to stand idly by while Marianne Layton tried to molest my poor Bill. I marched up to Mr. Goldberg's house and banged on the door and windows, but there was no answer. I went to the back of the house. Fortunately the back door was unlocked.

I had been in Mr. Goldberg's house on a few occasions, but its grandness never failed to impress me. All those fur rugs. There was even a chandelier made from Venetian glass. Naturally, I hadn't been in Mr. Goldberg's bedroom before, and I was hesitant to enter his private rooms. But I was determined to find Miss Layton.

I was mighty surprised to see Mr. Goldberg's huge circular bed. It was one of the strangest things I'd ever seen. There was a button on the wall next to the bed and when I pressed it—well lordy me—if that bed didn't start turning around! I got out of that bedroom faster than Bill drinks a bottle of beer. Why would someone have a motorized bed? I had no idea and want to keep it that way. There are some things a decent woman just doesn't want to know.

I looked through the rest of the house and finally tried the basement. The door was locked, but I managed to pick the lock with one of my hairpins. I hope that doesn't shock you too much, but I'm the kind of woman who will do anything to protect the ones she loves.

I got the surprise of my life when I entered the basement. A big glass cylinder filled with clear liquid stood in the center of the room. A little gray creature, about four feet high, floated in the tank. It had black, almond-shaped eyes, and there were scars running across the length of its body. At first I thought it was dead, but then it blinked, raised a hand and motioned for me to come closer.

I was out of that house and on my way home as quickly as my legs could carry me. I was in such a state that I didn't even notice the orange light until it was right overhead. I looked up and saw a saucer-shaped craft hovering above me. My legs went all wobbly and I felt the air rush up my dress. I was lifted right off the ground and drawn up into the alien craft. I was just thankful there hadn't been any young men on the ground below.

The little gray men on the ship tried to use one of those mind probe things on me, but I let them know I wasn't putting up with any of that funny business. I had an idea what they were looking for and made a bargain with them. I told them what they wanted to know and they agreed to do a favor for me. They said we should all be grateful to them for stopping the renegade aliens' invasion plans. I didn't quite understand what they were talking about. Something about societal manipulation to make us more compliant.

That was all well and good, but I had housework that needed attending to. They took me home and promised to uphold their end of the bargain. I hadn't expected them to abduct Mr. Goldberg, but apparently they weren't happy about his relationship with the other creature. When they returned Mr. Goldberg, he was a changed man. He was convinced they were still watching him, and had put some sort of implant in him. He ordered surgeons to open him up and remove the implant. No one knows for sure what happened in the operating room, but Mr. Goldberg died, and there was no word about the implant.

After his death, the studio shut down. A lot of us were out of jobs, but with my skills it didn't take me long to find a new source of gainful employment. As I write this, I'm one of the canteen ladies at Glenview High.

There were just three more abductions and then the bright lights weren't seen over Glenview any more. These abductions were different—the abductees weren't returned. It's been hard for our little community to cope with all this pain, but I'm sure we'll work together and see out the bad times.

My poor Bill was one of those tragically taken from us. I won't allow myself to wallow in self-pity though. Not when there are others who need help to cope with their grief. The Laytons are distraught about the disappearance of their daughter. I've been dropping by their home in the evening, bringing them some home-made cookies and my condolences. It's not easy listening to them—they do nothing but sob and moan. But that's me, always thinking about other people.

I've also been spending a lot of my time with Captain Bradshaw. He's still upset about the loss of his wife, but I'm sure he'll get over her soon. He just needs someone to console him.