Our recent Peninsula Pulse reports strange lights in Ellison Bay's skies. That's not news to us.
Why, that's exactly where our spaceman likes to land. Koyper typically likes to land his spaceship in Ellison Bay's Newport State Park and take in the poetry trail. Have they not seen The Emissary movie?
As a matter of fact, I was just editing a scene about these very lights in the yet-to-be-published Emissary book 1. (It's a trilogy now.) Here is a sneak peek. I've highlighted the section about strange lights in the sky in yellow.
Fifteen miles north of Wafflequisp’s Ho-Made Country Dairy, Jim Morgen rode his bike. Coasting up highway 42 past Ecology Sports and the marina, he raised his forearm to signal a right turn into the gas station’s parking lot. Braking, he reached for the water bottle that wasn’t there. Again. He pictured his bottle of ice water, ready for action, sitting beside his kitchen sink. He sighed.
A tall, well-dressed woman stood before one of the bright orange gas pumps. Her face twisted with confusion as her head bobbed around, apparently searching for something.
Illinois plates. Jim felt a smile spread on his face. “I did that once. Ten years ago, when I first moved here.”
“Oh!” She whipped about, mouth open.
“You have to go inside to pay,” he explained. He shrugged and gave her an apologetic smile. “Welcome to Sister Bay.”
“I see. Thanks,” she said. She renewed her study of the gas pump closest to her. Her eyes narrowed as if some secret place to insert a credit card might yet reveal itself.
“These old number wheels on the pumps are pretty cool, don’t you think?” Jim liked how the old gas station clung to its vintage pumps. “They slow you down, but sometimes it’s nice being forced to slow down.” He flapped an arm at her dusty red Toyota. “As long as you aren’t in a hurry, I mean,” he added with concern.
She nodded, fumbling with her purse. “Never mind. It’s fine. Fine, fine, fine.” Jim blinked at her clipped rush of words. “I’m not in a hurry.” She gave him a tight smile before striding toward the minimart.
It was true that he liked how travelers couldn’t remain anonymous here, swiping their credit cards outside before driving off. He liked how whenever he went into the little minimart to pay, he often picked up news that was useful to locals like himself.
Here was where he’d heard the big new hotel down the block was adding one more story than it promised the town board while demanding locals fork out for that addition in their taxes. Here was where he’d heard that Sister Bay’s leaky street lighting was threatening Newport State Park’s hard-won International Dark Sky Park status. Here was where he learned who most recently got nailed for driving drunk.
He removed his helmet and gloves and slung them over the handlebars of his silver Trek bike. He propped his bike against the wall of the station’s minimart and hesitated, looking at it.
If it weren’t Door County, he would have locked it up. But compared to every other place he had lived, Door County didn’t have much crime. Drunk driving yes, sadly, but not much theft. Maybe it was just harder to make a getaway on a narrow little peninsula surrounded by the waters of Lake Michigan.
As he approached the station’s minimart, he glanced up at the cursive lettering on the weathered wooden sign over the door. It was impossible to read. He only knew by word of mouth that it read Bhirdos. Which was probably why, when his brother moved up here from Chicago, Andy began calling the minimart Weirdos. That had totally cracked him up. Classic Andy. Ever since Andy had moved up here, everything had gotten funnier. More complicated, but funnier.
Conditioned air chilled his skin as he entered the minimart. He adjusted his glasses, blinking at the dimness.
“—my three little nieces coming tomorrow. I’m looking for a place to do horseback riding, petting zoo. Stuff like that.” Illinois woman was talking to the clerk and sounded more relaxed than she had in the parking lot. She studied the colorful flyers mounted in wooden cubbies on the wall. “They’re going through their horse phase.” She pulled out a flyer for a gallery and turned it over to study the back.
The clerk, a small, dark woman who wore a perpetually sorrowful expression, drifted into place behind the counter and began ringing up her bill. “Well, everyone goes to Wafflequisp’s,” she droned, her gaze fixed on the woman’s midsection. Her forehead pinched as if she had a thought. “I dunno, though. My cousin says Wafflequisp’s keeps shutting down. Some kinda power problems. Lots of construction noise and that.”
Wiping his hands on his shorts, Jim placed a bottle of water on the counter along with some change. “Aw, that’d be sad if Wafflequisp’s shut down. When I was little my family used to come up here from Chicago and me and my little brother would always go to Wafflequisp’s.” He raised his hands to frame his face and put on a big, cheesy grin. “You know, Millie the Cow!”
Illinois plates woman gave him a blank look. He instantly felt stupid.
“Millie the Cow, you bet,” the clerk agreed blandly. She had turned her attention from Illinois woman’s middle and Jim saw that she was now addressing his stomach. “Lots of other places for kids around here.” She handed Illinois woman a receipt and her mouth stretched into an thin smile. “Just between you and me,” she said, pausing as if considering her words. “Stew Wafflequisp rubs lots of folks here the wrong way. Some folks wouldn’t mind seeing his business go under.”
“Wow,” Illinois woman said. “Local drama, I guess. I’ll just call around.”
“You could check out the state parks,” Jim said. “Newport State Park isn’t too far north from here. They just won a designation from the International Dark Sky Association.”
The clerk and Illinois woman gave him identically confused looks. Jim stifled an urge to groan.
He understood Illinois woman’s confusion. But when locals failed to grasp the significance of the nearby park’s new designation, he was disappointed.
He waved his arms. “It’s really hard for parks to get this. The rangers there worked for years collecting data to prove you can consistently see the very faintest stars at the park.” He ran his hands through his hair. “It’s rare to find a place in the midwest where you can see so many stars. There’s so little light pollution. It’s so dark.”
“Oh.” Comprehension lit Illinois woman’s eyes. “So they have, like, hikes and campfires and nature talks?”
“You bet,” the clerk said. “They get astrology students from Madison to come up and do star talks for kids and that.”
Jim cleared his throat and smiled down at the clerk. “I think you mean astronomy. Grad students from the UW come to give presentations on the night sky.”
“Yeah, that.” The clerk leaned over the counter and raised her eyes to Jim’s chest. “Though you know what.” She looked over her right shoulder and then her left before lowering her voice. “Some folks see funny things up there in the woods at night. Been going on for years.”
“Funny things?” Jim asked. “Like what?”
The clerk shrugged. “Oh, you know. Weird lights in the sky. Things flying faster than they oughta. Things no one can explain.” She sounded like she was enjoying the topic.
Smiling stiffly, Illinois woman exchanged a quick glance with Jim, her eyes widening just enough to relay a message of watch out for this one.
“Oh, weird lights in the sky are often easily explained,” Jim said.
The clerk bristled visibly.
“Some satellites are super bright these days,” he added quickly. He realized he was pointing up at the ceiling before realizing this gesture wasn’t making his point. He turned to Illinois woman. “Anyway, you should check out the parks. I’ve had Newport on my mind lately. It’s beautiful. Quiet. It’s one of my favorite places to meditate.”
The silence that fell after his final word informed Jim that he would do well to find a different topic. His mind went blank.
Jim caught Illinois woman exchanging a look with the clerk similar to the one she had just exchanged with him. He felt a pang of sympathy for her as she hastily exited the shop.
“Just the water?”
He bit his lip. Was he forgetting something? He started as he realized what it was. For almost ten years, every single time he entered Bhirdos, he bought a packet of peanut M&M’s. For the first time, candy had not crossed his mind.
He prided himself on his healthy diet. But he also allowed himself occasional treats. It used to be that every single time he bought the M&M’s, he would tell himself to only eat a few. And every single time he devoured the entire bag. Every single time he felt ashamed, contaminated, out of control.
He had bullied himself to stop but bullying didn’t work. Such a little thing. But it bugged him. He prided himself on being more logical than most and this behavior was not logical.
“It’s been months since I even thought about buying candy,” he said.
Her expression flat, the clerk gestured wordlessly to the candy racks. She drummed her fingers lightly on the countertop.
“But I don’t want it. I don’t even miss it,” he said wonderingly. He didn’t care if the clerk didn’t understand. This was a breakthrough. “It’s got to be the meditation.”
The clerk’s shoulders rose and fell as she inhaled and released a breath. “So, just the water, then.”
“Oh, sorry, yeah. Thank you.”
© 2023 Holly Phaneuf Erskine. All Rights Reserved.
And if you really want a spaceship, what we have learned is that you have to make one yourself in your driveway and since it won't fly you also will need a crane to lift it up in the air like this: