SHOW A LITTLE RESPONSIBILITY, EARTHLINGS
It’s a classic sci-fi scenario. A flying saucer lands in Washington D.C. (or substitute your favorite location). A very trigger happy Army battalion immediately surrounds the alien vehicle. A single individual emerges, looking for all the world like one of us except for his shiny spacesuit. He claims to come in peace but the Army is having none of it. We need to build a wall, everyone agrees. The space visitor who arrived in theaters everywhere on September 28, 1951, went by the name Klaatu (as in “Klaatu barada nikto”) and was played with alien sophistication by British actor Michael Rennie. The film, as any five-year-old space junkie can tell you, was The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Naturally, within minutes of declaring his peaceful intentions, Klaatu is shot by an over-zealous soldier. Klaatu’s very large, metallic sidekick emerges from the spaceship and quickly turns all the Army’s weapons into so much NRA dust. Klaatu is taken to the hospital where, when no one is looking, he heals himself. He then goes missing to move among the people in attempt to discover just what makes earthlings tick We quickly discover that he is wiser and more reasonable than all of us put together.
Klaatu takes a room at a boarding house, where he meets a widow and her son who become thoroughly entwined in the plot. He also meets an Einstein-like professor who is smart enough to converse with Klaatu on his level. Klaatu explains to the professor in a non-belligerent manner that, even though he has come in peace, that doesn’t mean’s not going to destroy the planet (unlike the aliens in War of the Worlds who pulverized first and asked questions later). It seems that folks from elsewhere in the galaxy are a little concerned about our playing around with weapons of mass destruction.
Various sub-plots play themselves out as the movie hurtles toward a final showdown during which Klaatu politely tells all the world’s scientists that if they don’t play nice “this Earth of yours will be reduced to a burned-out cinder.”
Klaatu then bids them a fond farewell, and he and his metallic sidekick ride off into space, as one bystander asks another bystander: “Who was that masked man?”
Aunt Nancy’s Burden, Part 3: Adventures of Uncle Ed
“Look, Cinderella,” said Uncle Ed the next morning as Aunt Clara arrived poolside. “Here’s one of your evil stepsisters; wonder where the other one is.”
“Nancy dear,” said Aunt Clara, ignoring him, “you look done in and it’s not even nine o’clock. Why don’t you take a break, go do something for yourself. I’ll keep Ed company. As a matter of fact, I’ll take him out for a walk.”
“Why, that’s so thoughtful,” said Aunt Nancy.
“Won’t that be nice?” said Aunt Clara, the walrus, turning to Uncle Ed, the plump, endangered oyster.
It took Uncle Ed the entire day to get home from where Aunt Clara left him in the parking lot of a shopping center nearly five miles away. He had had a harrowing day. First, an elderly woman who coveted the parking spot he was occupying nudged his wheelchair out into the street with the nose of her 1985 Buick. Three boy scouts then tried to help him across the Meadowbrook Parkway even though he complained loudly that he didn’t want to cross. Lacking the patience, reverence and other scoutly qualities necessary to put up with his carping, they left him in middle of the Exit 4 ramp. The driver of the truck that came within eight inches of finally pushing him through death’s door was kind enough to bring him home, where he was welcomed as warmly as the cat that always came back. Aunt Joan did, however, take the time to hastily bake him a batch of his favorite oatmeal cookies.
Late the next afternoon, Aunt Joan, surprised to find Uncle Ed sitting at his usual poolside spot, inquired about the cookies.
“Oh, the cookies,” said Uncle Ed. “Reverend Hoffman stopped by this morning to invite us to the church picnic today. I gave them to him.”
Aunt Joan turned white and screamed all the way home. Her frantic phone call revealed that the Reverend and eleven members of his flock had been hospitalized for food poisoning, the source of which had been narrowed down to Selma Mayor’s crabmeat croquettes, Verna Johnston’s sweet potato surprise and the oatmeal cookies the Reverend himself had brought to the picnic.
The village rescue squad had done themselves proud responding to the church picnic crisis, performing professionally and efficiently, and all the suffering diners were expected to be just fine. It would be a busy week for the rescue squad; in fact they would be called to the same house on Hancock Street three times during the week.