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- Prompt: Write a short story of 650 words or fewer based on the photo prompt above. You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.
- You can be funny, poignant, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.
Writer's Digest editors and readers picked this story by Heidi Hansen of Sequim, Washington, as the winner.
The Last Time I Saw Billy
At ten, after seeing Close Encounters, my cousin Billy announced that he was part alien. He didn’t claim to have been abducted, but a descendant. Instead of shaking hands, he extended his left index finger to meet yours ala E.T. We cousins rolled our eyes at him behind his back.
He’s an adult now but still starts every conversation at our family gatherings with news of UFOs coming to claim him.
This Thanksgiving we drew Secret Santa names among the cousins. I got Billy’s name. I decided to end his ranting about being an alien by giving him a DNA test kit.
I watched when he opened it at Christmas. He didn’t hesitate. He swabbed inside his cheek, sealed the swab into the plastic bag and stuffed it back into the return envelope. The instructions said it could take six to eight weeks for the results. I marked my calendar and invited everyone to Pie Day at my house on March 14.
On that morning, Aunt Kate called. She throttled me with a full rant about sticking my nose into other people’s business and not knowing when to shut my trap. When she was done, I called my mom, Kate’s sister, to see if she knew what was going on.
Mom told me that Kate had worked at the Star of the Sea Catholic church on the East side. One day she found a baby boy that had been left at the church. She took him home. She intended to stop at the police station and hand him over, but something made her change her mind. She moved and started over as mother to the boy. She never disclosed to anyone that Billy was not her natural son, not even the priest in the confessional, until now. I had no idea.
I also didn’t know Billy sent away for a second DNA test using hairs from his mother’s brush and a straw he placed in her iced tea. The results proved to him that he was not his mother’s son and he confronted her with this. That cemented his case for alien genes.
A little while later the cousins arrived for pie. Cousin Billy came last. He’d shaved his head and had grown a mustache dyed Day-Glo green. He wore a silver spandex body suit and tried to give the Spock ‘Live Long and Prosper’ finger spread. When I handed him a slice of cherry pie, he laughed and said he no longer ate Earth food. He pulled a freeze-dried packet of astronaut ice-cream from inside his spandex suit. Who knew they had pockets?
Later, he said he wanted to tell me something.
“Something personal,” he said.
I followed him to the front yard.
“I want to thank you for the DNA test.” He pulled out his ancient flip phone, and spewed a steam of nonsense, both recognizable syllables and clicks and snaps.
I gawked at him.
He winked at me and translated, “Beam Me Up, Scotty.”
He sparkled in the sunlight in that silver suit. I blinked at the glare. He seemed to shimmer, then he was gone. Gone. There was no one in sight. Nothing to hide behind. He was just gone.
I returned to the backyard. The cousins were all laughing about Billy and his suit and green mustache. I hesitated before saying anything.
“Well, is he gone?” Cousin Peggy asked.
What could I say? If I told them what I had witnessed, they would make as much fun of me as we made of Billy. “Yep, he’s gone alright,” I said.