© 2019 CR Britting
It's funny, I mused as I watched the car drive away, how pure chance led me to such an important discovery. It was a spur-of-moment decision to stop for a cold one on the way to my evening meeting. If I hadn't come in tonight, I might never have met the Brown Man.
When I walked into Spike’s tavern an hour or so ago, the man was sitting quietly at the bar, staring into his glass. It wasn't until later that I really paid any attention to him, because he was average in every way. He was about average in height and about average in weight. He had an average face, one you wouldn't give a second look, and he had on a very average-looking brown suit, probably purchased at the local J. C. Penny store. In truth, there was nothing at all that would've made me notice him.
There were a few other equally un-noticeable people in the establishment and none of them paid any attention to me as I sat down at the bar, at the opposite end from the brown man.
"Hiya, buddy," said the barkeeper with a smile as he came up to me, "what'll ya have?"
I scanned his menu board for my favorite brew. "A Coors Light, please." I replied.
"Sure thing." He nodded in approval of my selection and turned away. A moment later he was back. "Here ya go." he said, setting the frosty mug down in front of me. "Say, this your first time in my place?"
"Yep." I replied opening my wallet, "Just came in for a quick one before my meeting tonight."
The owner held up his hand. "Put your money away, friend. The first time's on the house. Come back and visit us again when you've got more time. I'll separate you from your cash then."
I laughed as I put my wallet back in my pocket. "Thanks. I might just do that." I looked around. "Nice place you've got here."
The barkeeper smiled again. "We've been here about three years and so far we're doin' okay. In fact, the only trouble I have is with some of the wackos who come in once in a while."
"Oh?" I said, only mildly interested, "how's that?"
The bartender leaned closer to me. "Take that guy in the brown suit over there." he said in a low voice as he glanced down the bar. "He's always talking about seeing aliens."
I almost choked on the beer I was drinking. "Aliens? You gotta be kidding!" I said as a wiped my face with my napkin. "You mean like Star Wars and Twilight Zone and all that stuff?"
The barkeeper shook his head as he glanced again at the brown man. "He comes in a couple times a week. After his third or fourth drink, he gets to talking about seeing a spaceship land near here and a bunch of little green men getting out."
"Hmm," I said looking at the brown man with rising interest. "I've always been interested in space ships and rockets and that sort of thing." I looked back at the bartender.
"Does anybody believe him?"
The bartender looked at me in disbelief. "Ya gotta be kiddin'. We're all sick of hearin' about it. He's like a record stuck in the same groove. He can't talk about anything else."
I looked back at the brown man. "Is that right? It might be interesting to hear his story."
The bartender was aghast. Several emotions flashed across his face, but finally, he shrugged. "Your funeral, friend," he said as he turned away. "Call me if I can get ya anything else. I don't need ta hear the story again!"
Picking up my glass, I walked down the bar and stood next to the brown man. "Excuse me, mister," I said courteously, "mind if I sit down?"
"Suit yourself." the brown man said without looking up. "It's a free country."
I eased myself into the seat next to his. We sat there together a moment in silence. Finally I decided to break the ice.
"The bartender said you've seen aliens here in town."
"The bartender talks too much," he said without emotion.
More silence. I decided to try again. "Look," I said. "I don't mean to bug you, but I've always been interested in rockets and spaceships and science fiction and that sort of thing. If you've really seen aliens, I'd like to hear about it."
The brown man turned and eyed me suspiciously. "You a reporter or a cop or something?"
I laughed. "Nope. Just another working stiff. My job's over at the Ashland Refinery. I'm an electrician."
The brown man turned back to his drink and chugged the last of it. "It wouldn't really make any difference, you know. I've been to the newspapers, the cops, even the radio station. They didn't believe me. Wouldn't use a word of what I said."
I tried hard to keep from laughing. "Have you tried the National Inquirer?"
The brown man turned towards me so savagely that I thought for a moment he was gonna hit me. "This ain't no hoax!" he flared. "Those aliens are as real as I am."
Suddenly he deflated like a punctured balloon and turned back to his glass. Realizing it was empty, he banged it on the bar several times and waved it at the bartender.
"Look, mister," I said, touching him gently on the arm, "why not try me. I'm a good listener. And I have a friend who works for the CIA. They'll listen to your story."
He turned back to me like a drowning man who had been thrown a life preserver. "You know somebody from the CIA?"
"Sure." I nodded. "If you can convince me that your story's legitimate, I'll call him. He works in Washington."
It was like a dam broke...and for the next 45 minutes the words poured out. After a moment the bartender came over bringing us another round and, in spite of what he said earlier, stayed to listen.
The brown man told a fascinating story about a spaceship landing in a clearing a few miles outside of town. He'd been on his way home from a business trip late one night when he saw strange lights in the sky. When the lights appeared to land nearby, he left his car beside the road and ran through the woods as fast as he could in that direction. He'd only gone a hundred yards or so when he saw it. A spaceship, just like in the movies. He hid behind a clump of bushes and watched as a group of human-like creatures busily unloaded equipment from the ship. It was too dark to see much and the only time he could see the aliens clearly was when one of them would stop in the lighted entrance to the ship.
After a while, there was a lull in the activity and the aliens went back into the ship. For over two hours nothing happened. Suddenly he realized that he'd fallen asleep and when he looked up, the spaceship, the aliens and all the equipment they had unloaded was gone! A frantic search of the area and a further search the following morning revealed no trace of the aliens.
"So," I said finally with a smile, "there's really no hard evidence that these little green men were actually here?"
"They weren't green!" the brown man said angrily. "They were just like me and you, except they had three eyes."
"Three eyes?" I asked incredulously.
"Sure," he said as if it were nothing out of the ordinary. "there was a third eye right in the middle of the forehead." He looked up at me. "You gonna tell your friend at the CIA?"
I spread my hands in a gesture of frustration. "He wouldn't believe me if there's no evidence to back up your story."
The brown man slammed his fist on the bar. "I knew it! You're just like all the rest!" He got up, threw some money on the bar and stomped out of the tavern.
After a moment, I walked over to the window and watched him get into his car, a brown Ford. A moment later the engine roared to life and the car shot right by me and then out onto the highway.
Now as I stood there watching the tail lights recede into the sunset, I thought again about the brown man and his story. I walked back over to the bar and swallowed the last of my beer. The bartender laughed. "You believe him?"
"It's a strange story all right," I admitted. "And there doesn't seem to be any evidence to back up his story. Maybe he's been out in the sun too long." I shook my head. "Well, I gotta go, my meeting's probably started without me."
Outside the tavern, I walked the fifty yards to my car, feeling the chill of the evening. Opening the glove compartment a moment later, I took a small slip of paper and carefully wrote down the license number of the brown man's car. A very dangerous man. Someday someone might believe him and I couldn't have that. Feeling a sudden itching in my forehead, I opened my third eye and blinked it several times, glad to be able to relax again.
* * * * *
This story is based on a science fiction story I read about 40 years ago. I don't remember the author's name or much about the story. I only remember the "Brown Man" and the three eyes. I happened to think of it again the other day and thought it was worth revisiting!
When I posted this piece on a website for authors I belong to, several people told me the original story is, “Don’t look now,” by Henry Kushner and said this story was very similar to the original. One guy even docked me two stars because he said it wasn’t original enough. 😊 But as I thought about, it actually pretty remarkable since I hadn’t read the original story in many years and remembered only the two ‘facts’ of the older story. What do you think?