Revisiting The Red Ball
Once, during those troubling and formative years spent in the lone star state of my beloved Rebellion, I chanced upon a rack of assorted books. Something almost insignificant caught my eye right away, so I reached for this particularly thin and small, but otherwise nondescript hardback, and I then withdrew it from the crowd. Its title had intrigued me from the start.
Standing between rows of books, I opened up the stiff covers and began reading the first page, and immediately found myself hooked. A small boy, perhaps no larger than me, sat quietly at his bedroom window while gazing out at the night sky.
Then at some point in frozen time, I next found myself sitting in a chair at some table in the middle of the school library, caught up in this story of adventure and imagination, for the curious boy in the tale soon came to witness a glowing red orb falling from the heavens that, later on, came to befriend and eventually communicate with him.
This initial encounter I had with science-fiction began a long, long lifetime search for more of the same, but fitting enough, I later lost all belief in such things after reading Sir Arthur C. Clarke’s strange views on religion in Childhood’s End.
Yes, and to this day, I do remain suspicious of the existence of UFOs, as entertaining as they might be, so I have no explanation for the following events.
While working late one night, my young wife called me on the telephone. I had a devil of a time grasping most of what she said, but between the sobbing, the babblings and her fits of screaming, I finally understood she simply wanted me to come pick her up from her mother’s place out in town. There was some matter about a mysterious circle of lights that settled over her car when she left her mom to return to the base, which had caused this temporary panic.
We were both immature then, and neither too wise, but I shrugged and looked over my shoulder at a co-worker who had a his own car, so he nodded and agreed to drive me to town to retrieve the loon and my only vehicle.
I thought to check the clock up on the wall. Liberty for troops expired at ten sharp, and since it read ten-thirty, I had to accompany the young marine across the grinder to authorized him to get his pass. On the way to the office building, the two of us met a group of other marines who stood outside, talking excitedly and pointing towards town. I only caught snatches of their conversation as we walked by, but the now-familiar description I overheard of a strange circle of lights that had just suddenly shot up and disappeared among the stars got my attention for the second time that night. Still, I remained skeptical.
Who knows what makes people see such things, unless it’s a vivid imagination. Hell, I almost shot a firefly to smithereens once, thinking it was a man carrying a lit cigarette, so I’m happy accepting such an explanation. But in any case, on this particular evening I did rescue the poor damsel, and we got her home safely.
Years go by.
Then, while working as a draftsman for a fiberglass tank manufacturer, I had an opportunity to change hats one weekend, and personally deliver one of our finished products to a customer down in Florida. I took my eight-year-old son along for company, so we both had fun.
On the return trip home, and around two in the morning, we pulled up and stopped at a red light in some sleeping city in South Carolina. The intersection looked rightfully deserted. As I sat and waited for the stoplight to change, and while my son slept on the bench seat next to me, and as I idly scanned the façade of a two-story building across the street, an odd thing occurred in the sky over the building.
Something appeared there, and I watched with a sudden keen interest as the edge of a circular object first peered over the rim of the building, and then it seemed to slide across the top of the structure, slowly coming into view. The thing showed as a perfectly-round black shape against the lighter night haze that laid over the city. It also appeared to be angled at its edge, from the way flashing lights on the side of the object traveled around from left to right. It might best be described as a gigantic, up-side-down pie pan, this bizarre silent entity.
My heart began to race as my mind shouted, “Goodyear blimp! Goodyear blimp! That’s got to be a damn Goodyear blimp!”
The thing is, Goodyear blimps are shaped like footballs, and are not round at all.
Now, I was not about to be taken in by this strange vision, so I grabbed Donnie’s leg and shook it. I needed not only a witness, but a second opinion, even if he was only eight.
The boy sat up. Our engine idled smoothly while I pointed and asked him as calmly as possible, trying not to influence him,
“Tell me what you see up there, son.”
He rubbed his eyes for a moment, and then he leaned forward. By this time, the object had filled the huge windshield of our truck, so he craned his neck up close to the glass and stared upwards for a few more seconds before he spoke. It continued to drift silently over the tops of the surrounding buildings, covering the entire intersection with its dark mass. Donnie’s jaw dropped as he exclaimed,
“A flying saucer, dad!”
The traffic light went to green, but we sat without moving or talking while the shape continued its slow progress above us, finally disappearing altogether, blocked from our sight by the roof of the truck. Neither of us had any intentions of opening the doors to get out then, or to follow the apparition.
Whatever the object happened to be, it vanished into the night to leave us sitting there in peace, although neither of us felt sleepy afterwards.