Billy Maxwell and his friend Jason loved playing together, but they especially loved playing in Billy’s Backyard. It was the perfect playground, plenty of shade, lots of room and a tree house in an old elm. The two boys spent many hours fighting Indians, slaying dragons, or planning an invasion of the enemy soldier's campsite. Empires were built and destroyed in a single afternoon, and don’t forget those shootouts with mean hombres who ride into town looking for trouble.
In the dead of winter, the backyard became a Yukon wilderness, complete with howling wolves and Polar bears. In summer, the woods at the edge of the backyard became a dense jungle, filled with lions and headhunting savages. No matter how great the adventure though, when the boys got hungry, they could always count on Billy’s mom for some hot fresh chocolate chip cookies, or any number of other tempting treats.
It was one of those hot summer days and, despite the heat, the boys decided to put on their spacesuits and explore the surface of Mars. So with their equipment checked out and their ray guns charged and ready, they stepped out of the kitchen, onto the surface of the red planet.
They first searched for alien life forms but finding none, they prepared to take soil samples. Billy told Jason to return to their imaginary rough terrain vehicle and get a small shovel and some sample bags. While waiting, he started to dig with his hands. In a few minutes he began to uncover something shiny. He yelled to Jason as he continued to dig. Jason quickly ran back and was soon helping with the excavation. Both boys were furiously scratching at the ground with their hands.
Suddenly a sound came from the object and it so startled the boys that they recoiled and fell back. They were both quick to get to their feet and equally quick to run for cover behind the big elm tree. The boys were breathing hard as they looked at each other and without a word, ran towards the kitchen, screaming at the top of their lungs.
Billy’s mother, hearing the commotion, greeted the hysterical pair at the door. She tried to calm them down and assure them that they had not uncovered a buried alien spacecraft. They were not easily quieted though and insisted that she come outside, so she reluctantly followed them out the kitchen door.
As they approached the dig, she saw something very bright and when they got closer she heard a sound coming from the object. She quickly ushered the kids back to the house and in a mater of moments, she was on the phone calling the police. The boys were so noisy as she listened on the phone, that she yelled at them to be quiet. She practically shouted into the phone that there might be a bomb in her backyard so could they hurry up and get there as soon as possible.
She finished her conversation, gathered up the kids and took them to the front yard to wait for the police. In just a few minutes there were police and ambulances everywhere. Billy and Jason kept yelling about alien spaceships while Billy’s mom answered questions that were put to her by the officer in charge. The bomb squad then arrived and started setting up their equipment.
By this time, people were beginning to gather in the street, so barriers were put up and more police were called in to hold back the crowd. A flurry of activity surrounded the house as the press and TV mobile units drove up.
One of the bomb squad men walked over to Billy’s mom and asked her where the alleged bomb was discovered. She said nothing but turned and headed to the backyard. The bomb squad, police, TV and press personnel all followed in an enthusiastic caravan. The boys ran ahead but were told not to go near the device. Billy insisted that it was not a device, it was an alien spaceship. The officer in charge looked at Billy’s mother with a disapproving expression and told her that he thought her son had too active an imagination.
As they approached the sight, one of the bomb squad members heard a noise coming from the device and he yelled for everyone to hit the dirt. No one moved for a long time and then one of the officers backed away from the sight. He returned to the officer in charge and told him that it was definitely a bomb with an erratic timer. He also asked for the armored vehicle to be sent in and in a few minutes the vehicle made its way to the sight. Before long, they started putting their plans into action and so the preparations began again.
Several bomb squad officers positioned themselves behind the armored vehicle and started moving towards the object. The ticking was louder than ever and suddenly it stopped. All of the officers around the vehicle, hit the dirt, and remained motionless for several minutes.
The explosion that everyone anticipated, did not happen, and the vehicle, as well as the men on the ground, nervously retreated. Upon reaching a safe distance, one of the bomb experts announced that any further tampering and the bomb would explode. All agreed that the next step was to trigger the bomb. Since there were only trees in back of the sight and the house was a safe distance away, there would be no problems, so they called for one of their marksmen. He was instructed to fire a few rounds at the bomb until it detonated.
The first shot hit a couple of feet from the device and nothing happened. Shot number two was closer but still no detonation. After the third shot was fired and again missed, the ticking started again and again everyone fell to the ground.
A minute or two passed and a few heads could be seen looking up from the dirt and shortly after that, everyone was looking up. The ticking was getting louder and faster as they watched with anticipation, only to see the shiny device flip up in the air, followed by a gopher that looked around for the most expedient escape route, and then ran away.
Everybody stood silent…befuddled…and feeling foolish. Members of the bomb squad could be heard mumbling obscenities and stripping off pieces of their armored uniforms and throwing them on the ground. All around, people were beginning to pack up and move out. Billy and Jason were standing next to Billy’s mom as the officer in charge walked briskly towards them. He had a shiny object in his hand and wasted no time in showing them the old hubcap that the boys thought was an alien spaceship. He told Ms. Maxwell that she should do all she could to discourage her son’s wild imagination.
She took both boys inside and for a few minutes, gave them both a talking to. She then sent Jason home and continued to scold Billy and ordered him to go to his room. He walked slowly to the stairs, his head hung and his spirit broken. She felt sorry but she hoped Billy had learned a lesson from this experience.
She returned to the kitchen, not sure that what she did was the right thing. As she washed dishes she thought about the events of the day and it occurred to her that the boys only reacted like boys. Most of the hysteria was generated by adults in charge and bomb experts that can’t tell the ticking of a bomb from the random scratching of a gopher. She finished drying the last dish and headed upstairs to apologize for scolding him.
Approaching his room, she noticed how quiet it was. Light from the hallway streamed across the room as the door opened, revealing the sleeping boy. A gentle kiss on the forehead and she left the room, not realizing that Billy was faking sleep to avoid any further scolding. She left the room and walked downstairs knowing that she couldn’t set things straight until the next day. It was not her intention to discourage the creative imagination of a bright enthusiastic boy. It was an over zealous police officer that rattled her to the point where she acted irresponsibly in the disciplining of her child. She had a lot to think about while preparing for bed.
Billy also had a lot to think about as he lay in bed, sleepless and feeling sorry for the trouble he caused. For the next hour he tossed and turned and like kids often do, he got out of bed to get a glass of water. He opened his door slowly to avoid the creak and likewise avoided the fourth step from the top, as he descended the stairs.
With a plop, Billy’s feet hit the floor, along with his pajama bottoms, but he quickly pulled them up and headed for the kitchen. He was too short to reach the cabinet where the glasses were kept, so he hopped up on the step-stool and grabbed his favorite glass. Before he could get down, a light flashed through the window and he turned to see.
Something was rising from the ground. Strange things were tearing up the entire backyard up from the ground; Bright lights seemed to come from everywhere as Billy watched, riveted and unable to look away. He was both frightened and amazed as the activity continued, seemingly endless. A kaleidoscope of light with pulsating rhythms. danced before him. Billy tried but failed to pull away, even though the intensity was beginning to hurt. Tears were running down his face as pain began to invade every cell in his body.
Something interrupted the light and momentarily broke the force that was holding him. He fell back to the floor with a thud, but he did not get up immediately, for fear of becoming trapped again. Crawling along the floor to the stairs, he had to warn his mother. Reaching for the banister, he pulled himself to his feet and ran up the stairs.
At the top of the stairs he stopped abruptly and stood there for a moment. He thought about the trouble he had caused earlier and remembered what the police officer said to his mother. Billy then turned slowly and walked back to his room. “I’ve got to stop this wild imagination.” He kept saying to himself.