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Great Balls of Fire

About a hundred and fifty miles north of the city of New Babbage, a sprawling collection of farmland communities known as the Dairy Cooperative spreads across an area that has never been properly defined by governments or maps. In the very northeast of these remote communities, hidden in a forgotten valley, protected by a moat of brackish water, one can find the O’Reatus homestead.

 “No question about it, Cleetus, I’ve been tracking it for hours, that fireball’s getting bigger,” said the skinny, pimply-faced teen, voice cracking as he stepped aside so as his older and wiser cousin could take a look. The barrel-chested farmer leaned in and squinted as he peered into the eyepiece of the rooftop telescope he and his brothers had built on top of the barn the previous summer.

 “I see the bugger, Jim Babby,” said Cleetus, adjusting the focus. “You say it’s coming right for us? How do you know that?”

“Mathematics,” the youth replied. “I been studying my numbers with Sister Lily and that crazy new brother at the church. Based on the trajectory, I figure that fireball started from Mars sometime yesterday. Mayhaps we got two days before she smacks into us.”

“Us?” said Cleetus, taking a step back from the telescope. “Your summing giving you any inkling as to where that Martian fireball’s going to hit?”

“If my numbers and formulations be right I reckon it’ll smack down straight atop New Babbage the day after tomorrow.”


“Cleetus, you hanging rat turd!” Daisy cursed as she watched her older brother harness the rickety, wooden cart to their mule, Sally. “Why you going to ride all the way down to New Babbage and not take me with you? I got shopping to do before the barn dance over at Bo and Luke’s next Friday night. Jim Babby asked me to be his special date and I want a new dress.”

“Listen, I already told you, this trip to New Babbage ain’t no social visit or shopping vacation,” Cleetus paused to reach for his canteen. He took a deep drink, a trickle of the green, slightly glowing liquid spilled down his chin. “All hell is going to break loose after that meteor hits. I want to make sure I unload these last two bales of purple sage before all the confusion that comes with a natural disaster. Lighthouse has already been waiting a week for this here delivery and I need the money for a new plow, see. I figure I can get down to the city and back before that Martian rock wipes the place off the map.”

“Cleetus, you fool!” Daisy exclaimed, noting the canteen. “You ain’t drinking the moat water again are you?”

“What, this?” said Cleetus, recorking the container. “I know it looks a little off, but other than a little brackishness it tastes just fine—and seems to add a little bounce to my step! My best guess is the colour’s the result some spring run-off from the giant Fellian worm castings I used to fertilize the tater fields is all. Nothing wrong with it…” Cleetus paused, picked up the two 90-pound bales of purple sage, one in each hand, and tossed them into the back of the wagon. “…ain’t nothing wrong with it at all.”


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  1. Cleetus O'Reatus Cleetus O'Reatus July 29, 2016


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