Lieutenant Pete Rodriguez and Sergeant Virgil Oakie patrolled the suburbs in Sheriff's Department Chopper Number One. It was a slow and serene night; there had been no calls.
Rodriguez turned to Oakie. "These new birds are sure cherry, man. A lot better than those crates we flew in the Gulf. I sure would like to gun it a little, you know, see what it could really do."
"Tell ye what," Oakie said, "why don't y' jest go right ahead n' gun it. I sure as heck ain't gonna tell. Give it some juice, pardner."
"Rodriguez glinted. "I'm sure tempted. Too stinkin' bad we don' have us an emergency, would give me an excuse."
Oakie scratched his fat jowls. "Well, by cracky, we kin always buzz thet farm out in North Sanger where all them hairy beatniks hang out. There's probably some durned emergency goin' on right now, heh, bein' it's Saturday night party time. Yep, I betcha they's bustin' a whole slew o' laws. After all, we has had a bunch of complaints frum th' neighbors 'bout loud music and skinny-dippin' in the creek."
Rodriguez grinned impishly. "Well then, what're we waiting for, man? Let's go scatter us some skinny-dippers."
They flew to the creek and went raring low, cruising east out into the farmlands. Rodriguez was heavy on the throttle. Oakie pointed. "There's thet beatnik joint, ahead there to th' right of th' bridge." High tension lines cut across Fancher Creek to run along the road in front of an old-time farmhouse.
"Hold-on, Amigo, I show you some big-time search n' destroy!"
Rodriguez had returned to combat once again. He nosed the bird down to skim water. The chopper zoomed under the power lines and fanned over the house with a sky-hook turn. As the craft hovered its searchlight flooded the yard below.
"Yeeehaw," Oakie whooped, "durned fancy maneuver there, Pete, ol' buddy. I done thought we was goin' ta git barbeeequed by them power lines."
"Nah, man," Rodriguez grunted, "used to pull stunts like that everyday. Looks like the enemy has jumped camp though."
Oakie agreed, "yep, there's usually a dozen vans n' pickem-up trucks parked around. Wonder where there they all is?"
A sudden blinking light, well, two lights, flooded the cockpit. The patrolmen grabbed for their regulation sunglasses. They beheld an eerie sight. Streaking down showering trails of sparks zoomed two bright fireballs. The twin flames whooshed past mere yards from the window glass of the chopper. Both patrolmen stiffened, stunned.
The glowing fireballs hit the roof of the house, bounced back and hit again melting right through the shingles to disappear.
The sputtering of the engine revived Rodriguez from momentary shock. Wildly he worked at the throttle trying to get air-speed as red warning lights blazed, but the engine coughed and died. The smoking chopper angled back into the orchard. Blades shattered on tree limbs. The craft sank behind bony branches and fell. Dust settled.
"Ohhh," Rodriguez groaned, shaking-off numbness, "we busted the stinkin' ship. . . guess we gonna get our behinds busted too."
"Busted? Busted heck," Oakie gurgled, "this here is a 'situation!' I'm a gittin' on th' phone ta headquarters. We need reinforcements." He grabbed the phone, but the radio was dead.
"Now what," Rodriguez wheezed.
Undoing his seat belt, Oakie craned around too see. He pointed to a neighboring house. "We is jest gonna have ta trot ourselves over there n' use their phone."
Rodriguez asked, "don't you think we ought ta case this place first?"
"No sir, no sir, not until we git us some help!"
Inside the house a television blared:
It has been revealed by government officials that a major breakthrough in science has occurred in an atomic laboratory at a top-secret base on the West Coast. The scientific world has expressed general amazement. This morning at two a.m. six gigantic lasers were fired at a pellet made of hydrogen. The tiny pellet blazed at temperatures never duplicated on Earth before. One key spokesman stated that inside the reactor a miniature sun is glowing.
For most viewers at large the broadcast meant little, another exotic experiment far removed from the everyday hum-drum; however, one little girl, half-awakened from her nap, suddenly leapt up with excitement. "Bear, I mean, Daddy, we're back! Wake up! Quick!"
"O'migosh," boomed a deep hollow-log voice, "not again! I'm falling. ."
"No Daddy. . . Daddy, we're back! Wake up!"
"Golly," slurred a much thinner voice, belonging only to Daddy, "Leah, Honey, turn down the TV. My head hurts."
"But listen, Daddy, I know where Fern's shadow is!"
"Fern's sha. . . Wait, Leah, let me get my bearings. Wow, what a dream I just had. . ." Daddy sat up with a start. "Did you say, 'Fern's shadow'?"
"Yes," Leah blurted, "Fern's shadow is burning in a secret lavatory somewheres."
Daddy laughed nervously. "The word is, 'lab-or-a-tory'. But what are you talking about? Our stories?"
Frustrated, on the verge of tears, Leah shouted, "gosh, don't you remember! This time the stories are real! This is a terrible, horrible emergency!"
Reaching to hug, Daddy tried to soothe his anxious daughter. "Sweetheart, listen. Try to be calm. We had better lay off the stories for a few days; they've started to get to me too! Now don't start crying. There's nothing to be sad about."
Wiping tears, Leah whimpered, "if we don't try I'll never get to throw these "
"These, what," asked Daddy.
"The BUBBLES, of course!" Leah reached behind the couch producing a wicker basket. Little fingers popped-open the lid. Bubbles glowed violet in the twilight.
Daddy raced to the TV.
An international conference will convene at the United Nations on Friday to discuss the sudden growth of the crack in the ozone layer. Experts claim. . .
Viewers in the San Joaquin Valley area have been calling to report the appearance of two fireballs in the eastern sky. University astronomers claim that a search for meteors is now under way in the rural areas around Sanger and Reedly. . .
. . . after this announcement, more information concerning the fusion breakthrough.
Leah clung to Daddy for sccurity. She whimpered,"I think stories are much better than TV, especially the news. Sometimes TV doesn't make much sense," she fingered the shimmering purple bubbles. "but you know what?"
"What is that, honey?" Daddy tried to remain calm although he quaked inside.
"I really hate to say this," stammered Leah, "but I think we are about to be in the biggest bunch of trouble ever."
"I hope not," Daddy sighed. "It is sure though that imagination, our combined imagination, is a lot more powerful than I ever expected."
"Yeah," agreed the little girl, "you know, sometimes I'm not sure which dream I'm dreaming."
"We'll just have to stick together," Daddy said, "and trust in ourselves. Remember, nothing is impossible."
A glimmer of a forest glade flared in the father's mind.
Leah's face brightened. "It was your song that started all this. . ."
"Song?" Daddy shrugged.
"The first song you ever taught me, you know, about the bear.
C'mon, Daddy let's sing."
"Now at a time like this?"
"Yes," the little girl insisted, "you are the one that always says, 'singing makes the heart happy'. C'mon, it will be good for your self-extinct."
Daddy did not correct.
So in a rundown farmhouse in the countryside of the San Joaquin Valley, brave harmonies fluttered out into the night winging on moon blown breezes:
"Oh the bear ran over the mountain, the bear ran over the mountain, the bear ran over the mountainnn, to see what he could see."
In the distance sirens howled like wolves. They moved closer and closer.