This story won 2nd place in the April contest on LinkedIn (Aspiring Writers group). Genre was open, theme: April Fool, focus: Uncle Bud and a silver flashlight.
My Uncle Bud worked for the government. At least that’s what he claimed. The grownups would all roll their eyes when he’d say, “If I tell ya, I’d hafta kill ya kid.” But they never could explain all his travels or the cool stuff he brought me.
When I was ten, it was a moon rock. Oh, he told the adults it was from a crater in Hawaii (cool enough in itself), but he explained the REAL story to me. See, there’s a law that no private citizen can have a moon rock, so he had to PRETEND it was from Hawaii. He showed me an autographed photo of Neil Armstrong that read, “To Bud, who knows how to keep a secret.” He gave me a sly wink when the grownups wanted to examine the rock.
After that, whenever he gave me a present with a wink, I knew a swell story was coming later. A lot of his presents were small rocks. They might look ordinary, but his tales of how he got them were exotic and magical. Like the piece of sandstone that was from the hidden treasure chamber of King Tut’s tomb—the chamber that National Geographic said was never found. Uncle Bud described all the treasures it had contained, and how he barely escaped when the chamber collapsed, dynamited by a splinter group that didn’t want the Egyptian government to get the treasure.
Then there was that small piece of crockery that was from the cheek of one of the Terra Cotta Warriors unearthed in China. Bud was on a spy mission that time, so all he could tell me was the details of the chase as he dodged bullets among the statues. I was honored that he took the time to pick up a fragment to bring home to me.
But the best present he ever brought me was the little silver flashlight from the UFO. That was the only adventure he didn’t even mention to the adults. He was sunburned all down one side of his face and just let them tease him about falling asleep at the beach. But when he got me aside, he told me he had seen a UFO, “up close”. He described the blinding light that burned his face, and the strange creatures that beamed thoughts into his head, telling him not to be afraid. He said they let him come aboard their craft and showed him lots of wonderful things.
He looked me in the eye, “I did a bad thing, Jem,” he held out his closed hand, “I stole something from the ship.” He opened his hand and I saw a small silvery object, about the size and shape of a stack of 3 quarters. It had a tiny clear bulge on one side of the rim. “Go ahead, take it,” Uncle Bud said, “I got two of them, and I want you to have this one.”
“What is it?” I asked, holding the shiny disk in the palm of my hand.
“It’s a flashlight, just point it at something and squeeze.”
I tried it and was amazed at the tiny beam of light that sprang out.
That was the last time I saw my Uncle Bud. He swore me to secrecy and said he was going into hiding to try and discover how the flashlight worked. “If I can figure this out, I’ll make a fortune,” he swore.
The flashlight is still magical to me. The beam has never faltered, and I’ve used it for fifteen years. My husband laughed when I showed him my rock collection, saying it sounded like my uncle made up tall tales because he couldn’t afford presents for his favorite niece. I was insulted, so I never told him about the flashlight.
When the story came on the evening news about an inventor who claimed to have gotten his idea from a UFO, the announcer made jokes, but admitted it was patented and stacking up pre-orders like crazy. The product was a quarter-sized flashlight with a ‘lifetime’ battery. The company was ‘Budco’ and the product, the ‘little Jem’.
When I pulled out mine and explained its origin, my husband’s jaw dropped. Then he asked, “Could I have another look at that moon rock, honey?”