Copyright 2007 – Stephen Redgwell
“Hey Bob, is that a ham radio?” asked Doug, his next door neighbour.
“It sure is. This was my first transmitter.” Bob McDonald held up an old metal box with a big dial and some knobs on the face. It looked pretty old.
“You’re looking at my very first radio. I built it myself with some help from my scoutmaster. Actually, this is only half of it. In those days, when a fellow was getting his license, it was common to build the transmitter and the receiver. They were separate pieces of equipment. We used to build our own stuff a lot more in those days. The days before the Martians attacked…That was a crazy summer!”
Bob stared wistfully into the distance, remembering his childhood. It was 1951. The year started with great promise. He was getting good grades at school. He worked hard and earned several merit badges with the Scouts. Bob laughed telling Doug about his very first radio contact, after getting his amateur license. He talked to a young boy his own age called Hans, who lived in Germany. It wasn’t too long after WWII had ended, but both boys were too young to remember anything about it.
For at least two months, Bobby and Hans talked almost every day. Then all of a sudden, his friend stopped transmitting. Bobby thought that Hans’ radio had broken, or his parents made him stop. After all, it was very late at night in his friend’s village there.
A couple of days after their last communication, his father came home from work with some awful news.
“Mary! The Martians are attacking earth! I just heard it on the radio. Parts of Europe have been completely wiped out!
Bobby was very frightened. He ran over to his father and asked, “But everyone is okay, right? The Martians aren’t going to attack us are they? Hans will be safe, right?”
Mr. McDonald looked at his young son and said with a sad smile,
“I don’t know, son. We’ll have to wait and see what the radio says. In the meantime, let’s get the guns out and move some supplies into the bunker. There isn’t a Martian alive that will be able to stand against the might of a determined American with a Winchester lever! It’s the gun that won the west. Now it’s got another war to fight – the war against Mars! While I’m thinking about it, we’d better put your radio transmitter downstairs too. It could come in handy later…”
Bobby stayed home from school the next day and helped his mom and dad get all their emergency provisions together. They spent the better part of the afternoon organizing and moving vital survival stores into the bunker. They also reloaded several hundred rounds of 30-30 ammunition.
“Well Mary, it’s a good thing we took the government’s advice and built that bomb shelter under the basement. Senator McCarthy is a pretty smart Joe…I wonder if the Communists are behind this? He said they’re under every bed. It would be just like Stalin to accuse someone else. There probably aren’t any space men anyhow!”
While it was very smart of Bobby’s father to get ready for the worst, he didn’t understand politics…or Martians. That night, the first cylinder landed in their town. It wasn’t Joe Stalin after all!
The next few days were a blur. The Martians arrived and started shooting anything that moved. Bobby kept transmitting on his ham radio, calling around the country in search of any station that would listen. He strung a single wire out the window and into the trees next door. He made sure to use CW. That way, the Martians would have a harder time finding them. The McDonalds were safe from detection in their bunker.
The neighbours weren’t as lucky. Some were blasted by the heat ray – including a soft spoken, elderly gentleman from Kentucky that Bobby liked, named Sanders. Bobby’s dad said more people would have survived if they had learned how to hunt and shoot. He patted his son on the back and bit into some venison pemmican.
“Thank goodness your grandfather taught me to make my own! After this is over, I’ll teach you how, son.”
The McDonalds lived underground for three weeks. Bobby’s father would go out briefly every day to check the neighbourhood. The first week, the Martians had totally obliterated the entire town! In one way, Bobby’s family was lucky. After they laid waste to everything, the Martians had moved on, their General probably ordered them to go in search of more humans to kill.
At the beginning of the fourth week, an eerie calm settled over the neighbourhood. There were no more sounds of ray guns spitting death. The cries for help had stopped. The strange whirring of the Martian space ships, as they moved over the landscape, had ceased.
After two days of silence, Bobby and his dad left their shelter and began wandering around town. Both carried a Winchester 30-30. Not too far from the house, they saw exactly what happened to the Martians. Beside some half eaten bags of food – fast food from Jucee’s Hamburgers – was an alien, dying on the pavement.
“Son,” said Bobby’s father, “Your mother always told you to eat healthy. Oh, I know you like to have a burger with your friends after school, but look, do you want to end up like that?”
Bobby’s dad pointed at the Martian, gasping out its last breath in the Jucee’s parking lot, and said, “Fast food is poison!”
“No Dad, I don’t! When I grow up, I’m going to open a healthy place for kids to eat. I’ve been thinking about it, you know. I’m going to open a restaurant called Bobby’s!”
“That’s nice son, but what’s wrong with using your last name? Lots of places do that.” His dad seemed disappointed.
“Well, I just don’t think that a restaurant called McDonalds would work. I also think that eating chicken is better for you. It’s not all fatty like beef.”
Bobby kicked the Jucee’s bag away from the dead Martian.
“You know what I’m gonna do, Dad? Instead of cooking on a grill, I’m gonna deep fry it! Do you remember that old man with the white suit and beard that used to live down the street? He got killed by the Martians last week. Before he died, he gave me a recipe for cooking chicken using eleven herbs and spices. I was supposed to give it to mom, but I’ve changed my mind. I’m gonna innovate! I’m gonna use his idea, but add more salt for taste.”
Bobby broke out in a big grin.
His dad had a smile on his face too. Despite the Martians attempts to destroy the world, Bobby still found the time to plan his future.
“Your grandfather would be proud, son! In the meantime, keep your eye out for more Martians on the way back to the bunker. 30-30s ain’t just for deer anymore!”