(Originally ran on October 18th, 2002 as "William Shatner in the sky")
Whenever I see a clear night, when the clouds have vanished and the stars shine through like someone has poured a salt shaker on the sky, I retire to a field west of Smithfield, lie on my back in the underbrush, and dream up new constellations.
The other night I was in the process of finishing a constellation of William Shatner when I was shaken by the glare of oncoming headlights. I managed to get to my feet just in time to dodge an incoming Winnebago that skidded and overturned only yards beyond my parked Nissan. Just before it burst into flames, I managed to pull the driver from the crumpled wreckage of the leisure craft.
To my astonishment, it was none other than my good friend and mentor Dr. Venison Skidmore. Haggard and panicked, he grabbed my collar and looked at me with a piercing stare, matched only by the intensity of his salsa breath.
"The Federales are after me, boy!" he gasped, "If I dont make it back to the commune soon, all will be lost!"
He explained that he had been vacationing in Cancun, working on a screenplay hed been commissioned to write. It was a sequel to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, to be directed and produced by Ron Howard. Early on he had run into some plot trouble when he realized that his two lead characters had been killed at the end of the first film.
Unfortunately hed forgotten to bring Rons phone number. On his way back home to pick it up, he had run down a member of the Mexican National Soccer Team fifty miles shy of the national border. He at first justified his action, since the player wasnt a starter, but soon the Mexican Police were in pursuit.
He managed to get across the border by pretending to be shipping a load of fruit to Las Vegas for use in several casino buffets, but the Mexican Police poured across the national line, citing a jurisdiction extension based on the traditional myth of Aztlan. The chase was on.
Dr. Skidmore never encountered any resistance from US authorities until he was tabbed for driving through the Ogden construction zone at 145 miles per hour. Even then they only pursued him because of the recent rash of illegal immigrants that had been shipped north in Winnebagos to work at Convergys.
"Josh, Im in serious trouble," he stammered, "if I dont make it back to the Planet, I will ever see the light of day again. Can I use your car?"
The Planet he was referring to was Planet Venison, a commune he had founded two years earlier. It was located in southeastern Idaho, safely out of the range and jurisdiction of the Mexican Government, even with the added territory of Aztlan. Initially founded as a colony for aspiring artists, it had quickly become a haven for rejected artists and social outcasts. So it goes.
As I looked over at my newly-washed Nissan, I shuddered to picture it overturned, ablaze, and riddled with the gunfire of the Mexican Police and Utah Highway Patrol. But I couldnt dispute the fact that for the first time in the five years I had known him, Dr. Skidmore had called me by my actual name, and so I caved.
As I handed him my keys, we heard a growing rumble in the distance. In the darkness of night, the building cloud of dust gradually eclipsed the stars closest to the south horizon. Several faint headlights could be seen, peering out into the valley like the trained eyes of an experienced predator. They were coming.
"How did they manage to follow you out here?" I asked, "The highway is five miles away."
"My Winnebago has been leaking Radioactive fumes since Lehi," said Dr. Skidmore, "Plus I imagine that its blazing wreckage would serve as a fairly reliable beacon."
He was right. As he walked over to my car, I thought of all the good times we had experienced, and I hoped that one day he and I would live to go cow-tipping again. My heart was crushed to think that this could be the last time Id see him.
He opened the door to my car, and before getting in, he paused and looked up at the clear night sky. A curious look crossed his face, and he furrowed his brow.
"You know, Wayne, if you look at them right, those stars up there look just like William Shatner."