Huck Finn and the War of the Worlds

 

A Further Adventure of Huckleberry Finn

 

By Vern Crisler

 

First written, circa 1986, for a creative writing class; reprinted here with some slight modifications.

Copyright 1986, 2008.

 

After me and Jim got down the river aways, feeling mighty relieved about getting away from all that racket and feuding among them Grangerfords and Shepherdsons, we stopped and hid in the  willows for a spell.  It was getting on toward night and we was just ready to start out again down the river when all a sudden we saw a bright light streaking down from the sky.  Jim was most a’feared and said it was a bad sign and I didn’t want to argue with him because he’s mostly right about them signs, being an expert.  But I was powerful curious to know what it was.  Tom Sawyer said bright lights streaking through the night sky were “meterites.”  As far as I could tell, they was nothing but big rocks but Tom Sawyer studied astrology in school, and I reckon he knows more about that stuff than even Galileeo.

 

Tom told me all about Galileeo and how he proved that the Pope was round and didn’t know more than a nigger from St. Louis.  But that’s Tom’s opinion.  I reckon the nigger would have had a diff’rent story, because niggers are mostly baptis’ and methodis’ and don’t take no stock in Popery.  Me, I’m mostly Methodis’, but that don’t mean I got religion, and I don’t want nobody to accuse me of it.  I don’t believe in prayer except where I’m in a peck of trouble or suthin’.  Once I asked God if’n he would give me some things I wanted real bad, and I also asked him to destroy some people I didn’t like, but he never answered.  So I don’t believe in it.  Now all I do, if I want to get a certainty, is to pray for things I don’t want, because I’m bound to get them by and by.  I used to go to the Methodis’ church, but not anymore.  I went there to learn how to tell the truth and to be good, but it didn’t work, so I don’t hold to religion and all that.

 

Jim and me took to guessing what that light was and pretty soon we was out of the willows on the wide Mississippi.  We figured we warn’t too far away from where the streak went down.

 

By and by, when we was a-comin’ to the place, Jim began to talk about stars getting swept out’n the sky in the book of “Revelations” and how the dragon croaked and then resurrected and then grew another seven heads, for to see better I reckon.  As for me, I ain’t got no use for another head; it’s hard enough trying to keep the one I got.  But dragons ain’t the same as people, so I ain’t got no call to be hypo-critical about it.  Jim says,

 

“Why Huck, de good boog says dat de angels is a’comin someday, en dah won’t be no mo’ white folks, en no mo’ nigger folks, but jes’ all one big fabily.  No mo’ masters, no mo’ slaves, Huck.  En we ain’t gotta run away to be free niggers, ’kase de new hebins and de new earf is gwyne to be jes’ like Cairo.”

 

I was powerful moved and all by Jim, but it ain’t no use to go on talking about pie in the sky when things ain’t going so well.  So I says,

 

“Well Jim, that means poor white trash will be on the level with the niggers and other white folk.”

 

Well that let some air out’n Jim’s sail.  He looked a little sour and morose kind of.  By and by he says,

 

“Well, I reck’n de po’ white trash’s got to go to hebin too, ’long wid all de more upscale crust, but blame my cats, I’ll lam ’em if’n dey tries to get uppity wid me, en wants to speak on de same lebel wid ’dis nigger.”

 

After that we drifted along the river till we come to the place where we thought the streak came down.  Then we hid the raft in the willows, and got on the bank and ciphered where the “meterite” came down.  It was no easy thing, because danged if’n we couldn’t remember where it come down.  Therefore, it were one part ciphering, t’other part guess, and the guess, like as not, warn’t no more reliable than the ciphering.  So we had to just look around a bit until we stumbled over it or suthin’.  It was powerful miserable work.  The mosquitoes was  working overtime and chawing us up and spitting us out, and we was like to be anemic by the time the mosquitoes collected their dividends.  Then the snakes came out and surveyed us and gossiped, and told their relations all about us, because a lot more of them came out to see us.  We stumbled through the trees and skinned our knees on old stumps for a spell.  We was about to give it all up but all a sudden we came to a big place in the woods where the trees were all knocked down and burned.  Jim says he never see anything like it before.  We tramped on a little through the burnt area and Jim says,

 

“Marse Huck, what you s’pose made all dis burnin’?  It doan’ seem like nufin on dis here earf could do such a passel of damage.  Maybe we warn’t meant to see what did it.”

 

“I reckon it’s suthin’ Tom Sawyer would know how to take hold of,” I says.  “He would do it elegant Jim, and I know he’d scarcely hang fire with his shotgun if we didn’t spy it all out and report it to him.  We got to go see what it is for Tom.”

 

Jim says, “Well I neber would hab thought ub it, by gimminy.  I knowed dey larned you sumf’n in dat school you was gwyne to.  You is awluz thinkin’ ahead like dat Huck.”

 

I warn’t in no mood to argue with Jim that I warn’t nothing special and probably warn’t in the same class as the phisolophers.  So I let it go and by and by Jim and me crept around the main burnt area and kept our eye out for angels or sheriffs in that pile of burnt tree wreckage.  By and by we came to the center of all the damage and saw a big glowing cylinder sticking out of a hole in the ground.  We was sceared as rabbits because we’d never seen anything like it.

 

We hid behind some bushes and kept real quiet because it might’ve been a Sheriff with a search party out looking for Jim, but I reckon we was just spec’lating because there ain’t no search party in all Missouri or Louisiana that looks like that thing in the ground.  It looked like a cigar that had got squashed into the ground, but I knew it warn’t no cigar.  It was too big.  By and by me and Jim got up enough sand in us to go over to where the big thing was.  It was powerful hot around there but we sweated it out and got by the edge of the hole.  We was most startled to see the top being twisted off and come clunking down into the dirt.

 

I told Jim I was going to hide, because I didn’t want the angels to know I was helping a runaway slave.  So I hid behind a stump not far from where Jim was.  It warn’t that I was a coward.  A coward runs away when there ain’t nothing to be scared about.  But I was hiding because of the shame, as it was.  Tarnation, I knowed it was a mean thing to do, and I said I was going to help Jim escape, but that don’t mean I got to go around  pretending like it was just as regular and no account as a revival.  Helping a slave run away from someone that didn’t do me no harm is a powerful mean thing to do.  I confess it.  When I do a bad thing I own up to it, mostly.

 

Next thing we saw was two eyes rising up out of the cylinder accompanied by an octopus.  Leastwise that’s what it looked like all connected to the eyes.  I saw an octopus in a schoolbook once.  Tom Sawyer said he was going to explore the sea when we became pirates, and

he said we’d live on octopus — and he described octopus in such juicy and delicious detail that my mouth watered just to have a bite.  My mouth was watering now when I saw the thing coming out

of the cylinder, because it sure looked like an octopus, with seal and crab added for style, I  reckon.

 

“Jim,” says I, whispering, “is that what the angels is supposed to look like?  I’se kind of curious and all because I never heard no trumpet when we saw the light coming down.  So I was thinking it couldn’t be no angels without trumpets a-blaring and a-squealing.”

 

Jim said, “Why Marse Huck, de good boog say de Lawd is a’comin like a theeb in de night.  I spec maybe de horns ain’t gwyne to blow till arter de angels gets here and has a look aroun’ de place fust.”

 

“Jim,” says I, “do you think the angels is going to mistake me for an ab’litionist and smoke me out like Sodom and Gomorrah?”

 

“Doan’ you worry bout dat Huck.  I’se willin’ to speak fer you.  I’ll sing halleluger fer you till my breath is clean used up, because you is my friend.  En no matter what you be doin’ helpin’ a slave run away, remember dat de Lawd fergibs dose who fergib demselbs Huck.  I’se made mistakes ’afore too, but I doan worry  ’bout de mistakes I made yesterdee.  I worry bout de mistakes I’se gwine to make tomorree.”

 

I said, “I hope the angels thinks better about me than the Sunday School teacher, Jim.  He called me a sluggard once.  I asked him what a sluggard was and he said, ‘You know what a sluggard is because you have all the attributes.  Sluggards is prideful, boastful, lustful, wasteful, improvident, lazy, neglected, and devoid of patience.’  But I said, ‘no, there was at least three of them that didn’t fit me.’  He says, ‘Why you lunkhead, I’ll larn you to get smart with me!’  So I lit out.”

 

Jim says, “Well, Huck, I’se religious myself, en de Sunday School teacher were not seein’ as he should uv been seein’.  Sometimes dah is a great gulf fixed betwixt dat Sunday School

teacher en de common sense, so dat neethah can pass one side to t’other.”

 

Life warn’t particular about what it parcelled out.  It warn’t particular about who it parcelled it out to.  But I never heard Jim complain about nothing on that score.  He was most strange for a nigger, Jim was.  But he was always square with me.  He didn’t never call me a sluggard.

 

By and by another angel came out’n the cylinder and brought a box with him.  It had some black cords tied up to it somehow.  Presently, the angel kind of squeaked into the box.  It was such a funny kind of squeak and I felt like laughing, but I was too anxious on my own account to rile them up, and get them to cussing.  It ain’t smart to rile up an angel, because they don’t take to no one spiling their party.  The angels kept up their squeaking for awhile, and finally I figured they was trying to talk to Jim.  Jim whispered and said he would talk to them so’s he could speak up for me and get them to forgive me for being an ab’litionist.  Jim walked up to them looking most a’feared but he spoke up anyway.

 

“Marse angels, I’se Jim, fum de Widder Douglas’s place.  I’be got my frien’ Huck here en I wishes to ask yer fergibness fer his helpin’ me to excape.  He ain’t no ab’litionist, never was.  So’s you doan hab to punish him fer my sake, ’cause he’s most special to me, en I doan know what I’d do to get along widout him, ef’n he was to git coals er fire on his head jes’ fer helpin’ dis nigger.”

 

The angel squeaked again, but this time longer than before.  Jim spoke up again.

 

“Why Marse angels, I knows you is fergiben ’cause de good boog say you is.  I knows dat fer a fact, ’cause I got into trouble oncet when I was a little boy.  I got caught stealin’ eggs fum Farmer Dell en he laid hard ober me on dat befo’ he was through.  Den I says to a Preacher dat ‘lies cubber a multitude of sins,’ en he lammed me good on dat account.  So I turned to de Lawd en asked Him to fergib me, en he did, ’cause I didn’t feel bad no more arter dat.  I reck’n de Lawd will fergib po’ Huck, too.”

 

Then the box crackled and fizzed up a storm.  Then, all a sudden, a voice came speaking out of the box, and tarnation!  If it didn’t sound just like Jim.

 

“Greetings,” it said.  “We come fum de planet Mars in dis here spaceship.  We come a long way en is tired but we come in peace anyways en say once again, Greetings.”

 

Jim got so surprised and confounded that he backed away some from the angels.  But he warn’t rude to the angels.  It ain’t possible for Jim to be rude when it comes to religious personages.

 

So Jim up and says, “I’se mos’ glad to meet you sah.  We is here to fin’ out what de Lawd’s will is.  We seen your chariot come down en wanted to be de fust to say howdy.  I’se got a frien’ named Huck who wants to say howdy, too.  He ain’t afeared to say it eeben if you be strangers.  But he doan know ib you take kindly to him helpin’ me get to de free states.  Now doan go ta thinkin’ he’s a low down ab’litionist.  He ain’t no ab’litionist but is jes’ helpin’ dis nigger get to Cairo.”

 

“Greetings,” said the angel.  “What is a ab’litionist?”

 

Me and Jim was most startled.  We ain’t never heard of no angel that didn’t know everything, specially what an ab’litionist was.Jim says,

 

“Why, Marse angel, an ab’litionist is someone who helbs de slabes git away to de free states.”

 

“Thankee fer dat info’mation,” said the angel.  “We hab trabelled acrost de sola’ system, en hab finally foun’ a primitib culture which to study fer posseebul transplant fum dis planet to Mars, so to teach dat culture to lib cibilized sort er.  We beleeb you may be our bes’ hope.  Our studies ub yo’ earth culture indicates dat you is de mos’ primitib en ba’baric tribe amongst all de planets in de sola’ system as well as all de galaxies roun’ bout.”

 

“Do dat mean you isn’t mad at Huck?” asked Jim, most reasonably.

 

“Who is Huck?” said they. “Why he is my frien’ fum Hannibal.  He and me is floatin’ on a raf’ out’n de big wide Mississipp’.  We jes’ got away fum de shootin’ and goin’s on at de Grange’ferds’ en Shepe’dsons’ place, what wid all de feudin’ en all goin’ on.”

 

“What is ‘feudin’?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Feudin’.”

 

“Uh, it’s mostly whar two people meet each other to preserb dey honor.  Whar we come fum de Grange’ferds was preserbin’ de honor ub de Shepe’dsons, en de Shepe’dsons was preserbin’ de honor ub de Grange’ferds.”

 

“Do dey use lasuhs when dey perserb dey honor?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Do dey preserb dey honor wid lasuhs?  You said dey was shootin’, so we spec dey was preserbin’ dey honor usin’ lasuhs.   Is we right?”

 

“I reckon so Marse angel, aldo I doan know quite wha’ de lasuh is?”

 

“It is a pardical beam weapon ub de class XY4-5CRF6.”

 

“Oh.”

 

“It is a bery strange wo’ld you hab Marse Jim fum de Widder Douglas’s place.  Why does yo’ species engage in buyin’ en sellin’ udder membuhs ub yo’ own species?”

 

“Uh, ’cause cussed be Canaan.’”

 

“Huh?”

 

“’Cause, Moses cussed Canaan en tol’ him he would serb de white man ferebuh.  We slabes is all descended fum Canaan.”

 

“Oh.”

 

Well, they kept it up like that for a spell, until I was most tuckered from all the talking.  By and by, while I was hiding behind the stump, a bullfrog happened to leap by and land right next to me.  The angel must have seen it because he begun to ask Jim about it.  Jim tells him straight up what it was.  I was powerful nervous the angel would see me on account of the bullfrog so when the angel turned back to talk into the box, I “scooted” the frog away from me.  He took one leap and landed plain next to Jim.  Well, it was the darndest think that happened next.  That bullfrog looked at me from the corner of his eye as much as to say, “Sure, it’s fine for you to laugh, but just you let somebody do that to you and see how you like it.”  I was almost sorry, the bullfrog had such a look on his face.  But it warn’t no matter.  The next think you know, the angel had snaked out his tongue and flap! there went the bullfrog.

 

By and by while I was musing over the bullfrog, a jay come by and started caw-cawing away on top of the stump, until I was plum crazy wishing he would shut up.  But my wishing warn’t no use; he kept it up.  Presently the angel took notice, and spoke to one of t’other angels.  Next thing you know, a stick of metal come rising up off the cylinder and pointed itself in the direction of the jay.  All a sudden, a red light came out’n the metal stick and puff! the jay warn’t there no more, but only the smoke sort of.  Well, I felt the heat of that red light, and I got up and said “ouch.”  It was too late after that to hide, so I went up and stood by Jim and fessed up I was a low down thief helpin’ a runaway slave.

 

But, all a sudden, some boatmen we had come across on the Mississippi a while earlier came up outn’ the woods, and Jim and me got skeared right away and hid in the bushes.  The boatmen came strolling up the tree strewn path as if nothing was more ordinary.  They was accompanied by some farmers from the backwoods areas, I reckon.  They come all the way up to the angels, some of them carrying guns, and looking like they was out for trouble.  By and by the angel starts squeaking again, and the box started to talking.

 

“Greetings,” said the angel.

 

There was a commotion of sorts among the boatmen and farmers.  Then one of the boatman, he looks kind of sour.  He eyes the angel with one eye closed, and then he jumps up into the air and clicks his heels and says,

 

“Volcanoes are my swimming holes; lava is my drinking water.  I use the clouds as my cloak; the sun — I lead it out every morning.  Don’t crowd me; I’m all in a rage.  I clothe my neck with thunder and I grit my teeth like an earthquake.  I paw in the valleys and snort.  I smell the battle from afar and gallop.  Like a tornado I come a’swirlin’.  I eat grass like an ox and make the earth a desert.”

 

He jumps up again and clicks his heels twice this time and folds his arms, and all the farmers and boatmen hurrahed.  Then the angel turns to one of the other angels and squeaks funny like, and then turns back around and speaks something into the box.  Well, it sputtered and crackled again like as before, and tarnation if the voice didn’t come out sounding like that boatman.  It said,

 

“Greetings.  I bind the cluster of the Pleiades and loose the belt of Orion.  The comets are my billiards.  I guide the Great Bear with its cubs, and clean up the spots on the sun.  The galaxies flee from me when I approach, Greetings.”

 

“Well if that don’t beat all,” said one of the farmers.

 

Then the one that was bragging started cussing up a storm, so much so, even old pap would have learned a thing or two.  By and by the angel began to cuss, and I ain’t never heard half the words he used; I covered my ears it was so strange.  Pap would have foreswore liquor to learn how to cuss like that, but I guess I am exag’rating on that score, because there ain’t nothing in the world will come betxit Pap and his whiskey.

 

By and by the angels began to deliberate amongst themselves with that squeaking noise.  Me and Jim warn’t sure what they was talking about, and was afraid they was going to talk to us about

something or t’other and then the boatmen and farmers would know me and Jim was there all along, and get mad and find out Jim’s a nigger and ride me on a rail for being an ab’litionist and

stealing a nigger and all.  So we kind of stayed out of sight of them and hoped that the angels didn’t talk to us.  But it always happens the way you don’t want, and sure enough, the angel talked

to us sounding like Jim again.

 

“Greetings, we be of de Space Guild en wish to trade wid yore wo’ld en study yore primitib culture.  We come in peace.  Jim fum de Widder Douglas’s place, en Ab’litionist Huck Finn, we ask you to be de representatibs ub yore planetary gubbernment.  We come in peace.”

 

Well, that done it for us.  The boatmen and farmers spied us out and got to talking amongst themselves, and sure enough, they begin to ask questions, “Hey, ain’t that a nigger?  What’s he doin’ up this way?  Maybe he’s a runaway.  Lot’s of money to return him,” and such like talk.  Jim was most afeared but by and by he says,

 

“Why Marse angel, we would do anythin’ you wanted us to do, ’cause we want to do de Lawd’s will.”

 

The angels seemed most pleased about this and was squeaking up a storm.  By and by the farmers and all came toward me and Jim with their big guns and mean looking eyes.  We knew what they was up to, and we knew our game was  up.  So we begun to run off t’other way.  The farmers knew what we was doing so they come after us.

 

“Stop or we’ll shoot.  You low down ab’litionist, you think you can outsmart us.  We’ll lam you good and hang you to boot.”

 

Jim and me was so sceared we was going to get shot that we stopped and waited for them to catch up to us.  But by and by, the angels was squeaking and pointing at us with their crab legs and pointing their metal stick.  Suddenly, before you could say by Jimminy, that red light shown bright and some of the farmers disappeared.  I was most amazed.  The rest of them turned around and began to eye the angels, suspicious kind of, and then began to fire away with their guns.  Me and Jim skeedaddled until we was out of sight.  We saw one of the angels get hit by a bullet — whizzed right through his wings I reckon.  He squeaked real loud and let out a terrific roar and used his red light and made two more farmers and an owl that didn’t know no better disappear.  I was most sorry for the owl.

 

I saw one of the angels dragging the shot angel into the cylinder, bullets just pelting the metal around them.  Well, they got inside and started flashing that red light around, and me and Jim felt the scorch for a week and two days.  By and by we saw the cylinder floating up into the sky.  Well, we wasn’t sorry we saw the angels, even though they speak funny and don’t know more than a donkey.  But, one thing’s for sure, those angels, if’n they ever come back, they’re going to be mad as hornets, and I reckon I don’t want to be around to greet them.  It ain’t because I’m afeared.  It’s just I’m scared.  In my book there ain’t no sameness betwixt being afeared and just being scared.  I’m afeared of my pap, especially when he’s in the delirium tremens, which is most all the time.  But I’m scared of the Widow Douglas, because she wants to civ’lize me, and I don’t take no stock in civ’lization.

 

I hopes the angels, when they do come back, will land in some European country, where they got kings and dukes and knights and can do some real fancy entertaining.  I reckon England’s the best place for that.  I ain’t never been there, don’t expect to go.  But I reckon those Englanders could dress up in their fancy red suits and march all day long playing their music and all, which is more than Huck Finn could do.  Tom Sawyer likes all that stuff, and I know he’d want to be on hand to greet the angels, because he’s most smooth around quality folk.

 

Anyways, that’s what happened to me and Jim, and I hope maybe to put this story into my book I’m writing about me and Jim’s voyage on the Mississippi, but I reckon I’ll have to wait and see, because it’s getting kind of too big for most people to stomach.  If’n it’s there, it’s there, and if’n it ain’t, well, it just ain’t.  There’s no use crying about it.  Mr. Mark Twain is helping me to put it together and he thinks it’s a stretcher.  He says boatmen don’t talk like I tell it.  I reckon if Mr. Twain thinks it’s a stretcher, then there ain’t nobody in the world who’s going to believe me.  But if you want proof, you can just ask Jim, because he was there, and he saw it all.  That’s one witness.  Tom Sawyer says he believes it, and there you go.  That’s two witnesses.  And then there’s me, who seen it all too.  That’s three witnesses.  The Bible says that at the mouth of two or three witnesses you can spot a liar, and I got two of the best in all Missouri on my side.

 

End

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