by John Washinsky Illustrated by Ruth Sacharzewski
BOOK ON AUDIBLE - 4 HOURS - NARRATED
BY ANDY ASUMENDI
| HARDCOVER - PAPERBACK -
- HARDCOVER VERSIONS
CHAPTER VI – Good Times
Michael stood on the front steps of Saints Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church with Danny and Joey. The sun rose over the eastern ridge of Black Rock Valley on Easter morning. Their altar boy robes were simple black smocks and white linen tops. The trio held wooden noisemakers made by the Ukrainian immigrants who built the church, long before they were born. Michael twirled one of the contraptions—a double-sided mallet attached to a sounding board.
The church sat high on a hill above the VFW and overlooked the old Sterling Number 1 mine. The building formed a cross with one large onion dome on the north side, and two smaller domes to south of the sanctuary. The stone bell tower could hold three bells, but it only contained two. A small parish house where the priest stayed bordered a graveyard.
“You know, I just love this part,” Michael said to Danny. They swung the noise makers up and down in short quick movements. The wooden hammers smacked the sound boards with the speed of a jackhammer. In the valley below them, a single dog barked and howled at the unfamiliar noise. More hounds joined in. Every dog in Black Rock Valley proclaimed the resurrection of Jesus. It was 5:30 in the morning.
One-eyed Louie lived on the street below the church. On his front porch, he shook his fist at the altar boys. Everybody said Louie lost his left eye in the mine. The boys watched him shout, but his hunting dogs were louder. “He prob’ly just got home from the Vet’s,” said Danny. “Let’s go back inside.”
“Wait a minute,” said Joey. Louie’s dogs were quiet, and his aluminum screen door made a distant slap when he walked into his house. Joey grabbed Danny’s noisemaker and swung it as hard and fast as his arms allowed. The dogs howled again. The boys ducked inside the church.
Four crystal chandeliers flooded polished oak pews with a soft glow. The scent of dozens of beeswax candles wafted from the raised altar. The icons of Christ on the right and the Virgin Mary on the left were adorned with traditional hand embroidered Ukrainian rushnyky. Beams of sunlight streamed in through simple stained-glass windows.
The three hurried past the pews on the right side, past a table of votive candles and the gaze of usher Alex Makitka. Alex lived in Number One, next to Danny and Joey. He threw a stern look at the boys and pointed to the sacristy. “You boys are late.”
“It’s your fault, Joey.” said Danny. Michael agreed, but he didn’t say so.
“Shut up and light the candles, dweeb. I’ll get the incense,” Joey said. He grabbed a charcoal disk and put it in the metal kadilla. He lit the charcoal with a match, and in a few minutes it glowed red. Father Shemetosky motioned from the altar.
Father had escaped the Communists under gun fire during the Soviet purge, after WWII. Joey had forgotten the incense. “Be like soldier, get incense,” the priest said. The choir sang the petitions.
Joey turned back to the sacristy. Michael stood smiling in the doorway. “Forget something?” he whispered. Joey grabbed the incense with his left hand. With his right, he punched Michael, just above the belt. The good priest didn’t see Michael bend over in pain.
“Aw, geez,” Danny whispered. “Sit down.” There was one chair in the small room.
Michael caught his breath, and Joey came in again. “Come on, Polack. Grab the candles. Father’s waitin’.”
Michael picked up the long candle holders and handed one to Joey. The boys walked to the front of the altar and stood on each side of the priest while he read the Gospel of the Resurrection. They returned to the sacristy when he finished. Danny was there with a jug of altar wine tipped to his mouth.
“Danny,” whispered Michael. “What the heck are you doing?”
“I’m thirsty. We got up early and I didn’t have breakfast.”
“You ate the bread too?”
“Only half. We got plenty.”
Old Alex Makitka walked in. “You kids gotta quiet down. Shut up and get the bread cut up.”
“I’m on it, Alex,” said Danny.
Alex whacked Joey and Michael across the top of their heads with his bony hand. “You two behave!” scolded the old man. “And you, too!” He glared at Danny.
An old barn sat at the edge of Danny’s yard. The loft needed some work. The roof leaked, and Michael paired dovetail slides from an old wooden table with an ancient window. It was a cool skylight that kept the rain out and allowed them to climb to a crow’s nest. They found some chairs at the dump and lit the place with headlights.
Michael found the headlights at Rutka’s junkyard. It wasn’t hard to hook them up to an old TV transformer from Uncle Joe’s shop. He’d hung out at the shop all summer. It wasn’t much more than cleanup work: sweep the floor and take out the garbage. But there was a TV in the corner, and Uncle Joe said, “That thing’s shot. You can mess around with it.” Michael tore it apart and found he had a knack for fixing things. The clubhouse lights were proof that he’d learned something.
But word of the clubhouse got out, and nobody wanted townies there. Joey told Danny and Michael, “The dogs were barkin’ last night. I think some kids were in the barn, or at least tryin’ to get in.”
Michael figured out how to make a remote-controlled electric lock: an old deadbolt, parts from a motorized toy tank, the tank’s remote, and his mom’s eight-inch brownie pan. “She won’t miss it,” he told Danny.
Joey had some cigarettes that day. “Come on, Zemetsky, you wussy,” he said. “Take a puff. Ain’t gonna kill ya.”
“No way,” said Michael.
“You’re just chicken. B-b-b-bawwwk, B-b-b-bawwk bawk. Chicken!” Joey strutted like a rooster. A few kids from the hollow were there, and they all laughed.
“I might be chicken, but I ain’t stupid,” said Michael.
Heavy rain pounded the skylight. Joey was the biggest kid there. “What’d you say, Polack?” He flicked an ash on Michael’s head.
“Man, when are you gonna get it right? I’m not Polish. I’m Ukrainian,” he said. “You’re as dumb as you look.” Maybe he’d take a swing at Joey, but that meant more trouble. Instead, he ran for the ladder and the skylight. Joey was fast, though. He grabbed Michael’s t-shirt and pulled back his fist.
Michael stared at Joey’s scarred knuckles. His vital signs changed. Heart rate and blood pressure rose, and adrenaline sped into every cell in his body.
SYSTEM ALERT ... SYSTEM ALERT
THREAT LEVEL: HIGH
Three sentinels flew into the clubhouse through a knothole in one of the walls. Two of the units attached themselves to Joey’s clenched fist and struck below the knuckles. Micro-torches extended, rotated, and burned through the bully’s skin. Joey spun away from Michael and waved his hand. “Ow! Did you see those freakin’ bugs?” He moaned and danced to the trap door, spun around, and slid down the ladder.
Michael climbed the ladder to the skylight. He pulled himself to the roof and ducked his head back into the barn for a few seconds. “See ya, Danny. I gotta go.”
“What the heck just happened?” Danny said.
“I don’t know.” Michael nodded at his friend and disappeared. He clambered down a maple tree. His bike leaned on the barn, and he grabbed it and moved forward in a practiced motion. What dumb luck. Joey would get him next time. No doubt about it. But home wasn’t far, even in the rain. He rounded the barn and saw the screen door open. Joey! The bully pointed a bandaged fist, and Michael’s escape route was cut off.
Olga Pavlowski’s yard wasn’t far, and Michael launched across the drainage ditch. But a nightmare in support hose stepped from behind a groomed spruce tree. Michael hit the brakes, and Olga was inches from his face: cat-eye glasses, wild grey hair, and a bony finger pointed at his nose. “Zemetsky, what the hell are you doing in my yard?”
Joey laughed from across the ditch. Olga’s little hellhound sped off the porch and bared its teeth. The mutt growled and lunged for Michael’s leg, but the sentinels were on high alert. They dove for the dog’s nose, and the canine cartwheeled backward and yelped. Olga gasped and waddled to the dog, and Michael pedaled away, leaving mud in his wake.
The old lady erupted with every Ukrainian curse word he’d ever heard, and some that were brand new. Her shouts echoed down the valley, and Michael steered home.
John Washinsky is the grandson of Ukrainian immigrants. His hometown is Bakerton, PA, a western Pennsylvania coal mining community. He grew up during the 60’s and 70’s. A time before personal electronic entertainment and when kids played outside until dark. Where your playground was an abandoned coal mine or the surrounding forests. Life was a struggle at times, but there was a sense of community.
A 1978 graduate from Cambria Heights High School, he earned a BS degree in Electrical Engineering from Penn State in 1982. He accepted an engineering position in machine development with AMP Inc. in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. In 1998, after restoring contact with family in Ukraine, he launched All Things Ukrainian. It was an online business that sold imported Ukrainian arts and crafts. The goal was to help promote Ukrainian culture and help family and friends in Ukraine. At Amp, he was downsized in 1999, when the company was taken over by Tyco International. He has since continued as an independent consultant to design and program automated manufacturing machines.
In 1989 he married his wife, Susan. A year later they had a son, Michael. Susan was diagnosed with stage 2 Melanoma in 2018 and passed in 2021. Hometown Alien was dedicated in her eternal memory.
Over the past decade, he
has published several short stories in online
publications. His goal as a writer is to write
interesting stories with plausible science and humor
that everyone can enjoy. He resides in Clemmons, NC.
Ruth Sacharzewski is a graphic artist living in the mountains of Western North Carolina. She is a second-generation Polish-American. studied Graphic Design at Southwestern Community College and graduated in 2021. She enjoys spending time at home with her cat and a cup of coffee.
Susan Washinsky & God-Daughter Ruth
HOW THIS BOOK
CAME TO BE
In July of
2003, I was with my wife Susan and our
son Michael on our way to Ukraine. Michael was
bored. As he would say “Bored,
bored, bored...I’m bored.” I pulled a notebook and a
pen out of my backpack and
asked him “Do you want to help me write a story?” He
agreed and 19 years later on
Saturday November 11thof 2022, Hometown
Alien was officially published.
Although the book was intended for
young adults, I think people
of all ages would enjoy it. It’s a clean book, no
f-bombs or alike, no explicit
romance scenes. I wanted kids to be able to read it
and not learn four-letter
words. It’s not a fantasy book, but science
fiction. I am an engineer by trade and my stories
have to be based on science
and real life. I wanted to write a book
that would stir the imagination.
one simple question. How would Aliens take over this
Would they come with guns
lay waste to the very planet that they wish to
inhabit? I doubt that would be the case. I
would lay low, go undetected and gather
story takes place in the 60’s and 70’s, and the main
character is a young boy
of Ukrainian heritage in the coal fields of Western
Pennsylvania. The Aliens use him and protect
he is a valuable resource. However, he
is totally unaware of their presence. He
is extremely smart, but socially awkward.
There are many funny scenarios, trials and sad
parts, as there is in
real life. There are bullies, but the main character
learns to deal with them
and has his own group of friends.
I was in elementary and middle school, I tended to
select books that had
illustrations. I was fortunate to have a very
talented friend illustrate each
of the chapters. I think parents as well
as their children would find this book very engaging
The story also weaves in real life missions from NASA and the space race.
|Author : Emily Buehler 9/1/2023|
|I picked this up after
hearing the author read at a local fantasy con. It's not
my usual genre, but I liked how the story had the same
feeling I got watching the movie Super 8—with kids out
on their own in a small town, having fun and getting in
trouble. The catch is that the main character has been
implanted with alien intelligence, and the aliens are
invested in keeping him alive, which results in some fun
antics and reactions (like when his crush talks to him
and the aliens are worried at his accelerating heart
Some of the content is sad, with teen bullies and disappointments, and justice does not always occur. But the story felt very real, as did the setting, which was enhanced by the grittiness. I also loved that real-life "space race" phenomena were woven throughout the story, and explained by the presence of the story's aliens. This was a quick and unique read.
Author : Helen
John Washinsky’s first
novel Hometown Alien is an easy book to read yet one
that can be pondered on many levels, especially
expanded upon spiritually. Not only are there multiple
interconnecting subplots that join the main plot but
also historical, scientific, and religious aspects to
this story. The primary plot deals with the life of
Michael Zemetsky from before his birth—when, in his
mother’s womb, he was infiltrated by aliens from outer
space—until he grows to manhood. The second plot
involves the aliens’ manipulation of Michael’s life
and their protection in times of trouble. The story
takes place in in the coal mining region of Western
Pennsylvania during the 1960s and 1970s, when the Cold
War and early, competitive space explorations by the
United States and Russia—which comprise the third
plot—fill the news. By using different fonts and blank
lines in the early chapters to differentiate plots,
Washinsky makes the story easy to follow.
Michael Zemetsky is a third generation Ukrainian immigrant, a Ukrainian Orthodox Christian, and a self-named “dork.” Gifted in mathematics and aided by the aliens—or so we are to believe—Michael, whom the aliens call Subject 38, is a brilliant boy but a social outcast. Naturally he wants to be to be liked—accepted by his peers—but this is never easy an easy task for those who think and act differently than the more popular kids. Michael is humiliated when he tries to make both the basketball and the baseball teams. Neither coach helps. Michael’s parents, Matthew and Maria, love him and want him to have a good life, to go to college: an opportunity they never had. They try to support Michael in very way they can, but he keeps many struggles and physical encounters to himself, as many young people do.
No one doubts Michael’s ability as a student, especially in math and science, yet physical and sexual maturation prove doubly challenging for Michael, who once overhears Sophie, a girl he is infatuated with say, “…for him to touch me? Um, no. Yuk.” “You’d need penicillin,” quipped another girl.” (p. 199) They both laugh. Crushed, Michael realizes that Sophie, whom he believed a friend, has only used him to help with her homework. The events in the final chapters come as a surprise—which I will not spoil—but the story and the power behind the story does not surprise. Yes, the aliens are pure fiction, but Michael is truly protected. When “persistent darkness tore at his sanity” (p. 211), he was not in hell as he feared he might be.
Hometown Alien is intended to be read by young people, but anyone who has ever loved a boy—or a girl, for that matter—who marched to the beat of a different drum will benefit from reading John Washinsky’s quick-moving novel. And although Washinsky includes a standard disclaimer—“any resemblance to persons living or dead…”— the truth of the story 9not the events and certainly not the alien encounter) is most likely autobiographical at least in part. How could it not be?
IN THE NEWS AND EVENTS
Saturday September 16th
9 AM to 4 PM Veterans Park Ebensburg PAI will be attending this one day event in the heart of coal country and the Alleghenies. There will be 40-50 authors along with myself and much more.
I will be signing and selling my book as well as artwork from Ruth. Please come and support local authors and pay me a visit!
The Festival of Books in the Alleghenies - Festival of Books
July 14-16th Downtown Winston-Salem, NC
Marriott & The Embassy SuitesRuth and I will have a space on Author Alley located on the Garden Terrace
We will be signing and selling books.
Ruth will also have artwork for sale. Hope to see you there!
ConGregate is a completely volunteer run, science fiction convention, held in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina (as of now, Winston-Salem).
Website: ConGregate 9 (con-gregate.com)
April 29th, Forsyth County Central Library 2 - 4 PM
LOCAL AUTHOR FAIR
Ruth and I will be there promoting our book. We will sell and sign books and answer any questions such as "Are there Aliens in Clemmons?" Ruth will also have her artwork for sale. Please come and support local authors!
JANUARY 21st, 2023
|Hometown Alien is in the NC Cardinal
Anyone in North Carolina with a library card can request a copy
Website:Hometown alien - NC Cardinal
FEBRUARY 14, 2023
|Hometown Alien is now in the Cambria County
PA Library System
Copies available in Carrlltown, Ebensburg, Hastings and Northern Cambria
Website:Hometown alien - Cambria County Library System (chilipac.com)
January 25th. 2023
DECEMBER 14TH, 2022