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My Son Victor

Chapter 6

The Dreams

By the time Victor was in the seventh grade he had become proficient in four things only: Mathematics, Physics, Fantasizing, and staying hidden from the family view. His older brothers Ebill and Enos had their own interests as did his older sister Zoe. They had more in common with each other than with Victor. Victor considered Felice the old guard he did not need anymore, but also as one who could “blab” anything she seen him do that she thought he shouldn't. Victor did not seek the companionship of Felice, but Felice was usually occupied with helping Aby, their mother, who was the disciplinary figure in the family, so Victor avoided her as much as possible also, as Victor knew how easy it was to do things he shouldn't.

Victor sought the company of his father, Zeke. But his father was always so busy with work in his shop or projects with Ebill, Zoe, and Enos that he rarely had time for Victor, so Victor spent most of his free time learning card games and with Jab, who was in the same situation with a busy father. They both had just found out for sure last year that the “Great Ship” that took them on eleven amazing tours of the universe was just a movie-type prop with a great story-teller at the helm. Both Victor and Jab cherished those memories and knew it affected their lives to the better, for now they could imagine doing all sorts of things that they could not otherwise do … such as things that could change their lives and even take their lives.

Victor had a strong interest in dreaming. He had thought of Jill's flying carpet and imagined how he could improve it to make it a valuable addition to the great ship he still dreamed of flying, but he didn't know how to get a flying carpet of his own. He couldn't just imagine one appearing as then it would not seem real, for one of the things he learned from his father Zeke is that a good fantasy must be based on believable facts. He asked Jill for advice.

“How did you dream that you got your carpet, Jill?”

“I dreamt a hungry Arab stopped at my house. He asked my father for some food. My father does not like to see anyone hungry and offered him some hamburger and gravy, which is the best food we have. The Arab was pleased that my father was so generous to a stranger, but said he could not eat flesh from animals and would like just some cooked vegetables and a slice of bread. My father said he would give him all he could eat and even some to take with him on his journey. The Arab was so grateful for his kindness that he asked my father to please accept the carpet he was carrying, saying that it was all he had to offer. My father took the carpet so as not to offend the feelings of this stranger. When the Arab left, my father unrolled the carpet, saw that it was beautiful and gave it to me for my room, because I was his only child that did not have a carpet to stand on in the morning when the floor was cold. That night just before I got into bed I stood on the carpet in my bare feet and it felt very soft like it was a new carpet. It felt so soft and warm I laid down on it. That's when the handle appeared in front of me. I told you the rest of the dream.”

“I would like to dream I had a carpet like that, but I can't dream I got one the same way, because the Arab only had one .”

“You can dream the whole carpet has the power to fly, Victor. You can dream I gave you one thread from it. That may be all you need for your own carpet. You can dream you wove that magic thread into a store-bought carpet which then had the same powers as mine.”

“Will you let me dream that you gave me a thread?”

Jill laughs, “You can dream whatever you want, Victor, but if you want my permission you may take one thread running the full length of the carpet. I will dream I am giving it to you tonight.”

The next morning Victor waits at the end of his driveway for Jill, who was walking very slowly that morning. “Jill. I dreamt you were crying and said you could not give me the thread.”

“I dreamt I started pulling out the thread, Victor, and the carpet started disappearing as the thread was pulled out. I didn't want to lose my carpet and I dreamt I cried when I saw it start to disappear. As I wove the thread back in the end of the carpet it re-appeared. I dreamt you came to my door and asked for the thread and I said I could not give it to you. I felt bad. I'm sorry.”

“How could we dream almost the same thing, Jill?”

“I think it was just a coincidence. Tonight let's dream you come to my door and ask to borrow the whole carpet. I will let you borrow it and then you can dream you are flying it.”

The next morning Jill waited at the end of Victor's driveway. Victor was late and when he finally met Jill he looked like he had not slept for the whole night. “You look awful, Victor. Are you feeling ill?”

“I had a bad dream last night.”

“Me too, Victor. I dreamt you came to my house. I lent you the carpet. I was going to show you how to use it, but when you laid on the carpet it curled up around you and flew out the window with you screaming. I never saw you again in my dream.”

“That's what I dreamt too, but that was the start of my bad dream. I dreamt it was flying and I had no control over it. It didn't have the control handle. I could look through the front of the rolled up carpet like I was looking out of a round tube. It flew as high as an airplane over the country and then over the ocean. Then it came down over a strange country where all the people were poor. None of the people looked at me. I didn't know if they just wanted to ignore me or if I was invisible. Then I slowly went into a big tunnel made of bricks, like a train tunnel that was wide, with people walking on each side. The tunnel turned into a wide cave with dirt walls, and there were fewer and fewer people walking on the sides as we got further and further into the cave. Then I was alone and the cave got narrower and narrower. I thought I saw Miss Alde in old shabby clothes throwing garbage into the black water running in the tunnel like a putrid creek. She looked at me like she didn't see me or didn't know me. She just walked back around a dirt wall and disappeared. Then we came to a very small dirt tunnel that looked like no one ever was in before. The carpet moved slowly down that small cave getting so narrow just the rolled up carpet could get through. It moved very slowly and then I was above a big beautiful room filled with gold and jewelry. It looked like a huge lost treasure. The carpet just stopped and stayed there for about five minutes. I was still wrapped tight, so I couldn't get away. Then the carpet shook a little bit and just plowed through the cave wall… right through the dirt. On the other side of the dirt was my house with Momma and Poppa sitting on the bench under the Crimson Maple tree. The carpet unwrapped and dumped me on the lawn right in front of them. Then the carpet disappeared. Momma looked at me and just said, ‘Get back to bed, Victor.' I dreamt I walked into my bedroom, and laid back down. That's when I woke up shivering and sweating.”

“That sounds awful, Victor. What do you think that dream meant?”

“I think it means the carpet doesn't like me.”

“The carpet is something in your dream, Victor. You are dreaming about it. It can't have likes or dislikes unless you dream it does. Why would we have almost the same dream?”

“Maybe because we talk about it first. Let's not talk about what we are going to dream about and see if they are still the same.”

The next morning both Victor and Jill surprisingly met at the end of Victor's driveway one hour earlier than they usually do. “Why are you here so early, Jill?”

“I wanted to tell you of my dream last night. Why are you here early?”

“I had a weird dream also and wanted to tell you. You go first, Jill.”

“I dreamt I lay on the carpet, but this time I didn't move the lever to go where I wanted. I rolled to one edge, grabbed the edge and rolled up in the carpet just like you were. The carpet started flying all by itself just like it did for you. It went higher and higher over the country and then over the ocean. It came down in a country full of poor people, but they all waived to me. The carpet unwrapped from around me. I went into a wide tunnel with beautiful brick walls and lots of people walking on both sides of the tunnel. The people were holding out vegetables and fruit and bread towards me to take if I was hungry. I took a slice of bread and it tasted like no bread I ever ate before. It was delicious. Then one old woman came over and put ten loaves of that bread on the carpet and smiled at me. I went further and further into the tunnel as it turned into a cave like it did for you. No one was walking there anymore. I saw Miss Alde, who was all dressed in fancy clothes, dump a basket full of silver and gold coins into the crystal clear creek running in the cave, like she was feeding the fish. She smiled as she waved to me and then she walked behind a beautiful wall made of golden bricks and covered with stunning flowers, like she was going back into a palace. We came to a big beautiful room like you did, but all that was there was my family who were happy to see me. I got off the carpet and had a nice meal with them of Pot Roast & gravy, mashed potatoes and vegetables, a meal like we never had before. I gave my mother and each of my nine brothers and sisters a loaf of that delicious bread the old lady gave me, and everyone in the family thanked me. I got a hug from everyone. It was like we realized how important each was to the other and how much we loved each other. Then they walked around a corner and were gone. The carpet then brought me home. I really enjoyed that dream, Victor. Did you have the same dream?”

“No. I had a crummy dream again. I dreamt I was hungry and the carpet came to me to take me to the Family Counsel to get one pound of Pot Roast. I dreamt the Counsel said, ‘You ate all the pot roast, Victor. We are out of Pot Roast. You get ten pounds of hamburger for one pound of pot roast, so here is your ten pounds of hamburger.' They handed me a big plate with ten pounds of cooked hamburger and gravy and said, ‘Eat it all, Victor. Don't waste any or we won't give you any more food.' I dreamt I was eating hamburger for the rest of the night. I dreamt they kept handing me big plates of hamburger saying, ‘Keep going, Victor. You get a lot of hamburger for one pound of pot roast.'”

Jill just looked at Victor, first with a sad face, then a little smirk, then with a fake sad face and then with an muffled giggle. Victor did not know what Jill found funny since he did not think the dream was funny at all.

They walked to school slowly after exchanging their stories, as they still had plenty of time before they could be late. “I think the carpet is trying to tell us something, Victor.”

“Yeah. Probably trying to tell me to stay off its back or I'll get a face full of hamburger.”

Jill laughed again, but after walking a short distance she quietly repeated, “I think the carpet is trying to tell us something.”

 

Chapter 5

A New Friend Needs Pot Roast

Like all of Zeke's sons, Victor was tall and the tallest in his Third Grade. And, like all boys that age, Victor had no interest in girls other than to taunt them with the other boys. There was one girl he did not taunt and told all the other boys not to either. That was his sister Felice. Victor demanded this of his friends, not because of any great love or from a feeling of a need to protect Felice. It was because of fear, for Felice had the power of credibility. She could get Victor in trouble with one sentence with his mother. Many of the other boys in Victor's class could beat him in a fight, but none would want to risk getting Victor angry at him, as Victor was the most popular boy in all the classes up to the Sixth Grade, and the Sixth Grade had bigger boys than those in the Third Grade. Little boys learn how to size up potential opponents in these ways at a very young age. It is an instinct they are born with, a survival instinct that serves them well in avoiding battles they cannot win.

“Hello Victor”, says a classmate of Victor's

“Hi Jill. Wadda'ya want?”

“I juth want to talk.”

“Why don'cha talk to some girls then.”

“I want to talk to you, Victor. I like you.”

“We got nothin' to talk about, Jill.”

“I wanted to tell you that I like thpa'thipth too.”

“Girls don't fly spaceships, Jill. That's a man's job.”

“Thomeday girlth will do all the thingth men do.”

“Sure Jill. Maybe when all of us men are too old or are dead.”

“I wanted to tell you of what I dreamed about when I dreamt I wath in a thpa'thip.”

“Why are you dreaming of being in a spaceship when you know it will never happen? You are really dreaming, Jill.”

Forget it , Victor. I'm not going to tell you now. You are juth like the other boyth. I thought you were nith, but you are juth thtupid ”, and Jill walks away.

Victor watches her walk away and mumbles, “Girls. They want to be boys but can't. What could she dream about that I would be interested in?”, and then, not knowing what she dreamt about, hollers, “Jill. Wait. I want to know what you dreamt about.”

Jill, who lives one mile past Victor's home, stops, turns around, showing she was crying, and says, “I'll tell you while we walk home tonight.”

Felice was happy that next year she would be starting start school one hour earlier and wouldn't have to walk to and from school with Victor. For now she was happy that Victor was either walking ahead of her or behind her so she didn't have to listen to his constant talking about things she had no interest.

This afternoon Victor was walking home behind Felice with Jill who starts her story: “I had juth read a thtory about Arabth that had flying carpeth, Victor. I pictured I wath laying on a carpet with juth a lever in front of me. I puthed the lever juth a little and the carpet I wath laying on went the way I puthed it. I found out that the further I puthed it the fa'ther it would go that way. If I puthed the lever up or down the carpet would go up or down juth ath I puthed it, going fa'ther or thlower in the direction depending on how much I lifted it or puthed it down. I dreamt I flew the carpet high in the air and it wath getting hard to breath and it was getting very cold. I wath getting thcared. A red light tharted blinking on the thide of the handle. I puthed on the light and a clear glath cover came around the carpet. It became warm inthide and I could breath again. I kept going higher and theen I wathn't cold any more and I could breath eathy, tho I kept going higher and higher. I dreamt I went to the Moon and landed. I dreamt I got hungry and theen a green light wath blinking on the other thide of the handle. I puthed the green light and a pot roath dinner appeared on the thide of me”

Jill looks at Victor, who was listening intently, and says, “Thath when I woke up, becauth then I knew I wath dreaming. We never had pot roath at home and I didn't know how to dream how it tathted. But what I wanted to tell you about wath the feeling I had while I wath flying to the Moon. It theemed to take a long time, and all I thought about wath how pretty it looked way above the Earth and how many thtarth I dreamt I could thee. I thought it wath beautiful, and wanted to let you know that I underthtand why you want to dream about thpa'thipth. I'th nith to think about going to new platheth and nothing thould thtop you from doing that.”

Jill stops in the road while Victor walks a few steps further looking down in deep thought. “Here'th your houth, Victor.”

“You never had pot roast, Jill?”

“You know how many are in our family, Victor. My mother theth th'e can get ten poundth of hamburger for one pound of pot roath. We have a lot of hamburger. We never had pot roath. After I had that dream I ath'ked Mom if we could have pot roath. Th'e thaid ‘no', becauth if we liked it better than hamburger we thtill could not afford it anyway and we would juth be unhappy. Th'e thaid we thould be happy we have plenty of other good food we can afford.”

“Thanks for telling me about your dream, Jill. See you tomorrow”, and Victor runs to catch up with Felice who is just walking down the driveway, as he wants to be able walk into the cabin with her so she can't say anything against him to their mother.

- - - -

That evening Victor had pot roast for dinner and stayed at the table while Aby cleaned up. “Is pot roast expensive, Momma?”

“It is more expensive than many of the other cuts of meat, Victor, but it is not the most expensive. Filet mignon is one of the most expensive. We only have that a few times a year.”

“How can we have pot roast and Jill's family can't?”

“That's a very good question, Victor. It will take a while to answer. Do you want to listen to a long answer?”

“Is there a short answer?”

“There is always a short answer, but the long answer explains everything you should know. You will learn a lot more from the long answer.”

“Okay”, says Victor, resolved to hear another long story, just as in Miss Alde's classroom, to explain a simple question.

“First, you know we have a big farm here that the family runs. All the families that work on all the family's farms get some of the food grown on the farms. They not only get some of the food grown on this farm but some of the food grown on all the family farms. We share everything grown on all the family farms with the whole family that work on the farms and those that prepare the food and even with those of the family members that makes clothes and other things for the family. Everyone in the family helps each other and shares in everything everyone else does. It is like we only need others outside the family for things we cannot do ourselves, like doctors, dentists, makers of shoes and little hand tools and such that can be made or done cheaper than we can do it ourselves.”

“How does that answer my question?” asks Victor, getting impatient.

“I said it was a long answer, Victor. Be patient. Now to continue, your Poppa doesn't work on the farm, but he gets ten percent of what is grown on it to compensate him for letting the family use it. Josh gets the same for letting the family use his farm. But your Poppa and cousin Josh earn money in their shops and can't begin to eat all the food that represents their ten percent, so we are entitled to have a little better quality of food, like pot roast, to make up for that. They still can't use all their food entitlement so they give it up to the family that then redistributes it to others or sells it in the markets in Megaville to get money to buy the things we need that we can't grow or make. Your poppa earns a lot of money in his shop, so we can afford things others in the family can't afford. We are very lucky to have a smart man for your Poppa.”

“So can we just get some pot roast for Jill's family?”

“No. I'll tell you why. Jill's Poppa, Erin, is the only one in his family that works on the farm. His wife can't because they have ten young children and she has to take care of them. Erin gets what every other farm worker gets and he must make that do for his family. The amount of food each gets is determined by how much is grown that year and is distributed by the Family Counsel. The counsel always sells the excess food for cash to have money for the things we must buy in Megaville, but leaves a small remainder for emergencies like, if someone gets married and suddenly needs twice as much food that year. Gampa sits on the Counsel and every year asks for a little more food to be given to Erin because he has such a large family which will help us all in the future, and knowing his sons will eventually earn more food than their family can eat. The Counsel cannot refuse Gampa's request, because he is always prepared to show pictures of Erin 's family and tell stories about each one of them. Erin ends up getting a nice supply of food for his family and is always grateful to everyone for helping him get enough for his family.”

“So why can't we give him some pot roast?”

“Because he would spend too much of his food allotment and wouldn't have enough left for the year.”

“Why can't we give him some pot roast?”

“It would insult Erin if we gave him any food, Victor. He is a proud man who wants to take care of his family just like all men want to do. He is doing a good job of that. All his children are healthy and happy. He is proud that he is able to provide for them. If we gave him food he would think we thought he was failing. Erin and his wife decided to have those ten children. Not being able to eat pot roast is a small cost of having a big wonderful family. I would like to have ten children and would happily give up pot roast for that privilege. Erin will not have to worry about being taken care of when he is old. He is raising very nice children.”

“Jill would like to know what pot roast tasted like. We have a lot of it and she never had any. It's not fair”, says Victor.

“You have never been to the Bahamas , Victor. You never went swimming in water so clear you could see the bottom of the ocean one hundred feet down. You never lay in the warm sun on white sand. You never ate lobster tails or tropical fruit other than pineapple. Why didn't you ever complain about that? Why didn't you ever say it wasn't fair that you never got to do that? Why? Because you never did those things anyway. You can't miss what you don't know. If you let Jill know what pot roast tastes like, you may just be giving her a heart ache that she doesn't need. You may just make her feel bad. Jill is a young girl that may not realize what her parents are doing for her, and that being fed every day with plenty of good food is more important than being fed once a month with expensive food.”

“We are lucky aren't we Momma?”

“We are very lucky to have such a good provider as your Poppa, Victor. But I want ten children just like Erin has, so someday we may have to stop eating pot roast too, and you will feel worse than Jill because you now know what it is like”, and Victor gets a hug.

-.-.-.-

The next morning Jill was waiting with Felice's friend on the road at the end of Victor's driveway to join him in the walk to school.

“Hi Jill”, says Victor as they both take ten fast steps to walk a little ahead of Felice and her friend. “We had pot roast last night and I tried to taste it so I could let you know how it tasted. It is a big chunk of meat that Momma cuts into smaller chunks for each of us, and then we cut our chunk into bite size chunks. I put a piece in my mouth and chewed for about two minutes. At first I only tasted the gravy. Then when I was ready to swallow it I noticed it tasted just like hamburger. Then I realized it came from the same cow so it should taste the same. So now when you dream, just think of pot roast as a chunk of hamburger that you gotta chew a lot before you can swallow it.”

“Thank you, Victor”, smiles Jill, and Victor sees her front teeth are just starting to grow in like his did over the Summer.

Victor adds, “I don't know why it costs more. It should cost less, since we have to do all the chewing”, and both laugh.

“You know, Jill, that is a nice spaceship you had in your dream, but there are other things that can happen when traveling in space that you have to consider”, and Victor describes some of the problems he learned in the Spaceship Club and how he would solve them so Jill's dreaming would seem more real, while Jill listens to every word as if coming from an expert.

 

 

Chapter 4

The Real Spaceship

Zeke and Josh each unlock one of the two locks that look like they are just hanging on the brick wall. The wall is a sliding brick wall which allows Zeke to take Pappy, Victor, and Jab into an almost empty large room next to the shop that only Zeke and Josh knew existed. A radio is heard playing classical music and a very big fan is slowly blowing air at a bed-sheet type of cover over something that looks like the size of a large car.

Zeke explains, “Under that sheet is our spaceship. It is for flyin' in outer space, an' not jest fer lookin' at, so what we wants ever'one to do is let us blindfold em so you can concentrate on travelin' through space an' not be distracted by the complexity of the spaceship.”

Zeke blindfolds everyone. Josh pulls the cover off the “spaceship.” Zeke seats Victor and Jab in front with Pappy in back, saying, “I knows ya liked sittin' in back for your story, Pappy, so here ya go again.”

Zeke starts his explanation of the ship. “This is the most advanced spaceship ever developed by man. Me an' Josh built it over many years. It uses stuff whats only me an' Josh knows about. The outer shell is made of a material called Trizonium, what Josh developed. Trizonium is not an element. It is a ceramic made by mixing all covalent elements and then heated to five thousand degrees Centigrade. Three of the elements make bonds with each nuther not thought possible by any Chemist, with the rest of them covalent elements acting as catalysts. The resulting compound is impervious to any heat or force generated on this earth or even known to man to exist in the universe. All Trizonium is either clear or metallic depending on whether there's a high frequency run through it durin' the heatin'. Now since it is too hard to machine it has to be made in the form it will be used as it is so hard and strong that it cannot be reshaped after it's made.”

“There is a button on the side of your chair, Victor. If you push it, the control panel will swing up. You will be the Captain on this trip. Push the button, Victor.”

Victor pushes the button and Josh flips a toggle switch allowing air into three cylinders, whereupon a panel for each of the passengers swings up. “Jab an' Pappy have plain panels, cuz all the control is done by the Captain when the ship is united. When each seat separates into its own separate spaceship for search or defense reasons, controls will appear on the plain panel jest like those on the Captain's, so make sure you understand the description of the Captain's controls. Feel the buttons in front of you Victor. The button way on the left closes the clear Trizonium Dome over the spaceship to seal you and the air inside. Push that button, Victor”, and as he pushes it Josh blows into the same little whistle he used years ago for Zeke that gave a soft mechanical sound, while he also turns down both the radio and fan until they were off off, making the passengers think they are now sealed inside – cut off from the outside world.

“Josh and me is behind Pappy. We are coming along on this trip too. First I gotta explain how the spaceship works. This spaceship don't use gas for fuel. Our engines are fueled by the energy from the complete change of matter to energy. Our fuel preparation machines are hammer mills made of Trizonium that crush any material to its basic atomic structure. The noise generated from the hammer mills would instantly vibrate any human within a hundred mile into a liquid. To eliminate this noise the hammer mills are covered with another Trizonium shield connected at a distance to make a standing sound wave of the sound between the two, thus eliminating any noise beyond the second shield. This standing wave is then focused just as the light in a laser to a tiny spot that totally destroys the matter at that spot….changing it to pure energy. This ray of destruction can also be redirected to the guns outside the ship to destroy and enemy we might run into. The fuel the generator uses can be anything, from rocks to garbage, anything made of matter, which is everything. The energy supply is unlimited, as even in outer space there is sufficient space dust that can be collected to fully power all factions of the ship. You see, Victor, we already solved the fuel problem, but we wanted you to contribute to the project by learning as much as you could so you would appreciate what we now have.”

Our engines use gravity for the force. We designed a large Gravitrino Magnetron what can push against all matter behind us an' pull on all matter in front of us. It has unlimited horsepower. The acceleration force available to us is phenomenal and would crush anyone inside the ship against the back bulkhead were it not for the counteracting gravitrino magnetrons inside. You see, Victor, we had the engine designed already.

All this machinery, along with the material synthesizer used fer making whatever we need such as oxygen, food, water, clothes, and other machinery, is made from this pure energy, in the back of the ship. You see, we had the air, water an' food problem already solved, Pappy, but now you can appreciate the problem we solved.

The ship is 4500 feet long. Yes, it is a very big ship that can be made even bigger because the Trizonium shell, which is made of very thin overlapping sheets, can expand the ship to one hundred times that size both in length and diameter, or contract it to the small size you saw it was when you came into the room.”

“Now I'm lowering the S-T helmet over your head, Victor. It is a space and time machine.”, as Zeke has two small ear speakers, which had a soft static noise coming out. They flipped up close to each of Victor's ears, giving the effect of something close to his ears, as in listening to a sea shell, and making Victor think something was surrounding his head. “Don't try to touch it, as it would hurt very much.”, says Zeke, as he used a telegraph key to energize a Tesla coil having ten million volts but nanoamps current for making one huge harmless blinding spark covering the entire room that Zeke knows everyone will see even through their blindfolds and closed eyelids. A second telegraph key is used to energize a magneto from a Model A Ford, giving five loud spark sounds to confirm touching the helmet could indeed be dangerous. Zeke and Josh smile at how well the effect of the sparks looked and sounded. They noticed Victor's look of apprehension, and continued, “The helmet allows you to travel in Space and reverse Time, meaning you can't go forward in time as it don't exist yet. You aren't really traveling in space and time, but you can see what is happening or has happened, because all activity make a mark in the space-time continuum of the universe that the helmet can pick up. In front of you is a joystick with buttons on each side of it. Above the joystick is a potentiometer. Hitting the left ‘space' button allows you to mentally travel to anywhere in the universe by using the joystick for location and the potentiometer to control the speed of travel. You are not transporting any matter to limit your speed to that of light as Einstein calculated, and can thus travel as fast as you want, even much faster than the speed of light….a thing you will have to practice to master, as the world you will see changes at such great speeds. Don't worry about any harm from this experimenting, as the helmet and Trizonium shell and indeed all the capability of the ship itself are ready to protect the person allowed to sit in the Captain's Chair and will keep you safe from all that could happen.

Zeke continues, “That's a right powerful ability that can be abused and should only be available to be used by a person of good judgment and good intentions -- a person wanting to help other folk an' not harm them. The helmet scans yer brain to see if you are such a man before it turns itself on. It accepted you, Victor. It says you are the type of person it wants to control all the abilities the ship can offer. It will allow you to be a Captain to control this great ship”, as Zeke and Josh look at Victor's face gleam with pride.

“The S-T helmet is connected to the greatest computer in the universe, Captain Victor. That computer is here in your great ship. The computer knows everything from the S-T Helmet. It can calculate anything it does not know. We did not need your calculations for a trajectory to Mars, because the computer can calculate the path to anywhere in the universe. This computer is at your command also.

The ship has a cloaking devise that allows it to become invisible. The cloaking device is simply a projector controlled by the computer and projected onto the outside of Trizonium shell covering the ship. At every angle seen on one side is projected what would be seen on the other side if the ship weren't there. Any folk lookin' at the cloaked ship go in front of, say, the Moon, would see the Moon projected on the side of the ship facin' them and would never see the ship. Since the Trizonium is a ceramic it can't be detected by any kind of metal detector, so it fools radar also, as that is a microwave tryin' to bounce off some metal. Nothing short of touching it can detect it, cept'n maybe weather radar which would think it were a little thin cloud”

Now we are ready to go into outer space. You drive this ship using the two handles on your side. They are the thrust levers. When you pull on only one you turn that way. When you pull on both you go straight an' accelerate faster as you pull them back further. Press the secret button under the panel, Captain Victor, to open the side of my shop. Now press the button on the right side of your panel to turn on the cloaking devise so Momma and the neighbors do not see this great ship leaving. Now pull both thrust levers back just a tiny bit.” As he does this Josh flips a toggle to let air into a big cylinder which slightly lifts the front of the platform, on which they are all sitting, making the passengers think they are lifting off to start their trip, as the entire platform which they were sitting on rotated, making them feel like the whole ship had rotated for take-off

“Flip the switch on top of the Control Panel, Victor. That will turn on the interior Gravitrino Magnetron to cancel the effect of the acceleration force”, and as he does Josh flips the switch to the big air cylinder again allowing the platform to go back to its level position, making the passengers think something amazing had just happened.

“You are clear from the shop, Victor. You can accelerate as fast as you want and no one will be hurt. Pull those Thrust Levers back, Captain Victor. Let's go to the next galaxy. We want to be back in time for lunch”, as Josh and Zeke almost laugh out loud as they see Victor pull the levers back with a big smile and see Jab and Pappy brace for a force they are not convinced will not be there.

Zeke describes in detail what they are seeing out the right side of the spaceship and watches everyone turn when he is describing what they are seeing out the left. Zeke had become a master at what could possibly be seen on such a voyage, as he had pretended to take so many of these trips in the past, and he watched the mouths drop as he described the great powers of the universe.

“Looks like we is gonna meet the evil Paraxions from the planet Parax in the Orion Belt. They have spaceships too, but nothing compared to the ability of our spaceship. They think they have us overpowered because they have three flimsy spaceships to our only one. They don't know we could destroy them with one mega-g gravity pulse from our gravitrino magnetrons or melt them into nothing with a short blast from our generator, but we don't want to hurt anyone, so we will show them we have three ships also, so they know we are strong. Victor, press the button on the left side of your chair to give the authority to split the spaceship”, whereupon Josh opens a valve to inflate balloon-like rubber stretched over the plain control panels of Jab and Pappy, making little bubbles like pushbuttons appear, thus making Jab and Pappy think the computer made control buttons appear on their panels just as Zeke said.

Zeke continued, “Jab and Pappy, Close your separate clear Trizonium shield. It's the button way on the left. We are in constant communication with the Captain's computer that is so powerful it will make it seem like we are still right next to each other when we talk, but as you will find out we will not be. Jab, pull your left thrust lever to separate from the main ship”, as Josh flips a toggle switch to allow air into a cylinder to make Jab's chair tilt ten degrees to the right, making Jab holler “Aaahhhhh”, as he thinks he is drifting away from the rest, now alone in deep space. The chair remains tilted for one minute.

“Pappy: Do the same”, and Josh tilts Pappy's chair the same way as soon as Pappy's hand is on the left forward thrust lever, hearing, “Uuugggnn” as Pappy thinks he is falling into deep space also.

“Let's show those dumb Paraxions what real spaceships can do. The computer will control your ships to show the power of the greatest ship in the universe. Hang on Captains”, as both Zeke and Josh control the toggle switches, tipping the seats right and left randomly while shouting, “Nice maneuver Sub-Captain Jab. Now press the top button to give them a small blast of pulsed gravity” as Josh flips a toggle switch to slightly move Jab's chair every time he presses the button. “Nice scare tactic Sub-Captain Pappy. Give them a blast also” and Josh flips the toggle moving Pappy's chair when he presses the button. Zeke says, “They are running like scared little girls. You Captains can reunite the ship now”, as both Jab's and Pappy chairs lean lightly to the left as though reconnecting to the Mother Ship.

Zeke's imaginary trip through space lasted two hours. The spacemen were exhausted.

The ship was covered with the same big sheet after landing, and then the blindfolds were removed from the passengers. “Now you know why we didn't want you to see the spaceship. It is so powerful that we cannot let anyone know about it or the government will take it away an' use it for evil. Only members of the Spaceship Club can know about it.” Zeke looks at Victor and asks, “Can Jab be a member?”

Victor looks at Jab, smiles and says, “Yes. He would be a good member.”

Jab smiles and says, “Thank you, Captain Victor”, and getting a very big smile in return.

Victor did not mention that voyage for the next two weeks, but thought about it constantly. It was the best thing he thought he ever did in his life. He sometimes wondered if the trip may not have been real, but did not know why he felt that way. He did know that if it weren't real, at least the joy of imagining it was real was real, and that was enough. It sparked his imagination even more and he was ready to go on to other things also. He knew that to make anything he could imagine become real someday he would have to learn a lot more.

Victor and Jab became best of friends after that spaceship voyage. They would talk about it when they were alone and they would plan new trips to take, looking up as much information on Astronomy as they could find in Miss Alde's library. Jab was always calling his friend “Captain Victor” when they were alone and they fantasized. But best of all, to the amazement of Miss Alde, Zeke and Aby, Victor would get the highest grade in Mathematics and Physics of anyone in the Second Grade. And yes, Victor passed the Second Grade, although his grades in all the other courses were D-minus.

 

Chapter 3

Hard Problems

September seemed to come awfully fast for Victor. He had finished studying his Arithmetic book, was halfway through his Algebra book and still didn't know how to solve the gas supply problem. Now it was time for school again, which meant he also had other subjects to learn that he knew couldn't help him solve his problem. He couldn't ask Miss Alde to solve it, because it was a rule of the Spaceship Club not to let other people know about the club and what they were doing.

Miss Alde looks at some of the problems Victor had worked out during the Summer and says, “Looks like ya learned Arithmetic in two Summer months, Victor. Ya did a good job. This year we learn Algebra first half, then Geometry an' Trigonometry second half. Next year we learn Differential an' Integral Calculus where you git to solve some hard problems by solvin' Differential an' Integral Equations, what's you'll learn the following year.”

“I thought Algebra solved hard problems, Miss Alde.”

“You can solve lotta hard problems with Algebra, Victor, but when things is changin' like position, speed an' acceleration ya gotta use Calculus. It solves them problems real easy.”

“What if I were trying to figure the gas needed for a spaceship. Could I solve it with Algebra?” asks Victor, hoping he is not overstepping the secrecy rule of the club.

“That's a perfect example of the use of Calculus, Victor. You see, the force what's needed to accelerate the spaceship is greater the more it weighs, but as the ship accelerates it uses fuel and gits lighter, makin' it easier to accelerate. We will solve that problem for you in the middle of the Third Grade, so don' be thinkin' ‘bout spaceships till then or maybe ya won't git to the Third Grade. Okay, Victor?” and Alde Long goes to the front of the room to start her classes, leaving Victor wondering how he will have an answer this Saturday when he won't learn Calculus for another year and one half. Then he thought of a plan. Jab was in the Fourth Grade. He already knew Calculus.

On the way home while Victor was walking with Felice, as his mother required him to, he saw Jab walking home ahead of him. “I'll be right back, Felice”, and Victor ran to catch up with Jab, with Felice hollering, “I'm telling Mommy you were bad.”

“Jab. You know Calculus, don't you? Would you solve a problem for me?”

“If I can, but you have to pay me”, says Jab.

“All I got is a penny, but it's an important penny I can't spend.”

“I would want a nickel if the problem is hard. What is the problem?”

“How much gas would I need to get to Mars and back?”

“That's a Physics problem, Victor. You have to set up the Physics problem first, then solve it with Calculus. That's two hard problems. I would need two nickels.”

“Where am I going to get two nickels, Jab?”

“How do I know, Victor? Maybe try getting two nickels less of gas.”

“Oh funny, Jab. Thanks for nothing. A great friend you are. I'm telling everybody I quit having you for a cousin”, and Victor runs back to Felice, taking her hand. Victor hoped being extra nice for the last few hundred feet from home will make up for running away, and hoping his mother will see through the window how good he is being no matter what Felice says.

The next morning Jab runs to catch up with Victor on his way to school. Felice was walking with one of her girlfriends and didn't want Victor or Jab to hear what they were talking about, so she was happy the two boys wanted to walk a little ahead of them. “I'll solve the problem for you, Victor. We are family and should help each other out, but you will have to pay me two nickels someday when you get them, okay?” Victor agrees.

Jab continues, “Here is a list of the numbers I need. I will need the thrust of the engine, the acceleration rate, the weight of the spaceship and contents without the fuel, and I will need a couple other minor numbers later for a close calculation.”

“They never gave me those numbers, Jab.”

“How can anyone solve the problem without these numbers? You have to know them to solve the problem. I can solve it using letters for the numbers, like they were undetermined parameters for now. It makes it harder though.”

“Would you do that, Jab? I'm giving you two nickels because it's going to be hard.”

“I'll try my best. Don't ever tell anyone I'm helping you, Victor. I don't want them to think I'm a daydreamer like you are. Race you to school?”

Victor was happy Jab wanted to keep it a secret. “Can't. Gotta walk with Felice who can't run.”

Felice heard what Victor just said and throws her hand out like she was saying, “Just get away”, whereupon the race, which Victor knew he would win because of his long legs, began.

That Saturday the third Spaceship Club meeting was held at precisely ten o'clock in the morning.

“Where's the rocket engine, Poppa”, asks Victor as soon as he comes in and sees it's missing.

“Can't be leavin' that rocket engine sittin' where folks can see it, Victor. They would start askin' questions an' a'fore ya knows it, then ever'body would want to come along with us. Me ‘n Josh gots it stored in a secret hiding place. Now, do you got yer answer to that gas problem?”

“Almost Poppa. I jest need a couple numbers now. What thrust will we be getting from that rocket engine, what is the weight of the spaceship with everything in it except the fuel and food, what acceleration will we want, and what is the distance to Mars? Then I can plug the numbers into my formulas to get the gas we need.”

Zeke is dumfounded that Victor asked those pertinent questions. He looked at Josh who was also amazed. “We forgot to measure the horsepower of the rocket engine, Zeke”, says Josh as an excuse for not having that number.

Victor, now even happier than when he only had questions to use to stall producing his answer said, “Can I expect those numbers by the next meeting?” knowing he just threw the problem into their hands for a while.

Zeke, looking at Josh, says, “We'll, um, try to have them then, Victor.”

Victor looks at Pappy and, wanting to change the subject away from his problem, asks, “How you coming on the food problem, Gampa?”

“Them canned peaches whats Josh offered answered the food problem, Victor. We git all the food canned in jars like them peaches is. We use them same jars fer the used food. Since there can't be more jars needed for the used food all we gotta do is tear off the label when we open the food jar so's when it gits re-used we all knows its used food. We gotta have room for the food when we leaves, so we got the room for the used food on the way back. We jest have a piece of cardboard between em, maybe with a air freshener on the side of the used food”, and Pappy chuckles.

Again Zeke looks at Josh, knowing the problems designed to stall the project may be quickly answered. Zeke turns to Victor and says, “You are doin' good, son. Next problem will be to calculate our trajectory. It's nuther Algebra problem.”

“We will be traveling at different rates on our trip and Mars will be moving, Poppa. Won't that be a Calculus problem?” asks Victor, and adds, remembering that Jab asked him the same question, “I will need to know when we are leaving to know where Mars will be at that time. It will affect our travel time and fuel amount also, not to mention the amount of food we will need. Will you have those numbers next week also?”

Now Zeke and Josh are visually worried. Josh says, “We can't leave till Zeke got the spaceship ready. He can' finish the spaceship till he knows how big a gas tank to build an how long it's gonna take so's he can build the room big nuff for the food. He needs your numbers to finish the design and you need his numbers to give him your numbers. Looks like maybe we ain't never gonna git to Mars. Maybe that's why no one went there before, cuz each is waitin' for the other numbers. We got a pickle, Zeke.”

Pappy says, “Ya jest got a hard problem, Zeke. You can solve it. Look. I solved the fart problem”, as Pappy pulls out a big party balloon and a ball valve. “I got this valve off'n a barrel. Don't leak water, so it won' leak air neither. We jest screw it into the side of the spaceship. I stretched the opening of this balloon so's we can catch the fart from where it comes from, pinch the opening shut with our finger, put it around the opening of the valve, open the valve an let the used air go outside without losing any good air. See Zeke. Even my hard problems had a answer.”

Zeke says, “Looks like we still gotta lot of work to do, men. Let's meet back here next month”, wanting to end the meeting that wasn't going well at all.

As Pappy walks Victor back to the cabin Zeke turns to Josh and says, “I gotta git that old heat transfer unit from Forster-Wheler whats my new one replaced, Josh. I can say we tested it an now its ruined, cuz we tested it past its limit. We can say it developed nine hundred thousand horsepower, but we was seein' if it could do a million when it blew up.”

“Good thinkin', Zeke. That will buy us a few months to figure somethin' else out. That Victor is learnin' too fast. Thought you said he was stupid, Zeke. An' why is Pappy solvin' them problems? He was sposta help us make this take forever. He wasn't sposta solve them problems … jest complain that they is too hard.”

“I said Victor was a daydreamer what's did'n care ‘bout schoolwork, Josh. Never said he was stupid. We was doin' this to git him interested in schoolin'. Looks like we won that part but now is loosin' our own game. I gotta talk with Pappy. He can' keep solvin' these hard problems. I thought at least we could count on him to be stupid, but guess we can't do that neither.”

Again Victor and Jab walk to school together with Jab holding out his left arm saying, “Suppose Mars is here. You can't just aim for Mars when you leave Earth over here, because it won't be there when you get there. You have to aim for where it is going to be when you get there. That means you have to know how fast you will go so you know where to aim for. Understand, Victor?”

“You are smart, Jab.”

“Thanks, Victor. But you will learn all this stuff next year in Physics and Astronomy. This year I will learn Differential Equations where I can calculate everything for you.”

“You can't do it now? I thought you were smart. Even I don't know how to solve that Differential Equation, so you're no smarter than me. Why am I paying you all those nickels if you can't help me?”

“I'll try to read ahead, Victor.”

“I only have a month to have the answer, Jab”

“Why only a month? Will your spaceship leave without you, Victor”, asks Jab, chuckling.

“I can't tell you why, Jab. It's a secret.”

I'm already keeping a secret for you , Victor. So you know I can keep your secrets.”

“What secret are you keeping for me?”

“ That you are thinking of going to Mars. Why else would you want to know how much gas it takes. You know, there are a lot of other bigger problems you have to solve I could help you with too.”

“I have other people helping on those problems. I don't need you for those. I didn't know you were interested in spaceships anyway, Jab. You always laughed at me with the other kids. You are charging me two nickels to solve the problems. That's all you need to know.”

“Who do you know who would help you, Victor? All the kids in school think you are dumb, so they won't help you. Who else do you know? You are making that up, Victor. You are dreaming of people helping you just like you are dreaming of going to Mars.”

Victor was furious with Jab for saying that, and, without thinking, shouted, “Am I dreaming that your Poppa is helping me?”, then realized he broke the rule of the Spaceship Club. “Please don't tell your Poppa I told you, Jab. I'm not supposed to tell anyone.”

You're fibbing , Victor. My Poppa would never help you. He has important things to do”, and Jab runs the rest of the way to school leaving Victor walking a little ahead of Felice, knowing he is now in trouble with everyone.

Jab didn't talk to Victor for the rest of the month. Victor knew he was not only in trouble from being found out he broke the rules, but he also lost the source of the answers to the problems they were relying on him to solve. Every day closer to the next meeting of the Spaceship Club made Victor more and more worried. On the Saturday of the meeting Pappy comes to the cabin very early and whispers to Victor while he is sleeping, “We is havin' the meeting early today, Victor. Git up. Ever'body is waitin'.” Victor's heart dropped. He knew he had to tell everyone he broke the club rule of keeping the secret. He thought for sure he would be kicked out … kicked out of the only thing he really liked. He wanted to cry but held it back, feeling worse than he thought he ever could. When he walked into his Poppa's shop and seen him standing there looking at him he couldn't hold back the tears any more. Victor ran to Zeke, and, crying, said, “I'm sorry Poppa. I broke the rule to not tell anyone. Please don't kick me out.”

Zeke looked down at his son and said, “Take your seat, Victor.”

Victor turned around and saw Jab seated next to his grandfather. Now he knew that Jab told on him. Victor sat on the other side of Pappy. He didn't even say hello to Jab.

Zeke started the meeting with Josh at his side. “I have to tell everyone that me an' Josh an' Pappy never went to the Moon as Pappy said we did. We would'a liked to, but did'n.”

Zeke paused for a long time after saying that. Victor looked crushed. Pappy looked disappointed with Zeke that he showed one of his stories to be untrue, but knew they could never have gone to Mars. Jab smirked, thinking it was all a hoax on Victor.

Zeke continues, “You see, on our first trip into outer space we flew all around the galaxy. Never stopped at the Moon or Mars. We did lotta trips after that, but we always went even further out in space, from galaxy to galaxy, meeting all the different creatures whats lived on all them planets all over the universe. We had a good time travelin' in space”, and then Zeke pauses for a long time again, noticing Jab and Pappy's mouths were open, but Victor was smiling like he heard the best news ever.

Zeke continues, “Josh an' me used a special spaceship for our travels. It was a spaceship designed to help us truly understand what travelin' in space is like. It was the most spectacular spaceship we could design, an' it worked marvelously. We took many trips in this spaceship an' always enjoyed every trip. Today we want to invite everyone here to a take a trip in our spaceship to see if you enjoy it as much as we do. Who here wants to go?”

Victor was the first to raise his hand, with the rest following quickly.

Zeke says, “Will everyone follow me into our hidden room”

 

Chapter 2

The Spaceship Club

Zeke and Josh are working in Zeke's shop making new parts needed for rebuilding a big Bullard Vertical Turret Lathe. The engine lathe Zeke was running wasn't as noisy as the Blanchard Grinder Josh was running, so he heard when Josh suddenly turned it off and hollered, “Zeke. Got company. Shut down.”

Zeke turned around and saw Victor standing next to him with a big smile. Zeke was turning a fine thread to a shoulder on an expensive lead screw. He was almost to the shoulder but knew if he stopped the machine the piece would be wrecked. He had to let the lathe run for two more minutes, however he knew the trouble Victor could get into, knew Aby would be furious with him if Victor got hurt. He also knew the children weren't allowed in his shop, but he knew he couldn't afford to ruin this part. Zeke reached over, grabbed Victor and held him tightly between his legs hoping for the next two minutes he needed to finish the threading.

Zeke didn't get those two minutes. Victor bit his leg after struggling for the first one minute. Zeke had to shut the lathe down, hearing the tip of the tool bit break when the workpiece stopped turning. The thread was ruined. Zeke was angry.

“What is you doin' here Victor!” hollered Zeke.

“I just wanted to see you, Poppa. Why did you try to squash me?”

“I was trying to keep ya from gittin hurt, Victor.”

“By hurting me?”

“Ya know ya ain't sposta be in here. Ya ain't even sposta be this far from the cabin without someone with ya. Why does ya do this stuff, Victor? You cost me a lot of money for wreckin' that machine part. What is I gonna do with ya?”

“I have money to help you, Poppa. Here's a penny that went to the Moon with you, Josh and Gampa”, as Victor shows his penny.

“Where did you get that, Victor?”

“Gampa gave it to me after he told me how you all went to the Moon. I wanted to show you my spaceship to get ideas from you.”

Josh, smiling, comes over to look at the penny. Everybody knew Pappy has had a quarter and nickel for years but didn't know he had a penny too. He looked at the Flowing Hair, Chain Reverse large penny, minted in 1793, and said, “I didn't know he had this.”

“He said you borrowed his quarter and nickel for gas but didn't borrow the penny, Josh. He said you needed money to buy gas so you could get back home.”

“I guess I was thinkin' a penny would'n buy nuff to make a difference, Victor”, and Josh winks at Zeke, going back to stand by his machine leaving Zeke to handle his own family problems.

Victor looks at his father and says, “I like spaceships, Poppa. I want to know more about the one you and Josh made.”

Zeke has no idea what story his father Pappy told Victor, but having heard many of his other tales knew it could be something really exaggerated. He tries to cover everyone by saying, “Victor. Folks whats makin' real spaceships today keeps it real quiet. They don' want other folks botherin' em. They jest wants to build spaceships without other folks knowin' what they is doin', so they ain't sposta tell no one cept them folks whats in the spaceship club. I gotta ask Gampa if he is gonna let you in the spaceship club an' what he told ya so far. Then I can look at yer spaceship design an' tell ya stuff I knows. Until then I gotta earn money so's we can eat, an' ya can't bother me while I'm workin' to earn money. Okay, buddy?”

Victor puts his right hand to his forehead and says, “Yes Sir, Captain Zeke.”

Zeke, startled, asks, “Why'd you call me that, Victor?”

“Gampa said you drove the spaceship. Only the Captain can drive it. That is what Josh would have called you, isn't it, Poppa?”

Zeke, thinking of his fantasizing with Josh, says, “Yes. Sometimes Josh calls me that. Now scoot”, and as he watched Victor run towards the cabin he realized he just made a bad situation worse.

Zeke goes back to the lathe where Josh is looking at the ruined thread. “Gotta turn it down to the next size smaller, Zeke. We kin make a bushing to take up the difference in the mating part. We can fix this easy, but we gotta knows what Pappy told yer boy to know how hard that's gonna be to fix.”

That evening, after dinner, Zeke is sitting in his shop with Josh and Pappy after Pappy retold his story exactly as he told Victor, with all the emphasis on his being frightened to make the story seem real. Zeke just listened, but Josh seemed to enjoy the story almost as much as Victor did.

Pappy continued, “I could see he was sad that his spaceship weren't a good one, so all I wanted to do is make him think we used one almost jest like it to go to the Moon, Zeke. You know, to make him feel better. It did.”

“There's so many places air can git outta a “T” that rollin' up the windows won' do nuttin, Pappy”, explains Zeke, still believing that proper fantasizing must conform to engineering and physics and just plain common sense.

Pappy says, “Even a toddler knows there ain't no air on the Moon or even half way to it, Zeke. All I hadda do to solve that problem for his young mind is to remind him of that fact whats he already knew an' let him knows how we solved it. Chillun whats listenin' to a story that they likes will believe any part you give em reason to believe. Ain't like I said you'n Josh rode that cow whats jest jumped over the Moon. That story would be silly, where mine was … was …, what's that word ya say its gotta be, Josh?”

“Plausible, Pappy.”

“That's it, Zeke. It don't gotta be true cuz it's jest a story. It jest has'ta be believable. An' I got proof it's believable. Victor believed it.”

Zeke remembered that Josh used that same tactic a few years ago to make him believe he was flying a spaceship, and he smiles at what must have been going through Victor's mind. He tells Pappy what he told Victor in the shop earlier about the “Spaceship Club” and asks for suggestions on how to handle that.

“Gosh, Zeke, I don' know nuttin ‘bout no spaceship club. Can't help ya there”, says Pappy rubbing his bearded chin. “Why'd ya say that anyway?” he adds.

Zeke, irritated, says, “Cuz he was askin' me ‘bout a spaceship he heard I had from someone. An' that someone said I flew it to the Moon, Pappy. I did'n know nuttin ‘bout that spaceship an' he was askin' fer answers . What should I have said, ‘Your Gampa is a storyteller an' his stories ain't true'?

“That would'a made both me ‘n Victor cry, Zeke”, says Pappy looking sad.

Zeke explains how poorly Victor is doing in school because all he thinks about are games, spaceships and daydreaming. “We is makin' things worse now with what we is tellin' him.”

Josh says, “What if we did this, Zeke”, and he explains his suggestion for a Spaceship Club.

The next Saturday morning in Zeke's shop at ten o'clock all the machines were shut down. Four chairs were set in a circle for Zeke, Josh, Pappy and Victor. Zeke says, “This is nuther meetin' of the Spaceship Club. We have a new member whats never been in outer space so we gotta prepare to go again. We could'n repair our old “T” ship so we gotta build a new one. Josh said the old plans were no good no more so we gotta start from scratch. That means ever'body gotta solve some of them problems … even the new guy Victor. No one rides for free. I will work on the frame of the ship, Pappy will take care of what food'n water we need, Josh will design the new rocket system, an' Victor will solve all the little problems, like how much gas to take this time so's we don' run out again.”

“How do I do that Poppa”, asks Victor, all excited.

With Mathematics, Victor. Yer goin' in the Second Grade an' it's a First Grade problem. We have a lotta Second Grade problems you gotta solve pretty soon. If you can't do your part helpin' build this we might as well not try to build it, cuz we is doin' it so's you can go fly in it. I'll need that answer in one month so's I know how big to make the gas tank with the frame to hold it.

“You need two hundred seventy five gallons, Poppa”, says Victor, surprised at himself that he was able to add the two amounts in the story so fast.

“That's what we would'a needed in the “T” if jest the three of us was goin' again. Now four are goin', an' we all gained a lil weight, an' we is buildin' a bigger an' better spaceship this time whats will weigh more too, so's I know we is gonna need a lot more than that, Victor. You gotta set up the equations with them numbers as unknowns an' then solve them multiple quations.”

“That's Second Grade Algebra, Poppa. I'm just going in the Second Grade now”, says Victor.

“Miss Alde is slowin' down her teachin'. We learned that in First Grade. Must be yer class ain't as smart as us kids were. But yer in the Second Grade now , Victor. Git workin'. I don't need the answer fer a month yet, so's ya got lotsa time. You don' want us to do it less'n you wants to do one of our jobs.”

“I'll take Gampa's job”, says Victor with a smile, thinking Pappy's problem would be easier to solve. To his surprise Pappy quickly says, “ Yes! I'll trade .”

“Okay Victor. You got the food an' water problem. Remember you got it for the whole trip … even after its been used, iff'n you knows what I mean. You can't jest roll down a window and throw the used food an' water out or we won' have no air. That was a real problem on our last trip an' is a hard one to solve, but it's yours now.”

Victor looks at his smiling grandfather who says, “Thank ya, Victor. I did'n want that job.” Victor looks at Josh who is rapidly shaking his head ‘no'. He looks at his father who is smirking, and Victor quickly says, “I'll keep my first job.”

Zeke laughs and says, “Smart boy, Victor. Now go learn that Algebra. This meeting is over. We meet again in one month.”

Zeke is sitting at the kitchen table with Aby after the children have gone to bed, explaining Victor's spaceship drawing, Pappy's spaceship story, how Victor came into the shop, what he said about the Spaceship Club, and the results of their first Spaceship Club meeting. Aby's expressions went from looking sad, to chuckling, to looking angry, to shaking her head, and finally to laughing out loud about the “Food and water” problem.

“Poor Victor probably thought all he had to do was bring a jug of lemonade and a couple tuna fish sandwiches”, laughs Aby.

“Zeke, laughing also, said, “He switched back to the math problem so fast we did'n even have a chance to argue all the different food we each wanted, as we practiced.”

Aby, still chuckling, says, “Right after lunch he asked Ebill if he could borrow his old Algebra book to study. He read the first page, turned to the second and back to the first to read it again, then went in to get his arithmetic book that he never looked at all through the first grade. He is starting his arithmetic book on the first page, Zeke, just like he knows he didn't learn any of it. You may have found the answer.” Then Aby looks at Zeke and asks, “What if he does his part and expects a ride in the spaceship?”

“Then we gots a probem, Aby. I have a few more problems for Victor to solve before he gits a ride, though. Should take em a couple year to solve whats he gotta do for that ride. Maybe by then Me ‘n Josh will know how to build a real spaceship.”

One month later the four gather for the second Spaceship Club meeting. It just so happened that Zeke got a job from the Forster-Wheler Company to build a six foot diameter by ten foot long Heat Exchange unit. It looked like a big drum with about one hundred one inch diameter pipes running lengthwise, fastened to each end of the drum by being welded to an end plate with the ends of the pipe welded to the end plate after passing through holes in it. Josh thought it was the perfect thing to show Victor as he walked in with Pappy.

“What do you think of the rocket engine I designed, Victor? Your Poppa is doin' a good job buildin' it, ain't he?” says Josh.

“Wow! That's big. Where will we sit?” asks Victor.

“Still gotta build the part where we will ride, son. Don't know why Josh designed such a big engine. Guess he wants to git us there fast.”

“Thought maybe we might go to Mars, Zeke. We been to the Moon. Ain't never been to Mars.”

“Good idea, Josh. Victor, Ya better calculate nuff gas to git us to Mars. Won't need yer calculations for the Moon no more, so's ya got nuther month to do that calculating.”

Victor is obviously relieved, since, as everyone else knew already, he didn't have his calculations done yet as he was supposed to.

Pappy pretends to look worried and asks, “How long will it take to git to Mars?”

“Bout a month, Pappy. We'll be gone fer two months.”

“How am I gonna git food whats last fer two months? Only thing I knows whats last that long is fruit cake. No one eats fruit cake. It's jest fer passin' round on Christmas. An' where am I gonna store all that used fruit cake iff'n we gits hungry nuff to eat any?”

You gotta solve that problem, Pappy”, says Zeke unsympathetically.

“It's yer problem, Pappy”, says Josh, and adds, “Ya can't bring food whats gotta be cooked, cuz ya can't have a fire in the spaceship … it'll blow it up, an' iff'n it did'n it would smoke up all the air anyway. I can git a couple jars of Anna Mae's canned peaches fer ya.”

 

“Thanks, Josh. Least we will have good food fer one night. Now I gotta nuther problem. What is we gonna do about farting?”

“No farting, Pappy. It'll wreck the air”, says Zeke firmly.

“But I ain't never ate fruit cake. Don't knows how my stomach will handle it.”

You gotta solve that problem, Pappy”, says Zeke unsympathetically.

“It's yer problem, Pappy”, says Josh.

Now Victor is worried if he will be able to go two months without having gas. “How about burping, Poppa?”

“Lil ones now an' then is okay I guess. Maybe we should make a rule: no farts and each of us gits ten lil burps for the whole trip. Jest lil burps. We already got the problem of no one takin' a bath fer two months an' you guys will smell pretty bad even after one week. Can't imagine what the spaceship is gonna smell like when we finally gits back home”, and, just for Victor's sake, Zeke looks at Pappy and Victor with a face showing a little disgust, while Josh quickly turns to stifle a laugh, making Victor think he is trying not to throw up at the thought of how bad his little body might smell.

“Well, looks like ever'body's got new problems this month. Meeting adjurned. See ever'body next month”, says Zeke.

Pappy walks Victor back to the cabin while Zeke and Josh quietly laugh back in the shop.

“These are hard problems to solve, Gampa.”

“Yes they are Victor, but imagine … goin' to Mars . I jest wish it weren't a month travelin' to git there. I asked Josh iff'n he made that rocket engine bigger could we make it in a week. He said it should be two months jest to git there, an' even now yer Poppa's gotta build special seats fer us cuz that engine whats he designed will take off so fast it'll make our cheeks bunch up around our ears, an' he said iff'n we opened our mouths the air would blow through us like through a straw, with you know what all endin' up in our britches.”

“Are you scared, Gampa?”

“Course I'm scared, Victor. I was scared when we went to the Moon an' that was a short trip. Scared all the time goin' to the Moon an' even more scared when we come back cuz of all them problems we had. First thin' I did when we got back to the farm was run to the bushes side of the hayfield, cuz I did'n go to the bathroom them whole two days. Now, no one can hold it fer two months, so I gotta think of a way to store it till we gits back.”

“Poppa is really hard to work for.”

“He's the Captain, Victor. That is a hard job, plus he is doin' lotta the work hi'self. All you gotta do is make sure we have nuff gas. Iff'n we don' have nuff then we all crash an' die, so you won' end up gittin hollered at anyway. I gotta make sure all the food an' used food don' git mixed up or I'm in real trouble to git hollered at.

“I'm sorry I can't help you Gampa”

“Like they said, Victor, it is my problem. I gotta solve it jest like you gotta solve yours.”

“My problem is hard.”

“Wanna switch, Victor?”

“No. I just wish there were easier problems.”

“How many folks has been to Mars, Victor?”

“No one.”

“If they was to Mars already they would have answers to these problems and they would'n be problems no more. A problem is only a problem if there ain't no answer handy. Solvin' a problem is only hard the first time it's solved, cuz its only gotta be solved that once. Here we is, Victor. Tell yer Momma us menfolk will be in fer lunch in ‘bout half hour”, and Pappy walks back to the shop to chuckle with Zeke and Josh.

 

Introduction

Zeke reached over from his easy chair, put a dollop of tobacco in his new pipe that his cousin Remus gave him for a Birthday present, shifted in his chair to find that perfect comfortable position needed to start a long story, and after several wiggles and final adjustments of his fedora to make sure all of his now long grey hair was in it, began:

“My son Victor is my youngest boy an' our youngest child. Me an' Aby wanted more than five chillun, but we got only five. Folks suggested we have us both checked to see which one weren't doin' their job, but we both knew we was doin' our best and it wouldn't matter which one was at fault, cuz we couldn't have no more together, so it didn' matter which one was failin'. We first had the twins Ebill an' Zoe, then Enos whats died at nineteen years old, then Felice, then Victor. Victor is an active boy whats don' like to sit much, so he never learned like Enos did, whats could sit an' study all day. He liked his brothers an' sisters same as all my chillun did, but bein' the youngest he was left outta lotta their activities, bein' they was older an' into their own goin'-on's, … or is it goin's-on? Anyway, Victor was jest a lil younger than Felice, but Felice liked housework … you know, cookin', crocheting, makin' clothes an' stuff like that. That stuff weren't for Victor, cuz he was all boy. He wanted to play sports, flirt with girls, an' drive a car to Megaville to drink with his friends.

One of Victor's best friends is his cousin Jab, Josh's first born who was a couple year older than Victor. You remember Josh. He is my cousin an' was my best friend until he died few year after Enos did. Well, Jab is the same height as Josh was. Yup, short. We always never asked how tall Josh was, cuz when we was young in Miss Alde's school one of the kids asked an' then one of the other kids said, ‘They don' make rulers small nuff to measure his height.' I twisted that kids ear, but Josh was already embarrassed. I never knew why short folks was embarrassed when tall folks ain't. Seems bein' short ain't no way to judge folks … specially seein' tall folks was short at one time, an' lookin' at the accomplishments of all them short Chinese an' Japanese whats doin' so well, an' rememberin' Einstein, Napoleon an' St. Peter was all short, an' now when we got a food shortage it's best to have a economically efficient lil body over a big one like mine. Victor knew there weren't nuttin wrong with bein' short an' jest saw a good friend in Jab. Victor was jest six foot tall … much shorter than me whats six foot eight, or Ebill whats jest seven foot or Enos what was seven foot eight, but taller than Zoe an' Felice whats is jest five an' one half feet tall. Victor's weight was jest two hundred pound, which was the same as skinny Enos' weight but nowhere near Ebill's three hundred twenty pounds of meat or my two hundred seventy pounds of Aby's fine cooking”, as Zeke grabs a fold in his stomach to shake, chuckling.

“I will start my story ‘bout Victor when he started in Miss Alde's school, cuz that's where the trouble began. You see, back then Victor had the energy of an avalanche, the brains of a creek pebble, an' the attention span of a fruit fly.”

 

Chapter 1

The Start of Trouble

 

Aby is trying to hold Victor still while she pulls his knit cap over his ears to keep them warm this cold morning. “Hold Victor's hand until he gets to school, Felice, or he will run off trying to catch a leaf or a critter or anything moving. Do you promise?”

“Yes, Mommy”, says Felice, obviously not liking this job of caring for Victor every day to and from school.”

Victor runs over to pet Mrs. Hector and her son Phoenix , the family pet pigs. Felice looks at Aby. “We weren't even out of the house and he ran away. You know I can't catch him when he runs”, says the chubby Felice, ready to cry at the burden her mother is putting on her.

Aby hollers, “Victor. When you get back home I will ask Felice how you behaved. If she says you were bad you will not get desert tonight.”

“What are we having for desert?” hollers Victor.

We will be having strawberries on Angel Food Cake. You will be having pig poop pie if you don't behave”, hollers Aby.

Victor runs back from the pig pen and takes Felice's hand. Aby watches them walk down the road until they are out of sight, shakes her head and goes back into the cabin wishing the older children didn't start school an hour earlier and stay an hour later or she would have Ebill and Zoe watch Victor.

-.-.-.-

 

“Get back in your seat, young man”, says Alde Long, the school marm who has unbelievable patience with children.

Victor walks back to his seat past the other children who are looking down so as to pretend they don't know him or they might get in trouble too. Only Jab is looking at Victor and smiling. When Victor waves to him Jab looks down with a straight face as the others. All of the other children know they are in trouble when Miss Alde addresses them as “young Man” or “young Lady”. Victor, however, had heard himself called “young Man” so many times he thinks that is just a nickname the teacher gave him. It had no effect on him other than to make him smile when he heard it, thus making Miss Alde all the more frustrated.

“Why are you drawing pictures of Buck Rogers space ships when you is sposta be solvin' the arithmetic problems, Victor? This is your final exam. Do you realize you ain't learned hardly no arithmetic for the whole year? ” asks Miss Alde.

“Drawing spaceships is more fun to do, Miss Alde.”

“You are – sposta – be doing – arithmetic, - SIR!

“But I don't need arithmetic to draw spaceships, Miss Alde.”

“You need arithmetic to solve problems in science. Everybody has to learn arithmetic to solve problems … even everyday problems.”

“Momma doesn't need arithmetic. She runs the house and doesn't need arithmetic to do the wash, cook, clean or make lunches.”

“You need arithmetic to solve science problems, Victor. Your momma doesn't have to solve science problems.”

“Uncle Bill doesn't have to solve science problems. He has people he pays to solve them for him.”

“Bill McMullen is rich, Victor. He can afford to hire people to solve some of his problems, but he has to know arithmetic to count his money and calculate the interest he can earn on his investments. Unless you know you will be rich you will need to know arithmetic.”

“I'll try to be rich then, Miss Alde.”

“In the meantime please try to learn arithmetic jest in case you don't become rich, okay Victor?”

“Okay, Miss Alde”, as Victor continues drawing his spaceship.

-.-.-.-

“Thank ya for seein' me, Aby”, says Alde Long as she comes into Aby's cabin.

“How do you like the Ford Model “A”, Miss Alde?” asks Aby.

“It's a wonderful car, Aby, but it makes it harder to do what it brought me here for. You see, Aby, your son Victor has me at my wits end. He is a smart lil boy but he don' even try to learn. He's got no interest in learnin' at all. He jest draws space ships, talks to the other chillun, an' daydreams. I told him he won't go on to the next grade iff'n he did'n learn his lessons. Well, he did'n. I gotta fail him so he repeats the first grade again. Sorry, Aby. I hate to have to drive my nice Model “A” whats Zeke sold me for only a dollar to give you bad news. It ain't like Victor is stupid. He ain't even lazy, cuz his mind is goin a mile a minute … jest in the wrong way.”

“I imagine Victor will be crying now”, says Aby.

“That's one of the other worse things I gotta tells ya ‘bout, Aby. Most chillun crys when they fails, cuz they know their friends is goin' on without em. Not Victor. He was happy . Said he will have new friends to show around. Now that's got me worried, cuz all chillun look up to older kids, an' iff'n they look up to Victor they will all wanna be like him, meanin' they won' learn neither.”

Alde Long, with a sad expression, looks at Abe and continues, “So I gotta pass em even though he should'n git passed. I gotta push em on, Aby … you know, for the sake of the other chillun. I knows it's wrong, but I don' want them new toddlers led astray. I would ask that yer older chillun talk to Victor to straighten him out, but I asked em already an' they said Victor won't listen to them neither … always changin' the subject to games or spaceships or other things whats he is interested in.”

Alde looks at Aby with an apologetic look and adds, “That's what I hadda tell ya, Aby. I will do my best with Victor. He's really a smart boy, … jest ain't got no interest in school work. Tell Zeke iff'n he's mad at me for not teachin' Victor he can have the Model “A” back.”

Aby, looking sad, says, “You have Victor for six hours a day for five days a week. I have him all the other time. I know what you are going through, and you only have a small idea of what I have to put up with. I am so happy that you take him for that time I should ask Zeke to buy you a new Bentley Touring car for giving me that break”, and Aby gives Alde Long a hug, adding, “What can we do with that little boy, Miss Alde?”

“Can't teach em. Can't scare em. Can't threaten em. Can't throttle em. All we can do, Aby, is hope he finds something of interest that requires a little knowledge. Then we will see what he is capable of. He will be the dumb kid in second grade an' all them other kids will make fun of him. At least them new first graders won' look up to him an' git spoiled. I can always hold him back in second grade iff'n he still won't learn. Thank you for bein' so understandin', Aby. Good day to ya.”

-.-.-.-

On a sunny Saturday morning as Jab is doing chores for his Poppa he hears, “Hi Jab”

“What are you doing here at my house, Victor? Did you get permission from your Momma to come over here?

“She didn't say no.”

Did you ask her?”

“No, because then she would probably say no.”

“You're gonna get in trouble, Victor.”

Victor laughs, “Maybe I'll get pig poop pie for desert.”

Jab laughs at that also.

“I wanted to show you my new design for a rocket ship, Jab. Look”, as Victor opens up a big sheet of paper.”

Jab said, “You have the Captain steering the spaceship with a steering wheel. They don't use steering wheels to drive a spaceship. You have a clutch pedal, a brake pedal, and a gear shifter too. They don't have gears in a spaceship and they don't have wheel brakes neither, cuz there's no ground for the wheels to ride on.”

“Then how do they change speed and how do they stop if you know everything, Jab?”

“They have more fire come out the back to make them go faster and they turn around to have the fire come out the front to stop them. Didn't you see any of the movies or read any of the comics that have spaceships, Victor?”

“No. Momma and Poppa won't buy me any because they say I spend too much time thinking about spaceships already. I'm going to make a new spaceship and show you a good one”, and Victor turns to go back home.

“Better get permission next time you come over here or you will get me in trouble too. I don't want any of your pig poop pie”, and Jab laughs.

Victor did not laugh. He felt bad that he did not design a realistic spaceship, and walked home slowly with his head hanging.

“Victor! What is you doin' way over here”, asks Pappy, Victor's grandfather, on his way to visit Aby, hoping to be asked to baby sit.

“I was visiting Jab, Gampa. I'm going back home now.”

“Did yer Momma say you could walk way over here alone?”

“She didn't say no, Gampa.”

“That means ya did'n ask her, did ya?”

“I wanted to show Jab something.”

“What ya got there, Victor?”

“A picture of a spaceship, but it ain't a good one.”

“Can I see it? I know a lil ‘bout spaceships.”

Victor reluctantly shows his grandfather his picture.

“Looks pretty good to me Victor, but I only been in a spaceship once, so's I don't rightly knows what the new ones is like, but this looks pretty good to me.”

“You were in a spaceship?”

“I know a lil ‘bout em, Victor. Here's what I know. I know your Poppa an' Jab's Poppa both liked spaceships too, an' usta talk ‘bout em all the time. They invited me for a ride once. Wanna hear that story?”

Victor knew even at his young age that his Grandfather's stories were always interesting, and especially wanted to hear his story about spaceships. “Ya ya, Gampa”, he shouted.

Pappy sat on the bench under the Crimson Maple tree by the cabin, knowing Aby would be able to look out the kitchen window to see Victor is alright and was being supervised. He opened his big coat to wrap Victor inside with him to keep him warm as he started his story:

“It was a warm Summer morning ‘bout fifteen year ago. You wasn't born yet, Victor. None of my granchillun was born yet. Yer Poppa lived here alone an' Jab's Poppa lived in a wee cabin whats he had where he lives now. He lived there alone too. They was best friends an' thought ‘bout spaceships together a lot. I always thought they was actin' like toddlers like you is now, you know, jest wastin' their time daydreamin' ‘bout fantasy stuff. Least that's what I thought till that day when I came to visit real early in the morning an' seen em both in the West Hayfield with a real funny lookin' Model “T” Ford. They had changed it so much that I hardly recognized it, but I knew it was a “T”, cuz I seen so many a'fore.

I come up on em an' asked, ‘What is you youngsters up to now?' They looked real surprised that I was there an' I had a feelin' they wished I weren't. 

‘We's goin' for a ride, Pappy', said Josh. Well, I had to see that. That “T” did'n look nuttin like what it was sposta an' I hadda see them drivin' it. I said, ‘I'll watch ya leave.' Yer Poppa said, ‘We ain't leavin for a long time. No need to wait, Pappy.' I said, ‘I gots lotta time to wait', and I sat in the freshly mowed hayfield like I could wait forever. 

After only ten minutes Josh, lookin' real nervous, looked at yer Poppa and pointed to his watch. Yer Poppa said, ‘We is goin' to the Moon, Pappy. Wanna come along?' Well you can imagine how hard I laughed. I said, ‘Sure. Ain't never been to the Moon a'fore.' Josh jumped into the front passenger seat an' yer Poppa told me to git in the back seat, an' he got behind the steering wheel. ‘Roll up all the windows as tight as you can get them, Pappy', hollered Josh as yer Poppa started the engine. That engine sounded real funny to me … like it had a lot more power that any “T” I heard before.

Well, after he started that big engine a door opened behind the “T” an' a huge fan started turnin' … like a airplane propeller runnin' backwards. Josh hollered, ‘Hang on tight, Pappy.' Yer Pappa pushed down on the gas pedal jest a wee bit and we started goin' real fast down the west hayfield, jest bouncin' an' shakin' from all them lil bumps. Halfway down the hayfield wings came out the side of the “T”, an' that fan behind me was turnin' so fast I could see it pullin' hay clippin's from in front of the “T” an' throwin' it out fast behind us. We must'a been goin' two hundred mile a hour an' runnin' outta hayfield when yer Poppa pulled back on the steering wheel what swung towards his belly. The front of that “T” raised up an' all the shakin' from the bumps in the field stopped. I looked out the window an' saw the hayfield drop from under me. I was real scared. I ain't never been in the air a'fore. I hollered, ‘What is you boys doin?” Josh hollered, ‘Goin' to the Moon, Pappy, jest like we said.”

After jest a couple minutes I saw we was way way up in the air. I saw the cities as little dots. Josh hollers, ‘Hold on again, Pappy', and yer Poppa shifted to high gear. Well, when he did that, fire come outta that big fan in the back. It was a huge flame, an' when it started comin' out we started goin' a lot faster … an' kept goin' faster as the flame come out. I looked out the back window an' saw the Earth as a big ball gittin' smaller, looked out the front window an' saw the Moon as a little ball gittin' bigger. Then yer Poppa turned a switch an' everythin' got quiet. The flame went out, the engine stopped, the fan stopped … I thought my heart was gonna stop. Josh turned around and said to me, ‘Now we coast for a bit. We only brought sandwiches for two of us, so we gotta share at lunch time.' Josh an' yer Poppa was smilin' an' could'n see I was frightened. Josh said, ‘Don't roll any windows down or the air will git out an' we won' be able to breath.'

After almost half a hour I finally was able to say somethin', ‘Is we gonna crash into the Moon?'

Yer Poppa said, ‘No Pappy. We is jest gonna circle it this time. We calculated the trajectory so's we is pulled around the Moon real close an' then is shot back to the Earth with even greater speed. Josh calls it his “slingshot” move. 

Well, that Moon got bigger an' bigger. I was sure we was gonna crash. We was goin' what seemed like a brazillion miles a hour. I wanted to faint but could'n … did'n know how, I guess. I jest looked at the Moon an' thought I was gonna see my Maker real soon. Josh an' yer Poppa jest looked out the window an' smiled. That moon started in the front window an' slowly moved to the driver's side of the “T” … jest whizzing by as we went round behind it goin' faster an' faster. Then the Moon seemed to disappear when we was lookin' at it in the rear window. I hollered, ‘The Moon is disappearin'.' Josh said, ‘Ya jest can' see it, cuz the Sun ain't shinnin' on this side right now. Don' worry. It's still there.'

‘Why is the Moon circlin' us?', I asked. Then I realized we jest ain't turnin', but our back is always facin' the Earth jest like when we left.

When we came back into the Sunlight I saw the moon again out the front window. We was headin' back to earth backwards! Now I was really scared, cuz I did'n know iff'n yer Poppa could drive the “T” good goin' a awful lot of miles a hour backwards.

The Earth got bigger faster comin' back than it got smaller when we left. That's how I knew we was goin' faster now. Josh asked yer Poppa, ‘Is we goin' as fast as ya calculated, Zeke?' Yer Poppa said, ‘I don' know. Seems we is goin' faster.' Josh had a frightened look on his face, an' that did'n make me feel no better, that's for sure. I thought at least I was gonna crash at home where someone could find me an' bury me with my fam'ly. Least that's what I thought until Josh said, ‘Think we will burn to a crisp on re-entry, Zeke?' That's all I needed to hear. How does folks identify a crisp as being me? I don' even knows what a crisp looks like, so I knows it shore don' look like me! Yer Poppa said we had a lotta fuel, so he thought he could prob'ly maybe make a good landing. Hearin' that did'n make me feel no better neither. “Prob'ly maybe”? That did'n sound like he thought he could do it himself neither.

Well, the Earth looked like a big soccer ball jest a'fore it smacks ya in the face when I heard them engines start again. Fire shot out the back of the “T” like somethin' fierce … like them stories you hear of them big dragons in the old days that I hadda fight when I was a toddler on my way to school. I felt me pushed against the seat like we was goin' forward, but when I looked out the back window I seen we was still movin' fast backward. That force on the seat was much greater than when we left the Earth, as I seemed to almost be outta cushion on the seat … jest feelin' them springs pushin' on my back, an' I was havin' a hard time liftin' my head off'n the cushion. I felt a lot of heat in the “T” an' thought maybe I was turnin' into a crisp like Josh said, when I heard Josh holler, ‘Hang on'. Yer Poppa pulled a lever an' them wings popped out again. He turned the steering wheel an' the “T” turned around so's the Earth was in the front window. Josh hollered, ‘Does ya know where we is, Zeke?' Yer Poppa hollered, ‘I think we is over Europe . We forgot to remember the Earth was rotatin' while we was away.' Josh hollered, ‘Can ya git us back home?' Yer Poppa said, ‘Gotta git to the other side of the Atlantic . Shore wish I paid more attention to Miss Alde in Geography class.' Josh hollered, ‘Do yer best, Zeke. We is countin' on ya.'

Well, here we was on the wrong side of the ocean whats was gittin' real close. We was still goin fast, but that Atlantic seemed real big. We was half way across when yer Poppa pushed down on the gas pedal to have more fire come out the back with the fan goin' full blast. We was ‘bout ten feet above the water an' could'n see land nowhere. After ‘bout a hour we saw the Statue of Liberty an' knew we was almost home, but not sure we was gonna make it, cuz Josh said we was almost outta gas. Yer Poppa pushed the gas pedal to the floor an' we gained ‘bout five thousand feet off'n the ground. Then ever'thin' went quiet. We was outta gas. The engine stopped. The fire stopped commin' out, an' the fan stopped turning. I thought that was the end of us for shore.

Josh had his face pressed against the front window as did yer Poppa. I thought they was lookin' fer a good place fer us to crash an' die, cuz I heard Josh holler, “There's one Zeke.' Yer Poppa said, ‘I see it too', and we started comin' down fast. Josh hollered, ‘Hang on Pappy.' I made the sign of the cross, closed my eyes an' waited for the crash, but instead felt a big bump and heard lot'sa tire screechin', looked up an' seen yer Poppa pushin' down hard on the brakes with Josh rollin' down his window when we stopped, sayin', ‘Fill er up, please.' They found a gas station.

That feller at the gas station asked what kinda car it was. Josh said it was a tractor whats used on a farm. Josh said. ‘That's why city folk never seen one a'fore.' That gas station feller said, ‘But there ain't no farms ‘round here.' Josh jest said, ‘That's why we ran outta gas gittin to one.' 

Well, that “T” took two hundred gallon to fill, but we only had seven dollar thirty cents, so we hadda stop the filling short of seventy five gallon. Josh said it might be nuff an' thanked me fer my quarter an' nickel whats he said he would pay me back. Yer Poppa drove down the road to where it was straight for a mile, waited till there were no cars in sight and then took off again. We made it back to the farm at sundown the next day after leavin'. We was almost outta gas again, outta food, an' outta money. Josh said next time they want to land on the Moon an' have a picnic, but first he hadda solve the air problem.”

Pappy looks down at Victor who is staring straight ahead with a smile on his face as though it was the best story he ever heard. “Do you know why the air was a problem, Victor?” asked Pappy.

“Because there is no air on the Moon, Gampa?”

“No. Because it takes a whole day to get to the Moon, and being in a car that you can't open the windows for a whole day is a long time not to fart”, chuckles Pappy.

Victor looks up at Pappy, says, “Oh Gampa” and laughs, getting a big hug from Pappy.

“Where is the “T” now, Gampa?”

“Don' know, Victor. I think they took it apart when they tried to build a better one outta a ‘A'.”

“My drawing is a lot like their spaceship.”

“Yup. That's why I thought it was a good one. But I think they make different kinds now. Course ya still can't roll down the windows even in the new ones, so ya still got that air problem.”

“I liked that story, Gampa.”

“Thank ya, Victor. An' I like your spaceship”, as Pappy walks him towards the cabin for lunch, reaching into his pocket and saying, “Here's the same quarter an' nickel Josh paid me back”, now making Victor know the story really happened.

“Course, these two coins did'n go to the Moon, but this penny whats I keep all wrapped up did. Josh did'n borrow it. My Grampa's Grampa give it to my Grampa whats give it to me. He said, ‘Here Ebby'. That's what they usta call me when I was little, cuz my real name is Ebenezer. ‘Here Ebby', he said, ‘Keep this an' you'll never go broke.' Now I'm giving it to you, Victor. Keep it like new in this cloth an' you'll never go broke. It's yours.”

Victor just looked at the penny with awe.

Aby only seen where Pappy gave Victor the penny, and smiled her approval. Little did Pappy know, Aby and Zeke would not appreciate having Victor's imagination fired up even further.

 

 

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Woodpile Report - Stories from outten the hills

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