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My Son Victor

Chapter 8

The New School

Victor didn't get a chance to do much of anything at home during the week. He spends most of his time on week days riding to and from school and either waiting for the school to open or waiting for his ride back home. When the weekend came he decided to visit Jill to see what was happening in his old school.

“Victor! What happened to your eye?”

“Got punched”

“Why?”

“Some kid wanted to show me he could beat me up.”

“What did the teacher say?”

“Nothing. They don't care as long as you don't fight in the classroom.”

“Are you learning a lot?”

“No. I know all the stuff in Math, so I just sleep in that class. The teacher doesn't care. They won't even start learning Physics until High School. You don't even have to take

physics if you don't want to. It's really an easy school to go to. I like it so far.”

“But if you are not learning anything why would you like it?”

“Some of the girls are pretty and some of the guys are neat.”

“Everything at my school is the same.”

“Does Miss Alde ever mention me?”

“No. She moved your chair out that same day, so there isn't even an empty chair to remind us you were ever there. I miss you though. All the kids are sitting up real straight so they don't get kicked out too.” Jill pauses and adds, “My father wants me to see if you change by going to that school. He said the Megaville kids are rowdy, foul-mouthed, and disrespectful. He said if you change into acting like that he won't want me to talk to you anymore. You aren't going to change, are you Victor?”

“No. I will always be the nicest handsomest boy you know.”

Jill shows a little smile, but knows the old Victor would never have answered that way. Little did Jill know, Victor was learning a lot in Megaville. Victor was learning the ways of a big city.

-.-.-.-

One month later as Victor comes home from school to eat dinner alone, as he always does when he gets home at nine o'clock at night on a school day, Aby sees he is wearing a new leather coat. “What happened to your Navy jacket, Victor?”

“Sold it for fifty cents and bought this new one.”

“You bought that nice jacket for fifty cents?”

Victor laughs and says, “This coat costs twelve dollars, Momma.”

“Where did you get twelve dollars?”

“Gambling”

“Where did you get money to gamble with, Victor?”

“When I sold my coat for fifty cents.”

“If you lost you wouldn't have had a coat to wear.”

“I can't lose, Momma. We played Blackjack. I can keep track of the cards and I know what the odds are of winning. I win almost every time. Look. I even have twenty dollars more.”

“It's not legal to gamble, Victor. Do you know it is breaking the law?”

“The cops said it was okay.”

“The police seen you gambling?”

“I was gambling with them. This is their money I won, Momma. They said gambling with them wasn't illegal. They said it was only illegal if I gambled with the public .”

“I guess they would know. It's a good thing you don't have a lot of money to lose. It's never good to gamble, Victor. You could lose all your money or you could take all the money from someone else whose family may need that money. Even the police have families that could use that money you won.”

“I got my first report card today, Momma. Here it is.”

“All ‘A's! I'm proud of you Victor. You are really trying hard. You never got all ‘A's before.”

“I want to make you proud of me, Momma.”

Victor gets a hug. Aby puts the report card on the counter for everyone to see tomorrow morning and goes to bed.

The next day at school Victor is with his English teacher after the class he did not attend. “Here's the ten for the ‘A' Mr. Ellsworth”, says Victor.

“‘A's get more expensive as the year goes on, Victor. The last ‘A' is fifty.”

“I know, Mr. Ellsworth. I'll have it”

Victor comes into his Geography classroom after his Geography class is over and says, “Here's the five for the ‘A', Miss Gurney.”

“Thanks, Sweetie. You know what the next ones cost.”

“Yes ma'am.”

Victor walks into the Guidance Counselor's office and sits down. “I need two days to come up with the fifteen for perfect attendance, Mr. Herman.”

“Two days, Victor, or you will start being marked absent even if you are here”, says Mr. Herman.

Victor walks out of the school building at ten in the morning. A boy of about eight years old and four foot tall with a cigarette in his hand comes up to Victor just outside the school door and says, “Hey, you're the new guy. I'm Steevie. I run the fourth grade.”

Victor looks at Steevie and asks, “Got any money, Steevie?” Steevie shakes his head ‘no'. Victor pushes his little forehead back and walks down to the street wondering, “Where are those cops?”

Victor hears, “Looking for trouble young man”, and turns around to see the foot patrolman he played cards with just yesterday standing behind him smiling. He continues, “I told a couple detectives about you. They want to play you today. Got any money?”

“I got enough to get in a game”, says Victor trying to imply he had more than he really did.

A few minutes later a plain Ford pulls up with two men in suits. The passenger rolls down his window and asks the patrolman, “Is this our man?” After a quick nod from the patrolman and a thumb pointing to the back seat by the passenger the four were off to a backroom in a sleazy bar. Two hours later Victor was walking out of the bar alone. The detectives refused to ride him anyplace, saying, “You have enough money to take a cab”. Victor was three hundred and eighty dollars richer and walked back to school to finish paying for his ‘A's.

It was only one o'clock when Victor walked back out of school again. Steevie was still there and kicked Victor in the leg when he walked out. “Hey! What was that for, you little twerp?”

“For pushing me before. Did you think you could get away with it?”

“You know, Steevie, I could squash you like a little bug. If you did that to some of the other kids you would be dead right now.”

“All the other kids know how to respect a leader. They know I will run the school someday. If you want to show respect you will give me a dollar to say you are sorry.”

“I don't have a dollar”, says Victor taking out a wad of money. “Here is a five. Show me some respect, because the next time you kick me I will tear your little leg off, you booger sack.”

Steevie looks at the wad of money and asks, “Are you a gambler? My uncle knows a lot of big money gamblers. They gamble for hundreds and thousands. Wanna meet him?”

“Does he kick the winner like you would probably do”, asks Victor with a smile.

Steevie giggles as the two walk to the street and towards the worst part of Megaville.

“Hey Unk. Brought ya a fish with a wad”, hollers Steevie as he walks into a pool hall.

“School's out already, Steevie? I remember when we had to be in school for the full lunch hour”, and the three old men laugh.

“He's a gambler, Unk.”

“What's you're game, son? Horses, sports, dice? You name it and we'll take your money at it.”

“Cards, sir. Blackjack. The cops said gambling with the public is illegal.”

“Blackjack is for girls. We play Poker. Texas Hold'em Poker. We'll teach you with a couple practice rounds and then play for a hundred ante. Too steep for you? By the way, we're all old cops here. It's legal to gamble with us”, and all the old men laugh.

“A hundred seems okay for a start as long as you boys don't mind me raising now and then”, says Victor, trying to establish himself as a confident player.

Even before the first hand was played Victor sw that memorizing what cards were played would not help him in this game, as he only got to see a few. He did realize he could estimate the odds of him getting a winning hand over the opponents hand by knowing the probability of getting the cards he needed, the amount of money in the pot, how much it would cost him to check, fold, or raise, and how the opponent bet on the cards being shown by the dealer. First there was the three card “flop”, then the one card “turn”, and on the last one card called the “River”, which were all community cards displayed face up by the dealer. He could see those community cards, just not the two being held by each of the other players. And mostly, he learned it was not so important what cards you held as what cards you led others to believe you held. Victor lost the two practice hands and the first two real hands. He only had enough money left for one more hand.

Victor ran from the pool hall as fast as he could. It was five thirty and he had to meet Caleb at six for his ride home. He ran with one hand on each of his front pockets so none of the four thousand dollars stuffed in each one would slip out. Victor thought, “This was a good day at school”

The next day Victor brought fifteen hundred and eighty dollars to school, but had no reason to even enter the building. He met Steevie outside the front door. “Where's my commission, Victor?”

“Why? Didn't your uncle ‘Unk' pay you? You brought him the ‘fish with the wad'. He should pay you. You didn't help me win, Steevie. Why do I owe you anything? Would you have paid part of my loss if I lost? Tell you what I'll do. I'll give you a one-time one percent commission. Here's eighty dollars.”

“Wow. How much did you win?” asks Steevie taking the money with a smile.

Victor says, “I could have given you ten dollars and said it was a fifty percent commission, and you still wouldn't know how much I won, would you? Haven't you learned anything in school yet?”

“I just learned how to make more money in one day than my poppa makes all week. I think I'm learning pretty good. How can I earn some more?”

“Introduce me to some richer gambling cops.”

“Do they gotta be cops, Victor?”

“It's illegal to gamble if they are not cops, Steevie.”

“Gambling is illegal for everyone , Victor. It's ‘specially illegal if you're a cop , cuz then you should know better . Haven't you learned anything in school yet?”

“You mean I've been breaking the law?”

“You've been breaking a lot of laws, Victor. You skip school. You pay the teachers off. You gamble. You push little kids.”

“Pushing little kids out my way is my job as a big kid”, laughs Victor, then with a serious look asks, “How did you know I pay the teachers?”

“I run the fourth grade. The guys who run the second and third grade report to me. No one notices the second and third graders just like you didn't, but they are everywhere and they see everything. It all gets reported to me. Don't worry. Nobody cares here. Everybody keeps secrets, because everybody has secrets they want kept. Nobody wants trouble and looks the other way when there is trouble. Where did you grow up – in some fairy land?”

Victor laughs and pushes Steevie's little forehead again. “Hey! Don't do that. You may be able to beat me but you can't beat the sixty eight second graders I could sic on you. If you hurt any of them all the teachers and parents would beat you to a pulp.”

“And you would lose your money tree, Steevie.”

“You're right. Now you are learning why no one wants trouble. See how much you learned in school today, Victor ?”

 

Chapter 7

The Teenager

Becoming a teenage boy is very important to the new teenager. It is also significant to the parents as it appears to signal the start of many “Lectures” on what to do, what not to do, how to be careful, how to treat girls, how to prepare for your future, and an assortment of dire predictions of the future that lay before you if you fail to heed any of their warnings or fail to learn the lessons they are teaching at what they want you to believe is a great burden on them . Victor was entering the eighth grade and he was now thirteen.

Aby stands by the open door with a lunch bag in her hand. “You are always the last one to leave for school, Victor. You would think you would know by now that getting up when you are called would make your life easier. You better run fast. I don't want to hear from Miss Alde that you were late on the first day of school.”

“Bye Momma”, as Victor runs out the door, grabbing his lunch bag from his mother's hand as he leaps through the doorway she is holding open.

Aby stands by the doorway watching her son run down the driveway. She shakes her head and hollers, “You owe me two kisses tomorrow morning, Mister.”

-.-.-.-

The parents of the children at Alde Long's school always have a choice of sending their children to the public school in Megaville, if they prefer. This holds for the High School children also. All of the parents know their children are learning so much more in Alde's school than they ever would learn from being in the public school. They all ask Miss Alde to accept their children into her high school also, which she does, providing the student does not need special help she cannot provide.

Now, you would think there is no one she could not help, as she has taught both deaf and blind students, and even one who could not talk if you remember the plight of Victor's brother Enos. But there is one type of student she cannot help and does not accept … the trouble-maker. She will not waste her time nor the time of her students with those who will not learn or will not adhere to the basic principles of acceptable social behavior.

The High School that Miss Alde taught was in the next room to the Grammar School. The High School and Grammar School were kept separate for the same reason as they are kept separate in all schools: so the high school students don't corrupt the younger children with their increased hormonal activities. Those in high school were given reading lessons and assigned laboratory experiments, for the main teaching lesson of the Alde Long School of Technology Grammar School was that learning to learn on your own is the most important thing you can learn. Thus the high school required little of Miss Alde's time, thus allowing her to spend most of her time with the younger children.

This situation was just what Victor did not need in his life, because all of his brothers and sisters were now in High School or in Miss Alde's School After High School . He now rarely saw his brothers and sisters in school, which meant he had no one to see what he was doing in class to tell his parents. He was free from having his every actions, and antics relayed home. Worse yet, Victor was physically developing early. He already had to shave everyday and his voice had changed over the Summer. He seemed to be what Alde feared for her classroom … a ‘cut-up' that the younger children might look up to. She wanted to nip this trouble spot on the first day of school and forewarn Victor of her power to change his life for the worse if he acted up this year. She stands in front of the class and says, “Welcome back to my school, children. Learnin' is the most important thing you will all do in your young lives, and I hope to make that enjoyable for you. I just want to point out that I won't put up with anyone tryin' to destroy that wonderful chance to learn. Trouble-makers belong in the Public School”, and she turns to Victor with a firm look like she was warning him about misbehaving, adding, “Do you understand, Victor?”

Victor, sitting back in his seat with his long legs stretched into the aisle, smiles and says, “Yes, Miss Alde.”

“Remember that, Victor. You are doing well in Mathematics and Physics, but you must pass all the required subjects to graduate to High School, so you best study hard this year. You will not be allowed to repeat the eighth grade at this school. Remember that also. Now sit up like a gentleman.”

Victor says, “Yes, Miss Alde”, but only sits a little straighter, something Alde notices and realizes as a subtle act of defiance. She looks at Victor with a frown, points to him and quickly raises her finger upward, a gesture Victor understands and promptly sits completely straight up. Alde says, “You will have two choices this whole year, Victor. You will choose to sit straight as a gentleman would or you will be kicked out of my school forever. Remember this, Victor. I will not warn you again. You have these two choices that you alone will choose, “this”, as she points up, “or this”, as she points to the door with her other hand. “Are we ready to have a wonderful year of learning and letting the other children learn also, Victor?”

Victor promptly says, “Yes, Miss Alde”, but not said with the conviction that Alde had wished for. She turns to start the new year of teaching.

-.-.-.-

Victor walks home from the first day of school with Jab, now a Sophomore in High School, and Jill who is in the eighth grade also. Jab says, “My brother and sister said Miss Alde called you to the carpet, Victor. Don't mess up this year or you'll be kicked out. There's no school you can go to that's better than ours.”

“I don't think Miss Alde likes me.”

“She likes all of her students, Victor”, says Jill, “She's afraid your clowning around will disrupt the younger children who may imitate you.”

“Well, she can't kick me out. My parents give too much money to her school, and my brother Enos is her favorite student. She would be in trouble if she kicked me out.”

“It doesn't cost you anything to behave for this year, Victor”, says Jill

Victor smiles and says, “A tiger can't change its spots, Jill”

“Tigers have stripes, Victor”, corrects Jab, “You should have learned that in Kindergarten if you weren't goofing off. You know, if you end up in Megaville public school them city kids will probably beat you up every day. I hear they are not nice. They think we are dumb, and they call us hillbillies.”

“If they did then Miss Alde would feel bad about kicking me out.”

Jill looks sad. “She would feel real bad, Victor, but she would not change her mind about letting you come back. You would would be doing it to yourself. That's why she would feel bad … because you didn't listen and bad things might happen to you for not listening. It would not be her fault, but she would feel bad that you were so stupid and that she could not teach you.”

“Miss Alde would be in worse trouble if she kicked me out. That's all I'll say.”

“Don't make a big mistake, Victor”, warns Jab.

“Please don't, Victor”, agrees Jill.

But the next day, feeling sure Miss Alde would not face the problems that would befall her for kicking him out of school, Victor took the defiant stand and slouched in his seat almost to the point of sliding onto the floor. Alde pointed to him and quickly raised her finger as she had done the previous day. Victor sat up slightly and slid down to his previous position. Miss Alde walks to the class room door and says, “Victor. May I speak to you outside for a minute?”

Miss Alde walks outside the front door and Victor follows her. “It is a nice day out here today, Victor. Enjoy it. Enjoy a couple like this before you have to go to the public school, as you won't be allowed back into this school. I know you tried to test me. Now you know how that turned out. I will have your things sent home with your sister Felice. I'm sorry I cannot teach you, but you did not let me. Good bye”, and Miss Alde closes and locks the front door, leaving Victor with the answer to the outcome of his test to see if she would really kick him out. He realizes he may have made a mistake, but is sure his parents will not put up with his being kicked out.

That evening after dinner Zeke and Aby sit with Victor and listen to his version of the story. “All I was doing was trying to be comfortable, Momma. She kicked me out just for trying to be comfortable. I hope you holler at her for being unreasonable.”

Zeke, looking depressed, says, “I knowed Miss Alde all my life, Victor. Ain't never seen her be unreasonable. Besides, sittin' like you says ya was ain't as comfortable as sittin' upright as she required. I think maybe you tried her patience an' lost. You should'a knowed she is a strong woman after seven years. It's like ya did'n learn nuttin.”

Aby says, “You have to go to school until you are sixteen and the public school is all that you have now. I hope you like your new classmates, Victor. You will find they are very different than you are used to. We cannot drive you to and from Megaville every day. You will have to ride with Cousin Buddy when he takes vegetables to the market. You can ride home with Caleb when he comes home after work in Uncle Bill's factory.”

Victor exclaims, “But Buddy leaves at four in the morning and Caleb doesn't leave to come home until six at night! I would only have time here to sleep!”

Zeke looks at Aby and then at Victor. “Sounds ‘bout right, son. Gonna be a whole new kind'a life fer ya. Goin' to bed early and gittin up early, jest like I does.”

Victor's voice raises, “Aren't you going to holler at Miss Alde for kicking me out?”

Aby says, “No Victor. We are going to apologize to Miss Alde for having to kick you out. Your Poppa will drive you to Megaville tomorrow to sign you up at your new school and will leave you there. He will ask Caleb to ride you home. You know where Uncle Bill's plant is. It's only one mile from school, so you have plenty of time to walk there before Caleb leaves.”

Victor hollers, “That's it? You are just going to let her kick me out?”

Aby looks at Victor with a definite frown and says, “ You let her kick you out, Mister. Only you . We are adjusting our lives to accommodate your arrogance. Don't make this worse than it is. You need all the friends you can get right now.”

Zeke, always trying to look on the bright side, says, “You'll find you is way ahead of yer new friends in Math and Physics, Victor. Problem is you won't git no further in them subjects, as you now know all what them kids will be taught even through High School.”

Aby, trying to not get angrier, says, “You didn't want to learn. Well, now you won't have to. Let's hope you still don't want to when you get older, because you will find out you can't . No one knows the hard stuff in that public school to teach you anything more in those two subjects. There is one thing you will learn quickly, though. You will learn that the teacher will hit you if you try any funny business in that school. You won't find any polite Miss Aldes in that school who care about your future. Those teachers are only there to get a paycheck and will smack you down if you make their life uncomfortable. And you know what , Victor? Your classmates will be worse . Remember those thugs that hang around the corner one street over from Uncle Bill's factory? Those will be your new classmates . Nice classmates aren't they?” and Aby cannot help but to start crying.

Victor went to his room still not believing his parents would not holler at Miss Alde for kicking him out. “How bad could the new school be?” he thought. “They are kids just like me.”

-.-.-.-

“We don't get many children from out your way, Mr. Marsilvia. Most go to a little old lady's school that I heard was pretty good”, says the Principal of Megaville's McMullen Street Grammar School .

“Victor here went to her school for the first seven grades, sir, but they had a fallin' out”, says Zeke.

“Is he a trouble maker?”

“I think only that once, sir.”

“I guess it doesn't matter if he is or not. God only knows how many we have here. If he is, he will probably just fit in. Sign here, Mr. Marsilvia and I will set him up with his new class schedule. You know, I met two of the people that graduated from that lady's school. They work for Bill McMullen. Maybe you know Bill. He's a right nice fellow. Well anyway, those two are the smartest guys in science I ever met. Real polite too. I sure wish we could turn out students like them. Munch and Caleb are their names. Well, we do the best we can with what we are served. Can't make Einsteins outta meatloaf I always say. I will put you on our mailing list of school activities that you are welcome to come to, like Parent-Teachers Night and the such. I'll tell you now that we don't get much of a parent turn-out. I guess the meatloaf doesn't fall far from the meatloaf tree, does it Mr. Marsilvia?” and the Principal laughs at his own little joke.

Zeke felt bad leaving Victor at that school. It wasn't even clean. As he walked out he saw children as young as eight years old smoking cigarettes just outside the school door when they probably should have been in class. Even the children weren't clean.

 

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.

 

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Woodpile Report - Stories from outten the hills

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