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Roger dashed from station to station, barking orders at his high-ranking officers.
“Increase the thrusters to full power!”
“Man the battle station!”
“Prepare to make the jump into hyper-space!”
His frantic pace left him breathless but there was no time to rest. The fate of the world rested in his hands.
“Teddy!” He hollered to his copilot of the Starship, “I need to take the helm, I have to board a fighter… our troops are far to inadequate to face this vicious alien race without me.”
With that, the captain firmly placed his helm over his head, and zipped up his suit all the way to his throat, and with no fear at all hopped into the cockpit of his self-designed “fighter-ship 5000.” And was off at the speed of light.
“Take that you alien scum!” He shouted nimbly dodging their missiles, and firing his own in response. The speed of the Grungos (the alien race trying to destroy the earth) was blindingly fast, but it was no match for Roger’s ship. Sadly all of his companions had been shot down in the nobility of battle, and it was up to the skill of the captain to defend his home planet against the thousands of alien fighters. Gripping the controls in his hands even more firmly than what he was, he felt the rage burning behind his eyes. Confident that his alien enemies didn’t stand a chance he furrowed his brow and stared down the oncoming army.
“Let’s do this!” Roger yelped pushing the thrusters forward to evade the lasers that began rifling towards him.
No… it can’t be!
“ROGER! TIME FOR DINNER!”
It was in fact the arrival of the only opponent Roger had never defeated: His mother. She had stormed into his room to inform him that his “ritualistic nutrient replenishment” had arrived. Honey, why is the fish bowl on your head? And why are you wearing your wet suit… my little astronaut.”
“Mom! I’m saving the universe from certain destruction from the Grungos!”
“Can you just put it on pause until after you eat sweetheart? Heroes have to eat to or they won’t be big and strong enough to beat up the bad guys! Especially 6 year old starship captains.”
Jill knew her son well. She knew that all it took to get his agreement was to make him think he was either saving the world by eating, or giving himself a better chance to defeat all the alien races he created in his mind. And once again, it worked…
“Ok mom! Give me one minute and I’ll be there in a nanosecond.”
“Alright sweetheart, and you know the rules, no fish bowls at the table.”
As Roger easily slipped back into his science fiction fantasy, the sights of the flashing lights of the Grungo ships, the feel of the cold steel of his fighter plane, the smell and taste of his sweat were all flooding back to him. He hurriedly flipped some switches and shouted:
“Super impenetrable force-field shields ACTIVATE!”
Followed soon after by a sly grin and, “You silly Grungos didn’t you know that I have a flux capacitor that can STOP TIME!”
The ships were frozen in place after Roger punched the red button. Shielded by the bulletproof glass casing that only he had the key to. Now he had to go strengthen himself for the battle that lay ahead.
Popping off the fish bowl, Roger sprinted to the dinner table downstairs, with his copilot, Teddy (bear) hanging on for dear life in the sweaty palm of his captain. It was taco night, the best thing a protector of the universe could possibly eat. After setting Teddy next to him, Roger firmly planted himself in his cockpit seat at the table, and awaited his mother to serve him his beloved meal.
“How’s the universe today son?” Frank, Roger’s father asked with a serious point of interest.
“It’s doing ok. The universe is pretty much suspended within the tensions of angry alien races and inferior technology of a human race that is lagging behind the rest of the solar system.”
“I see,” came Frank’s solemn reply, “And that is why you see it as your duty to hurry up our technology to help out the rest of our respectable race?”
“Precisely!” Roger responded, with unbridled excitement at the appearance of his beaming mother with a plate full of her famous tacos, equipped, of course with Frank’s Red Hot Sauce.
And it just so happened; that Roger did believe it was his duty to push forward the technology of the age. If you really pressed Roger, you would find that he was no simpleton. He knew that the explorations and fantasies of his imagination were not real… to him. But he clung to a hope that there were adventures he would one-day experience. In fact, he had been building a rocket ship in his back yard for the past six months, determined to go beyond the limitations of adventure that the world pressed upon him.
“VROOM! Pow Pow Pow! NOOOO!” Roger was moving his tacos around shaking them at each other pretending the lettuce leaves were missiles.
“Roger no spaceships at the t…”
“Look out boy the Grungos are coming at you on your 9!” Frank always had a way of getting lost in his son’s imagination. He had currently packed his taco so full of lettuce that his son’s tacos had no hope of escaping the chaotic shower of green that was happily lapped up by the dog once it fell to the floor.
“I just nailed you with about 7 missiles!” Came Frank’s enthusiastic claim.
“Yeah, well I just installed impenetrable walls all around my ship!”
“But my missiles are impenetrable wall, penetrating missiles!”
“Ah! Smart choice, but it was I who invented the impenetrable wall, penetrating missile technology, and because I did, I can make the missiles turn around and fly back at you at the speed of light once they touch my walls.”
“Boys, save the world later, eat now! Your tacos are getting cold.”
Wanting to see his son’s excitement stir, Frank pressed Roger on his favorite topic.
“Well we have to get that rocket ship going son!” Frank’s bubbling enthusiasm was slightly forced, he wanted to encourage his son in his dreams, but was also concerned at the heartbreak that would come from the failure of launch day… brimming on the horizon.
“Launch day is in a month, 4 days, one hour, 7 minutes, and… 30 seconds.” Roger had bought a Star Trek watch, and continually checked it to count down the arrival of the day he had been eagerly anticipating.
“Can I try to bring you any more things from work? There is a lot of interesting things lying around up at school you know.”
“O ya! If you see any more of those PVC pipes you had lying around, those would be great. Or if there is anyway you could find a little couch for the cockpit that would be awesome. And I still need a copilot… one who can fit in the piloting chamber.”
“We can put an ad in the newspaper.”
“Too risky, with an opportunity like this, we’ll have weirdoes coming out of the woodwork.”
“Good call, this is a special position that has to be filled by someone you trust.”
“I’ll find the right person, I have to! The universe depends on it!”
“Boy’s, let’s pray, your tacos are getting cold, and Roger can’t defend the universe or build a rocket ship on an empty stomach.
After dinner it was family time in the living room, where the 3 of them sat together and played nertz, Roger’s favorite card game. Roger, however, never one, because he always fixated his eyes outside on his rocket ship. He made it from a collage of junk that his father would bring home from work everyday. Frank was a janitor at the local high school, and was the recipient of tons of busted appliances, machines, and mysterious junk that no one wanted anymore. And the rocket showed it. The body was an assorted mesh of washing machines, dryers, toasters, and more. No one would have suspected it was actually the project of a small boy that held his hope in life for adventure.
“What is that?” Jill saw something on the side of her son’s ship that hadn’t been there the day before?” It was covered by the swaying branches of the windy evening. Startled, Roger rushed to the window to discover what it was that his mother had seen.
“No!” He shouted.
In one motion Roger exploded out of the front door and to the side of his prized possession. In big block letters that had been spray painted on, he read aloud:
“The S.S. Geekface.” It was Alex Scales again… He was the bully of the elementary school. A fifth grader that had nothing better to do but destroy the things that kindergarteners love most. He forced the entire school to call him Alexander the Great, but in retaliation Roger always called him “Alexander, lots of weight,” as most bullies tend to be. This of course resulted in lots of blows to the stomach, relentless bullying, and a lot of stolen lunch money that Roger was too proud to tell anyone about. A hero isn’t supposed to be picked on.
Roger was choking back tears, and before he could even let a sound out, his father was already spray-painting over the writing in black.
“Don’t you worry about the Scales boy, son. He’s just jealous.”
“That’s right sweetie, he just doesn’t have dreams like you do.” Mother chimed in.
“But it’s not just him!” Roger’s voice quivered at the searing pain. Everyone calls me a nerd, or a geek!” I don’t even have friends, not even one who will be my copilot!”
Roger’s parents, understanding the pain of their son took him by the hand and sat him down inside. His frustration and pain were brewing inside him, multiplied by the fact that he had no companion to carry the burden with him.
“Roger listen to me,” Frank began. “You are a blessed kid. You have dreams that no other child your age has. But the bad part about that is, dreamers always seem crazy… until they live their dream. You are going to make it into space someday I know it. You can make that thing fly, and don’t let anyone tell you different.”
His son’s sniffles were the only response to his words, despite Roger’s intense lock on his eyes.
“Do you remember the Wright Brothers, son?”
“Of course, they’re the guys who invented the airplane right?”
“Right! Roger… Everybody thought that they were absolutely crazy; no one thought they could do it. But what happened to them… they became 2 of the most famous people in the world because they kept following their dream. Just like you will. If you follow your dreams, they’ll never steer you wrong. One of the Wright Brothers, Wilbur, said once that he was afflicted with belief that human flight was possible. Just like you think you can get the rocket in the air.”
“What does afflicted mean?”
“ It means that you want it so bad it hurts…”
“That is how I feel.”
“Sometimes, God gives us pain like that, so we can work up the courage to live our dreams. I think that is exactly what he is doing for you…
With that, Roger gave his dad a tight hug around the neck, and his mother a rushed kiss on the cheek and scampered off to his room to get ready for bed.
“Afflicted with belief huh?” Jill’s sarcastic tone stung Frank a little bit, but she slipped her delicate hand into his rough work-warn palms, and assured him she was only teasing.
“Maybe that was the wrong thing to do. What do you think babe?”
“I think it is better to pursue a dream and fail than not have one at all.”
It was Saturday! Roger went through his typical weekend routine: Lucky Charms, cartoons, and Legos before he put on his hero attire that the neighborhood had grown so familiar with: His goggles that his father used to ski with back in college, his wet suit used only once while on a snorkeling trip in Florida, and of course the old blanket tied tightly around his neck to make a perfect cape. This was the only thing that could be worn while building the world’s soon-to-be fastest star ship.
Roger stepped into the front yard, closed in only by the knee high wooden fence and looked at the new words splattered across his rocket in bright yellow letters: “Afflicted with Belief.”
“Dad must have done it.” Roger thought to himself.
“What does afflicted mean?” It was Lucy, the girl next door. Her furrowed brow disturbed her soft blue eyes, and her thick blond curls that swayed across her forehead.
“It means I want this thing to fly so bad it hurts!” Came Roger’s quick retort.
“I saw what Alex did yesterday, I like the new words better.”
“So what is it?”
“Whatcha building one of those for?”
“The Galaxy needs more security.”
“I think my uncle already has one, you want me to ask him.”
“I seriously doubt that.”
“How come? Maybe I work for NASO.”
“See you don’t even know what I’m talking about. Maybe you should be asking me questions about rocket ships.”
“Ok. Call your uncle.”
“Do you have a cell phone?”
“Not on my person.”
“No that is a saying that means: not on me.”
“Why don’t you just say not on me?”
“It sounds more sophisticated.”
“You’re in kindergarten.”
Just then, Roger heard a laughter that was unmistakable… Alex Scales.
“That’s him!” Lucy squeaked, and started to take off down the street in the other direction. “Aren’t you going to run away too, he’ll grind you into baby powder Roger!”
“Maybe I like baby powder…” Roger wanted to sound tough in front of Lucy Violet; she was the prettiest girl in all of kindergarten. And he was bound and determined to start being her friend as soon as she lost her cooties, which was probably somewhere around 4th grade, depending on her genes. Roger stood his ground, sweating and shaking beside his pride and glory, the rocket, while certain destruction lumbered closer and closer.
“Hey geekface!” Alex shouted, his mouth was stained with some sort of tomato sauce, and his tiny shirt showed that he enjoyed his meal more than the average kid, and had done it too much, too often; the small sleeveless shirt showed his gut lapping over his ridiculously baggy pants.
“Why’d you paint over my masterpiece dorkwad? It looked better than that ever will!” With Roger’s eyes frozen on Alex’s eyes, over a foot above him, he cowered at a harsh step taken in his direction used only to test his nerves.
“What a wimp. I eat crap like you for breakfast.”
“You eat crap?”
“Watch your mouth you little worm? Or I’ll pound you into creamed corn!”
“A: you don’t need any more pounds. And B: you certainly don’t need any more food.”
With the last line of stupidity or bravery, Roger took a closed greasy fist right in the eye. Smashing the goggles and cracking the skin of Alex’s knuckles, the villain hunched over by poor Roger, huddled in the fetal position next to his rocket, and snagged his goggles and angrily stepped on them.
“Don’t get smart with me you little kiddy-Gartner. I’ll punch you in the face so hard you’ll be able to smell sound.”
“Smelling you is bad enough.” It was dumb, he knew it… but he thought he would go out like a hero. Defeated by an enemy that he fought all the way. But before Alex could slam his 11 year old size 9 foot in Roger’s already swollen face, Lucy was back, giving Alex the world’s most vicious purple nurple! She twisted his nipples until she couldn’t twist anymore.
“I can’t!” Alex was completely paralyzed. Even he knew that he couldn’t directly hit a girl. But he would sure make her life a living hell after this.”
“OOOOOWWWWWWEEEEEEEE! OWE OWE OWE OWE OWE! LEMME GO!”
“Only if you whistle!”
“Alex desperately exhaled as much wind as his frantic lungs could get out, but not even a hint of a whistle could be heard.”
“Come on tough guy! Not so big and strong when your purple is getting nurpled are you? Name 5 cereals if you can’t whistle!”
The tears were coming, but Alex saw a mode of escape, trying to calm down he spat out the cereals he could think of in between his groaning and wails.
“Cheerios… Honey nut Cheeri…”
“Not a chance!”
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaand… Count Chocula!”
With that Lucy, ripped her hands from the boy’s now swollen nipples and rushed to the side of Roger.
“You dumb girl, how is that going to stop me from killing your boyfriend in frozen blood?”
“It’s cold blood! And if you touch him, the whole school will know that the smallest girl in kindergarten made you cry!”
Alex stared Lucy down hard. Took a glance over at Roger, He was still on the ground with his mouth open, amazed that he was rescued by the cute girl next door. Scales walked over to the rocket and knocked down a supporting beam, causing one of the dryers/wings to collapse.
“That’s your face Roger! And watch your back chick!”
In unison, Lucy and Roger stuck their tongue out at Alex strutted away. Afterward the two walked over to the rocket to see what needed to be done in order to salvage the wreckage. It was certainly going to take a lot of repairs. And on top of that Roger and a swelling eye, and busted hero goggles to worry about. He wasn’t really sure how to thank Lucy; she had saved him from certain death. All he could do was look at the dirt and paw at it with his rubber boots that he had his jeans tucked into. (This was also signature attire for heroes) Still in silence, Lucy quietly ran away, leaving Roger alone again, something he had grown accustomed to but also hated, like vegetables: mom will make you eat them, so you have to, and you might as well just get over it.
Frustrated at his set backs, he started to rebuild the parts that had fallen. It would be close to impossible to do it alone. There were no friends to help, and dad wouldn’t be home until 6:00. With all his strength, Roger was violently shoving the misshapen dryer back into place, but still didn’t have the might to get it where it needed to be… his eye was killing him, and the little league baseball team was just getting done with practice across the street. That meant more ridicule… Here they come.
“Yeah! What happened? Montgomery Wards throw up in your front yard?”
“The idiot actually thinks he’ll get the thing to fly!”
“Give it up Roger, I can jump higher than that thing will ever go.”
The blood rushed to Roger’s face. He was in too much pain to argue back, to frustrated to explain the physics of the ship… It just wasn’t worth it. So he let them go… As always they threw rocks at the ship, leaving dents all over it every week, and left their Gatorade bottles in the yard. It was almost more than Roger could take. He plopped on the ground and started rubbing his puffy eye, thinking what he could tell mom and dad this time, so he would still seem like a tough hero.
“I wish I had copilot to be my friend.” He whispered choking back the tears he thought he had so successfully repressed.”
Just then he felt a cold lumpy substance cover his eye. It scared him half to death, so he snapped up like a war veteran from a bad dream. It was a bag of frozen peas. Lucy and come back and tenderly laid it across his swollen face. Before Roger could say a word, Lucy reached deep into her “Hello Kitty” backpack and pulled out a pair of ski goggles and gingerly fastened them around Roger’s head in order not to hurt him.
“My dad doesn’t go skiing anymore, and I don’t like peas. Hopefully mom won’t notice.” Lucy then calmly walked over to the misplaced dryer/wing, pulled out a hammer and started banging away at it, obviously thinking she was helping.
Roger chuckled to himself at the uselessness of her banging, but was determined not to hurt the feelings of the only friend he had. Lucy was working up a sweat and turned back to look at Roger.
“Roger, come on! I want this thing to fly so bad it hurts!”
It was official; Lucy was the first person that had ever been allowed into Roger’s rocket. They sat on the floor of the cockpit (lacking the couch he had been searching for, for months) and Roger kept glancing around the windows of the rocket as if he was being followed.
“Lucy, what I am about to show you, I have never shown to another soul, not even mom and dad. If Alex Scales got a hold of this, or the baseball team, my life would be over, as we know it. You can’t tell a single soul, not even your best friend, or even any of your teddy bears, they can’t be trusted.”
“Pinky promise?” Roger questioned, thrusting his pinky towards Lucy.
“Pinky promise, cross my heart, hope to die, stick a Lego in my thigh.” It was a done deal now; she had made the Lego promise.
Roger scampered over to the far wall of the rocket, and lifted what once was a dishwashing machine door, inside was a piece of blue paper about 2 feet wide that was tightly rolled together and held firmly by a thick rubber band. Roger gently rolled the stubborn rubber band off and unrolled his precious scroll.
“Blueprints! For the rocket!” Lucy was bubbling with excitement.
“That’s right, these are my plans to get into space.”
“I’m in! Can I go with you?”
“Whoa, that is a big question, we’ll have to see.”
“Come on! I can be your copilot, who else is going to do it? Alex Scales?”
“I’m accepting applications if you’re that interested.”
“Well let’s just keep building this thing and we’ll see what happens.”
And so it came to pass that Roger had made his first real friend. Lucy was a companion unlike any other, she was always sweet to Roger, and did nice things for him. She loved to make him chocolate cake with the chocolate chips just barely melted so they were still chewy (Roger’s favorite), write him notes that told him how smart he was and how his rocket would fly, even though the baseball team, and Alex Scales told him it wouldn’t, and sometimes for breakfast, she even made him cinnamon-pinch-me-cake. It was really awful that she still had a terrible case of the cooties. She was a perfect addition to the construction of the rocket, because Roger would always dream up extravagant things like having an “Impenetrable force field,” or “heat seeking missiles,” and even “cold seeking missiles” (Just incase there was ever cold blooded aliens that attacked of course), and Lucy would be the one that would bring him back down to earth in a sense, and tell him that they should just try and get the thing in the air first. Behind every good man, is a woman telling him what to do. It doesn’t mean that man is stupid, it just proves that it isn’t good for him to be alone.
One Saturday morning, about a month to go until blast off, Lucy and Roger were hard at work on what Roger called the thrusters. They were ultimately fire extinguishers that had been rigged for some unknown purpose, hidden deep within the blueprints, and the mind of Roger and Lucy. While they were pounding away, Roger heard a TINK TINK TINK, on the opposite side of the ship. Slightly startled he wheeled his way around and found that it was Alex Scales, and the entire baseball team throwing rocks at the ship.
“Hey four eyes! You better get running if you know what’s good for you!”
“What do you mean by that Scales?”
“It means I’m sick of seeing this stupid hunk of garbage in front of your house, we’re going to destroy it!”
“No way that’s happening.”
“Look here, Roger, if you don’t get out of my way, I’m going to break that new pair of goggles you have, hang you by your stupid cape, and then throw your little girlfriend in your wet suit.”
Before Roger even knew what was happening, he heard Lucy yelling, she had been grabbed up by Big Bertha: The largest 4th grade girl any human had ever seen, she was the center for the pee wee football team, and a darn good one. It had to have been Scales’ way of justifying laying hands on a girl. By getting the closest thing he good find to a girl in his squad of cronies. Bertha’s man hands were tight around Lucy’s wrist, and her baked bean teeth mouth smiled wildly at Roger’s panic stricken face. Whenever the rest of the team would make fun of her dental hygiene she would always say, “They’re my baby teeth, and I’m going to lose them anyway, so rot on!”
Roger didn’t know whom he was more furious with, Alex for threatening his precious project or, Bertha for apprehending his only friend. Bertha won. Roger was sprinting at her full force, abandoning every teaching his father ever gave him about not hitting girls. He clinched his fist as tight as it could be clinched, reached back, and socked Big Bertha in her big belly as hard as he could. It felt like smacking a bowl of pudding, and she didn’t even flinch despite all of his efforts. Now he knew he was in for it.
Scales snapped his fingers, and the two outside linebackers had Roger pinned to the ground, their knees driving deeply into his back, pulling his hair hard enough to force him to look at the destruction that was beginning to unfold. Scales had whipped out an aluminum baseball bat and began to wreak havoc all over the appliances that constructed Roger’s work of art. Pieces of glass, steel, plastic, and rubber were going everywhere. Shreds of machinery that took months and months to get just right were falling apart before his very eyes, but then the worst thing of all happened. Amidst the laughter of the football team, and the vicious blows of Scales, he finally shattered a dishwashing machine door, and a tightly rolled sheet of blue paper rocketed out of its hole. The frantic chuckles of Scales stopped momentarily as he shot his oily, meaty, hands in the air and snatched the blueprints.
“What the heck is this?”
Roger eagerly waited in anticipation while he hoped that Scales would assume it was nothing and discard the newly discovered sheet.
“Plans for your failure of a ship, are they not?” Alex triumphantly marched over to where Roger was being held captive, and unrolled the paper again right in front of him.
“I suppose these have some value to you Ro-jerk. And for that reason I won’t absolutely torture you. I’ll just make sure I destroy these quickly so you won’t suffer. Butts!” Butts was one of Scales cronies that hobbled over to his boss and instinctively handed him his BIC lighter that he had stolen from his chain-smoking father. (Of course at this age, if you can get your hands on a lighter you are automatically accepted into the mischievous troublemaking crowd. Little did Butts know this was his only value to his friends) Scales quickly set the map ablaze by dangling the corners just over the dancing flame of the cheap lighter.
“NO!” Roger squealed. The rocket was in shambles, and his plans were completely gone. Scales’ victory had finally been achieved. With a snap of his fingers Lucy was released to rush to the side of Roger, and our hero crumbled into the fetal position fighting the agony of heartbreak. It was over… all over.
It had been days since Lucy had seen Roger, the destruction of the rocket turned him into a recluse that barely came out of his room, only for bathroom breaks from space invaders, and the hot soup his mother would make him. He was a boy with dead dream, and when dreams are dead, hope dies with it. Lucy knew that she had to somehow restore the hope of her dearest friend. So she sat down one rainy Saturday afternoon with a brand new box of fresh crayola crayons and got to work. It wasn’t long before she had restored the blue prints as best she could. She knew what to do too…
By the end of the day, Lucy had knocked on every door in the neighborhood explaining the situation with Roger, or more commonly known as the boy that wears the goggles and the cape. The story pulled at the hearts of everyone that heard, and there was a massive effort to reconstruct the rocket that Roger had built based on the blueprints that Lucy had made.
“Wait you mean that kid that’s always runnin’ around the street making laser gun sounds? He’s as funny as all get out! Take my old dishwasher,” came the laughter of Mr. Goodman.
“That crazy boy, he’s a French fry short of a happy meal, but sure is a good kid.” Came the response of Old Man Davis that lived in the creepy mansion at the end of the street. “You can have my fire extinguishers if you need’em”
Lucy was amazed at all of the responses that she received from neighbor after neighbor. After her tour was done, her dad helped her load all of the equipment in a shopping car that she insisted on calling a “buggy.” and they mercilessly dumped all of it into Roger’s yard. The deafening noise of all the junk smashing into the yard startled Roger and he leapt to his window to peak through the drawn blinds.
There was Lucy, as clueless as ever when it came to building: Banging a hammer against the side of a dryer, only denting it. Roger chuckled to himself then dashed outside to see what was going on.
“Lucy where did all this stuff come from?”
“The neighbors, they gave it to me, and I am going to build your ship again whether you like it or not!”
“But there is no way Lucy, months of my work crumbled in front of us, I’m not even sure I remember how to build the ship like it was.”
“Can’t never could until he tried!”
Roger glanced over at Lucy who was pleading with him through her icy stair.
“Roger, let’s do this, I’ll help you build it. “I’m afflicted with belief that we can get this thing in the air!”
A new wave of excitement flooded over Roger, his hope had returned and he had determined that he indeed would help Lucy restore the emblem of his dreams, whether it would fly or not, he would certainly do his best to attach the wings to his dreams.
Rumor spread of the triumphant return of Roger’s rocket and the whole town wanted to play a part. It wasn’t rare at all for Roger to be working while dozens of people watched him hammer away at his masterpiece. Even his attire became a popular style for the rest of the parents and children in the neighborhood. Kids went to school with blankets tied around their neck, at the dinner table children were feasting in their tight wet suits, and even parents were excited to let their little ones wear a goggles. Roger had captivated the imagination of an entire neighborhood… Things were going really well for once, and the countdown to the big day was approaching.
It was the last day of school, and the launch day as well. Roger could not have been more excited about the events that were going to take place later that day. As usual, as it had been for the last couple of weeks, small children and even a few older, were following Roger and Lucy around like they were their shadows, asking questions and for autographs, neglecting to respect their teachers or principle as he past by.
“Why is everyone so concerned about Roger?” Principle Prickly asked.
“He’s going to fly a rocket out of the galaxy!” Came an excited reply.
The celebrity of the two children, all excepting Alex Scales, and the baseball team, captivated everyone. They saw Roger and Lucy laughing loudly in the cafeteria with tons of smaller kindergarteners and first graders around them, laughing even louder trying to catch his attention.
Alex noticed they were doing the typical cries for attention that kids those age usually do:
- Shooting peas out of their nose.
- Shooting milk out of their nose.
- Eating Ice Cream after it had fallen to the floor.
- Shooting corn out of their nose.
- Shaking sodas and letting a clueless stranger open it.
- Mixing crazy things in their chocolate milk.
- Shooting spit wads. And of course…
- Shitting spit wads out of their nose.
Alex couldn’t handle it anymore. These were the same kids that he was terrorizing for months that had grown to fear him, and give up their lunch money as a result. With a meaty palm he started throwing small children over tables as they yelped in horror being thrown off their feet.
“Roger! You and your little girlfriend have done it now! I’m gonna’.”
“Cream you like corn? Ya ya I know…” Roger’s arrogance was flaming in response to his fan club that eagerly camped around him. Lucy nervously nudged him to make sure he didn’t go too far she always did. “Get some new lines Scales.”
“Are you really going to punch me in front of the principle?” Prickly, not paying attention at all was huddled in the corner speaking with a student that had that had messed with the TV’s in the cafeteria with his universal remote. Roger was determined to get another shot it, “You’ll be suspended so long you’ll forget the alphabet… wait, maybe that wouldn’t be long at all.”
Lucy fiercely gripped his wrist.
“Maybe I can’t touch you Roger,” Scale’s face was red hot with anger. “But I can trash your rocket one more time before the big launch that would fail anyway.”
With a snap of his fingers the baseball team sprinted out of the cafeteria and mounted their bikes and took off towards Roger’s home. Scales stayed behind and cackled evilly. His wink at Roger let him know that if Roger tried to chase after him, Scales would destroy him.
Roger started sweating profusely, his hands were clammy cold, but he had to do something. He took one step forward… the deafening silence was accompanied only by the crackling of Scales’ knuckles.
Surely he won’t hit me in front of the staff. Thought Roger… He was wrong.
“PAGING PRINCIPAL PRICKY, PAGING PRINCIPAL PRICKLY.” The P.A. system was like the bell tolling; ushering in the death of Roger. Without even a second thought the only adult on the room: principal Prickly left Roger with no defenses except the little kindergarteners that could only bite the ankles of the giant before them.
With one swift move Scales shouldered Roger into the ground with a deep thud. Roger scampered to his feet and threw his fist up ready to defend himself… however, it was to no avail, in flurry of movement, Scales had landed a combination punch that left Roger startled on the ground, he struggled back to his feet and once again faced the goliath before him.
“You’re done Roger! I’ve had enough of your games. You’ll have some beautiful new bruises to go with your busted rocket!” Scales tightly gripped Roger by the collar and reared back to land one last explosive blow to Roger’s head. Until…
“Hey FATWACK!” It was Lucy with a handful of lasagna leftovers. With here eyebrows furrowed in a tight “V,” she launched her messy handful of mediocre cafeteria food and shouted the most dangerous word in elementary school language as the clump of food splattered in Alex’s eyes.
Chaos. Absolute chaos. Except it wasn’t even a fight. It was a slaughtering. Tons of kindergarteners, first graders, second graders, third graders, anyone who had ever been bullied by Alex Scales was joyously grabbing fistfuls of slop and hurtling right into the face of the world’s meanest boy.
The enormous boy could barely be seen through the pounds of mashed potatoes, handfuls of lasagna, and gallons of chocolate milk.
Alex Scales had got his.
“You probably just saved by life Lucy.”
“I’m going to hug you now.”
The two smiled fiercely at each other as Roger gave her a tight hug.
“You owe me two now.”
“Holy Cow! The rocket! Lucy we have to make sure the baseball team doesn’t destroy it, or all of our work will have been useless.”
“Already on it! My mom is in the parking lot ready to drive us to your house!” The whole cafeteria was listening now, and a thunderous response erupted from the kids, they were ready for flight day, and to see if this rocket would get off the ground. The frantic race to the car was complemented with laughter from Roger despite the weight of the situation. He had just seen the downfall of his archrival, and was going to get launched into space… hopefully…
Lucy’s mom, Rita was the world’s sweetest woman. Roger loved coming over all the time while they were building the rocket because she always made the best food! She had world famous chicken spaghetti, lemon chicken, and at Christmas time always had fresh treats for her whole family. Her happiness was the happiness of those around her, and it made her one of the best kinds of people to be around. But her typical cheerful demeanor was distorted by the urgency of the moment. She floored the gas and sent her white Acura hurtling towards Roger’s. They dashed in between cars, and wove in and out of other slow drivers, desperately trying to make it in time. Roger could almost hear the collapsing of his prized possession. There were even a couple of times that Rita couldn’t wait in the traffic so she just drove over the grass to get to the access road. It was going to be a close one for sure.
When Rita finally entered Roger’s neighborhood, she was driving absolutely reckless. In fact a woman was pulling out of her driveway that forced Rita to slam on the breaks! When she did, her anger drove her to honk her horn, and because she was too nice to give anyone a gesture involving a certain finger, she scrunched up her face and jerked her thumb to the side, looking like a confused umpire… she was obviously not a seasoned veteran in criticizing others.
As they peered around the corner, Roger knew it was too late.
He saw tons of bicycles thrown down right in front of his house… he didn’t even want to look and see the rocket, there was no point. It had to be in shambles. Roger lowered his head in defeat… it was over.
“Roger look!” Came Lucy’s sweet comforting voice. With tears in is eyes, Roger looked up and saw the most amazing scene he had ever beheld.
The entire baseball team was planted firm in their tracks facing an army that had created a barrier of soldiers between the rocket and the baseball team. The barrier was made up from Old Man Davis, Mrs. Weatherby, Mr. Goodman and the rest of the neighborhood! They all had their arms folded and were protecting Roger’s rocket from the imminent threat it was in. They were all dressed in wet suits, every one of them, with blankets tied around their necks, and goggles on their heads. They had dressed up like Roger for his big day… At the front of the massive army stood Roger’s parents, determined more than anyone to once and for all defend the dreams of their son. The rocket wasn’t going to be touched unless it was Roger or Lucy. And to top it all off, hanging in the highest window in the hose was a big red neon sign that lit up that said, “LUNCH!” But Roger’s mom had doctored it with a stream of Christmas lights and made an arrow pointing in between the “L” and the “U,” leading to a giant letter “A.” Launch. They were all here for launch day.
Calmly, Roger grabbed Lucy’s hand and started walking towards the rocket. He quickly passed the dumbfounded glances of the humiliated baseball team, politely nodded at the kindly people of the neighborhood and kissed his parents lightly on the cheek. As Roger and Lucy stood before their construction, they took one quick look at each other and walked into the structure that had taken them so long to build.
Different hushed whispers started coming from the crowd.
“Did we do the right thing?”
“Maybe we should have let the thing be torn down.”
“That boy is going to be heart broken.”
“He’ll never recover.”
“He’s just using his imagination, let him think he’s flying.”
“He’ll never want to work at anything ever again.”
Roger’s mom and dad looked at each other with a sad glance, they had made a commitment to protect their son no matter what. And if that meant watching his dream fail, then they were going to do it. Surely it would be a growing experience. While Roger’s mom shed a single tear, she clung tightly to her husband, terrified that the next time she saw her son, he would be the saddest a little boy could be.
Inside the rocket, Roger and Lucy were finally strapped down.
“I never asked you to be my copilot.”
“You didn’t have to.”
“You’re my best friend.”
“Roger… you’re mine too.”
The two, closed their eyes and held hands as Roger said a silent prayer.
With that, Roger started to flip all the switches and press all the right buttons. The hum outside caused a gasp from the neighborhood and a small burst of laughter. The people were surprised it did anything at all.
But then came a deep rumbling, the rocket began to quake with power. The shaking grew more and more intense. The startled crowd with jaws dropped, backed away from the amazing spectacle. What was happening? An explosion of fire burst from the thrusters on the ground… Shrieks came from all the women… the rocket started to lift from the chains gravity had imprisoned it with. Slowly Roger’s rocket climbed higher and higher leaving behind the stale dreams of every child who put limits on their imagination. The rocket was flying, and flying fast, nothing was stopping it. The perplexed neighbors watched in astonishment as the wording “Afflicted With Belief,” grew smaller and smaller as the rocket was hurtling into the sunset. The pale hue of the evening cloaked the majesty of the homemade rocket until all sight of Roger and Lucy had evaporated into the heavens. Roger and Lucy, the best of friends had done it. They lived their dream, because they were afflicted with belief, as we all should be. Lucy was Roger’s perfect companion, the friend that catapulted him to pursue his dreams. We all need a copilot like Lucy, to remind us that we were once afflicted with belief: that our dreams really are possible.
For my wife…