Author : Michael Rafferty
On the morning of the third Wednesday in September the eighth grade class of Halsey Charter school prepared to give their “What I did for summer” theme speech. The class was small; twenty-four mostly well off kids. Richie Greenwall began with six weeks touring Europe followed by Chrisy Peck at her (divorced) father’s summer house in Malibu. A few others talked about weeks of shallow good times and then suddenly Zxandra was trudging up the aisle from the rear. Zxandra was new, three weeks new—and different. She was really short, and bone skinny with a somewhat oversize head sporting spiky short, auburn hair that should have been trending, but wasn’t.
“Hey Zxandra, it’s okay if you didn’t have time to get this ready…!” Janice Wilburn, the teacher, tried to give the new student with only one wierd name (that’s how she registered) a break.
“Okay Ms. Wilburn. I got this.” Zxandra spun and planted herself. She was clothed in a pale blue jumpsuit with matching boots. Her eyes, an indefinite color, were large and wide set. In one of her tiny hands she held something looking like an ipad. She tried to smile and later the kids in the front row would swear that the teeth in her small mouth came to points.
“I spent the entire summer on my Grampy’s cruiser. If it’s okay, I’d like to show a visual display…”
“Well honey,” Ms. Wilburn interjected, “we don’t have equipment for that….”
“…That’s okay. I got it.” The little girl pointed the device over her shoulder and a dark rectangle popped open and hovered in front of the blackboard. “Can everybody see okay?” The girl raised the dark screen higher to the gasps of the students.
“Okay, this is my Grampy’s cruiser…” A crisp image appeared and then grew larger. A silver oblong-shaped vessel with many lighted ports and openings and what looked like operational connections could soon be recognized. It hung in a void of star-filled space. “Here I am arriving. Of course Grampy is inside. Docking is all mechanical.” Another camera onboard the much larger cruiser had recorded the arrival of a smaller, sleeker ship, maneuvering quickly in to unload its passenger, then departing.
“Uh…honey…Zxandra, could I ask you something?” Ms. Wilburn’s voice had broken the tension.
“Oh! I’m sorry! Am I going too fast!” The girl turned to face the class.
“Well…no. It’s just that, well, exactly where is your…Grampy’s cruiser located?” Dead silence awaited the answer.
“Oh, I’m so sorry! It’s parked exactly five hundred kilometers above a point located in Nebraska in a stationary orbit. Can’t be in lower orbit because of the ISS Mir…you know, the space station. Some crazy law.” She whirled back to the visual. “This is my bedroom. It’s so cool!” The camera panned a space as large as the classroom. “The view is the best part,” she said absently as a large rectangular port looked down on the planet. Their world was shrouded in total darkness. Then the sun broke through on one side and exclamations such as “Oh my God!” and “No way!” went around the room. All too quickly she showed the rest of the cruiser, to the student’s disbelief, and then Zxandra’s “summer” was over.
“Grampy says he’s coming back next year.” She said this as she walked back to her seat, smiling again, showing her jagged little teeth. “He’s going to bring some friends. He really likes the food.”
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