Author: Mark Joseph Kevlock
“I’m finished at last.”
Tommy pulled Mariel by the hand as they ran through the nearby woods.
“I’ve retrofitted the structure with twin rocket pods sufficient to achieve orbit.”
Mariel did not know what her best friend was talking about.
The trail climbed a hill and wound a bend, and there it was, the same but different: the place where they had read comic books, shared secrets, eaten Slim Jims. High up in the branches it sat with planks nailed into the trunk, its ladder ascending.
Mariel tilted back her head. Tommy squeezed her hand into a fist.
“My treehouse is a rocket ship. We leave at noon.”
Tommy brushed aside her bangs and gazed into her eyes.
“I want you to come with me. That’s what childhood love is for, Mariel: to make us love childhood.”
Mariel’s mind raced. “I can’t leave the planet! I have parents here. A dog. Homework.”
“Tell the dog your parents ate the homework and let’s go!”
Tommy Flynn sat stargazing the night before atop the coal shack in Mariel’s yard. Coal would be the fuel.
“Mariel McDonegalhousen,” he said.
Her name stretched longer than the oxygen of a single breath allowed.
Tommy rehearsed his pitch.
“A pasture of stars await! A crust of sunlight forms on the horizon! There isn’t room enough on this planet for our genius!”
He looked at the moon and said hello.
Tommy’s mother held other plans for her only son.
“Even a garbage collector performs a good for the world because they pick up the garbage. At least become a garbage collector, Tommy. Don’t become a dreamer. Dreamers are the most useless of all.”
Tommy ran to consult the neighborhood seer, who smoked pot and wore jean jackets.
“Gotta save the space program,” Tommy told him.
Crazy Mike stroked a beard that wasn’t there and shifted his weight upon the garbage can. A meadow surrounded them.
“Yes, perhaps a technological breakthrough of this magnitude will accomplish that lofty goal: the implementation of human willpower to overcome reality itself. Yes, it might do. It just might do.”
Crazy Mike is crazy, Tommy thought.
Mariel believed in Tommy, in all his adventures and notions. But this was a lot to ask.
“You’ll need to serve this ship in multiple roles, first officer. Navigator, engineer…”
Tommy remembered how cool Dean Martin was, as the pilot in that disaster movie, and how suave Dino was with the ladies.
“I am here to serve this ship,” Mariel responded.
Tommy wondered, sometimes, if Crazy Mike wasn’t his father. The guy hung around a lot but never got too close—just like fathers were supposed to do.
The countdown began.
The noon sun hung in a cloudless sky.
The neighborhood heard thunder from far afield.
They left behind soap operas to come see.
A trail of exhaust fumes climbed the sky.
Tommy’s mother frowned.
Crazy Mike giggled.
A tree sat scorched and empty in the woods.
A dream took flight.