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By Stephanie Angelea
For centuries, man has been obsessed with the universe. Is there any intelligent life beyond our own planet Earth? Do little green men walk on the moon too? Do they have to wear protective suits like we do? Is it safe to live in space?
Questions like those always fascinated two brothers and their best friend, Shad Quinton. They dreamed of reaching the fluorescent ball and it was now more than a dream. No more late-night telescopic meetings sharing the view through a tiny lens. They were going and they were all going together! The three-man flight crew waited patiently safely buckled under their safety straps ready to thrust out of Earth’s orbit en route to the moon.
“We are burning daylight. Successful detox and oxygen is stirred. We are ready to fly,” confirmed Pilot Kendrick Beyett.
“Affirmative. The count is T-6.6 seconds.
Go for main engine start.
Solid rocket booster ignition.
Three, two, one, liftoff!” commanded Flight Director Robin Schidt.
Kendrick Beyett released a sigh of anxiety knowing his brother Gavin did the same, them being born into the world identical twins.
Myra Beyett stood proudly by with clasped hands watching her boys launch into space. Her hair blew wildly in the gush of the rocket’s hot wind and her ex-husband smiled beside her. Recently divorced from him, Myra found herself tolerating him a lot better now that they lived apart, and they were both proud parents of honor students raising the kids to be strong and independent, including one orphaned classmate named Shad. His parents were both tragically killed in last year’s train wreck off Tanner Street, living two blocks down from them in a small friendly town called Pilgrim Station. With each new wind, the people held barbecues and gathered at festivals which were the most essential way of getting the straight facts off the local chain gossip.
No town wagged their chins better than the folks from Pilgrim Station. No doubt they suffered their differences but at the end of the day, they were all one big happy non-related family.
“I have control,” said Kendrick. “Gentlemen, we are now in space.”
“Wow. The view is amazing! All these years, I never imagined it to be so real and beautiful. We should have done this sooner!” shouted Command Pilot Gavin Beyett.
“We weren’t old enough. You goober! Dear damn!” retorted astronaut Shad Quinton.
“Whew, that went better than I thought it would. Smooth as a baby’s butt and no engine hiccups like last time,” Kendrick commented proudly.
“Do you have to jinx us like that! REALLY!” Shad scolded, spouting sequencing sputter noises to ward off bad juju.
“I’m not jinxing us! I believe our fates are already written in the stars! You can’t change that from Earth in human form, bozo. See, there’s mine way off yonder by yours and Gavin’s by those two swirling stars. HEY! What stars are those near the moon? Are they new stars forming from dust? I wonder?” stated Kendrick.
“I don’t quite know. I’ve never noticed them before. They are bright, though!” Gavin replied. “What’s that vibration? Y’all feel it?” he continued, his voice stressed with concern.
“Yeah, yeah. Check your gauges, Shad!” hollered Kendrick.
Red lights began to flash madly in the cockpit and alarms blared throughout the shuttle. The turbulence shook them violently, slamming them against the hull.
“What did you do, Kendrick?” barked Gavin.
“I didn’t do anything!” he screamed. “I can’t get her steady, man, she’s all over the place spinning out of control!” Kendrick continued fighting the stick.
“Houston, we have a problem!” Gavin strongly alerted the Command Center. “Houston, we DO have a problem. Do you copy?”
The shuttle continued to spin violently, sputtering forward into the vast nothing of space towards the Moon.
“What now? The controls are frozen and we are losing oxygen!” asked Shad near tears, buckling himself back in his seat.
“Brace for impact! We are definitely going to crash this puppy!” wailed Gavin, holding on tightly to his safety strap. “I hope these hold up!”
“You’re worried about surviving the seatbelt when we are fixing to obliterate ourselves on the moon? Seriously!” yelled Kendrick. “Sometimes, seatbelts do more harm than good!”
“That is the MOST ridiculous thing I have ever heard come out of your ‘by-the-book’ mouth!” Shad shouted.
Deafening alarms howled and the cockpit filled with red-colored smoke. NASA’s shuttle neared the moon, breaking apart as it crashed down hard near the center of the crater.
“Are we dead?” Gavin asked weakly.
“I’m not dead. Are you dead, Kendrick?” Shad breathed a sigh of relief.
“I don’t think so,” Kendrick responded, patting his body.
“How in the Sam Hill are we EVER going to fly TO the Moon if we can’t even pass a game simulator at the nearest Space and Rocket Center!” Shad barked.
“Would you please drop the dramatics and pull your panties out of a wad! We will eventually get it right. I mean, we’ve gotten further than when we first started at the tender age of ten. We actually made it to the Moon this time! We CRASHED — BIG TIME — but we don’t blow up anymore after takeoff. There’s a great accomplishment in there somewhere!” said Gavin proudly.
A young man in his early twenties opened the hatch and popped his well-groomed head in.
“Everyone ok? No injuries this time?” the attendant asked with a smile.
“Nah man, we just crashed on the Moon and virtually died but we are, in reality, ok!” Kendrick replied aggravated.
“At least y’all made it past takeoff!” he laughed, escorting the teenagers out of the fake cockpit.
The trio bolted by other parents who were in the process of sending their children off into virtual space too and raced to a photo booth with black curtains. They quickly closed it behind them.
“Scoot over butt-munch! I want in the pictures too!” Gavin blew cramming his face into the preview box.
Snapshots shot out of the tiny slot beneath, boasting funny poses of tongues sticking out, pointed fingers behind heads, and poses with action figure shuttles with imitation gold pins they got from the gift shop. Gold pins for actually flying Into virtual space instead of virtually dying on Earth with silver pins.
“This is so cool! Let’s go ride the Moon Shot then get cotton candy and puke our guts out in front of girls!” Shad exclaimed excitedly.
“You are seventeen, right? Will you ever grow up and act a little more your age?” Kendrick chirped. “I only ask this because, you know, you are seventeen with a cool car and all that generally requires a competent person behind the wheel who doesn’t act like a twelve-year-old. I would feel a whole lot better riding shotgun to the movies with you if you were a little more responsible,” Gavin joked, buying three tickets at the ticket booth.
“I second that!” Kendrick popped off smiling.
“I don’t act like a twelve-year-old! Maybe thirteen or fourteen but not twelve!” Shad squawked, laughing hysterically running ahead of them to the popcorn stand.
“Seriously, you think we will ever fly to the moon and touch the stars?” asked Gavin.
“Sure we will. We have studied and learned all we can about space. We are smart enough. Shad is a bubblehead but he’s smart,” replied Kendrick. “I can’t go because I’m diabetic but you two will for sure!”
“This has been a great day. I want us to always be close and bring our own children here every year to this Space and Rocket Center. We will even encourage our daughters to pursue an interest in space. Who knows, we may raise the next generation of rocket scientists,” Gavin boasted, throwing an arm around his brother.
“Yeah, I Iike that idea!” agreed Kendrick.
The following evening, after the late movie ended, Shad and Gavin left the theater excited in seeing the newest release of Keanu Reeves’s action movie. They both admired him as much as they did space.
It was a great night for them as they waved good-bye to a fellow student who worked there on the weekends, sometimes sneaking them special passes.
They had a great time, hating they had to go without Kendrick who had fallen sick after his sugar level raised higher than normal.
Myra had given him a shot earlier in the evening with the stronger dosage prescribed by their family doctor but he still didn’t feel well, retreating to his bunk bed in the attic where he shared a bedroom with Gavin and Shad.
“Don’t worry, we will take you to see it next weekend.” Gavin slammed a hard high-five on his brother.
“Ouch!” Kendrick winced in pain shaking his hand.
“Oh stop it! That didn’t hurt you,” Gavin joked as he and Shad ran out the door smiling.
The night was beautiful and clear and it was a night Kendrick spent several hours staring out the window at the stars and the blinking lights from planes flying passengers to God knows where. It was a night he would never see his brothers again, losing them to a car wreck only three miles down the road. Losing control of the wheel, Shad overcorrected and drove them into a large oak tree that had been there for at least fifty years. Both died instantly, never knowing what hit them. Neither had been wearing seatbelts, and the coroner stated in his report that it was probably a good thing because their bodies would have been torn apart on impact and the funeral would have most definitely been a closed-casket service.
The next weekend came and the new Keanu Reeves action film still ranked number one at the box office, and a movie Kendrick would never bring himself to see. He heard others talk about how good it was but how could it not be a great movie. It starred Keanu Reeves!
The next weekend came and all the family members had finally arrived from out of state and collected themselves to Pilgrim Station Cemetery. Sister Cam was the first female minister of any church around and many members left the entire town altogether relocating to areas where there were only male preachers.
Damndest thing to ever happen but the rest of the townsfolk stuck together and stood united behind Pastor Cam. She delivered the best version of a space and rocket funeral probably ever heard of in our world.
Everyone cried. Everyone hugged. Everyone stuffed their bellies and comforted their sorrows with the best country food any group of chefs could make.
“I wish Shad and Gavin could have lived and flown their shuttle to the Moon! They will miss out on their biggest dream and it was very important to them!” cried Myra, leaning on her ex-husband’s shoulder.
Late that afternoon, Kendrick sat for a long while between their dirt-filled graves planting the pictures they posed for at the Space and Rocket Center like they were seeds. Beside each, he placed the small shuttle ships they bought at the gift shop with the grass-cutting money from old lady Trammel at the Beagle Club.
“Are you ok?” Kendrick’s father asked his son patting him on the back.
“Yes, sir. I just wanted to give them their stuff since I forgot to put it in their casket at the funeral home,” cried Kendrick.
“They can still dream their dreams of flying into space now that they have their ships and are laid to rest under the stars,” his father said, comforting him.
“They don’t have to dream. I believe they are already there and have front row seats,” said Kendrick looking to the sky where two swirling stars shined especially bright near the evening moon.
Please visit Stephanie on her Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/Stephanie-Angelea-Author-417653648839749/