THE STAR-WHISTLER IN THE BOX-FAN CAR
& AEROPLANE COMPANY™
A Story for Heroes, Champions
CHRISTOPHER F. MILLS
July 4, 2016 346pm CST
The Moving Map
An Exosphere Company
Est. May 26, 2010
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Do not try to reenact the incidents portrayed in this story.
Copyright © 2016 by The Moving Map
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction
in whole or in part in any form.
The Box-Fan Car & Aeroplane Company
& the Star-whistler Dashavoo are Trademarks
of The Moving Map Storybook & Motion Picture Company 2016
First eBook Edition Moving Map Fiction 2016
Published in the United States
6 0 4 5 0 4 3 6
A Rocket Read by FlyAway Fiction eBooks
U. S. A.
Please be advised we are now going to attempt the impossible. We—together—are going to try and fly. As you know, any who ever fly, or attempt to, must dare the gods. Flight is always a go-for-broke proposition.
I have called upon and conspired with kismet, serendipity, grand good luck and marvel—all the mysterious forces of the universe—in order to bend wonder your way. For the sake of your adventure I have risked fortune and run gauntlets to formulate the known aerodynamics of flight relative to the human soul. Why? Because your chance at life is a one-in-a-million-shot and you have to grab life by the horns while you have it to grab. Why? Because we all start out grounded, but there’s no good reason we have to stay that way.
It began as a idealistic aspiration, to pen a child’s tale for the sake of adults and an adult tale for the sake of children. I have attempted to mingle all the best qualities of being alive into one single something. The impossibility of this heavier-than-air tale is—how do you make something like that fly? For a slow guy like me, it’s been nothing easy. There are such things as continuum, drag, and pressure gradients to worry about. And the math! Bernoulli’s Principle alone kept me up in the exosphere on many nights, but Newton’s laws always brought me back to earth. To be direct with you, this simple little tale has required a level of sophistication that has strained my poor intelligence. Every human life is a history of thought, a chronicle of stories told and untold and in this tale I had to go way back, to the time of the first story.
Attempting the impossible is always a difficult job and we cannot know at the start if we will succeed by the end. Writing the story of these beautiful children for the benefit of both old and young—and more the one than the other—has been more challenging than it was learning how to tie my shoes, which took me six long years. I am not fast and bright like the two in this tale, but I don’t mind. Being slow as a turtle has allowed me to see wonders I would have missed if I were fast. It was by the wonders, in fact, that I wrote this here. It will help some take flight while others will remain grounded. It all has to do with the choices we make and the chances we take.
The big problem with writing a tale for young and old is that one believes in impossible dreams and one no longer does. So this is for the sake of dreams that have been lost—for hearts that have forgotten. And it is for the sake of those who have dreams—but may still need more belief. If you are a child reading this, do your best to make the old ones understand it. They will, of course, not get it right off, but keep trying and never give up. Eventually they will come along.
And parents, listen to your young ones. If you are patient with them, and kind, and not full of know-it-all-as-it-is, they will steer you back toward beautiful horizons. So here is what will seem at first glance an elementary tale. But as you know, first glances rarely tell the whole tale. It will seem an improbable, incredible and almost out-of-this-world fable. If at the end it remains all of that for you, we will have succeeded.
It will be centered around three kinds of people. Namely, your friendly neighborhood hero; your friendly neighborhood champion; and your unwilling-to-be-friendly neighborhood bully. But mostly it will be about the preeminent boy and girl of the age and their monumental display of immortal energy. The lives of those two became art and art is always created, at great pain, expense and sacrifice, for the sake of one single thing: your life’s chance at a fleeting human happiness.
As for me, I am Brandon Thomas Blackstone and I took on, as a labor of love, the difficult proposition of writing the childhood biography of the planet’s first trillionaire and inventor of the mach 50, Super-Stellar Earth-to-Space-and-Back-Again Hoverjet, which invited the question:
“How does one begin the story of the boy who, by the age of 25, accomplished in the real world what had only been imagined in comic books and theoretical physics?”
It’s been said the great brains are best not so much at formulating their own grand conclusions but at questioning their own grand conclusions, while the not-so-great brains never question much of anything, much less their own grand conclusions. As unfortunate as it is to say, I am not a great brain, but I do try to follow their great example. So after much reflection and questioning I believe, but am not sure, that I have discovered the closest-to-the-right answer to my own question: One best begins with the first near-impossible achievement.
Like all the greats, the boy in this tale achieved what no other in history ever did. If you are like most, you might believe his achievement was predestined only for him. But don’t you believe that. What he did was as much a surprise to him as it was to most everybody else. It is a safe assumption we’ll never see the likes of him again, but the thing about assumptions is there are no safe ones. It could be that you will do even greater things. I don’t see why not, for the paramount fact of life he taught me was this: Nothing’s impossible!
I personally knew, from our youngest age, the co-hero of this tale. The truth was I didn’t care much for him when we were young, but now he has become a mythical and mysterious something that makes me remember the past with pride and anticipate the future with hope. He grew into one of the immortals of our time and of all ages, he belongs. He was the dawn of a new era and energy at its most incredible. He was bigger than life. To put it simply: he changed the world.
This will not be the story of his creation of the world-famous extra-terrestrial Mach-50 hoverjet craft, but of his earlier years, when his spirit of adventure and scientific discovery began—was jump-started, so to speak—by a most faithful and beautiful friend. Here is his happy beginning, then the turn in the road where his path grew dark, and finally that special friend who showed him the way back to the light. These facts of his story invite the question we all need to ask and answer: Were it not for our true-blue friends, what would become of any of us?
The world spins so fast that we barely notice the beautiful days as they flit by. Sometimes we miss them entirely and even when we do pay attention it’s difficult to truly know them, on account of the fast spin. This is the wisdom behind why the beautiful things so often become the sad things. When we are sad, we slow down and take the time to think. That’s what a good story is—a slowing down of the spin.
This story is of the beautiful things. It might make you smile, then laugh, and maybe even cry. Maybe it won’t, but it might. I can tell you this, when the spin of the world slowed down for me I laughed and cried and thought a long time about it all. It’s true all the best things end too soon. But we can write about them and that way, they go on. The best stories make the best history because they make people stop and think.
Even though some would call this an improbable, even incredible tale, it revolves around a boy who was born as ordinary as any other. It is, in my opinion, a mostly true tale. I cannot guarantee it’s all true. I was not there at all points and places and so cannot, in all honesty—at least relative to my personal knowledge—relate to you all things herein are true. I readily admit my knowledge of the world is scant and could fit in a thimble, but I do know Bella Blue’s favorite color was, in fact, fuchsia. I call it pink, but sophisticated persons like Bella call it fuchsia. She wore a pink scarf year-round, even when the days were tropical.
The boy of this story, as already related, was once as ordinary as any other. He had the common number of legs, hands, arms, fingers and feet. But in time he became not so ordinary, and that helped much toward him becoming not so common. What was always unique about him was his name. At birth his proud mother gave him a name so exceptional, out of this world and hard to pronounce that in time he was given a nickname which he used, among his friends, for the rest of his life.
His first and second name was Alpha Centauri, which is the name of the star system closest to earth. It consists of two stars at some times and three stars at other times. To the naked eye it looks like one star but in actuality there are two and sometimes, for short periods, there are three. All that is example for the discerning mind—which you no doubt have—that what appears to be one thing may in fact be two things, and sometimes even three. Another way of expressing it is even when one believes they have reached the bottom of a thing there might be other unseen factors which make the bottom of a thing, in real, true, bona fide fact, more like the top of it.
The cosmos is a tricky place, with many dimensions to it. There is much we don’t know. It is a scientific fact that most of the rare and beautiful secrets, even of our own little world, remain undiscovered. As for discerning minds, those who have them know they are the means to uncovering rare and beautiful secrets. The problem with discovery is some people believe only what they see with their naked eye, which altogether makes up only the elementary parts of everything, while those who see further, discover more.
But as you know, patience with those who are blind to deeper realities and hidden truths is the prime virtue clear-sighted minds are called upon to practice. These factors explain perfectly the common phenomena and usually faulty theory known as “That’s impossible!” I put light on these factors for the so-called “impossible” is what this tale is all about.
So now with introductions out of the way here recorded in The Chronicle of Impossible Dreams that Came True is the story of a regular boy who, with a lot of help from his brainy side-kick, became not so regular.
Crispy the Great and
Bella Blue the Unquestionable in
The Box-Fan Car & Aeroplane Company
And then, all of a sudden, it had been a long time ago. . .
When he had stood building castles outside his window and in from out of the blue flew a novel impossibility. . .
THERE ONCE WAS A BOY
When the boy in this story was a newborn his father held him up high and proclaimed,
“This boy will be a hero someday, you wait and see!”
With such a proud papa the infant grew into a happy boy. The child was lucky, for his mother and father were happy, too. The boy was a born dreamer. Sometimes he would daydream half the day away. If someone didn’t stop him, he would daydream the entire day away. When he was five his father caught him daydreaming and asked, in a breezy and bright, calm and casual voice—like the winds that come in from off a bay,
“My son, my dreamer of dreams, how is your castle coming along?”
The boy asked what that meant and the father said,
“That means all the best and brightest things! And you should keep on building that castle in your mind. Your only true chance at making dreams come true is to have a dream in the first place. You must first see your dreams in your imagination. So keep dreaming, Son. And be sure to dream big.”
One day, when the boy was seven, his father caught him daydreaming and inquired,
“Are you walking in the clouds again, Son? Well that is fine. Go be a cloud walker, live in the puffy, fluffy clouds of your own imagination! Be one who follows your own conventions and marches to your own drumbeat. Always keep your fire for adventure and distant places.”
The father considered his son’s daydreams inspiring, for the father was also fascinated by the miracle of life. Life fit him to a T and fit his son like a glove. Only happy words described them both.
One day, when the boy was eight, the two of them sat watching the New York Harbor 4th of July Parade in their lawn chairs colored red, white and blue. They were eating from deep bowls of double-fudge ice cream and drinking tea and commenting on the festivities. The father, perhaps thinking of his son’s future, waxed sober and advised,
“Too many treat life like a single day’s drive from the best vacation spot—and they never make the trip. They let the days go by like books they will never read, piling up on the floor around them. They skim over the surface of life, while the experiences we feel most deeply are those which make us feel most alive. Every year we get to write a new story to our lives and it’s a twelve chapter book. That’s not many chapters, so make sure to make each one count. The best stories, like this bowl of double-fudge ice cream, always end too soon. You are the boy of the future. Your days are full with tomorrows. Promise me you will always taste each beautiful moment as deep as you can, Son. Promise me you will make the trip.”
The son promised his father,
“I will, Papa.”
Then they toasted to life, the father with a tumbler of hot honey, peppermint tea, and a dash of old Kentucky family recipe and the son with a glass of straight tea, lots of sugar, and on the rocks. The boy decided then he would see the years of his life as stories to write and the months as chapters. He would count his years and days that way from then on.
The boy and his family lived on Jersey Gold Lane in Cul-de-Sac Cliffs, a picturesque place settled at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Cul-de-Sac Cliffs is located in Stratosphere City, which is next to Airpark Metropolis and Skysong Town—all named after the atmosphere and specifically, man’s flight through it. The neighborhood was on a bay of the big blue sea near a green forest full of thickets with old-growth timber. On one side of the bay is their neighborhood and New Jersey and across the water is, depending on who you ask, the Capital of the World, the Center of the Universe, or the Big Apple. Bottom line with that place is it needs no introduction.
This story is about first things and as famous as New York City is for those, truth is, many of the greatest American firsts have happened in New Jersey, which, considering how many crackerjack and artful firsts it’s had, could also be nicknamed the “State of the Arts”, or the “Inaugural State”. The short list of New Jersey’s first would be as follows:
America’s first balloon flight in 1793. The first baseball game in 1846. The world’s first boardwalk in 1870. The world’s greatest inventor—the famed Wizard of Menlo Park—invented, among a thousand other things, the phonograph here in 1877. The first submarine was built in 1878 and a year later, in 1879, came the first light-bulb. Roselle was the first town lit by electricity in 1883. The birthplace of the motion picture industry happened in Fort Lee in 1889 and 44 years later—in 1933—they opened the first drive-in movie. The first condensed soup was produced here in 1897 and a year before that was the first professional basketball game. In 1921 the first Miss America was crowned in Atlantic City and that same year they broadcasted for the first time the World Series. In 1961 came the first robot. Besides all these incredible firsts, perhaps only the most on-the-ball and A-OK place in the world would have cites called Hackensack, Hoboken, Egg Harbor, and Neptune. But of all these great Garden State firsts, there is one you have yet to hear about. And that is what I hang this tale on.
Now the boy of this tale, being a dreamer, was also a stargazer. When he looked out his window at night the lights of the big city across the bay blended with the stars and he found it difficult to tell where one ended and the other began. And he wasn’t the only stargazer on his street. Directly across the lane there lived another castle-building romantic. Every night the two would shine their flashlights up at the stars and criss-cross their beams, imagining they were Hollywood spotlights. Without even leaving their bedrooms the two ended their days among the stars.
Every Saturday night from the age of four their mothers allowed one or the other to spend the night. They did the same exact thing each week: watch Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca while eating an entire Apple Pie between them. It was the girl’s favorite motion-picture show and it was Crispy’s favorite pie. After the film they would shine their million-candle power spotlights out the window, light up some distant star, wish on it, then pull the covers over their heads, whisper sweet good-nights and drift to sleep. In the day they imagined someday flying over the skyscrapers toward the stars and during sleep, they dreamed it.
In the woods around his home the heavy scent of flowers and trees linger in the air and a meandering stream called Rocky Brook flows around his neighborhood like a moat surrounds a castle. Songbirds nest along Rocky Brook each spring. On any given day you can see and hear the planet’s largest and fastest aircraft fly over Cul-de-sac Cliffs. There is one airplane so large it can seat more people than live in an average trading post or village. It’s a flying city as large as a football field and if you ever see one up close, you’ll never forget it.
All in all, for a boy who prefers the out-of-doors, Cul-de-sac Cliffs is an outdoor paradise. On any given day, even if the weather is awful, you can find children outside playing football, soccer, basketball and tether-ball. There are trails to ride and trees to climb and the stream to explore and the happy boy climbed nearly every tree and wandered nearly every square foot of the stream. Rocky Brook freezes over in the winter and there is ice hockey and skating. To an adventurous boy there is no end to the world outside, even if he never leaves his own neighborhood.
As for my friend, the co-hero of this tale, even with all that wonderland to play in the best part of his day was around sunset, when his father came home. Then there was the kind of laughter which shook his insides.
When the boy was ten stories-and-one-chapter old and his good friend moved away his father had said to him,
“He must go on his own journey, Son. You are also on your own journey, gaining your personal philosophy and world view. The knowledge of the world is budding in you. You are growing up! What is that? It’s the one thing that never should end with any of us! It’s the wonderful, difficult, magical voyage of changing your mind about what you are wrong about, keeping in your heart what you are right about, and never compromising the better part of the one for the worse part of the other.”
The boy’s father took a deep breath and continued,
“The never-ending job of growing up is the toughest line of work. It’s changing your way of life toward some place far and unknown, yet close and familiar. You might find it’s more a place within you than a place outside you. And it’s always helping others.”
The father grabbed his boy, hoisted him onto his lap, squeezed him tight and said,
“At the end of every day inquire of yourself what you have done to lend a hand in some other’s journey. By being generous you will create your own greatest adventure. On this journey we must always be leaving our present life behind while reaching for a mystical something no one can define. If we will grab hold of that mystic something it will move us toward life and by the miracle of life, the world will improve. The world will get better when we grab hold and make it better. Remember that, my son.”
“I will remember, Papa.”
The father smiled. He knew his boy lived from a sincere heart and a promise from him was a top-grade commitment.
The next day dawned clear and beautiful. Two hours after sunrise the yellow sun had burned off the dew on the colored leaves and the air was busy with the sounds of birds. To the boy it was another happy-go-lucky September morning, until he felt mystery stir within him. It was a cryptic impression of emptied space, as if something beloved and precious was suddenly gone. He had felt it before he knew it. He would not have described it this way then, but that is how he defined it later.
Later that day his mother had to give him the most heartbreaking, life-changing news a boy can learn. His father had died. Such a loss is the most extraordinary and sad thing to happen to an ordinary and happy boy, but he had an extraordinary mother who taught him that life must go on. She spoke to him the words his father had spoke,
“You must be brave, my son, even through the worst of times, when you don’t feel much like being brave or living at all.”
The boy’s father had made his family a safe zone they all could return to. Their home was a discovered, treasured and happy place. Now their laughter was shattered and the spirit of joy was lost.
Over the months that passed after his father died, the boy’s homesickness only grew for a place which, even though he still lived in it, he could never return to. He learned it was as his father had told him about growing up, that we must move on to a place far and unknown, yet close and familiar. Every night for almost a year, as he lay in bed and remembered his father, he said to himself,
“I will be a good and brave son and will live as my father taught me to live. I am the man of the family now.”
That is what he said, even though he was yet a boy.
Because his real name was too difficult for most adults, and even some children, to correctly pronounce, the boy went by the nickname of “Crispy”. It was such a happy nickname that even his proper and overly-decorous instructors at school called him by it. I know for sure that part is true, for we were in some of the same classes.
As for exactly how he came by that nickname, that’s debatable. I remember a crisp spring day, when we were no older than five or six, and he had decided to test one of those scientific theories concerning magnifying glasses and dry leaves. He ended up setting the neighborhood—or parts of it—on fire. But it was said by more than a few, at least in his younger years, that Crispy was no scientist. I believe that incident set the tone for his hesitancy in testing scientific theories, at least until later on.
There are a number of stories on how he came to be called Crispy, but only one can be true. Sorry to say, I cannot relate exactly how he came to that nickname. It’s classified even to me, his official and authorized biographer. No matter. It is enough for us to know the boy was called Crispy. So history records that Crispy was born an ordinary boy with an uncommon name and, at least early on, lived a mostly ordinary and happy life.
GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS
Now everybody with half a brain knows the things a boy likes best are not often the things a girl likes best. Boys and girls are two different kinds of people and there is no telling what a boy will do to not have to spend time with a girl—just as when they grow up there is no telling what a boy will do to spend time with a girl.
Speaking of girls, one special day something in Crispy changed and he became most inquisitive about his neighbor, a girl who was not terribly ordinary and who he had known all his life. Perhaps while he slept he had grown up more than usual. It’s not only our joints and muscles that change as we grow, but our minds change, too.
Her name was Bella Blue. She was the twin sister of Sawyer Sue and though they were identical, everybody could tell them apart. For instance: Bella Blue was shy, while Sawyer Sue was outgoing. And while everybody loved Sawyer Sue, most everybody made fun of Bella Blue—everybody that is, but Crispy. One of the biggest, if not the biggest differences between Bella Blue and Sawyer Sue was that, behind her glasses, Bella Blue had twinkling stardust in her eyes whenever she looked at Crispy. Even when they were toddlers, the love spangles were there. From the first time she met him, Bella Blue knew she loved Crispy.
As for Crispy, we all know boys are slower to learn than girls, at least for the more difficult things, and that’s okay. But from the first time he saw her, he loved her, too. It just took him longer to understand it for what it was. You could call Crispy’s love for Bella Blue a secret even to himself. But he soon enough agreed to it. It seemed to happen out of the clear blue sky one day, almost a year after that sad September morning.
Speaking of eyes, the twin sisters had the common number of those. But what was uncommon was each girl had one blue eye and one brown eye—except Bella Blue’s left eye was blue and her right eye was brown, while Sawyer Sue’s right eye was blue and her left eye was brown. While both were identically smart, Bella Blue was the scientist and Sawyer Sue was the cheerleader. Bella Blue wore big glasses and flower dresses and talked with a lisp, and Sawyer Sue wore shorts, tank tops and did a lot of somersaulting and cheer-leading. Plus, Bella Blue loved the boy across the street, while Sawyer Sue did not. Not exactly, anyway. Sawyer Sue did love a boy across the street, but it wasn’t Crispy. So, all in all, both girls were identically pretty and much the same—except, of course, for their differences.
Until the day he finally allowed himself to see the stars in his own eyes for Bella, Crispy acted like he never saw the stars in Bella’s eyes for him. But nobody else missed it. It was the look of one who, in the absence of direct thought, understands every good thing about the universe.
The most beautiful thing about Bella Blue was her spirit of curious acquaintance with the cosmos. She had always encouraged Crispy to see familiar things in unfamiliar ways and as for unfamiliar things well, being unfamiliar herself, she was openhearted with the unfamiliar. Nothing was strange to her and yet, everything was beautifully strange to her. With Bella Blue it was wise to expect the unexpected, to get used to the unusual, to explore the unexplored, and to generally be ready for anything.
On that special day when he finally acknowledge his own stars for Bella, Crispy traced a path through the milky way of the stars she left hanging in the sky. All of a sudden it felt like the impossibility of comprehending the universe was no longer impossible. His new knowledge of love for her made him believe he could never have true certainty about anything except he was happiest when she was around. He was only a boy then and would not have explained it this way but when he was older that is exactly how he described it.
They had been best friends their entire lives. Since what seemed to them as the beginning of time, they had lived across the street from each other. On any given day he could see her if he wished, but there had been some times he wished not to. She was always in his face with her questions and answers and her different view of the world. Once, while he was doing his level best to mind his own business she had informed him,
“Do you know that Ladybugs aren’t bugs at all, they’re beetles!”
That particular fact didn’t impress Crispy the way Bella thought it would, so she had given him more to think about:
“Entomologically speaking, the term ‘bugs’ applies to insects of the order Hemiptera. And Ladybugs belong to the order Coleoptera, or as you might be inclined to call them, beetles. The Europeans have called these dome-backed beetles by the name ladybirds, or ladybird beetles, for over 500 years. . . .”
Crispy stared while she stood and waited, her big brown and blue eyes blinking once, then twice. Not knowing what to say about all that, but realizing some response was required he finally said,
When he didn’t care to see her he still allowed her to tag along out of a kind charitableness his mother taught him, and of course, because of his nagging secret love for her.
The other kids often made fun of Bella Blue for being unfamiliar, but Crispy never once did, and always defended her. She kept to herself a lot, reading books and climbing and talking to trees, which made most everybody think she was weird—which, compared to them—she was.
Crispy apologized for the others making fun of her, but she never needed apology for the poor behavior of others. She was complete by herself and possessed near perfect patience with those who were not also complete in themselves. Crispy knew Bella Blue was extra special in a most unfamiliar and beautiful way.
Truth is she was prettier than most other girls and worlds smarter and a head taller than most boys. Except with Crispy, she was painfully shy. All this didn’t help her much with girls or boys. There had never been a time when Crispy didn’t, deep down, love her and when the day came when, for inexplicable reasons, he was mighty irritated by his curiosity to see her, he traveled by her house a dozen times in a single afternoon but despite all that, was unable to spot her even once. A girl he’d seen a million times before had evidently and all of a sudden learned the secret of invisibility. Knowing her, such a possibility was not out of the question, for she’d always been able to figure out anything.
When Crispy was two chapters away from eleven stories old, his mother, wanting him to enjoy the summer, surprised him with a brand-new red, white and blue go-cart. For three years, six months and twenty-seven days, Crispy had been saving up his allowance and every stray piece of change he could find and earn to pay for a brand-new, red, white and blue, chrome-wheeled, 15 horsepower go-cart. He’d put every dollar, dime, quarter, nickel and penny into a gigantic ceramic pig, which his mother had to carry, all 27.6 pounds of it, to the bank, where they changed the silver and copper into clean, crisp bills. Crispy had saved a total of $356.67 and when his mother secretly added the last $155.45, there was exactly enough to have it delivered and placed in the garage to be discovered by Crispy as an early birthday present.
On that day, which was his final day of fifth grade, Crispy was distinctly distracted. It had happened during the last class of the last day of elementary school—and he was not sure what to do about it. Bella Blue was in that class, and unlike all other days he had known her, this day was different. When she raised her hand to speak—which she did a lot—his ears perked up, keenly interested in what she had to say. Whenever she moved to pick up a pencil or to slide her papers or to throw her pony tails over her shoulder, he watched. Wondering about Bella Blue had all of a sudden become the most interesting thing Crispy could think to do. It was lucky this mysterious event happened on the last day of school, for the serious education which requires a boy’s complete attention is over by then anyway.
He was confused, to say the least. He wondered what it meant. He wondered why he was so curious about Bella Blue, all at once and without warning. On the way home he walked with his head down on his chest and thought most profoundly about it all. When he made it home his mother was waiting for him on the porch.
“Welcome home!” she exclaimed. “Are you happy? No more school for three long months! What are you going to do with all your time now?”
Crispy was so lost in thought he walked right by her and into the house, not hearing the first thing his mother said. He drifted into his room and sat on the bed in a semiconscious state of wonder-inspired confusion. She followed him in.
“Crispy, why don’t you take the trash into the garage for me. It’s getting full.”
She wanted him to discover his surprise waiting there. He got up from his bed and said, as an afterthought,
When he carried the trash into the garage he slogged right by the red, white and blue, chrome-wheeled, 15 horsepower go-cart, put the trash in the can and slogged right back out, passing the go-cart on the way. His mother stood in the kitchen door with her hands on her hips and a look of exasperated stupefaction on her face. She asked,
“Son, is something bothering you?”
But Crispy still wasn’t listening. He walked to his bedroom and sat back on the bed. She bit her nails, deep in her own thought now. She would have to change tack. She walked to the garage and pushed the go-cart outside in front of Crispy’s window. His curtains were open and she could see him sitting on the bed. If he would look, he would see. But he wasn’t looking. She thought, I will start it up. Then he will hear—and he will see.
She had never cranked a go-cart before, so she bent down and read the instructions printed on the engine, which said to first check the gas reservoir, which she did and was happy to find the nice salesman had filled the tank. Then she slid the on-off switch to the “on” position. After locating the primer bulb on the starboard side of the engine she depressed the bulb five times—and gave it two extra squeezes to be sure. After several frustrated minutes of looking she found the choke lever—right above the primer bulb—and slid it to the “on” position. Two more discouraging minutes passed before she found the throttle trigger, which everybody knows is located on the shaft near the on-off switch. While she depressed that she wondered why on earth there are so many steps to turning on a go-cart engine.
Finally, using a rapid motion the instructions instructed her to do, she pulled the starter cord. No joy. She took a big breath and read back over the instructions.
“Oh, dear.” She said out loud to herself. “I must keep the throttle depressed while pulling the cord!”
She laughed at herself as she depressed the throttle while pulling the cord. Still no luck. But she remembered the instructions had said: If the engine is cold, tug the starter cord a third time.
“I’ll get it this time. A third try, after all, is often the charm.”
The third time she pulled the cord the engine roared to life, sounding like what a brand-new 15 horsepower, Briggs & Stratton four-stroke engine is supposed to sound like. She was so proud, and revved up the engine several times until it ran smoothly. When she glanced up she saw Crispy’s face glued to his window with a look of total surprise. She had his attention now. She smiled and waved him out. He waved back and ran outside into his mother’s arms.
“Happy early birthday, Son!”
“My brand-new go-cart!”
So it was that the day Crispy learned of the stars he held for Bella Blue was a special day, indeed. His mother said,
“It’s top of the line. The salesman said it’s the best of the best! And it has the fat mud tires for the dirt trails, too.”
“Can I drive it?”
“Well of course you can drive it. That’s exactly what it was made for.”
Crispy jumped on and drove off mad with joy. All around the neighborhood and through the trails along Rocky Brook he drove, exploring the paths he knew so well, but now, thanks to the different view, it was like seeing it all for the first time. He had never gone so fast in his life, except in a car. But in a car there is glass and windshields, doors and tops and sides and seat belts. It’s nothing like on a go-cart, which has none of that. He drove to the far reaches of the trails and into the deepest parts of the woods and saw wonders he’d never seen, but had always wondered about. In the far reaches there were others driving go-carts and dirt bikes and he acted as if it was no big thing that he, too, was driving his own go-cart. But inside he was proud as he could be and the smile he could not shake proved it.
After exploring the trails he motored back to his street and, over and over again, drove like a banshee in front of Bella Blue’s house. He had hoped to impress her with his brand-new go-cart, but she was nowhere to be seen. He wondered about that and he wondered about her—but not near as much as he had wondered earlier—for now he had a brand-new 15 horsepower go-cart and that tends, for the time being, to take a boy’s mind off more profound concerns.
As for what the salesman said—that it was top-of-the-line—fact is there was one other go-cart in Cul-de-Sac Cliffs that was even better—much better—in fact. The better-than-the-best go-cart belonged to the neighborhood bully and he, like Crispy, had a special nickname: Black Bart.
Black Bart was a blatteroon, which is a fancy French word for a boastful fellow. Black Bart the blatteroon was the meanest, biggest boy for miles around and so was not liked much—and he liked it that he wasn’t liked much. He was a hard-hearted, thick-skinned, cold kind of fish. You could even say he was misanthropic. If you wanted to go further you could say he was a troglodyte of most unfriendly mien, indisposed toward sympathy for anybody, anywhere. He was nasty, loathsome, dislikable and disliking. He was fond of saying he didn’t come here to make friends, and it showed. He was allergic to smiles and kindness and sneezed if he even thought about them. To call him cynical would be correct, but what boy at less than eleven years of age is cynical? Crispy’s mother had asked him once,
“Perhaps there is something the matter with Black Bart we don’t know? Perhaps deep inside the boy isn’t really mean?”
That question, which Crispy could not answer, at least made him try to understand Black Bart, whereas most people just tried to avoid him.
Suffice it to say, the boy was as good-natured as a rabid dog. If there was a book on “How to be a Villain”, Black Bart could have wrote it. But as long as he had the fastest go-cart or the newest bike, he was happy. They called him Black Bart because his nickname was Bart and everything about him was black, from the cowboy hat on his head to the boots on his feet. He even wore a ring that was in the shape of a skull and crossbones and it, too, was black. Some kids believed even his bones were black and not the regular white most bones are.
Black Bart and Crispy had fought once, during recess. Black Bart was bullying a small boy at the jungle gym when Crispy stepped between them. When Black Bart swung, Crispy swung back. And around them had swarmed all the kids in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades, eager to be spectators to the playground fight of the century. The P. E. teacher ran out screaming like a headless horseman and yanked the two apart. Ever since the Rumble at the Jungle Gym, Black Bart gave Crispy a begrudging respect. But Black Bart didn’t really respect anybody. It wasn’t his nature.
After their fight Black Bart took on—as accomplice in all despicable means-to-ends—a red-haired boy named Eric. Eric became Black Bart’s right-hand man, aide-de-campe and general factotum. They had been best friends since kindergarten and Eric had always looked up to Black Bart. Truth is, Black Bart never again wanted to fight Crispy direct and head-on, and figured if that had to happen, Eric would make a fine shield. Being a bully, Black Bart had a difficult time with being brave. That, and every self-respecting villain who makes deals with the Forces of Darkness needs a man Friday.
Eric was never known to speak one single honest word to anybody. He only spoke with authority figures, and even with them he could only whisper. He followed at the heels of Black Bart like a little red puppy. In time he became known as Eric the Red, thanks to the big mop of red hair which fell down over his eyes.
That first day for Crispy to have his second best-of-the-best go-cart, Black Bart, with Eric the Red in the passenger seat, drove up on his own better-than-the-best go-cart and yelled out,
“Hey Loser! What’cha got there?”
Black Bart’s voice was nasal, nasty and nonchalant—and LOUD. Bart was never quiet and Bart mocked everybody. If others were to mock Black Bart, they would have to slur their words—that, and they would have to sound real stupid.
Crispy yelled back,
“Are you blind? It’s a go-cart. Brand new.”
Black Bart smirked and dared,
“It may be brand new, but it can’t beat mine. Race ya’ to the end of the street. Dead-man’s Curve or bust!”
This was a challenge Crispy couldn’t refuse. They lined up and gunned their engines in anticipation. Eric the Red held up Black Bart’s black bandana. When Eric dropped the bandana, they shot off like rockets in a giant cloud of smoke and dust.
It was an even start, but there was a way yet to go. The winner’s line was the cul-de-sac called Dead-man’s Curve, which is just past the end of the street, right after it intersects with Sir Ron Drive. Past Dead-man’s Curve it becomes a dirt path on the way to Rocky Brook. The stream itself is far below street level and unless one has wings and can fly, it would be a long drop.
Before the drop there is Dead Man’s Hill, which one could use to ramp the stream with if they had a high-powered dirt bike or a dune-buggy with wings. But no kid had ever tried it, for none who had a dirt-bike was brave enough and nobody had a dune-buggy with wings—and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t be fool enough to make the attempt. The distance across Rocky Brook is just too far, at least for any living person who wants to keep on living. Truth is, it would make even history’s bravest daredevil, Evel Knievel, shiver in fear.
Midway to the finish, Black Bart smashed into Crispy’s bumper. Except for a moment’s swerve off-course, this didn’t deter Crispy. He gritted his teeth and kept gunning for glory. With fifty yards to go, Black Bart began leading. His engine was tip-top-of-the-line, and as fast as Crispy’s cart was, it couldn’t beat Black Bart’s. Black Bart crossed the intersection first, with Crispy coming in a far second. With a sneering grin, Black Bart drove up alongside Crispy and yelled,
“REJECTED! Go wash up and call it a day, loser!” Then he sped off, leaving Crispy choking in a cloud of dust.
Later, as Crispy drove along the sidewalk in front of Bella Blue’s home, he wondered where she was. He had not seen her all day. When her mother called out for her to come in for supper, Bella Blue dropped out of the maple tree in the front yard. The invisible girl had become visible. Crispy shook his head, realizing she must have been there the whole time, talking to her favorite tree. He should have known.
He saw she was wearing a colorful flower dress, large glasses, and even from the street he noticed those big, curious eyes. He noticed how, as she climbed down, her pony-tail swung side to side. And even though it was near summertime and warm out, as was the case since forever she had her fuchsia scarf wrapped elegantly around her neck.
When she made it down she turned and looked straight at him with the biggest eyes he ever saw—as big as they ever were—but now it made him feel awkward. When she began strolling his way his first thought was to drive off as fast as possible, but his go-pedal foot refused to work. At first he wondered why he wanted to drive off and then he wondered why he couldn’t. He was glued to the spot. She walked up and asked a simple question,
“How fast will it go?”
Now his mind refused to work. He was too entranced by her voice. That sing-song, bubbly, burbling, turquoise-underground-stream of a voice that overflowed from deep within. He thought on how sometimes she was barely audible, and other times she spoke in a cheerful chirp, and still other times it was a drawling, dreamy, dulcet drop. He imagined a bird’s feather falling through the air and thought that is what her voice is like. . .
“HOW FAST DOES IT GO!”
It was Bella Blue, shouting in his ear now—in an annoyed, animated, bubbling insistence. Crispy, startled from his day-dreaming, thought extra-hard to come up with something. When he did he blurted it out—a bit louder than he meant to,
“OH. . . IT’LL GO. . . PRETTY FAST, I GUESS!”
Bella Blue’s big eyes got even bigger at Crispy’s earsplitting response. She asked,
“Yeah? Well how fast is pretty fast?”
“I don’t know exactly. But I know it’s pretty fast.”
“That’s not a scientific answer.”
“Well as you know, I’m no scientist.”
“It shows,” she said, but she chuckled in a kind way, to let him know she was only kidding.
Crispy countered, and it came out a bit more ill-mannered than he planned,
“It can go fast enough to fly, how about that? And what about you? Who wears a pink scarf when it’s not even cold out? What are you, a sissy?”
He hadn’t meant to be rude, but he was a boy after all and had his honor to defend. If she noticed his crudity, she didn’t mind. She replied in an off-hand way,
“I’m a girl, but as you know, I’m no sissy. As for you flying in that, it’s debatable. You don’t even have wings. How could you possibly make it fly without wings?”
It was a smart question Crispy didn’t have an answer for. But he wasn’t going to lose an argument with this genius brainiac on a technicality. He answered what was not an answer, so much as a philosophy,
“Well. . . nothing’s impossible.”
Bella Blue rested her right elbow in the palm of her left hand and held her chin by her right hand’s thumb and index finger. This was her “thoughtful repose” pose, and she performed this maneuver only when she was in sober and serious philosophical cerebration. After a few moments she smiled, crunched up her nose, squinted her big blue and brown eyes, then nodded her approval and gave a quick “Huh. . . .”
After all this, she walked to her home where, as she opened the door, she turned back long enough to stick her tongue out, smile, then disappear once again.
Crispy watched her go. He knew he shouldn’t have stayed around. Of all the girls he’d ever known who ask pert questions he was sure of one thing: Bella Blue was, without doubt, the pertiest questioner he’d ever met.
Crispy idled the rest of the evening away in daydreams about when her next pert question would be and what it would be about.
Later, as he was pushing his go-cart home, Crispy saw his next door neighbor puttering around outside his garage. Merlin T. Beeman had been a colonel in the United States Air Force—Special Flight-engineer Division—entrusted with the design of top-secret flight apparatus to be used in special covert operations. Each morning after 5:00 AM coffee and every evening at sunset while he played Reveille over a loud-speaker he hoisted up his Revolutionary-War-Era flag named “Go-Jo”. Go-Jo the flag had been named after the Colonel’s mother’s great, great, great grandfather’s female cow dog, who died a hero in the American Revolution. The dog had long ago been buried, while the flag had been handed down in the colonel’s family since the first American generation.
Throughout history, dogs have been used in war and Go-Jo, who successfully completed over thirty sorties across enemy lines, was among the best. Her full name was Jo-dee Langhorne Lane, but the revolutionary Minute Men shortened all that and called her Go-Jo. Her last fateful mission was at the Siege of Yorktown, where she outflanked the redcoats and took a souvenir out of the posterior flanks of that dastardly British general, The Earl Cornwallis.
Of course, you will not find any of this in the history books, but thanks to Go-Jo’s last great effort General Cornwallis became ill and was unable to attend England’s official surrender to the Americans forces and so sent another in his stead to meet with General Washington. For her sacrifice, Go-Jo received full military honors and was canonized in the hearts of her countrymen as one of only two canine saints in history, the other being St. Bernard, who hailed from the Swiss Alps. Some military scholars believe from Go-Jo came the practice of issuing dog tags to new recruits.
It was close to sunset now and the sound of Reveille could be heard as the colonel took Go-Jo down and folded her up for the night’s rest. After he set his cart in the garage, Crispy walked over and asked,
“Colonel, may I ask you a question?”
It was the colonel’s modus operandi to act like a general who didn’t have time for easy-going manners. The colonel didn’t actually talk so much as boom and bellow—and usually in a grandiloquent and bombastic stridence. He was also prone, in extra-excited moments, to issue a sound like something between a shriek and a bark, like what you would imagine coming from a cross between a screech owl and an English mastiff. Sometimes, usually in the evening when he was puckered out from puttering around all day, he spoke in a low-pitched, matter-of-fact voice, which is how he spoke now.
“I guess you can, A. C. You just asked one.”
The colonel usually addressed Crispy by his initials.
“Can I ask another?”
“Well spit it out, Son! I don’t have all day.”
“Would it be possible to fly with my go-cart?”
The colonel dropped his low pitch and spoke in his screech owl, barking voice,
“Fly! With a go-cart? That’s impossible! Of course you can’t fly with a go-cart. Flight has to do with the established scientific principles of lift and drag. On a go-cart there is absolutely too much established drag and not enough lift to even consider it. That’s simple physics. You are no scientist, my boy.”
Crispy shrugged his shoulders and said,
“So I’ve been told. What I meant is if I got rid of the drag and increased the lift. What if I gave it wings?”
The colonel’s eyes widened, which caused his buff eyebrows to look like two-hundred dollars worth of cotton candy. He held up his finger and wagged it in the air,
“Son, you can make a rock fly, so to speak, if you throw it hard enough. It’s a simple—yet complex—matter of getting free of drag and increasing lift. Put a big enough pair of wings and a strong enough propulsion system on anything and anything will fly, my boy.”
Crispy thanked the colonel, wished him goodnight and dragged his tired body home and trudged straight to bed. Each night Crispy’s mother turned him under his covers and sang her favorite Elvis song to him. She had made it his own sweet goodnight song, sang in a mother’s lovely lilt. Every few words there would be a pause, then she’d insert a note that sounded like velvet and her close was always on a soft, low note. Her dainty voice had set Crispy to sleep on more nights than he could remember. After kissing him on his forehead and brushing his hair back, he asked her,
“Mom, would Dad have been able to teach me about lift and drag?”
Crispy’s mother knew a lot of things, but she thought it wise to let her son teach her his knowledge. She asked as if she didn’t know,
“What’s lift and drag, Crispy?”
“It has to do with the principles of flight. You see, if a thing is going to be capable of flight it has to have more lift than drag. It’s a simple matter of physics. It’s obvious to me you are no scientist, Mom.”
She nodded her head, smiled and agreed.
“No, Son, I am no scientist. I’m happy enough to be your mother. But if your father were here I know he’d be able to help you out with lift and drag. He was good like that.”
She bent and kissed him on the forehead.
“Where are you wanting to fly off to?”
“The nearest star system would be nice.”
Her eyes lit up,
“That would be the system I named you after! You better get to work on it. It would take a mighty fast ship to go that far.”
“I know. I’ve been working out the math. Traveling at the break-neck speed of light, it would take approximately 4.367 years to get there.”
She smiled and said,
“Be sure to factor in the solar winds, Son.”
Crispy laughed. He was getting sleepy now. He asked,
“Are you going to sing to me now?”
She stroked his hair and began singing in her soft, lilting voice,
“Wise men say. . . only fools rush in. . . but I can’t help. . . falling in love with you. . . Like a river flows. . . surely to the sea. . . Darling, so it goes. . . some things are meant to be. . . .”
Crispy snuggled deep into his covers and whispered,
“What can I do to help you in your journey, Mother?”
“You can be happy.”
“Only if you will be.”
“Goodnight, my sweet prince.”
Crispy began tinkering on his go-cart bright and early the next morning. When Bella Blue walked up in a flower dress he tried to pay no mind that he noticed, only the day before, that she had also worn a flower dress, but that one had yellow daisies on a red background, while this one had blue roses on a white background. He had never before paid attention to what she wore, and it bothered him now that he did. He didn’t have time or inclination to be paying attention to silly girls and the dresses they wore.
He also couldn’t help but notice that her hair was still in the same double pony-tail and her eyes were as big as always—maybe even bigger. He wondered how many pert questions she would ask. He decided he would count them. Her first one wasn’t exactly pert,
“Good morning, Crispy. And what, may I ask, are you doing?”
He stopped his tinkering to answer,
“Good morning, Bella. And what, may I ask, does it look like I’m doing?”
Bella Blue scowled and squinted her eyes. But even squinted, they were still as big as silver Kennedy half dollars. Crispy resumed his tinkering.
A minute later she told him,
“We could put a speedometer on it. That would tell us how fast it goes.”
This piqued his curiosity and now his eyes grew as big as silver half dollars. He asked,
“I’ve never seen a speedometer on a go-cart. I wonder if they make them?”
“Of course they make them, Dummy. You can buy one for ten dollars at any bike store.”
“How would we put it on?”
“You need to hook the cable to the rear wheel and attach the speedo to the front foot bar. I put one on my bike. It’s a simple, five-minute task. Trust me.”
Crispy wasn’t sold. He pointed out,
“That’s questionable. Aren’t those speedometers made for bikes, not go-carts?”
“What’s it matter? Speed is speed. If it won’t fit, we can doo-jig and gizmo it. Everything can be doo-jigged and gizmoed.”
“What does doo-jig and gizmoed mean?”
Bella Blue rolled her eyes, took a deep breath, and lectured:
“What that means, in layman’s terms—for dummies like you who don’t know much—is if it doesn’t fit to specifications, then it can be made to fit. It’s a simple, inventive, re-structuring of the various paradigms and diverse factors involved in applied, functional, practical systems, see. What that means is everything that is practical can be doo-jigged and gizmoed. And FYI, everything that works, or can be made to work, is a practical system. Ergo, everything, nearly, is gizmo-doo-jiggable.”
As she knelt and measured the distance between rear wheel and foot bar, Crispy scratched his head in deep thought concerning ergo layman’s terms. After her inspection, she filled him in on the science of it.
“This will be an easy gizmo-doo-jiggable job. We will need to fit a longer cable to span the distance from the rear wheel to the front bar, but it wouldn’t take more than ten minutes, tops.”
Crispy protested, “That’s questionable. And I’m not too sure about this gizmo-doo-jiggable-ergo business. If it doesn’t fit to spec, there must be a good reason.”
His constant objections annoyed Bella. He had never before been so contrary with her. She crinkled up her nose and squinted her big eyes and asked, “Is everything questionable to you today?”
“Only the questionable things. I just think specifications are important.”
“They are important, as guidelines. What’s more important to you—getting a speedometer on your go-cart or not having a speedometer because, according to spec, it won’t fit? If spec was so sacred all systems would be the same and there would be no possibility or hope of differentiation between systems. And if there was no differentiation between systems the world would be a vast wasteland of sameness and monotony and the reasoning capacity of man would be no better than robots. Spec is, to the open mind, nothing more than educated guideline.”
Crispy scratched his head, thought about it, and decided this made sense. He shook his head in begrudging agreement and asked,
“Where and when did you learn how to gizmo and doo-jig things?”
She looked at him with the biggest, prettiest, blinking-est blue and brown eyes he ever saw and said,
“Just things a girl picks up here and there.”
When they parted ways an hour later, Crispy added up the pert questions and discovered he had asked eighteen questions and she had asked only two. But he reasoned to himself that at least his questions were not pert.
Finishing the day’s activities by late afternoon, Crispy decided to do some deep-idea production, so he sat on the porch in the green Adirondack chair and began musing on highly important things, like how to make his go-cart go faster. When the colonel came out to furl in Go-Jo, Crispy reasoned since the colonel had once been a flight engineer, he might know how to get more speed out of his cart. He walked over.
Though the old airman possessed keen auditory perception, he considered acting deaf an essential and sacred duty of being old and cantankerous. When Crispy questioned him if he know how to make his go-cart go faster, the old man cupped his ear and asked Crispy to repeat the question.
Crispy walked closer and inquired again. The colonel’s bushy eyebrows shot up like two flushed barn swallows flying after grasshoppers. He replied,
“Of course, of course. So you want to make it go faster. That’s understandable. Well there’s all kinds of things you can do. How fast do you want her to go?”
“Fast enough to beat Black Bart.”
The colonel’s bushy eyebrows turned up, then reversed and dove back down, like two cold and wet swallows sitting sad on a limb. He shook his head in a matter of fact way, took a big breath that blew up his cheeks and held it in. He was thinking. When his thinking was done he blew the wind back out and—on the nose and matter-of-factly—replied,
“I don’t know about that, A. C. His cart has a lot more horsepower than yours.”
This was not the answer Crispy hoped for. The chap-fallen look in his eyes made the colonel take pity. The old man scratched his head, then nodded at some thought which seemed to make perfect sense to him. He said,
“Well, come to think of it, every red-blooded American boy should attempt at least once in his life the impossible. This looks to be a time when we need to put on our thinking caps. Come along, A. C. We don’t have all day.”
The colonel walked toward his garage and Crispy tagged along behind. When Crispy entered the shop, his eyes lit up. There was everything a former flight engineer would need. What tools, implements and instrumentation were not hanging on the walls or from the ceiling were stuffed in toolboxes bigger than Crispy had ever imagined. Several were bigger than he was. A miniature replica of the Wright Brother’s Kitty Hawk plane hung from the rafters and a picture of Ike Eisenhower with the words “We Like Ike!” was nailed to the door.
Along the western wall and hung on hooks under an inch-thick layer of dust was a long row of assorted caps and hats. Above the headgear was a sign which read: “The Colonel’s Thinking Hats”. Below each hat were signs describing the name and significance of each. Crispy read them out loud:
“Bearskin Cap: for thinking outdoors while hunting bears. Beanie Cap: for thinking during winter. Baseball Hat: for thinking while pitching. Bowler Hat: for thinking while in the United Kingdom. Aviator Hat: for thinking while navigating. Batting Helmet: for thinking while batting. Beret: for thinking while in France. Bobble Hat: for thinking while at any sporting events held in cold weather. Boonie Hat: for thinking while in the boondocks. Service Hat: for thinking while participating in military parades. Cricket Cap: for thinking while playing cricket. Coonskin Cap: for thinking out in the frontier. Cowboy Hat: for thinking while square-dancing. Deerstalker Hat: for thinking while stalking deer or sleuthing. Golf Cap: for thinking while wasting time chasing a white ball around a green field. Greek Fisherman’s Cap; also known as The John Lennon Cap: for thinking while imagining. Homburg: Not for thinking. Wear only when insist on being copied or made fun of. Kufi Hat: for wearing when one needs to think wisely and ponderously. Pork Pie Hat: for wearing about town when it’s windy. Top Hat: fashion statement only. Straw Hat: for thinking while doing yard work. Trilby Hat: for thinking at the horse races. Fedora: for thinking at plays, operas and weddings.”
The very last hat was a nightcap. Its sign indicated it was for thinking while sleeping.
And then there was the fan. . . .
Crispy’s eyes settled on that. In an awed whisper he said,
“I’ve never seen such a large fan before. . . . Where’d you get that?”
Colonel Beeman pointed at the fan and proclaimed,
“That, my boy, is planet earth’s biggest turbo-prop box-fan! And in fact, the only one. You can look it up if you don’t believe me. The Guinness Book of World Records made it official last year. I pulled that fan—which is actually a propeller—from a scrapped turboprop ATR-72. Then I built a box around it and hooked up juice. I call it “The Fan of Death”. But don’t worry, that’s only a figure of speech. It never hurt anyone. It moves the air pretty good, don’t you think?”
“Yes sir. What’s an ATR-72?”
“That’s a big airplane.”
“And the propeller has a turbo in it?”
“Wow. . . .”
The colonel piddled around in his tools and came back with a bottle. He handed it to Crispy,
“Here. Pour this in your gas tank and I promise it’ll go faster.”
“What is it?”
“Octane booster. Just pour it in and hold on. I don’t think you’ll be able to beat Black Bart with it, but you might. I am quite sure of one thing, though. . . .
“There’s only one way to find out.”
Crispy grabbed the bottle and ran out of the garage. After he poured the octane booster into the tank and cranked the engine he noticed it sounded faster right off. He jumped on and hit the gas peddle and the cart skidded off, faster than ever, leaving rubber on the concrete. This might do it! He thought. Then, sure enough, the one way to find out came right along as Black Bart and Eric the Red, who were tearing through the neighborhood on their last drag of the evening, skidded to a stop in front of Crispy and challenged him,
“Hey loser. You ready to get beat again?”
Eric the Red never said anything, of course, but he was known to laugh at Black Bart’s various cut-downs, repartee, and attempts at witticisms, which he did now, in response to Black Bart’s calling Crispy a loser.
Crispy hit the gas, yanked the wheel and drifted twice around Black Bart’s go-cart, burning rubber. Then he pulled alongside him.
“I’m ready, but you’re the loser today.”
In the first creeping shadows of night came Black Bart’s heinous, dark reply,
“You couldn’t beat me if your life depended on it. . . .”
The start was an imaginary line horizontal with Crispy’s mailbox, which was made of imported brick from an island off the coast of Bombay, where Crispy’s parents had spent their honeymoon. The year before it had been—along with every third or so mailbox on the west side of Jersey Gold Lane—run over by old Mrs. Morvane in her Oldsmobile. After the Morvane Mailbox Fiasco they set it back up and now it leaned slightly, like the Tower of Pisa. There was a blue and white moon Crispy’s mother had artistically designed on the side of it.
From Crispy’s leaning Bombay mailbox to Jersey Gold Lane’s cul-de-sac dead-end there was then and remains now a distance of exactly three football fields. Sir Ron Drive is a north-south corridor, while Jersey Gold is a west-east street. Jersey Gold Lane, at its dead-end, right before the cul-de-sac, intersects with Sir Ron Drive, which runs another quarter-mile north toward Meadowview Drive. That’s to say, Sir Ron Drive directly intersects with Jersey Gold Lane at Jersey Gold’s end point. That is why they call Jersey Gold’s end-point “Dead-man’s Curve”, even though it’s not a curve, but a cul-de-sac—without any houses on it.
At the exact time Crispy and Black Bart were revving their engines for the big race, a mauve and ivory colored, big-bumpered, 1950 Oldsmobile Futuramic 88 coupe—the gran-daddy of all American muscle cars—was turning onto Sir Ron Drive and heading toward Jersey Gold Lane. It had purple velour trim seats and a large vanity mirror hanging down over the steering wheel.
The Oldsmobile 88 was still in showroom condition and by 1950’s standards, was state-of-the-art. It had Frigidaire air conditioning, power steering, power brakes, a Hydra-Matic transmission and a big four-barrel carburetor, all of which allowed it to be the first stock car to exceed 90 mph. It had belonged to a member of the National Hot Rod Association Hall of Fame. After his passing, it became the sole property of his wife, the tottery widow Mrs. Leonine Morvane—who happened to be the selfsame, identical woman who had run over all the mail boxes.
She was noted for being the oldest person in the neighborhood and at this point had been living in the same house for forty-nine years. Her reactions were not what they used to be and even if they were, she was too often preoccupied with the image in her vanity mirror to be worried much about work-a-day world affairs, such as boys racing go-carts on public streets.
Each day of the week—except Sundays—she drove to Fancy Maranda’s Pedicure & Boutique Shoppe and had her hair arranged in beehive fashion. Besides the wash and coiffure she would get a special mayonnaise-and-cucumber beauty treatment for her face. And each day, after her hair-do and beauty treatments, she would go to the Knights of Columbus bingo parlor and lose one game of bingo, then she would drive back home via Sir Ron Drive.
It was a weekly tradition she began when she retired from selling Tupperware bowls and Avon cosmetics in the 70’s and many people set their sun-dials by her schedule. Hair appointments at Maranda’s and evening bingo games at the local VFW post were her last two remaining personal recreations. On the way home she would, every minute or so, check her beehive hair-do in that large vanity mirror. During the off-times when she was watching the road she didn’t see much for even with the aid of thick-lensed prescription glasses, her vision was poor.
So it was that Mrs. Morvane, coming home from having lost at bingo, was driving down Sir Ron Drive towards Jersey Gold Lane, minding her own business and on occasion checking her out-of-date beehive hair-do in the vanity.
At that precise moment Crispy and Black Bart were stomping their go-pedals and racing south like mad March hares toward the dead-end intersection—and finish line—of Jersey Gold Lane, Sir Ron Drive and Dead-man’s Curve.
With the octane-boost, Crispy jumped off the line ahead of Black Bart and kept the lead the first half of the race. But the second half proved problematic. With Black Bart’s superior horsepower he had a greater top-end and was quickly gaining on Crispy. As they neared the intersection they were wheel-to-wheel—with Black Bart about to take the lead—when he saw Mrs. Morvane driving their way. Crispy saw her, too, but he wasn’t about to chicken out and lose a race over the smallish matter of a purple, two ton, 1950 Oldsmobile 88.
While Crispy chased glory through the intersection, to be first over the line and the proud victor of the Jersey Gold Lane Go-cart Race, Black Bart slammed on his brakes and barely escaped being compacted into a tiny Black Bart by the doddering old woman’s car. It was a glorious victory, until the Oldsmobile’s big bumper slammed into him. Then Crispy flew—and for a brief moment—he smiled. In that moment he had proved them all wrong. His cart could fly.
Then everything turned dark.
THE BELLA BLUE SCALE
When Crispy woke three days later, it was bittersweet news. Sweet, because his cart was, except for a crooked frame that could be bent back into shape and minor damage to the engine that could be repaired, mostly intact. Sweet, because he woke at all. Crispy lived. But bitter also, because what once had been straight about Crispy was now bent and the experts, in their unanimous opinions, all said he would never walk again. His legs were paralyzed.
The first sunny days of summertime passed and every morning when Crispy woke he closed the blinds his mother had opened. He didn’t want to see the bright sunlight, green grass and blue skies and he didn’t care to watch the playing children and their street-football, curb-basketball and side-yard soccer games. The doctors said, given his injuries, he was a miracle to have even survived. But he didn’t feel like a miracle and it didn’t seem to him he had survived. It felt to him like he had died and was now a ghost in a broken body that no longer seemed to be his own.
His mother was doing all she knew to do, but nothing worked. He was a little boy missing a soul, having lost it at the crossroads of Jersey Gold Lane and Sir Ron Drive. But late at night, as he lay in bed, he would remember his first and last flight. He had flown! His go-cart had, for a brief moment, more lift than drag. It was the only thought left that made him feel happiness.
Each day Bella Blue brought a flower and set it on the ledge of his windowsill and each day he tossed it into the hydrangea bushes. By the third week Bella Blue had borrowed all the flowers out of Mrs. Carlye’s garden and had to walk down the street to borrow flowers from Miss Del Rey’s garden in Spiderweb Circle. He refused to see anyone who came to his door. On the thirtieth day after his injury, on a morning when he had forgot to close his blinds, he watched Bella Blue roll up his driveway in her own wheelchair. When she knocked on the windowpane he opened it and asked why she was making fun of him.
“I’m not making fun of you. I just think you’re not the only one who should be able to go around all day in a special chair. I’m only trying to be as special as I think you are, that’s all. . . . ”
She stood out of her chair and set her elbows on the windowsill and her chin in her hands and studied him like he was a work of modern art, her big blue and brown eyes unblinking. He remained sitting as he studied her. She was staring at the stars in his eyes and he was staring at hers. For the first time in their lives they were doing nothing but stargazing, and knowing they were.
After about two long minutes of this, Bella Blue’s big, pretty eyes finally fluttered closed and out of her blue eye dropped the biggest, slowest-falling tear Crispy ever saw. This, of course, made him cry, too. They dropped the one, then another, and soon Bella Blue was watering the flower she had set on the windowsill and Crispy was shorting out the electronics in his chair. She climbed through the window and they hugged and cried like two old friends and when she finally drew back she smiled, which made him smile. Her smile turned to a laugh, which made Crispy laugh, too. When they tried not to laugh, they only laughed more. This spelled trouble for now they couldn’t stop laughing and the pain was unbearable which, for some odd reason as yet unknown to science, only made them laugh harder.
When their bellies were about to burst from the pain of laughter, they start crying again. Crispy fell out of his chair and rolled around on the floor and Bella Blue joined him and they rolled, laughed and cried together. The smartest, prettiest, biggest-eyed girl in the world had completely, unequivocally, and without question, shattered Crispy’s resolve to never smile again.
When the tears and laughter settled down she reached and let one of his tears trickle onto her finger and then held the teardrop between them,
“That’s what dreams are made of, Crispy. . . .”
She wiped the tears from her own eyes, climbed back out of the window, took a notebook from her chair and set it on the windowsill. She said,
“I wrote you a story.”
Then she took a penny from her pocket and set it on the notebook,
“That’s a lucky penny. Good for one pure wish.”
She got back in her chair and wheeled off, then she stopped, looked back and pointed out,
“Just remember, on a scale of one to ten, your legs are a 1, maybe a 1.3 on a good day. But your spirit? It’s a trillion. And dreams? They’re like the sunrise—they come and they go—and come back again. It’s too soon to give up, Crispy. We’ve only just begun.”
“A Bella Blue scale of 1-to-10—that breaks its own specifications. You would have one of those; a Gizmo-Do-Jiggable Scale.”
She yelled back,
“It’s only a general guideline!”
She rolled to the sidewalk, turned and shouted something that made him happier than he had been in a long while,
“Each day with you is like Christmas for me!”
As he watched her roll off, he thought, You’re one in a trillion, Bella.
When she was out of sight he picked up the penny and put it in his pocket. Then he picked up the notebook and read the title:
The Aerodynamics of Flight; a Treatise on Lift and Drag
by Bella Blue, for Crispy
He almost threw it out the window, but he didn’t. It irritated his curiosity so he set it on his bedside table to read later. He rolled to the window and took the flower she left and placed it inside the notebook. Another few days passed before he decided to read it. When he did he saw she had written a story about a boy who lost his legs, but gained his wings. By the end of another week he had read it so many times he had it memorized. It explained the deceptively-simple method of flight and that within him was also the same possibility of knowledge a bird has, the knowledge of air-sailing. He reasoned out-loud,
“I have flown once before. Maybe I can again. After all, one does not need legs to fly, only wings. But where will I get wings?”
On the fortieth day since the wreck he woke at sunrise to the sound of the colonel playing Reveille. He pulled himself out of bed, climbed into his chair and rolled to the window, where he watched the colonel raise Go-Jo. He saw there was another flag beneath Go-Jo that had an image of his own face on it. Beneath Crispy’s face was written “The Star-whistler”.
When the colonel noticed him he walked over. Crispy raised the window and the old man leaned down and stared for a long moment into Crispy’s sad eyes. Finally, the gruff old colonel stated,
“Son, these are the times which try a boy’s soul. Now there’s only two kinds of boys—star-whistlers and dirt-braggers. The dirt-braggers, well, I hate to say it, but there’s lots of those. They take the stardust given them and sift that out, set it aside, and take the common dirt instead. And then they brag about it, as if they’ve done something extraordinary! But they make no magic, though magic has been given.
“Now the star-whistlers, they are something special. The star-whistler is a rare kind of boy. He takes the dirt that’s been handed to him and he whistles a tune while he sifts the stardust out. He draws stardust out of that dirt. Let me tell you what my father used to tell me, and I’m not, for a moment, belittling your struggle. You’ve been given a tough row to plow, Son. But in the end we have to get glad like we got sad. After all’s said and done, there’s only one question any of us have to answer about ourselves and it’s whether we are star-whistlers or dirt-braggers.”
The colonel waited a moment to let his words sink in before he asked,
“Which are you, A. C.?”
Crispy hung his head low and said,
“That’s questionable. Let me think about it and I’ll get back to you.”
With that, Crispy closed the window and crawled back into bed. As he listened to the sounds of kids playing outside he thought on whether he was a star-whistler or dirt-bragger. When the sun set and the sounds of play died away as all the kids ran inside, he thought some more about it. When he fell asleep, he dreamt about it. In the morning he woke before sunrise and remembered the words of his parents, how he was supposed to be brave. Then he was pretty sure, but not exactly sure, of his answer.
For the first time in forty-one days after the wreck, Crispy wheeled himself outside. It had been so long since he’d seen natural light that even the pastel colors of early dawn burned his eyes. As Reveille played and Bella Blue raised the star-spangled and star-whistler Crispy banners, Colonel Beeman saluted. When Reveille ended the old man turned, looked down at him and asked,
“Well, which is it going to be?”
They looked at each other a long moment.
When Crispy glanced at Bella, she winked at him with her biggest, prettiest eye. He smiled and knew they weren’t going to let him make but one choice. He answered,
For the first time since 1976, which happened to be America’s Bicentennial birthday, the gruff old colonel smiled, showing all of his teeth. But it only lasted a moment. He clapped Crispy on the shoulder and roared in his English Mastiff voice,
“That’s what I thought. And I agree with that assessment seventeen-hundred and seventy-six percent! Now lets get to work.”
As the colonel walked off toward the garage, he said:
“The first thing we have to do is get that go-cart back in shape. We can fix her in two, three days, tops. Now come on, we don’t have all day.”
Bella Blue smiled and corrected the colonel,
“Yes we do, Colonel. It’s only five minutes post sunrise.”
The colonel stopped and looked east toward the dawn, then quickly took back up his march toward the shop. He threw the words over his shoulder like they were a duffle bag full with tools,
“Well we’re burning daylight. That’s five minutes we’ve already lost.”
WISHING’S FOR SUCKERS
Never say die! was the order of the day. Fixing the frame and repairing the engine required a few days worth of elbow-grease. By the third day the frame and engine had risen back to their former glory. Then they applied their doo-jiggering powers toward the brake and gas pedals, so Crispy would be able to control “stop” and “go” with gizmos attached to the steering wheel. When they began work on widening the wheel-base, Crispy wondered why.
“A pilot needs a co-pilot. It’s always good to have two pairs of eyes and hands at the controls,” replied the colonel.
They even doo-jiggered the colonel’s Freeway Noise Blaster, an air-horn with ninety-nine assorted kinds of horns, sounds and songs. Crispy discovered he enjoyed best the railway locomotive air-horn. Each sound had a four-digit code you had to enter. The code for the locomotive air-horn was #1964.
When the cart was ready they wheeled it out of the garage and the colonel cranked it. Crispy and Bella Blue settled in, with Crispy at the gizmo-controls and Bella Blue as his right-hand girl. She looked over and asked,
“I think so.”
“Thinking so is not good enough. It has to be unquestionable.”
Crispy pressed the gas gizmo with his right hand and the cart jumped forward. He nervously squeezed the brake gizmo. Bella Blue said,
“Take me to the park. There’s a real nice swing there I want to show you.”
Crispy lightly touched the gas gizmo and the cart inched slowly out of the driveway and into the street. Crispy looked both ways once, then twice, then pressed the gas gizmo again. Faster and faster they went, until they were traveling, as signified by the Bella Blue doo-jiggered speedometer, at 17 mph. A short while later they drove into the park, where Crispy cut the engine and they turned and smiled at each other.
“You want to swing now? I can lift you into it.”
“No. Let’s just sit awhile.”
They sat and watched the birds fly in and out of the big green trees and the clouds float through the big blue sky. When a cloud that was a shade of blue and looked like a great mountain caught her eye, Bella Blue pulled his sleeve and pointed, “Look! A big blue mountain!”
Then Crispy saw one that looked like a giant white eagle and behind the eagle flew two baby eagles. They spent the entire afternoon finding great and beautiful forms in the clouds. When the sun was setting and the blue mountains and white eagles had flown away and the first star came out, Crispy crossed his fingers and shut his eyes and wished,
“I wish I could fly like an eagle among the clouds.”
Bella Blue said,
“That’s a great wish. That’s what stars are for, to wish great things on.”
But Crispy didn’t feel like believing. His shoulders slumped and he replied,
“Wishes are dreams that will never happen.”
Bella Blue crinkled up her nose and squinted her big blue and brown eyes and gently reminded him,
“That’s not true. Wishes are dreams that may happen, if we believe in dreams and wishes. . . . Star-whistler, remember?”
Crispy raised his shoulders back up and his spirit followed. He answered matter-of-factly,
“Yeah. You’re right. Star-whistler. . . .”
He looked into the sky and asked,
“What would you wish for, if you could have any dream come true?”
Bella Blue knew without having to think of it,
“That we could fly past the moon and travel among the stars.”
Her dream made Crispy smile. He said,
“Maybe we can, if we believe big enough?”
“Where are we going to find belief that big, Crispy?”
“Maybe we can’t find it in one place, but in little parts here and there, each day.”
Bella Blue shook her head in total agreement and put her arm around Crispy and replied,
“Yeah. I’m sure that’s exactly how it works.”
Just then they heard a low, deep sound that grew louder. In another moment Black Bart entered the park, driving his brand-new dune-buggy that was as big as a Volkswagen Beetle, and even faster. Eric the Red sat alongside. It took Crispy and Bella’s minds a few moments to adjust to the sight. When they did, it was unmistakable. He had finally done it.
Black Bart had gone full pirate.
He had exchanged his cowboy hat for a pirate’s hat. In place of his cowboy boots he now wore pirate boots. A plastic parrot was attached to Eric the Red’s arm and across his left eye was an eye-patch. Black Bart had colored in Eric the Red’s two front teeth with a black Sharpie. On the front cross bar of the giant go-cart was a chrome skull and crossbones. Attached to Black Bart’s pirate pants was a holster, where swung a pair of plastic cutlasses. The dune-buggy was, of course, painted all black and a pirate’s flag, replete with skull and cross-bones, was flapping in the wind behind Black Bart’s ugly mug, which was made up in a pirate’s dark mascara. When Bart saw Crispy and Bella Blue he made a bee-line toward them and peeled circles around them, making the soft grass fly all over. When he finally stopped he apologized—but not really,
“I’m sorry. . . LOSERS! Ha! Well look who it is, four-eyes and deadbeat dud boy.”
This caused Eric the Red to chuckle.
Black Bart had painted on the back of his car: “The Marvin Skyler”. Bella Blue, having left her glasses at the colonel’s shop, squinted her eyes to read it, and asked what Marvin Skyler meant. Black Bart’s voice—as befitting a buccaneer’s—was filled with ridicule, disdain and insult,
“What does Marvin Skyler mean? I thought smarty pants knew everything? Marvin Skyler was only the most despicable, sleaziest, sneakiest, lyingest, rottenest, greediest, rudest, scruffiest, stinkiest, cleverest and most deceitful and infamous pirate who ever sailed the trade winds. He attacked and robbed ships, plundered villages for their loot, and stole many rare valuables. When the noble practice of piracy was outlawed in 1856 he turned his snout skywards and beached himself, crawled out of the sea and became a haberdasher. He was the most legendary action hero of the late 1800’s. He was the scourge of the seven seas. He was a true grog blossom whose end came, some say, by walking the gangplank, which is the only ignoble end any true and great pirate would insist on.”
Bella laughed and said,
“I see. Well I heard different. I heard he tripped and fell in a sewer well and was never smelled from again.”
This pert statement from Bella set Black Bart back a piece. The look on his face was pure bafflement and dumbfoundery. His neck strained, his nostrils flared, and his tongue lolled around in his mouth, looking for the smart words he couldn’t find. He soon enough corrected and scoffed it off and said,
“Yeah? Well you’re only a girl and whatever you say doesn’t matter. Marvin Skyler was the thievin’-est, vicious-est, most dishonest and dark pirate of all time. That’s what that name means. And I aim to be just like him. The freedom and adventure of the life of a pirate is the only life for me.”
Bella Blue shrugged her shoulders and said,
“Well, you just look like an overgrown, confused version of Cap’n Crunch to me.”
Black Bart’s eyes grew near as big as Bella’s. He gritted his teeth, cracked his neck, clinched and unclinched his fingers, then built up, and blew off, a pirate’s hat full of steam. At that point he had his first and only brilliant thought of the day when he decided he had enough conversation with Bella. He said,
“Enough of this small talk. Crispy, I see you got that pile of crap working again. Care to race? I won’t mind giving you a head-start. You’ll need it, even though it won’t do you any good.”
Crispy glared at him, imagining himself as a great big eagle sitting calmly on a great blue mountain and Black Bart as an annoying little black bird. He reached over and punched in code #1964 on the Freeway Blaster Noisemaker. When the F.B.N. blared out the big sound of a railway locomotive’s air-horn, Black Bart and Eric the Red jumped in shock and Crispy and Bella Blue laughed in delight. Black Bart scowled and said,
“I never did take you serious. Sit here and play on your horn with your weird little tree-hugging girlfriend and your sad little go-cart. I’ll see ya around, you paralyzed pansy!”
As Black Bart drove off Crispy said,
“I can tell you what I wish. I wish I had a go-cart that could beat that guy.”
Bella Blue’s face was scrunched up and her eyes were squinting and this time they were almost beady. Her turquoise blue and sunset brown eyes were barely visible as she whispered in a slow draw like a Western gunslinger right before drawing her nickel-plated Smith and Wesson six shooter,
“Wishing’s for suckers, Crispy. I know what can beat that guy.”
“Just be at the garage first thing in the morning ready for work, no questions asked.”
As they drove home it became clear to Crispy that sometimes Bella Blue was not to be questioned. Sometimes she was downright unquestionable.
THE STAR-WHISTLER DASHAVOO
The following morning—which happened to be the Fourth of July—Crispy woke at sunrise to the sound of a band-saw in the colonel’s garage. He hurried and dressed and rolled himself next door, where he found Bella Blue and the colonel hard at work on a large piece of aluminum. Asking what they were up to, Bella Blue didn’t bother to look up from her work as she replied,
“Top secret. If we told you we’d have to make you disappear. But I can say this much, it’s the ultimate in doo-jigging.”
On the blackboard a schematic had been drawn. He rolled over for a closer look. It was the blue-print for a pair of aluminum wings. Scribbled over the top of the diagram were the words:
“How to Doo-jig Wings for Lift”
Bella Blue said to the colonel, who was working the band-saw while wearing a pair of safety goggles that made him look like a cross between a big-eyed Chinch bug and two fluffy white chihuahuas,
“Shave off 1/9th of an inch, and not a smidgeon more.”
After he cut the piece, Bella Blue held it up and inspected it. It was a perfectly-designed port-side wing. As she began to fit it to the left side of the go-cart she barked at Crispy,
“Well don’t just sit there, help me!”
Crispy grabbed one end of the airfoil and held it steady as she fastened it with bolts and screws to the side of the cart. After the colonel cut the starboard side, they attached it to the right side. Bella Blue hit the “Wings-for-Lift-Gizmo-Switch Button” she had fastened to the steering wheel and the wings folded out. When she hit the button again they folded back in, fully concealed. She stepped back with a beaming smile and said,
“Gentlemen, we have wings. Now where are we going to find a power source great enough for lift?”
She tapped her toe. Crispy looked at her questioningly. The colonel scratched his head and said:
“That’s the million dollar question. It would take a fifty or more horsepower engine to make that cart fly.”
Bella Blue, in deep idea-production, glanced up and to the right. Her big eyes fell on the giant Fan of Death as it oscillated in the rafters. A smile spread over her face as big as the Grand Canyon. She exclaimed, “Yes we do. . . .”
The colonel and Crispy followed her gaze then looked at her skeptically and asked the same question at the same time,
“The Fan of Death?”
Bella Blue shook her head in the affirmative.
“Yes. The Fan of Death. Except now we will call it the Fan of Flight. I think that’s a more properly descriptive and happier name. And this will be, in bona fide fact—once we doo-jig it to the chassis—the world’s first box-fan car and aeroplane.”
They took the fan down and by mid-afternoon and three separate trips to four different hardware stores for the correct-sized giant bolts and screws, electrical lines and other equipment—and two rolls of duct-tape—they had doo-jigged the box-fan to the back-end of the cart and connected a power line to the “Giant-Turbo-Power-Box-Fan-Gizmo-Switch Button” on the steering wheel.
Bella Blue said, “Test it, Crispy. See if it works.”
Crispy pushed the Giant-Turbo-Box-Fan-Gizmo-Switch Button. The fan turned slow at first, but soon picked up speed. As it swirled the cart began to inch forward. Bella smiled and turned to the boys with a satisfied smile and said,
She shut the fan off, walked to a package and pulled out a cylindrical piece of metal, which was painted bright red. She said,
“Now there’s one more vital element needed to get this gizmo miracle in the air; even the great Superman has to make a leap before he flies.”
She began hooking up the bright red cylinder to the rear beam of the chassis. She talked as she worked,
“After calculating our needed climb angle relative to air density, runway length, runway slope, elevation, existing surface winds, air temperature and take-off weight, I realized we are going to need a jump-start for a successful lift-off. Regarding that, I have here a single-acting hydraulic actuator that I am 99.999 percent sure will do the trick. Its official name and model number is a Rayola Auto Hoist AC Power Unit, 240 Volt, Model # WE2-GNA.FLI2DA.
“I have, of course, taken the liberties to modify it in order to meet our particular specifications. Now nothing on this chassis fits the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards relative to design standards of chassis and body conversions, but since this is the first box-fan car in history and we aim to fly in it, there are no evaluated and preconceived standards we can meet. Of course, it does not meet any FAA standards either, but we are setting standards here. And besides all that, there are conditions here which meet what is called the “first try for flight” standards, which were the exact conditions those two bicycle enthusiasts, Orville and Wilbur Wright, worked under.”
The colonel asked,
“What’s the IP rating on that cylinder, Bella?”
“This particular model has an IP rating of 1000. The highest they make. It will give us the best rate of protection possible from all solid particles, liquid ingress and mechanical impact resistance, so we have no reason to expect any abnormalities during the few moments of operation we will require of it. I am satisfied it will perform at a maximum safe level.”
After bolting on the Rayola Hydraulic Power unit, she pointed at the little red button at the top of it,
“Now that, my dear Crispy, is the Rayola-Hydraulic-Power-Jump-Start-Gizmo-Switch Button. For the sake of simplicity we will shorten that to the L.O.B., which stands for “Lift Off Button”. Do NOT press that until I tell you to.”
Crispy shook his head in a most solemn way and replied,
She stood up from her work, put her hands on her hips, wiped the sweat from her brow and said,
“There’s nothing left for us now but to make a test run. Any crazy test-pilots around here care to give it a try? How about you, Colonel?”
The colonel shook his head,
“Oh, no. Not me, young lady. I’m much too old for all that.”
Bella Blue looked at Crispy,
“It has to be the star-whistler, then.”
Crispy smiled, lifted himself from his chair and set himself in the driver’s seat.
“I’m already flying. You coming along?”
“Of course. The co-pilot must be on board to assist the captain.”
They cranked the cart and were heading out when the colonel stopped them.
“Hold on a minute—”
He marched to the flag post and took down Go-Jo and the Star-whistler flags and after rummaging around in the garage, found a bamboo fishing rod, which he attached the flags to by fishing line and copper wire. Then he duct-taped the fishing-rod flag pole to the back roll bar of the cart. He set an empty Coca-Cola bottle between two bars on the chassis and duct-taped that and instructed them that in the horizontal it was a fully non-operational air-brake and in the vertical, a bottle-rocket container. He placed in the floorboard a packet of bottle-rockets to be used when they were in flight. Finally, he duct-taped a CB radio to the front roll-bar and instructed them to keep it on channel 125. After all this the colonel said,
“You can’t make your inaugural flight without your banners. And you can’t go air-sailing on the Fourth of July without bottle-rockets. And you need a communications system to keep in touch with ground control—that’s me—and before this contraption will ever fly, it has to be named. All ships that fly or swim have to be named. It’s tradition.”
Crispy thought some on it, then said:
“Well, it has to be a Ford. Dad loved Fords.”
“Ford it is. What model Ford we got here?”
They thought a moment more, then Bella Blue said,
“How about the Star-whistler Dashavoo?”
Crispy smiled and said,
“I like the Dashavoo part.”
Bella Blue replied,
“It’s not a Dashavoo without the star-whistler.”
The colonel made it public,
“A Ford Star-whistler Dashavoo it is. I like the sound of it. When you two start your car and aeroplane company, you can change the name of the make then. But the first one will be a Ford.”
He pried the top off a can of blue paint, took a brush down from the wall, and quickly painted “Ford Star-whistler Dashavoo” on the side of the cart. Then he asked,
“Crispy, what’s your favorite number?”
Crispy turned his head and furrowed his brows in deep idea-production and replied,
“22 it is.”
The colonel painted the number “22” on the side of the cart. After standing off a ways and contemplating his work, he touched it up to perfection and announced:
“It’s a one-in-a-million shot, and while sophisticated persons might reason this particular notion could not fly, I, being of sound mind and possessed of no small measure of intelligence regarding the apparatus and means of human flight, firmly believe the Star-whistler Dashavoo is ready for take-off.”
Bella Blue looked over at Crispy and instructed,
“Let’s go over this, step by step. First, after we get her up to speed we’ll flip the Giant-Turbo-Power-Box-Fan-Gizmo-Switch Button. When the fan is full-blast, which, by my calculations, should be around fifty feet before the ramp, I’ll tell you to hit the Rayola-Hydraulic-Power-Jump-Start-Gizmo-Switch Button—otherwise known as the L.O.B. Which stands for what?”
“The Lift Off Button.”
“Right-O. Now be expecting a big jolt at that point. We’ll be in the air then, but not exactly airborne. I’ll then flip the Wings-for-Lift-Gizmo-Switch Button, which will deploy the airfoils. If all goes right, we’ll then be in flight. Easy-peezy. Got it?”
“No. . . . Maybe a little. . . . .”
His head inclined by the heavy thoughts within it. When he raised back up he looked Bella in the eyes.
“I’m afraid, Bella. I’m afraid to wreck again.”
Bella grabbed Crispy’s hand and he turned away. She said,
“We don’t have to do this if you don’t want to. It’s no big deal.”
Crispy turned back to look at her. His eyes were intense. He said,
“But it is a big deal. I have to do this, or I’ll never do anything.”
She shook her head in agreement and said,
“Tell you what. Go ahead and worry about it as much as you want. It's a scientific fact that 90% of the things 100% of people worry about never happen. So the more you worry about something, the more likely it's not going to happen. That's basic mathematical probability. Go ahead and get all your worry out at once. Take your time. I'll sit right here beside you while you do that.”
Crispy sat and thought about it all. He imagined flying, falling and crashing. He worried as much as he could; scrunched up his forehead in all the multifaceted thoughts of vexation that come to the mind of man in the struggle to overcome his weakness. He worried himself as sick as he could about all the things that could go wrong, but was sure to think also of all the things that could go right. After he worried all he could, he immediately felt better and decided he could handle whatever came, same as he had handled whatever came before. He drew in a big, deep breath, then blew out the residue of his weak and worry in the stagnant, musty, gasoline-and-engine-parts air of the old colonel’s garage. He looked over at Bella and smiled. It was his cue he was tip-top and ready. She smiled back and said,
“Okay. Now let’s do a pre-flight check. Wings?”
Crispy hit the Wings-for-Lift-Gizmo-Switch Button. They operated as engineered, flaring out from beneath the cart and stretching seven feet to both sides.
“Wings are good.”
“Fan of Flight?”
Crispy hit the Giant-Turbo-Power-Box-Fan-Gizmo-Switch Button for fan deployment. The fan came on, slow at first, then picked up speed and began moving them along. He shut it off.
“Fan is good.”
Crispy eyeball-checked the tires.
“Tires are good.”
Crispy almost hit the red L.O.B. button, but Bella pushed his hand away.
“No. Let’s trust that one is going to work as engineered.”
Bella Blue looked around, satisfied all precautions and necessaries had been taken care of and all possible and foreseeable dangers avoided. She said,
“Okay, gentlemen. Pre-flight check checks out. Now the on-air announcement.”
Bella Blue picked up the mic to the CB radio,
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your co-pilot Bella Blue speaking. On behalf of Captain Crispy and the entire crew, welcome aboard the first flight of the Star-whistler Dashavoo Turbo Box-Fan Car Aeroplane. It’s a balmy evening with a temperature of 83 degrees Fahrenheit. The sky is partly cloudy, with a 10 percent chance of rain. You will enjoy non-stop service from Stratosphere City to a place of chartless wonder and then continue on from there to parts unknown. Our flight time will be of indeterminate duration, but I can guarantee the memory will last a lifetime.”
Bella Blue stopped a moment to wink at Crispy, then continued:
“Since this is the first trip of a box-fan car aeroplane in history, we cannot know what altitude we will level off at or what speed we will make, but my scientific calculations believe a flight level of one-five zero zero and velocity of around 150mph ground speed will not be too much to ask. At this time, make sure your seat backs and tray tables are in their full upright position and your seat belt is correctly fastened. Also, your portable electronic devices must be set to airplane mode until an announcement is made upon arrival. Thank you for flying Star-whistler Dashavoo Airways and on behalf of your cockpit and crew, please sit back and enjoy the trip.”
She put the mic up and turned to Crispy—who was smiling at her with a happy grin—and said,
“Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s get this bird in the air.”
Crispy hesitated to flip the gas gizmo switch. Bella Blue sat blinking patiently. He said,
“What if we fall, Bella?”
“Oh, but Crispy. . . what if we fly?”
Crispy took in her strong gaze and by it grew game.
“Well okay, then. Let’s fly.”
With a big breath, he hit the gas gizmo switch and they drove out of the garage. The spectacular jamboree which greeted Crispy’s eyes startled him. The entire neighborhood was out and there was a banner across the street which read:
JERSEY GOLD LANE GO-CART RACE OF THE CENTURY:
BLACK BART VERSUS CRISPY THE GREAT!
Sawyer Sue and her cheer-leading friends were somersaulting, flipping and shouting up and down the street, which was filled with neighbors and friends. Even Miss Pearl, Stratosphere City’s Head Librarian, was there to record the momentous occasion. That, and because she lived next door. It appeared most of them were there for Crispy. Many were holding colorful signs which read:
GO CRISPY, GO!
A few dour-faced persons, sourpusses with brooding ill humors and dark scowls and all dressed in black (including the town’s mortician), held signs which said:
GO BART, GO
Black Bart’s little camp of supporters weren’t even excited enough to put exclamation points after their sad little “GO”. But Black Bart didn’t care about that. As he’d said many times, he wasn’t here to make friends and inspire people. His mission was to destroy all competition. He cared only to win, and for all the wrong reasons.
The sweetest sign of all for Crispy was the one held by his mother, which was spelled out in giant letters:
I LOVE YOU, SON!
He turned and asked Bella Blue,
“What’s all this about?”
With a big brown-eyed wink Bella Blue said,
“I don’t know. Perhaps a little bird told Sawyer Sue about a big-race and she set all this up. You know how she is, always cheering about something. And now she is cheering for you.”
At that moment the scary sound of Black Bart’s big engine was heard. They turned and saw him speeding toward them. He pulled up alongside with a bewildered look. Eric the Red sat beside him with a smarmy smile on his face. Whenever Eric smiled it seemed to Crispy to resemble melted butter having been spread across a piece of burnt toast. He wondered why he thought that, but never did figure it out. Black Bart, dressed in full pirate gear and with a sea rover’s accent, said:
“Aye, landlubber, is that a giant box-fan on the back of your go-cart? Have you lost your dog-gone mind, along with your legs?”
Bella Blue answered,
“He didn’t lose anything. He gained a pair of wings. And what about you? Who goes around in the 21st century dressed like a pirate?”
Bella’s pert question caught Black Bart off-guard. He didn’t know what to say. After looking goosey for a moment he blurted out nothing apropos,
“Don’t worry about me, I got this.”
Bella smirked and said,
“Care to race, or just talk? All the way past Dead-man’s Curve and across the stream. You have a dunce-buggy. You can jump it.”
Black Bart leered and answered,
“It’s not a dunce-buggy, Tree-lover. And if you think that thing can beat me, I see it’s you who have lost your mind. Yeah. I’m game. Let’s get this epic fail of yours on the road.”
On the off chance that Black Bart had forgot what a locomotive horn sounded like, Crispy hit code #1964 on the Freeway Blaster to remind him. Black Bart glowered as he pulled even with the box-fan car. Before they had the chance to start the colonel ran over with two helmets, one for Bella and one for Crispy. He put them on and tightened their straps. Then he made sure their seat-belts were good and tight.
“Remember kids, you can’t be too safe up there.”
“Roger that,” sounded out Crispy.
“Will do,” replied Bella Blue.
Then the colonel held his hand high.
“Gentlemen, on my command. . .”
Black Bart gunned his engine and black, angry smoke billowed out of the tailpipe. Crispy gunned the Star-whistler Dashavoo’s engine. It wasn’t near as loud or powerful as Bart’s black pirate buggy—but it had something his didn’t. Then the colonel quickly snapped his arm downward and yelled,
The race began and the sidelines erupted into cheers. Black Bart shot off the line like a bat out of a cave and easily led the Star-whistler Dashavoo. As the colonel watched them rush down the street he said with pride,
“They are under way. Legend is in motion.”
By the time Black Bart made the first hundred yards he was a dozen dunce-buggy lengths ahead. The weight of the fan was keeping the Star-whistler Dashavoo from a fast start, but it had long legs to it, or rather—it had giant-turbo-power-box-fan wings. Hope was not lost. Hope had not even begun to hit the fan yet. Bella Blue shouted,
“Hit the Giant-Turbo-Power-Box-Fan-Gizmo-Switch!”
Crispy pressed the switch. The fan turned slow as molasses at first and then rotated faster and faster. Soon the giant fan was full-blast, blowing all the dead leaves and dust on Jersey Gold Lane into a big dust-and-leaf cloud behind them.
The Star-whistler Dashavoo surged ahead and quickly gained ground on the Marvin Skyler. By the end of the second hundred the Dashavoo was closing in on the dune-buggy and by ten yards into the third hundred Black Bart was about to be left behind in a giant dust and leaf cloud. The Boy Who Wore Black was about to lose for the second time in as many races. But Black Bart was a slyboots trickster. He didn’t play fair. He played to win. In case the Dashavoo surged past them during the race he had already instructed Eric the Red on what to do. . .
As Crispy and Bella surged past the Marvin Skyler, Eric the Red reached over and stuffed Bella Blue’s pink scarf into the Fan of Flight, causing it to hiccup and sputter to a stop. The box-fan car shuddered and faltered and the dune-buggy shot ahead. There was only eighty yards left before the dirt ramp. Bella Blue pulled with all her might to free the scarf. . .
When she finally succeeded the fan started revolving—slow to go at first—but soon was oscillating at top-speed again. The Dashavoo jumped like a thoroughbred and quickly made up lost ground. Even with a high-powered, tricked-out dunce-buggy, Black Bart had resorted to trickery in his attempt to win but Crispy, Bella and the Star-whistler Dashavoo were coming on strong. It was going to be close.
Meanwhile, on Sir Ron Drive, the predictable event of old Mrs. Morvane driving home from the bingo parlor was proceeding. And as predictable was, once again, she was not about to notice the work-a-day world boys—one driving a giant, black, buccaneer’s dune-buggy replete with pirate’s flag and the other driving a red, white and blue go-cart with a giant ATR-72 turbo-prop box-fan attached to the back of it—as they raced toward her and the intersection. Her chrome Oldsmobile 88 bumper, meeting with a go-cart, was about to become near as habitual as her hair appointments and bingo losses, except this time it looked to be Black Bart who was going to meet the bumper. But unlike last time he wasn’t about to brake for the old woman. Black Bart was going to risk it.
Bart was fast—and lucky. He zoomed through the intersection and the old woman’s Bumper of Death missed him by less than half the width of a cat’s whisker. Bella Blue and Crispy were right behind him—and on an imminent collision course with Mrs. Morvane’s front passenger door. But Bella Blue had prepared for this. She yelled,
“HIT THE L.O.B.!”
Crispy didn’t waste any time. He hit the Rayola-Hydraulic-Power-Jump-Start-Gizmo-Switch Button and immediately—
The hydraulic actuator wasn’t performing up to specs. Crispy hit it again. Still nothing. And again and again. Less than twenty feet remained before impact. Bella then did what any honest-to-God genius would do in such a situation. She raised her fist high, yelled “MUSHROOM SHITAKE!”, then slammed her fist down on the Rayola-Hydraulic-Power-Jump-Start-Gizmo-Switch button. In the next instant they left the earth in a great jump that lifted them over the widow’s Oldsmobile Futuramic 88.
With no time for a breath of thanks, Bella hit the Wings-for-Lift-Gizmo-Switch and the wings deployed . . . .
When the silver airfoils caught the onrushing air there was a slight bump! that jounced Bella Blue and Crispy and then. . . .
They were in flight.
As the great ATR-72 turbo-prop blew the wind behind them they flew higher and further by the moment. Bella Blue hit #1970 on the Freeway Noise Blaster and the 150 decibels of a jumbo jet at take-off screamed out of the big red horn. Even with all the noise and commotion the old widow never noticed the bright-eyed boy and big-eyed girl in a red, white and blue go-cart with silver wings and a giant turbo-prop-box-fan on the back of it as they flew over her Oldsmobile with less than a millimeter to spare. History was being made. The world’s first box-fan car was on its maiden voyage, its star-spangled and star-whistler Crispy banners furling in the wind.
But Black Bart wasn’t about to throw in the towel. He was going all the way. He was dead-set on jumping Dead Man’s Hill. Eric the Red, sitting beside him, was quiet as a mouse and livid with fear. Black Bart looked over and said as calm as if they were sitting on a sofa,
“Don’t worry, Matey. I got this.”
Now came the terminal tale of young Black Bart and his first mate in swashbuckling, Eric the Red. They were a clever sort of pair, indeed; the rum-swillin’est, sword-swallowin’est, eye-patch-wearin’est, fish-lip-ed-est couple of mateys ever to sail a sloop of fools. They committed untold numbers of nefarious atrocities and searched in vain their entire lives for the bounty of Rocky Brook—that is, until the day when they misjudged what their ship could spend and so came to the end of the road and their deserved dead-end.
Now young Black Bart was a dirty catch, with a heart of mud and teeth to match. He was a gangster of the high seas who never gave mercy and never said please. He took what he wished and threw away the rest and of all the pirates who ever sailed he was, he would say, the very best-of-the-best.
He struck grief in hearts wherever he went and was sly as a sea serpent and not a nice gent. He washed his bloody paws in more innocent bile than many a pirate in a mighty long while. He was a plague-bringer and grog-swiller—the disgrace of the whole human race—but no lily-livered, chicken-hearted, yellow-belly was he. When it came time for him to walk the plank, walk it he did, you’ll see.
Now Eric the Red with the fake peg leg was Bart’s loyal pal and his best pirate chum and was as toothless as an octopus and dumb as a plum—and plump with the gout and a heck of a lout, but a notorious celebrity, the facts will bear out. He kept the ship spotless and the cutlass polished and though his peg leg was fake, his loyalty was true, and though he disappeared in his grave as any rogue would—he’d have traded places with any of you. Loyal to the bitter end was he when came his moment with destiny. And now ole Black Bart and Eric the Red turned ghost white—as they plunged to their bitter end while attempting flight.
When Dead Man’s Hill came up Black Bart jumped it full throttle, his go-pedal crushed into the floorboard. . . and then the infamous Marvin Skyler became airborne. For a brief instant the big black dune-buggy and the Dashavoo were wheel-to-wheel again, but no moment last forever. . .
As the box-fan car continued rising, faster and higher with each second, Black Bart and his pirate buggy confirmed Newton’s law of gravity and fell back to earth, splashing and crashing in the stream. There was just not enough pirate power in the big black buggy to make it across. The Marvin Skyler was no more. It lay in a twisted pile of metal at the bottom of Rocky Brook, it’s big engine bubbling and puttering out as the waters rushed into its carburetor. Black Bart and Eric the Red, except for their pride, were unhurt and after jumping clear of the junked dune buggy, swam to shore.
When Black Bart made land, he gave Bella Blue and Crispy one last remark to think about—and it surprised Black Bart as much as it stunned Crispy and Bella. As he stood looking open-mouthed at the two in flight he doffed his pirate hat, shook it toward the sky, and shouted as loud as he could,
“GO CRISPY, GO!”
And then the impossible happened. Eric the Red finally spoke. Not only that, but he shouted:
“ANCHORS AWAY, MATEYS!”
Crispy and Bella Blue kept soaring up and soon were far above Rocky Brook and over the shining waters of New York Bay.
It was an historical event—a moment to be recorded for posterity—that on the Fourth of July, thirty-five minutes until civil twilight, the first turbo-box-fan car and aeroplane flying trip in the history of the world was being successfully piloted by two dreamers who believed.
“It works!” yelled Crispy. “You did it, Bella! The box-fan car works!”
Bella Blue shouted, “We did it! It works! It works!”
“Bella Blue the Unquestionable! You’re my champion!”
“Crispy the Great! You’re my hero!”
Crispy hit code #1964 on the noisemaker and the sound of the turbo-box-fan car aeroplane locomotive horn echoed against the waters of the harbor.
Up ahead was Liberty Island, where stood the Statue of Liberty, solemn and majestic and bearing her torch and tablet. As they flew over her, Bella Blue spoke in a beaming voice,
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. . . She’s a French lady, you know. France gave her to us. Many criticized her before she came and then, when she arrived, they loved her. They gave her the first ticker-tape parade in history, in fact. She is the first beautiful face to greet immigrants coming to America. When the government refused her, the people took her in. It was Pulitzer’s poor pledges who brought her here. The poor, regular people of the teeming, towering city paid her steerage. She is the perfect embodiment of a dream, Crispy. She symbolizes the hope of freedom within all people everywhere.”
As they flew by Lady Liberty and on toward the city, they called out in cheerful voices,
“Happy Birthday, Miss America!”
When they made it to the edge of the city, the people looked up and one wondered,
“Is that a car?”
Another wondered, “Is it a plane?”
And one got it right on the button,
“Is it a box-fan car aeroplane?”
But having never seen a box-fan car aeroplane before, they couldn’t be sure.
Crispy hit code #1915 on the noisemaker and the melody of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” echoed against the skyscrapers below them. They could only recall,
“Start spreading the news, I’m leaving today. If we can make it there, we can make it anywhere! New York, New York! ”
So they sang that, at the top of their lungs, over and over again.
They flew over the top of the metropolis, singing and shooting off their bottle-rockets and exploring how everything looked from above. There was lots to look at. Most of the places they knew well on the ground looked totally different from a birds-eye view, so they were full of excited talk figuring out what was what. They pointed out the landmarks of Manhattan,
“Look, there’s Time’s Square!”
“And there’s Broadway!”
“Look, there’s the Empire State Building!”
“And there’s Yankee Stadium!”
“And there’s the Brooklyn Bridge!”
“There’s Coney Island!”
In a New York minute they had flown to land’s end. They kept flying, far out over the Atlantic ocean, until the Big Apple had become the Little Apple. Close to shore were the white-capped waves and further out the surface became placid and smooth as glass, but the glass was broken from time to time by pods of dolphins jumping out of the water. Far off in the distance were freighters that looked like floating cities.
“If we kept going, where would we end up?”
“We’d end up right back here, of course. But to get back here, considering our present bearings, we’d first see land over Ireland, then pass over the United Kingdom, then on to the Kingdom of the Netherlands and past Denmark, Germany, Poland, the Bug River, Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine, Russia and Siberia. From Siberia we’d fly over the Ural Mountains into Asia. We’d probably have to stop for some petrol at that point, but that wouldn’t be a good idea, because now we’d be flying over the Sea of Okhotsk, which was named after Okhotsk, the first Russian settlement in the Far East—”
Crispy was pulling at her sleeve,
“What is the Bug River”?
“It’s a major European river and tributary of the Narew River and is part of the border between Ukraine and Poland—”
“But why do they call it that?”
“Oh. Well, it’s not named after bugs, if that’s what you are wondering. The name is believed to come from an old Germanic word which likely meant something winding, you know, like a river. The Slavs adopted the word from the Goths who previously lived nearby.”
“So as I was saying, at that point I’d insist we take a southern detour to see Hong Kong. Did you know Hong Kong has 7,827 highrises? And did you know if you put all those highrises on top of each other it would go up over 200 miles? Every evening those big buildings put on what they call the Symphony of Lights, named by the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest permanent light and sound festival in the world. We couldn’t make a trip around the world without seeing that. Hong Kong is number two in the world for number of highrises. Guess which city is number one.”
“Nope! New York’s number four. Moscow is number one. They have 11,676!”
Crispy let out a low whistle and said,
“That sure is a lot of highrises.”
“Yeah. It sure is.”
“Where do we go after Hong Kong?”
“After Hong Kong we’d fly out over the North Pacific Ocean along the Tropic of Cancer until we dipped down into Oceania, to fly into the Hawaiian archipelago. We’d make a pit stop there for sure, possibly spend a week sightseeing, hopping from Hawaii to Molokai to Oahu to Kauai to Lānai to Niihau to Kahoolawe and finally Maui, which they call the Friendly Isle. I bet you don’t know what the highest mountain on earth is. . . .”
Crispy’s eyes lit up,
“I do know. It’s Mount Everest!”
“Well kind of, and kind of not. Mauna Kea is the highest, except only the top of it is above water. The rest is under the sea. It’s a sea mountain, see. So the answer depends on how you define the question. When measured from its oceanic base, Mauna Kea is over 33,000 feet tall, making it the world’s tallest mountain from base to summit, higher than Mount Everest by almost a mile. Did you know the Hawaiian Islands are the exposed peaks of a great undersea mountain range known as the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain, formed by volcanoes? They are almost 2,000 miles from the nearest continent, standing out there by themselves with the tops of their heads peaking out of the ocean.
“In Hawaiian mythology the peaks of the Hawaiian islands are sacred, and Mauna Kea is considered the most sacred of all. It’s a million years old, which is pretty young for a mountain. It’s also one of the best places in the world for astronomical observations. I’ve dreamed of going there to look at the moon and stars from the highest mountain on earth.”
When Bella was through with her geography lesson they looked out over the ocean, took two deep breaths, and shook their heads in wonderment. Bella said,
“It’s a big, big world out there, Crispy.”
“And it’s only one world, among many. Why don’t you throw a lucky penny in it and make a wish. I have one you can use. The person who gave it to me said it’s good for one pure wish.”
He reached in his pocket and took out his lucky penny and gave it to her. Before she closed her eyes, crossed her fingers and tossed the penny into the ocean, she glanced at his paralyzed legs. As the penny flew through the air, down, down into the sea, she made her pure wish.
They watched it plop into the sea, making a little sparkle as it disappeared beneath the waters. Crispy asked,
“What’d you wish for?”
“If I tell you it won’t come true.”
“Yeah. You’re right.”
They sat quiet awhile, enjoying the tranquility. Crispy said,
“I hope your wish comes true, Bella.”
She grabbed his hand and looked deep into his eyes,
“It will, Crispy. I know it will.”
Crispy looked away and put on his thinking cap, trying hard to come up with something to change the subject. He said,
“Did you know that in color terminology the only tint that comes with its own name is pink—it being, of course, a tint of red.”
Bella’s big eyes grew wide with joy. She exclaimed,
“Really? I didn’t know that!”
Teaching Bella something new made Crispy proud. He puffed up his chest and said,
“You dreamed of flying past that old moon and on toward the stars. Maybe we can with this.”
Bella Blue went into her “thoughtful repose” pose and said,
“Nothing’s impossible, but that might be questionable. We might not want to try that trip in a turbo-prop-box-fan rig. It would take a fusion-propelled box-fan rocket ship for all that. But I tell you, if we doo-jig it right I think the possibility of it is totally without question.”
Crispy replied, breathless from the excitement,
“We gotta hurry and make the fusion-propelled box-fan rocket ship so we can blast off! I wonder how long it would take to fly to the nearest galaxy?”
Bella Blue put her finger to her head and went into incredible-idea-production mode for a moment, then declared,
“Figuring that out is a small matter of some quick celestial navigation. First we’ll plot our triangle with a three-star-fix and from there we’ll be able to dead reckon it. If my astronomic-galactic calculations are correct we’ll need to travel at twice the speed of light toward the constellation Ursa Major for three years, six months, five days and fifty-seven minutes, then adjust our space sextant sixty degrees, go right a couple blocks, head south five degrees, adjust our speed to 5.3 parsecs per hour. After all that we should be there in two shakes of a lamb’s tale. If we pass up the 7-Eleven, we’ll know we’ve gone too far.”
Crispy laughed and said,
“You know, on the Bella Blue Scale, you’re one in a trillion.”
“One in a trillion! Now that gives my imagination something to think about!”
On the ground, Colonel Beeman dusted off his telescope and trained it on the sky until he found them. When he did he smiled the second toothy grin in a week. He picked up his CB mike, held down the clicker and said,
“Inform the press! The world’s youngest aeronauts, Crispy and Bella Blue—side-by-side and fair-and-square side-kicks—take an historic voyage in the world’s first box-fan car and aeroplane. History is at hand and I agree with it seventeen-hundred and seventy-six percent! Happy traveling, Air-sailors.”
Bella Blue picked up her CB mic and replied,
“Thanks for all your help, Colonel. We’ll see you back on the ground soon.”
The colonel’s CB mike had what is called an acoustic-to-electric transducer which converts sound into an electrical signal. When he set his mike down, his transducer remained open, so he didn’t know that Bella Blue and Crispy could still hear him when he bragged,
“I sure do love those two kiddos.”
Crispy clicked the mike and he and Bella Blue, with big smiles on their happy faces, proclaimed,
“Roger that, Colonel. We love you, too!”
After flying far out over the big blue sea, the two giddy aviators turned back toward home and seeing below them a great cotton-patch of fluffy, puffy clouds they banked and descended into them and stretched their arms out, imagining they were eagles. Bella Blue yelled,
“We’re flying through a giant cloud, Crispy!”
“It’s a box-fan car cloud!”
When they flew back out the closet star to earth was one degree to setting. The sky was a deep, dark red at the bottom and lighter reds, oranges and yellows further up, until the color of blue in all its shades fanned out like a swallow’s wings into outer space, where the first twinkling stars of night could be seen. The Bella Blue-installed altimeter indicated they were three miles up, which was plenty high enough for them to see the curve of the earth. Crispy’s eyes grew as big as Bella’s and both sat in amazed astonishment. Bella Blue murmured,
“It’s not often you get to see the curve of the planet from the cock-pit of your very own box-fan car. . . .”
She turned to him and said,
“Oh, Crispy, this trip is going to end too soon.”
The look in Crispy’s eyes spoke volumes of the sad-in-chapters-but-happy-in-others book of his life. He remembered when he was eight and his father had said to him,
“Too many treat life like a single day’s drive from the best vacation spot—and they never make the trip. They skim over the surface of life, while the experiences we feel most deeply are those which make us feel most alive. Promise me you will make the trip. . . .”
Then he remembered his father’s last talk with him. It had been less than a year before, in September. Crispy imagined his father in the sky above them, speaking the words. It seemed like an eternity ago now—and also like it just happened:
“On this journey we must always be leaving our present life behind while reaching for a mystical something no one can define. If we will grab hold of that mystical something it will move us toward life and by the miracle of life, the world improves. The world will get better when we grab hold and make it better. Remember that, my son. . . .”
Crispy reached out and took her hand,
“The best things always end too soon, Bella. Like bowls of double-fudge ice-cream, old black-and-white movies and pans of apple pie—and a once-upon-a-lifetime flight with a perfect girl in a turbo-prop-box-fan car aeroplane.”
Bella Blue smiled and said,
“Crispy, I think this might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. . . .”
As the sun began to dip below the horizon, Crispy leaned in and kissed, for the first time, the most beautiful and familiarly-unfamiliar girl on or off the planet. It was, unquestionably, the most romantic and pure kiss in the history of air travel.
The Bella Blue-installed aeronautical speedometer registered 156 mph. It had taken Crispy the Great the better part of a lifetime to get up the nerve to kiss Bella Blue, but history proves when he finally did it was, without question, one sweet, fast kiss that lasted forever.
3 . . . 2 . . . 1
The question could have been asked all along: What insanity lurks in the mind of a boy who thinks he could possibly beat a turbo-power-box-fan car aeroplane in a race for glory? But Black Bart wasn’t one to ask smart questions. And he never realized he was looking for a hero. . . until he found one. He was a big bully and there’s something special about those kind. They harass and they hassle. They make life tough for everybody. Everybody has to deal with them at least once. But there’s something else about a bully that, once they get the point, once you get them “there”, they’ll do one of two things: Be your best friend for life, or leave you alone from then on. They say pride goes before the fall. But it was by his fall that Black Bart began to know pride for the first time.
That day in mid air over Rocky Brook, when he saw Crispy the Great flying that impossible contraption after having been so seriously injured, Black Bart was changed forever. He never played the part of a black pirate again. By Crispy’s undying spirit, Bart was made better. He’d been beat for the second time in a row, and that second beating worked. Black Bart knew he’d been wrong. When he yelled out, “Go Crispy, Go!”, he was also yelling for himself. In that moment he gave up a lesser way of life and began a better way. He began to help and not to hurt. He became, for others, a spark toward courage. It happens. In flight, as he watched Crispy and Bella in the Star-whistler Dashavoo flying-contraption, the spin of the world slowed down for him. As they flew up and he fell down, he was transformed. By defeat, he became victorious.
I know all this because I am Black Bart. When I heard the story of Crispy and Bella Blue needed to be told I jumped at the chance. No one’s more qualified to write their inspiring tale. I was their loyal friend from the age of ten-and-three-quarters on. And I was, for a brief moment, wheel-to-wheel with them on that historic trip. For a fleeting split second, we three flew together.
By that flight I learned that all the problems of life—and all the joys of it—can be simplified to the magical motion of the air around us and how it interacts with the solid body of our own thoughts. And after that flight, I slowed down and thought about it all.
Brandon Thomas Blackstone
aka “Black Bart”
The Box-Fan Motorcar & Aeroplane
Home of the Dashavoo
President of Customer Relations
Once upon a time—when a Play Station was a playground—there lived a brave boy and bright girl. They called him Crispy and he called her Bella and together they made an impossible-odds dream come true. He wished to fly, but how could he fly, when he couldn’t even walk? By being friends with one who refused to fall or fail. When he lost his fighting spirit, she gave him something to live for. When he lost his legs, she gave him wings. By his bravery, her vision and the priceless value of friendship, they, with a little doo-jigging and a lot of belief, overcame bully and handicap to make history by inventing and flying the world’s first box-fan car, showing nothing’s impossible.
Here is the inspiring tale of Bella Blue and Crispy, who when catastrophe struck, united miracle and imagination with elbow-grease and scientific principle to prove no tragedy or disability is fair match against a believed-in-dream. It happened when miracle united with dream to achieve what non-dreamers and regular minds believed impossible. It has been, until now, a classified story. It has always been an incredible story.
When the time came to de-classify it me and my team flew all over the world looking for the best writer for the story of Crispy and Bella Blue and the invention and introductory flight of the world’s first box-fan car. We eventually found a gentleman in our own back yard. Brandon Thomas Blackstone grew up with Crispy and Bella Blue and in fact had been alongside them in every go-cart race which led to that first flight. Nobody else could have written it better. Thank you, Black Bart!
The knowledge of the box-fan car has been kept safe all these years to protect the identities and whereabouts of the boy and girl who invented what can only be described as the Eighth Wonder of the World. They needed their privacy so they could do important work with it. Whereas if they had no privacy because of the fame that surely would have come if they let the box-fan car go public, all their time would have been taken up at parties and other public functions, which as you surely know, accomplishes little to nothing.
The founders, creators and dual-CEO’s of the Turbo Box-fan Motorcar Company, after inventing and perfecting the world’s first box-fan car, went on to invent something else much like it, only better. Their inventions are protected by world-wide flying-contraption, innovation and conception laws, for the box-fan car and what was developed from it are incredibly valuable and so legal protections were deemed appropriate. It is unfortunate, but necessary, that precious knowledge must be battlemented and burglar-proofed so that the extraordinary energy it symbolizes may be used for its best and brightest purpose.
Now that the knowledge of the box-fan car has been given to national and world-wide media outlets, there is a pressing need for box-fan car salespersons. Real-life studies have shown that it’s a near impossibility, once you have seen one in flight, to not be sold on the box-fan car. So the job is not a job, really; but it does pay like one. If you decide to become a top-notch salesman for The Turbo-Box-Fan MotorCar & Aeroplane Company, LLC, you must be advised that you become, automatically, a VP of Customer Relations for the aforementioned Turbo-Box-Fan Motorcar & Aeroplane Company, LLC. You also need to know we have board meetings every other Friday at three in the afternoon to discuss matters of importance for the planet’s most innovative and successful motorcar company, such as:
Top Secret Matters that cannot be divulged here.
Our Mission Statement at the Turbo Box-Fan MotorCar & Aeroplane Company, LLC is three-fold; First: that Nothing’s Impossible! Second: To be a company dedicated to the life-affirming goal of helping humanity orbit a place we call the Zenith of Wonder. And last but not least, that all relations with the public be conducted by direct-dealing representatives whose absolute honesty regarding our box-fan cars—those used and those brand-new and off the showroom floor—be their prime consideration.
Our goal is happy customers. As we say at headquarters, “A happy box-fan motorcar customer is a repeat box-fan motorcar customer.” So be honest. No slippery sales tactics are needed or condoned at The Box-Fan Motorcar Co. As stated, the box-fan motorcar practically sells itself. All you need to do is tell the simple truth, that there is no other box-fan car in the world better than the Bella Blue and Crispy box-fan motorcar. For in fact, there is no other. With dedicated and honest sales personnel, the stars are truly the limit. With a team like ours, we can’t help but go far!
We predict, in fiscal year 2016-2017, our first year in business, that our top salesperson will earn well over seven figures. So it’s up to you. Here is the sales pitch you should learn by heart if you wish to be a top-notch box-fan car salesperson:
Turbo Box-Fan Car Sales Pitch
It’s more fun than the biggest roller coaster! It’s way faster than the biggest dunce-buggy! It’s the world’s first box-fan motor car! If you think you can handle all that fan power, think again, just to be sure. For there can be no question about it. If you aren’t sure, that Star-whistler Dashavoo Giant-fan-power engine will take off on you! This is no ordinary ride you are about to go on. You want it in yellow, right? Because that’s the only color they come in. But it’s Sunshine yellow, not that dull school-bus yellow, so we think you will like it. Specially-painted models come in pink, after the co-inventor’s favorite color, but there is a lengthy back-order on those, so it may be awhile before delivery. So. . . With all the talk out of the way, Hop in and let’s fly!
I hope you have enjoyed this historical tale about the invention and first flight of the box-fan motorcar. From everyone at the Turbo Box-Fan MotorCar & Aeroplane Company:
Happy Turbo Box-Fan Motorcar Driving and Selling!
President of Customer Relations
And remember: Nothing’s Impossible!
EMPLOYMENT OPENINGS AT
THE TURBO BOX-FAN MOTORCAR
& AEROPLANE COMPANY, LLC:
For this position you must have a valid Turbo-Box-Fan Car/Aeroplane Class B-FC license and fighter-pilot training (or equivalent flight simulator experience). Starting Salary: 53-78K.
For this position you must have an insatiable curiosity. No questions are dumb; no answer is wrong, though possibly not right. All questions and possible answers are welcome at The Box-fan Car/Aeroplane Co. The only requirement is natural genius, which everyone is capable of. No accredited higher education degree is necessary. We are looking for original minds at The Box-fan Car & Aeroplane Company. Starting Salary:100k. Must sign NDA. Any invention created under the aegis of The Box-fan Car/Aeroplane Co. LLC is the sole property of said company.
For this position you must be able to manage five phone lines at once, with a pleasant speaking voice and impeccable manners in the face of chaos. Probably the most challenging position at The Box-fan Car & Aeroplane Company, LLC. Starting Salary: 27K.
Must be proficient in the use of the abacus. No college degree required. Starting Salary: 38K.
Forklift Class F license required. Bonuses given annually for accident-free operators. Starting Salary: 22K.
For this position you must be a people person who can handle the occasional madman who will try to steal the secrets of Box-fan MotorCar design. A baker’s dozen have already tried scaling the galvanized fence protecting the complex. If you are a double-agent attempting to infiltrate the Box-fan MotorCar Complex by posing as a security guard employee, good luck. We have concealed measures in place that make that almost impossible. But as our own company motto states: Nothing’s Impossible! So we welcome you to try. Good luck with that. Starting Salary: 24K.
For this position you must be expert at all levels of Box-fan MotorCar production. The most important requisite for this position is to remember to turn off the lights when the plant is not in operation. It is a big plant, and when the lights are not turned off, the light bill is even bigger. Starting Salary: 120k a year.
This position requires intensive knowledge of combustion engines, heavier-than-air flight systems, Box-fan MotorCar Air-foil® technology, and most importantly: giant box-fan systems. Starting salary: 41-57k a year. No certification required.
This position requires a bubbly personality. Duties include showing respect and courtesy to all visitors at the Complex. A “Never met a stranger” attitude and a desire to serve is necessary. Beyond that, this position is the foreman/woman of security detail and administrates all security protocol. Starting salary: 53k.
THE DASHAVOO BOX-FAN CAR
& AEROPLANE CLUB
Membership in the Dashavoo Box-Fan Car & Aeroplane Club is free. All that is required is for you to have a dream and believe in the impossible. In short, to be a member of the club you have to be a dreamer and a believer—and not only of your own dreams. You must be a champion of all good and great dreams which will make the world a better place.
No online resumes, please. Applications for employment and membership are taken at the Dashavoo Turbo Box-Fan MotorCar Complex between noon and five (12-5pm) on Wednesdays and Fridays. The complex is located at the intersection of Dreamer’s Drive and Amazement Avenue, in the heart of Moving Map Metropolis, a large urban sprawl just past Marvel Town and Imagination City. If you pass up The Zenith of Wonder Street—the jumping-off point to serendipity—you’ve gone too far. Turn back and follow the signs.
MAN’S FIRST FLIGHT
In 1899, Orville (1871-1948) and Wilbur (1867-1912) Wright were operating a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio when they became interested in flight. Their first ambition was to build a man-carrying kite. They wrote to the Smithsonian Institution for information regarding aeronautics and were directed to the famous engineer Chanute, whose writings they followed in creating their first successful flights, in 1900, of a glider, controlled like a kite. Encouraged by this success, in 1901 they built a larger, man-carrying glider. These attempts were disasters. Convinced their failure was due to major flaws in Chanute’s data, they struck off on their own and, thinking for themselves, designed and built their own wind tunnels, which they used to test over two-hundred Wright-designed airfoils which eventually produced data that allowed them to design a new airfoil which departed radically from all previous designs.
In 1902 they made over a thousand flights with their new glider, surpassing all previous performances of Chanute and others. Confident, they began building a powered glider for 1903. Unable to procure the services of professional engine designers—the experts believed it impossible—they designed it themselves. After glider, airfoil and engine creation, they turned their experience in bike design to good use and doo-rigged a chain-drive to transfer power from engine to propellers. In the end, propeller, glider, airfoil and engine design were all Wright-and-Taylor-designed creations which all of the so-called experts had deemed impossibilities.
On December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville piloted man’s first successful powered flight. Later that day, he telegraphed his father in Dayton:
“Success—four flights. Thursday morning; all against 21 mph wind. Started from level with engine power alone; average speed through air, 31 mph; longest, 59 seconds. Inform press. Home for Christmas, Orville.”
In the entire country, only three papers printed the story of man’s first powered flight. The Wright’s achievement was greeted with popular and scientific disbelief for several years afterward. Many believed if God wanted man to fly he would have given man wings. Over a period of four years, God gave Orville and Wilbur Wright wings. On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers gave wings to the rest of us. The Wright brothers believed. To a dreamer with belief, Nothing’s Impossible.
A Nothing’s Impossible! Letter
To Dreamers, Heroes and Champions
To those who dream of flight, there are six Cartesian coordinates:
1)This way. 2) That way. 3) Confused. 4) In circles. 5) Dead-stop. 6) Up!
Along the path of your dream, remember these six points:
1. The greater the struggle the greater the dream.
2. Failure is how dreams grow wings.
3. Nothing great ever came without great failure.
4. The dreamer and the dream need a champion.
5. The best time for dreams to come true is after most give up.
6. When your dream comes true, one direction: Up.
The sum up: Every dream needs its hero and every hero needs a champion. The hero believes in the dream and the champion believes in the dreamer. Discover your dream, seek out your champion and Never Ever Give Up—Why? Because nothing’s impossible!
The Moving Map
La Gloria Americana
Made in America
This Story Was Wrought
from World-Class American Inspirations
Here a Selection of the Highest Quality
Thoughts Imagined By Expert Thought-Makers for
the Most Discriminating Thought Connoisseurs
Thoughts Par Excellence
From The Moving Map That is The World
From the roving days of a stray-dog life; from rocks thrown and caught; from stray pieces of time from a stray piece of life, art was attempted. From a dream of life and country; in the spirit of harmony, joy, beauty and truth, came this. May the coming age live up to the highest ideals of life. This is for the first great age of humanity and America; a jump start toward the hope of a golden age, where the beautiful things of the spirit are paramount to material considerations. One cannot know, at the start of something, if, by the end, they will succeed. But one must begin. One must make the attempt. Onward and upwards toward that age where the ideals of the poets—truth and beauty—hold more power for the people than the ideals of power. Impossible? Well one must have a dream. Here is mine.
Astra Ignoro Maeror
To the stars I aspire,
For the stars know not sorrow
And are immortal
For mothers and daughters,
For fathers and sons.
For those who are forever young.
And for America, a Happy Birthday Card for you.
The best parts here are your story, too.
I must give thanks to those of The Moving Map who in large and small, direct and indirect ways, helped with the world’s first flight of the Turbo-Prop-Box-Fan Car & Aeroplane. Of course I could not include all, but the bigger players are:
To Evil Knievel—the world’s greatest dare-devil—for his fine art of jumping things; to Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre, for their fine art of hydraulics; to Merlin Beeman, for his fine art of curmudgeonry & tinkery; to the local YMCA, for their fine art of Christianity; to elevators and the Rolls Royce Corporation, for no real particular reason at all except they were in the first tale; to S. A., for her fine art of malapropism, which is the rare art of creating words out of thin air; to Kyle, for his patience; to Oldsmobile—defunct finally, but immortal; to Charles Cornwallis, for his fine art of yielding the nation; to General Washington, for his fine art of crossing lines and rivers; to all the Minutemen and patriots of the American Revolution, for their fine art of bravery; to Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, for their fine art of immortal quality; to Bruce Hornsby, thanks for the music I revised by; to the Fourth of July, for its fine art of celebrating freedom; to the Sandwich Islands, for their fine art of keeping their heads above deep waters and being islands of inspiration among the big blue sea; to Hong Kong, for their night lights; to Lady Liberty, for her noble example to all who show up; to Bug River, for being happily named; to New York Bay, New York City and New Jersey, for always being New; to Orville and Wilbur Wright, for their fine art of flight; to box-fans, go-carts, sweet tea and all things Americana; to the best of America, for her spirit of nothing’s impossible; and to River Delta, for her brave living out from the earliest age the Great American Nothing’s Impossible! Creed.
And lest I forget: To bullies the planet over; for your fine art of molding and sculpting souls; for your thrown rocks and slung mud. How ironic is it that in a world more full of paralyzing fear and willful, prideful ignorance than humble intelligence and modest bravery that the bullies do not even realize they are the bullies? Would even the most positive-minded, idealistic soul on the planet need to become pessimistic to consider it might be impossible that this world will ever grow up?
The Star-whistler in The Box-Fan Car & Aeroplane Company is reminiscent of Roald Dalh. ---Kirkus Review Once upon a time—when a Play Station was a playground—there lived a brave boy and bright girl. They called him Crispy and he called her Bella and together they made an impossible-odds dream come true. He wished to fly, but how could he fly, when he couldn't even walk? By being friends with one who refused to fall or fail. When he lost his fighting spirit, she gave him something to live for. When he lost his legs, she gave him wings. By his bravery, her vision and the priceless value of friendship they, with a little doo-jigging and a lot of belief, overcame bully and handicap to make history by inventing and flying the world's first box-fan car, showing nothing's impossible. Here is an American literary Happy Birthday Card destined to inspire.