Psst… Prologue is just a fancy word for introduction
Alex was an ordinary boy who lived in an ordinary town on an ordinary street. He lived in an ordinary house, had an ordinary mother, an ordinary father and an ordinary little sister. She was a pest but ordinary never the less. His father had an ordinary job, drove an ordinary car… The list of ordinary things in his life were endless, but there was something about Alex that wasn’t ordinary, in fact it was so not ordinary that it was extraordinary.
Alex could fly! YES, FLY.
…Not like a bird or even like Superman but by using his tremendously terrific Rocket Pack that he invented… or was actually still inventing; it wasn’t quite finished yet, you see, but it would be soon and then he would use it to fly. Really fly, unlike the time that he jumped off the seventh step, leading into his school building, with a plastic shopping bag hung over his head like a parachute, NO! He was going to really FLY!
The rocket pack invention was missing a few vital parts before it would work, like the rocket part mainly. He tried blowing air into two balloons and putting them on either side of his rocket belt but apart from a funny farting sound, nothing else happened. He even tried using two fire extinguishers on either side – yes, the sight of the clouds of high pressured carbon dioxide was spectacular, but in terms of lift off, it was hopeless.
Surely, failing to launch the first few times was to be expected -Alex was sure that the first time any space research centre tried to launch a rocket, it failed, right?
It takes a few good attempts… Granted, Alex had already had a few more attempts than a few… OK, maybe even a few more than that but he was nearly there!
It would have been much easier if his father didn’t have such an ordinary job, it would have been nice if he was like… the Prime Minster… or perhaps the Queen. Then he could have easily got the parts he needed. I’m sure the Queen has her own rocket pack and glides around Buckingham Palace all the time.
NASA hadn’t responded to his written request to borrow high-powered, SUPER-CHARGED, TURBO motors to build the boosters on the pack… yet!
But I’m sure they would…
Sometimes it felt like Alex was the only one who had such high ambitions, especially in his school.
In Alex’s school there were a lot of children – A LOT of children!
They all wanted to be different things when they grew up:
A fireman (sort of cool)
An archaeologist (could be fun!)
A princess (just dumb)
A Dentist (scary!)
A teacher (Why? Just why?)
One silly little boy wanted to be a Treeologist, yes a Treeologist (a person that studies trees). Alex was not convinced that such a career even existed and even if it did, how incredibly boring it would be!
But all of these trivial ambitions were way too dull and weird for Alex, he wanted to be an inventor.
A great inventor
You know, like the guy who made bubble gum, and this wasn’t just because Alex loved bubble gum – he really did love bubble gum.
It was something you could chew and chew and chew (times infinity) and never have to swallow, although he did almost always swallow it, but only when all the flavour had finished, of course, and it felt like you had a piece of rubber in your mouth. It’s a wonder why they didn’t call it Rubber Gum!
Alex could never blow bubbles with it however; the last time he did that he blew so hard that the gum launched out of his mouth like a cannon-ball and landed right in Samantha’s hair.
To make things worse, it got stuck and that’s where she got the long-lasting nick name:
‘Sticky Samantha’ and Alex got detention for a week. Which wasn’t bad I suppose, considering it took 2 hours for the teacher to get it out… and she lost quite a bit of hair.
But enough about that and back to Alex’s extraordinary aspiration to be a great inventor:
Alex had already made quite a few little useful things like his famous open eye glasses. They were glasses that had pictures of eyes drawn on the lenses so he could fall asleep in Geography class and no one would know because they’d think he was still awake. GENIUS!
Well, it was genius, until the glasses were borrowed and used by SNORING SUSAN who got caught in maths class because of her ludicrously loud snoring.
Among his other inventions, his favourite was most definitely the:
It was inspired by nosey, sneaky, annoying, sly little sisters, sneaking into your room… and Spiderman of course!
It was a vastly sophisticated contraption – a clever combination of
- 4 POWERFUL Nerf guns
- Lots of cling film
- And a rubber band (maybe 2 rubber bands if you’re planning on catching adults as well.)
…To cut a long story short, after its successful first catch, it was confiscated and dismantled by Alex’s mother…
“It’s far too dangerous! Poor Anna was wrapped up in cling film for an hour!” she bellowed.
Anna, if you hadn’t already figured it out, was Alex’s annoying little pest of a sister and that’s EXACTLY why she was nicknamed Annoying Anna. Also known as the Worm, the Snitch, Ball of Slime, Gooey Bogey, Cry Baby and a there were a few more names… and a few more than that!
Well, I suppose we had better get on with the story… that is why you’re here after all!
It was a freezing Monday morning. Alex had woken up before that dreaded alarm clock beeped and reminded him that the weekend was officially over. He lay on his back staring at the star stickers on his ceiling. The duvet was warm and snuggly. The air in the room, not so much. There was nothing enticing Alex to get out of bed but…
just like every Monday morning, he assessed his options:
- Get up and get ready before the alarm clock sounds
- Stay snuggled up in bed and wait for the rotten thing to sound and then get up
- Stay snuggled up in bed and ignore the alarm altogether
- Reach over and pull the plug on the wretched thing and stay snuggled up in bed and wait for an angry dad to come barging in.
So far as Alex could remember, he had NEVER used option 1 and 2. So, why would today be any different?
Don’t get me wrong, Alex loved his father very much and they were very close but mornings were monstrous. His dad was definitely a morning monster!
“ALEX!” his dad shouted as he barged in with his shirt half tucked in and tie hanging loosely off his neck.
“You’re going to be late! And you’re going to make me late!” It was one of those odd mornings where Alex’s dad had to go into the office as opposed to working from home. Alex could never understand having to go to the office, especially if you could do your exact same job from home.
“If I become the Prime Minister, I will make sure ALL dads are to work from home!” Alex would regularly say. He knew that would prove difficult with dads that were firemen or bus drivers… but he would cross that bridge when he came to it.
Alex looked over at the clock, right on time, he thought. He knew that he had exactly 15 minutes before his dad would come charging back in. So, this made him think of a few more options:
- Get up and get ready
- Stay in bed for 15 minutes
- Get up and finish my maths homework which is due today
- Get up and write a letter explaining that the dog ate the homework
- Rush into the bathroom and read Space Invaders while pretending to brush my teeth
- Play a horrible, horrific, horrendous prank on Anna
1 and 3 seemed like the sensible choices – but Alex wasn’t feeling particularly sensible… besides, he did vow to get Anna back for stealing his new pencil sharpener (not that she would admit it of course).
So, 6 it was!
Alex began to plan: Any second now, she would get out of her pathetically perfect, pink room and walk to the bathroom, still half asleep. She’ll be in there for EXACTLY 13 minutes, which gives me just enough time to sneak into her room and execute my brilliant plan…
…So, he waited until she went into the bathroom. It was like clockwork, but even still, things could go terribly wrong, for example: his mum could come upstairs and see him sneaking into her room or Anna could have forgotten her silly pink “getting ready in the morning” bag. A bag filled with all the strange things that girls took to the bath room.
Alex, however, had already thought of all the clever excuses he needed if he got apprehended whilst in action.
He picked up the book, “Fantastic Mr. Fox” by Roald Dahl, which must have tumbled off his bed last night after he fell asleep reading. He put it on his bookcase with all his other favourites and realised that last night’s reading may have had an influence on him devising his superbly sneaky plan.
He grinned, thinking that the only difference was that he wasn’t going to poach something, he was going to cause absolute mayhem.
Revenge would be sweet! He beamed, and then darted to Anna’s room.
He skilfully manoeuvred around her scattered clothes. Tactically tiptoed around her toys and stupid dolls. Dolls that she spent hours and hours AND HOURS dressing up and brushing their hair. Alex couldn’t understand how someone could be bothered to brush their own hair never mind brushing fake hair on dim-witted dolls.
She had moved things around since he had been in there last. Which was a long time ago.
“Ah, there it is!” Alex found her alarm clock, It was sat on her bedside table. He crept towards it and then tampered with it until he successfully changed the time.
“That should do it!” he said to himself.
He then proceeded to her dressing table. It was white and full of silly boxes, and various other items that Alex thought were pointless. And smelly. The strong smells of perfume and lip balms tickled Alex’s nose.
He fought to stop himself from giggling as he removed the lid of a large tub of make-up powder and poured all its contents into Anna’s hair dryer. He had cover to his nose a few times as he was doing it to stop himself from sneezing.
He then carefully put the hairdryer and the tub back exactly where he found them. EXCATLY where he found them, Anna was smart, like REALLY smart. If she even got the hint that anything on the table had been tampered with, the entire operation would be foiled. He had one quick glance to make sure things were in order and then fled silently back to his room. He closed the door behind him and gasped for air, as if he had been holding his breath the entire time. Although the thought of getting caught was terrifying, the thrill was well worth the risk. He sat at his desk and began scribbling wildly on a piece of paper. As soon as Anna went into her room, he dashed towards her door and placed the piece of paper on the floor just outside her room. He banged on the door and then scampered down the stairs as fast as his little legs could carry him.
Anna opened the door and noticed the paper on the floor. She peered from left to right with a suspicious look before picking it up. Again, she peered from side to side before she unfolded it and began to read:
Dear Annoying Anna,
I am NOT sorry to say that whilst you were asleep, I took the liberty to sneak into your room and change the time on your clock. I set it behind by exactly 49 minutes and 32 seconds, so you WILL be late, and therefore ruin your chances of winning the most punctual student award that you win every year.
P.S. I know you took my pencil sharpener.
Anna’s eyes locked onto the digits on the clock.
“NO!” She screamed as loud as she could. Her cheeks turned bright red as the clock confirmed that she was indeed going to be late for the first time in… well, since forever.
She got changed as fast as she could and rushed to her dressing table. Had she known she was going to be late, she most certainly, definitely, surely, positively wouldn’t have bothered washing her hair. But she did wash her hair and now she would have to dry it.
You may have already guessed what happened next, YES… when she turned the dryer on, to her horror, it blew out an ENORMOUS cloud of make-up powder. It went absolutely everywhere. It went all over the room, all over her dressing table, all over her freshly washed and freshly pressed school uniform. All over her large collection of dolls and teddy bears. Not to mention, ALL over her face and on her soaking-wet hair.
It went everywhere! It even went in her mouth!
She stood straight in shock and appeared like a marshmallow with two glowing red eyes. She huffed, blowing out a large puff of powder and screamed:
“I’LL GET YOU FOR THIS ALEX!”
But right now she had no time – she still assumed that she was ridiculously late. So she quickly patted herself, trying to remove as much powder as she possibly could and sprinted down the stairs and straight out of the house. She felt awful that she left her precious dolls covered in make-up powder, “It’ll be all in their hair and it’ll take hours to get it all out! My poor little babies.” ARRRGGGGGHHHH!
She stood anxiously waiting by the car, anticipating her father to come rushing out. After a few moments, she noticed people staring at her peculiarly as they walked past. Some people even began to snigger…. and who could blame them. Anna stood outside with her clothes in a muddle, and her dripping hair looked like it’d had a bucket of white, murky paint thrown on it. Her shoes were half on, one sock rolled up and one still down and she was covered, and I mean completely covered in powder. She could have been mistaken for a snowman.
She really was a sight.
“Are you OK Anna?” Alex’s nosey neighbour Nadia asked, peering over at Anna’s ghostly face.
“I… I’m fine…” Anna snivelled, “I’m just running really, ridiculously, preposterously late!” The make-up powder was now irritating her nose, and regardless of how hard she tried, she couldn’t stop herself from sneezing, “Haa… haa… haaachoooo!” A swirl of powder flew out of her mouth and nose.
“Erm… Anna, but it isn’t even eight my darling…”
Anna’s eyes began to glow RED. She peeked into her dad’s car and saw the little digital clock on the dash: 07:39am.
“What!” She thought it was way past eight (thanks to Alex). She had the sudden urge to scream and stamp on the ground but she had drawn enough attention to herself already.
“Thank you…” Anna hissed.
“What a strange child…” Anna heard nosey neighbour Nadia mumble to herself as she headed back inside. When Anna stepped back into the house, she glowered at her mother, father and Alex, who were comfortably sitting in the warm, at the breakfast table. All enjoying their toast and warm cups of tea.
“Anna…” her mother called and looked at her in dismay, but Anna didn’t say anything – her eyes were fixed on Alex like the red beam of a sniper rifle.
“AAAAARRRRGGGG!” she shrieked again and stomped up the stairs.
“Alex!” his father said looking at him with his eyebrows raised. Alex knew what was coming next…
Father didn’t ask or wait for an explanation or an excuse, “Grounded and no TV for a week!” he commanded.
It wasn’t a bad verdict really, considering Alex didn’t like wasting time watching TV and he spent most of his time in his room, reading or inventing.
Most of all, it was absolutely, definitely, unquestionably worth seeing the look on Anna’s face after his perfect plan worked with such precision.
“Now, listen up carefully children!” The Headmaster, Mr Harold said at the top of voice. This was always the first thing he would say at the beginning of every assembly. It was always like he was about to say something really, REALLY important: like the country is about to go to war and that they were to be deployed to the frontline immediately; or that they were being evacuated because of a sudden Zombie invasion, but his announcements were never that important or exciting.
Well, except for today.
No! There wasn’t a Zombie invasion! (sadly) but there was something that got Alex almost jumping up and down:
“It gives me immense pleasure to announce that we will be hosting the Inventor of the Year competition, here, at our school.” He stood with his back straight and chest pumped out with pride.
Alex had only dreamt of entering this competition – this was the first year that his school entered it.
He knew the competition was going to be fierce, especially with the ridiculously rich, profusely posh, stupidly spoilt, snobby brats from Parker Hobbs Private School, entering and winning EVERY year! How could they ever lose? They had more money than sense, and they had more resources than all the rest of the schools put together. Alex didn’t even believe that they invented anything, they probably paid to get things invented for them! Snobs that they were.
BUT not this year, NO WAY… this year was going to be the year for Greenfield Secondary School! (that was Alex’s school). They were going to be victorious! Alex was going to make sure of it.
Alex would have to rush and get his flying rocket pack ready for submission… There were only a couple of weeks left before a PROTOTYPE had to be shown and only worthy inventions would be considered for entry. Alex didn’t know how he was going to do it, he just knew he had to do it.
After the assembly, in Alex’s History lesson, he couldn’t concentrate on anything the history teacher, Miserable Mr Grey, was saying. He thought it much more important to plan out how he would get his invention working instead.
He was scribbling notes and drawing illustrations of the rocket pack when he was interrupted:
“So, maybe Alex could tell us when the Second World War began?” Miserable Mr Grey asked.
Alex struggled to tear his eyes away from the notes and drawings he had spent the last 47 minutes and 52 seconds making.
“In the past, sir.” He responded.
All of the students burst out in laughter, well nearly all of them: Bret the Teacher’s Pet, peered his head back at Alex and had the exact same look of disappointment that the Mr Grey had. They even shook their heads in perfect synchronisation. It was like watching Mr Grey stood next to a mirror, except that Mr Grey was 3 feet taller and wasn’t ginger.
“Can you be more specific?” Mr Grey asked. Both Mr Grey and Bret had their eyebrows raised while they eagerly waited for a response.
“After the First World War.” Alex responded sharply. The class laughed again.
Mr Grey stood in rage, his eyes shrunk and it looked like all the blood in his entire body had rushed into his face.
“You are either DEAF, DUMB or DISOBEDIENT! Which one is it boy?
Alex had a feeling that it was a rhetorical question (meaning that it didn’t require an answer) but thought it best to think it through before answering.
I’m certainly not deaf
I don’t think I’m dumb
“Disobedient! Sir… The answer is disobedient!” Alex triumphed.
Mr Grey grinded his gravelly teeth and glared like was going to fly into a rage, “You really are a blithering, blathering, babbling, buffoon!” His bushy grey eyebrows met at the top of his nose as his forehead creased crazily. His eyes now resembled glowing red lights on the back of a truck at night.
He then glared around the room and forced an awkward smile. His red face began to return to its normal grey colour, and his eyes appeared almost human again. Almost. They were still sucked into his head making him look like a creepy scarecrow.
“Maybe someone could help Alex?” Mr Grey queried in a calm voice, then rolled his eyes.
Bret the Teacher’s Pet shot his hand up and began wiggling frantically on his chair, as if he needed to desperately go to the toilet. “Oh, I know… I know when it was… please Sir, pick me, please.”
Looking around the class, it appeared it was only Bret the Teacher’s Pet that volunteered to give the answer. Mr. Grey peered at Bret and reluctantly nodded to indicate that it was OK for him to answer.
“Sir, World War 2 began on the 3rd of September in the year 1939 BUT my Grand-dad, who actually fought in the war, said that technically it started just before 5am on Friday the 1st of September, in the year 1939. It all began when Germany invaded Poland and—“
“Thank you Bret, I’ll just stop you there so we can conclude today’s lesson.”
Thankfully, Mr Grey stopped Bret or else he might have gone on forever and they would all be history!
“I think Alex would be thrilled to write up a FIVE-HUNDRED word essay on the beginning of World War 2 and present it to the class.”
“What!” Alex remarked.
“But Sir…” Alex wanted to say that he needed all the time he could spare to for his invention, but Mr Grey didn’t give him the chance.
“Or it will be detention…” he said in an eerie voice. “For a week!”
Miserable Mr Grey really was a mean, moody, miserable, monster!
For the next few days, alongside detention, Alex spent all his spare time planning out his invention – he considered History lessons to also be “spare time”. He even went to the library at break times. He was going to win and he was going to fly. He would be the first boy to fly. Ever!
“There you are!” Fred, Alex’s best friend, said as he huffed and puffed, after running up a few stairs into the library block.
Fred and Alex had been best friends for many years. Alex was the only one that Fred told everything to. He even told him about his big secret – his nickname from his previous school:
Now, you’re probably wondering why he got that nickname, I am sure you have already thought of lots of possible scenarios. But let me tell you now, no matter what you just thought of, regardless of how bad, what I am about to tell you is far worse. Far, FAR worse!
Well, it all began when he was in primary school:
He was slightly overweight, OK, OK, he was very overweight and that’s why before he was called Farting Fred he was actually called Fat Fred and Balloon Face and Hungry Hippo, and the list went on.
It all started on one sweltering summer’s day, while Fred was in his P.E. lesson. He hated P.E. and not justbecause he hated any type of physical activity but because he hated wearing shorts. His thighs would wobble as he walked and the other children would call him THUNDER THIGHS. A temporary nickname, reserved just for P.E.
That particular day, he was told to climb up a rope by his P.E teacher, Mr Racer, and Fred knew that he couldn’t do it. He struggled to climb stairs, how on earth would he climb this absurdly long rope? He couldn’t. Not in a million years!
Fred shook his head and stepped back.
“You have to at least try Fred… climb up that rope. NOW!” Mr Racer bellowed. Mr Racer’s voice echoed through the sports hall loud enough for everyone in the class to stop their activities and look over at Fred.
Fred looked around the hall and noticed everyone staring at him. He could see some of the boys blowing air into their cheeks to resemble a balloon. Some even mimed the name, “Balloon Face… Balloon Face!”
He became extremely embarrassed and nervous. Blood rushed to his face, turning it bright pink. His stomach began to make funny noises, like it had something brewing inside (and something was…).
“I said GET UP that rope NOW!” Mr Racer shrieked, and that’s when IT happened.
Fred couldn’t hold it in anymore, not even holding his breath or crossing his legs would make a difference now. It was too late. Way, Way, WAY too late! Trying to stop it now was like trying to stop a volcano from erupting.
Within a few seconds, he let out a great, big, enormous, gigantic, colossal, mammoth, FART.
It was no ordinary fart, no sir, it was the fart of all farts, the king of farts, if there were ever such a thing. A fart that shook the entire building, literally, shook the entire building. The other children covered their ears and ducked for cover. Poor Mr Racer, being the closest to Fred, was ferociously launched across the hall, from the back draft, like a rock being catapulted from a giant sling shot. Cracks formed in the sports hall’s windows, the fire alarm activated, even the car alarms in the car park went off. Birds flew frantically from the trees.
People in nearby houses believed that an earthquake had occurred and called the emergency services. Police, fire engines, ambulances, even air ambulances were called. Scientists had begun investigations into the phenomenon.
Mr Racer, who had barely escaped with his life, never, ever asked Fred to do anything after that and Fred began to enjoy P.E. In fact, he began to enjoy school altogether; teachers, students and even bullies were too scared to say anything to him. He was never questioned about his homework, he was never told off for being late, he got extra food from the school canteen and everyone tiptoed around him.
He was KING of the school.
Alex thought the story was hilarious and thought it would be appropriate to name the fart as the:
THE ATOMIC FART
It had never happened again. Well, not to that degree anyway, Fred would fart all the time but they were just normal farts, like what normal humans would do. You know, like clearing everyone out of an elevator type of fart.
The Atomic Fart hadn’t been heard, felt or smelt since that day.
“What you up to Alex?” Fred asked, looking down at the scribblings on the paper.
“I am making plans for my rocket pack!” Alex responded without looking up.
“For the inventor’s competition?”
“Cool!” Fred said and plumped himself on the chair next to him. “Do you think you can win?”
Alex stopped scribbling and looked up at Fred, “I don’t see why not.”
“Erm… what about… you know… Parker Hobbs Private School? They win every year!”
“I know… but not this year! This year, I…” Alex fell silent as the buzzer sounded.
“Come one Alex, we’re going to be late for History.”
“History! When are people going to learn that history has already happened? That’s why its history! Surely, we should be looking at the future!”
“You’re probably right Alex but right now if we don’t get to class, we’ll be history!”
History class was as boring as ever, especially with Miserable Mr Grey. He was old, he looked like he was a hundred or so. All his hair was grey and fluffy, he looked like he had a grey cloud glued on his head. The small stubble on his chin was grey, his eyes were grey, his suit was grey, even his socks were grey. He looked like he belonged in an old black and white television. He was also incredibly thin and absurdly tall. When he sat down on his chair and put one leg over the other, it looked like his legs were tangled up like a plait. That’s how ridiculously, stupidly long his legs were.
“Alex!” Mr Grey yelled, noticing him gazing out of the window, lost in his own world.
“Yes Sir…” Alex responded, snapping out of his daydream.
“We, on planet earth, were discussing famous quotes from influential people in history and Bret has kindly given us his top TEN favourites.” He rolled his eyes. “Maybe you would care to give us an example of a famous quote, something that you were moved by?” Alex stared up at the ceiling, deep in thought. He was caught off guard. All he had been thinking about was the rocket pack and the competition.
“He doesn’t know any!” Bret the Teacher’s pet sniggered.
“I do…” Alex said, “of course, I do!” He stood up straight and then opened his eyes wider.
“To Infinity and Beyond!” Alex said, “By Buzz Lightyear.”
“That’s not a real quote, is it?” Mr Grey remarked, “I have never heard it before and I have certainly never heard of this “Buzz Lightyear” gentleman. Did you just make that up?”
“Of course, not Sir. Buzz Lightyear is an Intergalactic Space Ranger!”
Bret shook his head and took in a deep breath, preparing to say something but the sound of the school buzzer stopped him.
Saved by the bell! Alex thought. He grabbed his stuff and dashed out of the classroom as fast as he could, leaving Mr Grey still thinking about who Buzz Lightyear was and Bret with his mouth still wide open.
“But sir, Buzz…”
“Oh, SHUT UP Brat! I am trying to search this Lightyear person on this Googly thing… besides, the buzzer has gone, haven’t you got another class to go to?”
“Sir, it’s Google not Googly, and it’s Bret… my name is Bret.”
“That’s what I said “Bret.”
“Sir, you said Brat.”
“No I didn’t, I said Bret, I know I said Bret, Bret, because I was there when I said it… Brat!”
Bret sat looking puzzled.
“AH! I knew it. Buzz Lighter doesn’t even exist, he is a cartoon character! OH, that wretched, ghastly, horrid little boy thinks that he can pull the wool over my eyes! He’s just like his father! Oh, his father was a worthless, wretched, despicable little worm!”
Face like a miserable rainy day,
In the middle of May,
He wears the same clothes every day!
Grey, Grey, go away, come back another day!
“He would sing that song ritually, everyday! Every break-time, every lunch time. The song was so catchy that even the teachers would hum along to it. Just the very thought of him makes my blood boil!”
“That’s just horrible… So, you used to attend this school when you were younger?”
“Of course, not. As a boy, I went to a private school, A real school. I became a teacher here, in this vile, pitiful excuse for a school. I taught his father. Piper! Perfect Piper, he would call himself. Pathetic Piper is what he should have been called! He was the worst, worthless, dim-witted, wretched, worm in the world! He was as stupid as silly string, he was daft as dodo, a detestable, disgusting, despicable, dork. A vicious, vile, vindictive, daemon child!
AND Alex is a pathetic pea from the same pod! The same rotten, pathetic POD!” I will show him… oooh I will show him indeed!”
Alex had spent the entire evening in his dad’s garage or “workshop” as his dad liked to call it, putting the wings together on the belt of the rocket pack. Yes, it was cold, not well lit and smelt of damp, but Alex loved it. The workshop was full of weird and wonderful tools and other bits and bobs his dad had accumulated over the years for his DIY chores. Chores that he never got around to doing – like the storeroom door in the house that had been swinging on just one hinge for the last six months. Not to mention mum’s new wardrobe that had been in the store for the past FOUR weeks, still flat-packed, or the fallen fence in the garden, the missing tile on the roof, the dripping tap in bathroom, the peeling wallpaper in the living room, the wonky leg on the dining table, the wonky leg on the dining table chair, the flickering light in the hallway.
It appeared as though the house was falling apart, that’s what Alex’s mum always said anyway. So, every time Alex’s mum would mention that something needed doing, Alex’s dad would rise to the challenge. He would get dressed in his workman overalls and excitedly dart off to the local DIY store to buy the right tool for the job. Upon returning, resembling a child that had just returned from a toy shop, he would find the perfect place for it in his workshop and then avoid doing the job for as long as he could.
This was great for Alex, it meant that he would have all the tools he would need for his invention.
In the workshop there were great big shelves running along the walls. They started on the ground and stopped millimetres from the ceiling. They were like skyscrapers. Alex’s dad even had to install a ladder that slid along the edge of the shelves, so he could reach the top. There were two work benches and numerous power tools.
Alex’s invention was finally looking like something that would work. It had two metal wings, like those of an aeroplane, attached to a metal tank. The tank had a rucksack around it and its straps tightly wrapped around the pilot. Two arms, like arms of an arm chair, came out on either side of the pilot. Each arm had a “hand gripper” for the pilot to hold and steer with when he was flying. Alex hand no idea what they were really called so he just called them hand grippers.
Alex knew it wouldn’t fly, not yet, not without hydrogen peroxide combined with pressurised liquid nitrogen and a silver catalyst. All of which Alex had persuaded his friend, Nerdy Nicholas to “borrow” from his father’s laboratory and aerospace research centre. It was the sort of things that friends did for each other… well, sort of.
It was risky getting those components, very risky, especially as they were probably very dangerous, but it was a risk Alex was willing to take.
There was a quiet knock on the garage door. Alex pulled his dads old dust sheets over the rocket pack so it was completely covered. He couldn’t have anyone, except those whom he completely trusted, catching even a glimpse of the superb invention.
When he opened the garage door, he was delighted to see that it was Nicholas and Fred. Alex’s eyes stared straight past them both and fell on a mesh trolley that Nicholas was lugging. He used to use it to carry his toys to the garden when he was younger. It was the only thing he could find. He couldn’t fit it all into his school bag, even if he took out all his books and lunchbox Nicholas explained.
“Did you get all the stuff?” Alex asked with a sparkle in his eyes.
“Yes… but Alex, I am really not sure about this. This stuff seems dangerously dangerous, and my dad would absolutely annihilate me if he knew that I had taken it.” Nicholas’ face was like a tomato from all the pulling and dragging.
“That’s exactly why he should never find out.” Alex smirked. “Thanks Nick… I owe you one. And don’t worry, it’s not dangerous. I read up on exactly how it all works – it’ll be fine. It’ll be better than fine – it’ll be great.”
“Alex, I am not sure about this…” Fred said, looking flustered. He swallowed uncomfortably as he watched Alex unload the trolley. Fred was, in nicest way possible, a wimp. He was scared of everything, he was scared of cats, mice, rabbits, caterpillars, butterflies and all other animals and insects. He was frightened of the dark and always slept with his light on. He was terrified of dentists, doctors, dieticians, and most of all, clowns. There was no wonder that he was scared of Alex’s wild idea of flying. Oh, and he was petrified of flying, he hated heights – in fact, he was so fearful of heights that he tried really, really hard to not grow any taller, in the fear that looking down at his feet may become too daunting. The thing that he feared the most, however, was the fear of things going wrong, and what Alex was planning was bound to go wrong. A really bad kind of wrong.
“Nick! You are a genius. This is perfect.” Alex could hardly contain his excitement. “There’s enough here for at least three flights!”
“OK, well, I’m out of here… I don’t want to be around when this all goes pear-shaped.” Nicholas didn’t hang about a moment longer, probably paranoid that Alex would try to make him stick around.
Alex didn’t care, he was much too busy fantasising on how the rocket pack was going to take off. His eyes were fixed on the crazy contraption as he pulled off the dust sheet.
Even Fred, although would never admit it, was impressed. It looked spectacular. The metal was shiny and cut into perfect shape and Alex had even put a few red and green flashing L.E.D lights on it. He had no idea why he put the lights on it as they didn’t have a function, but he felt that it would not be right without them.
Alex’s heart began to race, his eyes grew wide and Fred almost let out a little scream when a voice emerged from behind them.
“Well, that looks dreadfully dangerous!” Anna said in a high-pitched voice, as she peered in from the doorway. Nicholas was so eager to get away, that he had forgotten to close the door behind him.
“I’m pretty sure that mum and dad would love to see that… Whatever that is? Right?”
Alex panicked, of course mum and dad wouldn’t approve, they would put an end to it immediately. It would be the kind of thing that his mum would confiscate instantly – and… what about when they discover that Nick had gone and pinched things from his father’s lab?
Anna turned around and began skipping towards the house.
“Anna! Wait!” Alex yelled. “Let’s talk about this…”
“Talk! Talk! Now you want to talk… Well, sorry I can’t, I still have to brush out powder from some of my dolls. Powder that YOU put in my hair dryer.”
“Well, you started it. You took my pencil sharpener!” Alex argued.
“Bye Alex.” She smirked.
“OK. OK! I’m sorry about the powder… and the clock…” Alex then raised his head with a thought.
“How about we come to a compromise…” He tilted his head and raised his eyebrows. “Let’s make a deal: You don’t tell mum and dad about what I’m doing in the garage and I will give you a pack of my Match Attack football cards.”
“Match Attack cards? Are you serious? What on earth am I going to do with them?” She folded her arms and rolled her eyes.
“OK, I will give you ALL of my Match Attack cards.”
“DEAL!” She smiled, “I will expect them ALL in my hands before bedtime… or else!” Her beady eyes shrunk further. She meant business.
The thought of giving away ALL of his beloved Match Attack cards was painful, especially as he had collected some of the best players over the past year, BUT it was for the GREATER GOOD.
Without sacrifice there can be no victory… and all that!
Alex looked at his black Casio digital watch that his grandad got him for his birthday.
It was almost tea time and he couldn’t risk his mum coming out to look for him. He rushed back into the garage and pulled the dust sheet over the rocket pack and then put another one over the trolley.
“Are you staying for tea?” Alex asked Fred as he ushered him out of the garage and locked the door.
“Yes… I think I will stay for tea… Thank you.” Fred said with a look of excitement.
“OK. But scoff it down fast as I need to get to bed fast so tomorrow comes faster.”
“Erm… I can’t eat too fast, I get indigestion.”
Alex shook his head, “Fine! Just eat as fast as you can. PLEASE!”
Tea couldn’t have finished quick enough. Alex vacuumed his food, well, the parts he liked and then played with the peas until no one was looking and then slid them under his napkin.
Alex knew that the quicker he could get to bed, the quicker the morning would come and he could get straight back in the garage and put the rocket pack together for the prototype show. That didn’t happen. Alex couldn’t sleep a wink. He was way, way, way too excited. He lay on his bed with his eyes closed but it was no use: he tossed and he turned and then he turned and then he tossed. He even tried counting to a bizzillian but nothing would work. So, he ended up staying awake ALL NIGHT!