“It’s what? Red!” Or so the story goes anyway. Tommy had heard it a bazillion times by now. How he was born, amazingly, with red hair. Neither of his parents had even so much of an inkling of similar coloring, but what was the amazement for? Red headed children were born to parents with different colors of hair every day. It was a matter of simple genetics.
Tommy was now a tall, lanky, and still quite red-headed ten year-old. Well, fine, maybe not so tall, but he was so skinny that unless he were standing next to someone else his age you’d mistake him for being at least two years older than he was. Even when he was on the phone, most people assumed they were talking to another grown-up. Before he could speak he was using sign-language to communicate with his parents what he wanted: Rubbing his chest to say please, then showing his fist just right for milk, and voila! Mom and Dad knew exactly what he wanted.
Now, most ten year-olds are smart, probably smarter than they should be, and it wasn’t that Tommy was genetically gifted or anything remotely like it (he hated his freckles). He just knew the secret. Something that makes an average person amazing, or a below average person rise above par. There was no use sharing it with anyone though, not because he didn’t want them to be as smart, but because most people, especially adults, disregard anything a child has to say. Who’d want to take the advice of someone a third, fourth, or even a fifth their age?
To casual observers, his room looked like a mess. Papers were strewn about the floor. Plastic vials, some filled with odd, color-changing liquids were setup next to a large box that read, “My Fourth Chemistry Set – for ages 12 and up.” There was a bookshelf in the corner, although most of the books were either open on the bed or on the floor. Tommy was sitting in an old, under-stuffed recliner with the footrest in the ‘up’ position, not paying any attention to the open book on his lap. The problem was, nothing had happened lately. Not a thing! Life had come to a halt, and that was a serious dilemma. Whenever things were this quiet, it was because something big was gearing up and getting ready to pounce. Tommy was lost in his thoughts.
No good could come from worrying about it though, so he put his latest invention, the Cellulose-pulp Degravitator, on his thumb and rotated it about ten degrees to the right. Shiny white sparks fell out of the thimble shaped device and landed on the open page of his book. The paper rose and flopped over to reveal the next page. It was a new chapter titled, “Space, Time, and Other Mathematical Constants of the Universe.”
“Gotta keep my mind from wandering too much,” he thought. He had already read this chapter twice, and wasn’t able to convince himself to focus hard enough to read through it a third time.
“Repetition is the key to memorization, right?” he pondered out loud to keep his eyelids from falling. “Yeah, right.”
Rotating the degravitator another forty degrees, he reached out towards the bookshelf. The large volume entitled “Intergalactic Geography for the Fifth Dimensionally Inclined” sprung towards him. He caught it just as its former neighbors leaped off the bookcase, landing on the floor with a loud thud.
“Tommy, what are you doing in there?” his mom cried out from across the hall. “Nothing, just running a few experiments,” he replied while snatching the Degravitator off his thumb and shoving it in his jean’s pocket. The door cracked open with his mother carelessly taking the last curler out of her chestnut colored hair.
“Thomas, please clean up this mess. We’ve got dinner guests coming in under an hour, and I could still use your help getting the house ready.”
“Right Mom, I’ll be down as soon as I finish recalibrating… I mean, uh… cleaning my room.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Please keep that imagination of yours in check tonight. Our guests are from Dad’s work, and we want to give them a good impression.”
She closed the door gently and Tommy listened until her footsteps reached downstairs. “Imagination?” he pouted. Nobody ever believed him. Not even the time he brought his parents an actual photograph of a Subterranean Wormling. An incredibly difficult thing to obtain by the way, as they hate light, and therefore camera flashes. The whole incident could have started a planetary war. “Something must happen to people when they become adults. Something that makes them blind to things they don’t want to see or believe.”
The Twists were good people, even if they appeared overly frantic at the moment. Mrs. Twist was switching back and forth between a broom and an old plastic vacuum cleaner, while Mr. Twist, wearing a silly apron over his shirt, tie, and slacks, was busy getting dinner ready in the small kitchenette. Tommy came downstairs wearing his nicest sneakers, a clean orange shirt, and a pair of jeans that hadn’t yet frayed around the ankles.
“Oh, please try to reuse the knives dear,” Mom requested as Dad dropped another one into the sink after cutting up some strange looking vegetable that was probably something normal, nonetheless unrecognizable. It must have come from their own garden.
The house wasn’t large, but it was well cared for. Having any number of guests over would fill up the entire dining room, which was actually a corner next to the kitchen with a small oval table. The simple wood chairs were arranged so that company would have more elbow room than anyone else. The “lefties,” Tommy and his Dad, would sit next to each other on one side, and Mom, the right-handed person in the family, would be at one the heads of the table.
It was the same bustling mood that occurs whenever a group of Ravenous Bark-Dwellers find themselves a fresh tree to consume. Tommy didn’t understand the anxiety, since, to him, this kind of visit was a regular occurrence by now. People from Dad’s work never actually stayed for dinner. They never even came into the house when they were invited. The doorbell would ring, they would drop off a green envelope and then leave. This was the first time that Tommy would see them though, as after-school volleyball practice had come to an end. It was dreadful to think that his parents might be doing all of this to show him off as their “pride and joy.” In truth, he probably was, but didn’t appreciate the extra attention. No matter, he was looking forward to the better-than-normal meal they’d get to eat after it was declined by the visitors.
…on to Chapter 3 Good Things