|When Dreams Took Flight
Author: ct92404 PM
Jonathan Teller is a builder, an inventor. A dreamer. One day, he and his two best friends manage to achieve what seems to be an utterly impossible fantasy..they build their own experimental spacecraft. However, this is more than just a story of a wild ride to space and back. It's a story of friendship, compassion, and the will to make your dreams come true.Rated: Fiction K+ - English - Adventure/Friendship - Chapters: 4 - Words: 40,765 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 3 - Follows: 6 - Updated: 02-07-13 - Published: 01-14-13 - id: 3092270
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: This is the first story I have ever posted online. It's not finished yet, and is still a work in progress. Although this is essentially a science-fiction story, there is a lot more to it than that, as you'll see. Thank you for reading! Please post reviews! I appreciate any comments or constructive criticism.
...Jonathan gripped the pitch control, making small precise movements as he watched the trajectory indicator. He tried to keep the predicted path lined up with the target. It was just a little green line he had to match up with a small box on a display screen. But if it wasn't lined up, they could wind up being hundreds of miles off course. All the while, inertial forces threatened to fling him through the cockpit windshield if it wasn't for his safety harness. A blast furnace of superheated air roared just outside the windows as the ship continued to blaze through the atmosphere at ungodly speed. The KIAS indicator continued to rapidly count up, as if a child were randomly pressing buttons on a calculator. The dynamic pressure indicator was still flashing a warning, and now the hull temperature warning was beeping ominously. Everything was just happening too fast now. "Carl, bring up Aerobrake on your display!" He shouted over the hypersonic air stream that was becoming a violent roar even inside the cockpit. "Call out my turns!"
Carl rotated the function knob on his display screen and switched to the Aerobrake program. He had the same trajectory indicator as Jonathan did, but his showed more detailed information. "Okay, got it up! Bank hard right in 20 seconds!"
Jonathan had just enough time to turn and look back at William. His eyes were closed tightly and he was breathing hard. He's scared. For a moment, it reminded Jonathan of when William was that hurt, crying little boy he met at the college all those years ago. My little brother is scared, Jonathan realized sadly. But it was a scary situation. If he didn't do this right, they were going to die. It was a mathematical certainty...
Four Years Earlier...
Jonathan Teller put the hood up on his fleece jacket, and wished he had been wearing something a little heavier. It was a chilly December afternoon. The sun was low in the southern sky, and would continue to get even lower as the winter solstice approached. Ever since Jonathan had taken a serious interest in astronomy, he began to notice things like this, which he had never paid much attention to before. As a kid, he had of course learned in school that the seasons were due to the changing angle of how the sun lit the Earth as it revolved in the solar system. But now, he was acutely aware of it. He actually watched how in the fall and winter the sun would shift to the south and get lower and lower, day by day. It was amazing, the things he noticed and understood now that he was an adult. Although he was only 25 years old, he realized how far he had come in just the past few years. He leaned back against the brick of wall of the building he was standing by, and stuffed his hands in his pockets, trying to stay warm. He gazed to the east and was surprised that he could already faintly see the Moon in the pale blue sky. It would be getting dark early - earlier every night, in fact. Jonathan propped his foot on the wall behind him and continued to gaze longingly at the Moon. It was so far away, but right now it seemed almost as if he could touch it. It was also amazing to him when he thought of how the blue sky was just an illusion. The only thing which separated the Earth from space was the atmosphere; just a bubble of invisible gases. The sky was space. The Moon hung out there, in space, orbiting the Earth since long before Jonathan was here, and would be there long after he was gone.
Jonathan snapped out of his daydream and realized that his friend Carl would be coming to pick him up soon. Thankfully, the semester was finally over. Last week, the timing belt on his car had snapped, leaving him stranded nearly 3 miles away from his house. And of course, it was in an area where his cell phone didn't have any reception. And of course, it would happen on a day it was raining. So he had to walk home, in the rain. As if he wasn't having enough fun, when he was about halfway home, it started hailing. Luckily, he was finally able to get his phone to work, and had been able to call his dad to pick him up. He almost wished he hadn't though, after he had to endure yet another lecture. This time it was about how he 'should have saved for a new car' and 'how are you going to get to school?' and then of course it led to the inevitable 'you should have finished college by now' and the grand finale 'what are you planning to do with your life?' That was how the lectures and arguments always went. It was like clockwork. It was as if he and his parents were reading from a script. His dad's role was to badger him with things he already knew, and Jonathan's role was to explain for the hundredth time (literally, no doubt) about how he was trying as hard as could to finish school but he got distracted easily, and he was looking for another job but the abysmal economy made that impossible. Jonathan wasn't a loser with no ambition. He was young, give him a break for Christ's sake. He knew he was better than this, if only given a fair chance. He had dreams. He knew there was something different about himself, somehow. He looked at the world differently than other people. He just couldn't get anyone else to take him seriously. He was a builder, an inventor. He had a notebook full of sketches and diagrams for things he hoped one day he could build. New sources of energy, new ways of transmitting electrical power. He even had plans for a new type of engine – a steam engine that required very little heat and could operate in sunlight. Sunlight! It was much more efficient than any solar powered, hybrid, or all-electric car anyone had ever built. He would build all these things, if he could just show them to the right people. Jonathan had made the mistake of trying to show his parents his drawings and diagrams one time, while they were in the midst of one of their many arguments. His dad didn't understand any of it, and shook his head and walked away, saying that apparently Jonathan didn't know what he wanted to do with his life.
Jonathan picked up his backpack and slung it over his shoulder. He gazed up at the Moon one last time. At least there weren't any harping parents up there. Maybe somehow, one day, he would be able to go to space. Yeah, right.
Jonathan decided that he should head out to the front of the campus to wait for Carl. He also decided that if it wasn't too bone-chillingly cold that night, he would set up his telescope and do a little stargazing. Well, even if it was freezing, he probably would anyway. As he turned to leave and started to walk up the path, he noticed a kid in a faded red fleece jacket and blue jeans sitting Indian-style on a bench just ahead. The kid seemed way too young to be a student here. He was just a boy, maybe 14 or 15 at the most, and probably small for his age even at that. He had dark hair which was sort of long and partly covered his eyes, as if he was trying to hide from the world. An emo kid? I thought that was finally going out of style, Jonathan mused. The boy had a notebook in his lap and was holding a pencil in his hand. He seemed to be writing, or maybe drawing something. He had been looking in Jonathan's direction, but then quickly looked back down at his notebook. A chilly breeze swept through the air, ruffling the pages in the notebook and whipping the kid's hair into his eyes. When he tried to brush his hair away, he dropped his pencil on the ground and it rolled away from him. He put his notebook down on the bench and was about to reach down to pick up his pencil when Jonathan walked by. Jonathan picked it up and handed it back to him.
"Umm...thanks," the boy said meekly.
Jonathan nodded. "Sure. No problem." But then his curiosity got the best of him and he wondered what the kid had been writing or drawing and why he suddenly seemed nervous when Jonathan saw him. He looked down at the notebook and saw that there were drawings on the page. It looked like a sketch of one of the buildings on campus, done in pencil. It was actually pretty good. Really darn good, in fact. It seemed three dimensional, with light and shading and a lot of detail. It was definitely not what he expected, and definitely not from a little kid like this. Jonathan made drawings too, but they were mostly just technical diagrams of his would-be inventions. He wished he could draw this well. Wow...this kid has talent. "So you like to draw?" He finally asked.
The boy looked up at him nervously, as if he had been caught off guard, and then looked down at his feet. He shrugged. "Yeah, sometimes. I've been drawing since I was little."
Jonathan barely held back a smirk. Since you were little? When was that, yesterday? He thought, but didn't say anything. Somehow, the kid seemed very sensitive, and Jonathan didn't want to upset him. "You know, you're really good," he said, pointing down at the drawing.
The boy smiled, a bit forlornly. "Thanks."
What is up with this kid? Jonathan thought as he glanced down at the notebook and then looked back at the boy. He seemed a bit sad, or upset, or something. The boy was definitely shy, and apparently not used to talking much. Jonathan felt sympathy for him and thought maybe if he could encourage him a little, he could get him to come out of his shell. He shouldn't waste his talent. Jonathan would do his good deed for the day, and maybe help a budding new artist. See dad, I'm not a total screw up. The entire time he was thinking this, the boy kept alternately looking around nervously and then looking down at his feet. Jonathan was still wondering what he was doing here, since he was obviously far too young to take classes at the college. Maybe waiting for an older brother or sister, or his parents? "Hey I was just wondering what - " Jonathan started to say and then hesitated. "I mean, you're just a kid, you can't take classes here," he said.
The boy looked up at Jonathan, and then back down at his feet again. He sighed. "Yeah, I know. I wanted to take an art class here in Extended Learning next semester, but they said I'm too young. You have to be at least 16, and your parents have to sign permission forms."
Jonathan nodded. "How old are you?"
"Well, it's cool. I mean, I think you can still use the library even if you're not a student. Maybe you could find some books that would help. You have to have a card to use the computers though. But in another year, you'll be able to take classes."
The boy shrugged. "Yeah, I guess so."
"So what's your name?" Jonathan asked.
The boy looked at him and seemed apprehensive for a moment. "William," he finally said, almost in a whisper.
Jonathan smiled and held out his hand. "I'm Jonathan. It's cool to meet you." But the boy hesitated again before he nervously took his hand. Geez...this kid needs to get out more. He looked down at William's notebook again. He was still curious. "Hey, do you think I can look at your other drawings?"
William took a deep breath. "Umm...well..." He hesitated.
"I'm not going to say anything. I'm just curious. The one I saw was really good. You have a lot of talent."
William bit his lip and then took another deep breath. "Umm...well, okay, I guess."
"Thanks," Jonathan said happily as he picked up the notebook. He started carefully flipping through the pages. He was stunned. He slowed down and gazed at the drawings. He felt drawn into them. There were drawings of landscapes, some in pencil, others in marker, and a few others that looked like they might have been scanned and edited on a computer. But they were all beautiful, and made Jonathan feel as if he was looking through a window at some other place. There were more sketches of buildings, including a couple others of buildings on the campus. They looked like an architect's renderings. "Wow, these are amazing! Seriously, William these are incredible!" Jonathan said as he sat down on the bench, next to William. He kept slowly flipping through the pages, pausing for several seconds on each page. He still could not believe that these were done by a 15 year old boy. Then he came across drawings of people. If it was possible for Jonathan to be more amazed, he was at that moment. There were candid drawings of people, some of them seemed to be students around campus...people walking out of buildings, one girl sitting alone at a table in the library, studying from a book. And yet another drawing of a student sitting at a bench, clutching a paper in one hand and resting his head in his other hand. Jonathan could see and feel emotion in the drawing...sadness, frustration. Maybe he had failed a final exam? Jonathan kept slowly flipping through the pages, wanting to absorb everything. At the next page, he stopped abruptly and gasped. He was startled by what he saw. A young man in a fleece jacket with the hood pulled over his head, and leaning against a brick wall as he gazed in the distance and seemed to be lost in thought. "Is...is that me?" Jonathan asked. He had never seen himself like that before. There was something about being portrayed in a drawing that had a completely different feeling than seeing a photograph of yourself. On the adjacent page, there was a large sketch of the Moon, with the area around it darkened and shaded to look like it was in space. It looked like how it would be seen in a telescope. Jonathan was astonished. How did he know?
"You...you weren't supposed to see that!" William suddenly blurted out as he quickly grabbed the notebook from Jonathan. He abruptly stood up from the bench and backed away.
Jonathan wasn't sure what to do. He looked at William – his eyes were watering and Jonathan realized the poor kid was about to cry. He hadn't meant to sound offended or hurt William's feelings. He had simply been caught off guard. No one had ever drawn a portrait of him before, and definitely not one that good, which seemed to capture some essence of him at that moment. It conveyed exactly what Johnathan had felt then – hopeful, but lost and frustrated at the same time. He had to say something to William, or this might discourage him from drawing altogether. He cautiously stepped toward him. "Hey, it's all right. This is awesome! I just...you know, I was just surprised. I had never seen myself like that before."
William sniffled. "It just seemed like you had something really deep on your mind. I try to imagine what people are thinking," he said, chocking back a sob.
"It's okay," Jonathan said gently. "I'm not mad at all. This is really good. Seriously. I'm...amazed. And how did you know? How did you know what I was looking at?" Jonathan asked as he pointed to the drawing of the Moon.
Tears were starting to run down William's face, but he didn't try to wipe them away. "I can pick up on people...I'm good at figuring out what they're thinking or feeling," he said shakily as he slowly started to back away again.
Jonathan felt horrible. He realized that the boy must have had so much loneliness and frustration locked inside. "Hey William, it's okay. Calm down. You really should submit these somewhere. Like maybe an art contest or something. Maybe a teacher here can help you."
William shook his head and looked down at his feet again. "No. People think I'm weird or something. But I draw everyone and everything...I just try to understand things."
"I know. You're an artist. That's what artists do," Johnathan said with a smile, trying to cheer William up. It didn't work. The boy backed farther away and started sobbing louder.
"I gotta go," he squeaked out and he turned and started walking away.
Jonathan frowned. Damn it, this is not what I was trying to do. Oh gee...what did I do today? I made some poor little kid cry, he thought to himself sarcastically. "William, wait up!" He called out and started walking toward him. He couldn't let William leave like that. His conscience would eat him away.
William turned around but kept walking. "Just...I don't need help. Just leave me alone!"
Jonathan froze. He didn't know what to do. He felt terrible. He was just trying to encourage William, but somehow he had hit a nerve and upset him. The kid was crying and having some kind of nervous break down. "William, just hang on for a minute, would you?!" He called out again. But William didn't answer. He just started walking faster, almost running. Then Jonathan realized something alarming, which apparently William didn't. He was heading right for steps that led down to the quad...but he wasn't slowing down. The steps were steep and narrow, and always a bit hard to see, but in the fading light of the late afternoon, they were very easy to miss. There was a wheelchair ramp nearby, but no one ever seemed to use it, for whatever reason. Jonathan had a sinking feeling as he knew what was going to happen. "William, stop!" He called out. But the boy still ignored him and kept walking at his fast pace. "William, watch out, you're going to - " And then it happened. William tripped on the first step, his ankle twisting as he toppled down to the ground, landing hard on his side. Jonathan froze in shock for a moment, but quickly snapped back to reality as he realized that William might have been badly hurt and needed help. Taking a hard fall down concrete stairs was bound to be bad. Very bad. He ran towards the boy, who was laying awkwardly at the bottom of the steps, and not moving. When Jonathan reached William, he saw that he was panting like the air had been knocked out of him. Tears were streaming down his face and he started sobbing.
Jonathan knelt down by William. "Okay, hang in there, buddy, hang in there. You're going to be okay," he said and he gently rubbed his shoulder.
William winced and tried to reach for his right foot. He whimpered and started sobbing louder. "My ankle! It really hurts!"
Jonathan looked down at William's foot. The way he was laying and the position his foot was in, his ankle had probably been twisted on his way down. It was probably badly sprained, or maybe even broken. He knew from experience that even sprains could be extremely painful. He really felt bad for the poor kid. He was going to have to help him, and then have him call home for his parents or someone to pick him up and take him to a doctor. "Does it hurt anywhere else?" Jonathan asked him gently. He had to find out how badly William was injured.
William was trying to catch his breath. "Everywhere. My side hurts, my hip." He was trying to stop crying, but he couldn't.
Jonathan felt sick. He hated to see anyone hurt, but seeing the small boy laying helplessly on the ground, afraid and in pain, really made his heart sink. "You took a really bad fall. Hang in there, buddy. I know it hurts. Just take deep breaths, okay?" Jonathan looked William over, trying to think of what would be the best way to get him up. He seriously doubted that William would be able to walk. Even trying to sit up and stand was going to be hard. But he had to. "Okay, William, I'm going to help you to get up. Do you think you can sit up?"
The boy looked at him, with tears still in his eyes. "I don't know," he said shakily.
Jonathan knew William was in so much pain that he was probably afraid to move. But he had to get him off the ground. "Come on. Just try to sit up. I'll help you."
William nodded. He had managed to catch his breath and had stopped crying. But he gasped and winced as he turned his body so that he was laying flat on the ground. Any movement hurt.
Jonathan held out his hands. "Okay, here we go. Let's get you off the ground." He pulled William up into a sitting position. "All right, now try to get up slowly. Hang on to me, and put your weight on your left foot as you stand up, okay?"
William nodded, but didn't say anything. He took a deep breath, and then he tried to stand as Jonathan slowly pulled him up. He tried to shift his weight to his left side, but even the slightest movement of his right ankle sent him back down to the ground, screaming in pain. More tears ran down his face as he winced and tried to catch his breath.
"Okay, okay. I'm sorry," Jonathan said sympathetically. "We'll have to try something else. You definitely can't walk." He looked William over again, and realized he was going to have to pick him up. How heavy can he be? He's just a little kid. "I'm going to pick you up, all right?"
William didn't say anything for several seconds. But then he nodded. "Just don't touch my foot."
"I know." Jonathan reached down to pick the boy up. He had one hand under his legs and another under his back. He grunted as he scooped William up from the ground. Okay, maybe a little heavier than I thought! But after a few seconds, he was able to carry him easily enough. Jonathan spotted another bench a little further ahead, and decided that was where he would take him. He looked down at William. He noticed that he had stopped crying, but his face looked a little pale. That concerned him.
"Am I heavy?" William asked, smirking a little.
Jonathan was surprised to hear William talk. "Nah, you're a shrimp. You don't weigh anything," he lied. True, the kid wasn't that heavy, but he wouldn't want to carry him around all day. He looked down at William again, and saw him grinning a little. He was glad to see that at least he was starting to get his sense of humor back. But then a few seconds later, he heard him whimper and saw him wince. William was still in a lot of pain. "Okay, just hang in there. I'm going to put you down on the bench right over here."
When they reached the bench, Jonathan put William down on it very gently. He tried not to put any pressure on his hurt ankle. "How are you feeling?"
"Hurts," William said meekly.
Jonathan gently rubbed his shoulder. "I know. Hang in there." He noticed that he looked more pale, and he seemed weak. It was probably from the pain, but Jonathan was getting more concerned now. "Does your head hurt? Did you hit your head?"
"No. I don't think so."
Jonathan nodded. He untied William's shoelaces and then very carefully pulled off his shoe. "Ow!" William screamed. The slightest movement of his ankle was extremely painful.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm just looking at your foot," Johnathan said. William gasped as Jonathan gently pulled off his sock. No matter how careful and gentle he was, anything that moved William's foot hurt him. Yikes, Jonathan thought as he looked at William's foot. The poor kid's ankle was pretty badly bruised and swollen. There wasn't any obvious signs of anything broken. It was probably just a bad sprain. But then again, Jonathan wasn't a doctor. "Have you ever sprained your ankle before?"
William shook his head.
"Well, there's a first time for everything. It sucks, huh?"
William nodded. "Like a Hoover."
Jonathan smiled. "I've never heard that before."
William managed to crack a smile back. "Well, there's a first time for everything."
Jonathan had to laugh. He was starting to like this kid, even if he was a little strange. He looked back to where William had fallen, and saw his notebook still laying on the ground. He'll be lost without that. "I'll be right back. Just hang on, okay?"
William nodded, and Jonathan went back to the bottom of the steps to pick up the notebook. He came back and handed it to William.
"Thanks," William said, and held the notebook in his arms as if it were a teddy bear.
Jonathan nodded. He was happy he was able to find it and give it back to William. That had seemed to make him feel a little better, at least. But now Jonathan had to figure out what to do next. He thought it was best to leave William laying on the bench, with his legs stretched out. He needed to keep his foot elevated. So he decided not to try to move him. "Well, your ankle looks pretty bad. And I don't know what you did to your hip. I think you really need to go to a doctor. Are your parents here with you?"
William shook his head. "No, they're both still at work. I took the city bus down here."
Jonathan sighed. This was going to get complicated. "Can you call them? You can use my phone if you need to."
"I just wanna' go home."
"But you really need to go to a doctor. Your ankle might be broken. I don't think it is, but you should have a doctor check it and get it x-rayed, just to be sure."
William shrugged. "My mom and dad will take me when they get back. I just want to go home."
Jonathan nodded. "All right, well my friend Carl is coming to pick me up, and we'll take you home. But is anyone at your house right now? I don't really want to leave you there by yourself."
"No. But I'll be okay," William said weakly.
Jonathan sighed and looked down at William again. He still looked pale, and now he had started closing his eyes, like he was drifting to sleep. "Hey, William! No, don't go to sleep. Stay with me. Are you okay?" He said, gently shaking the boy's shoulder.
William winced, and then fluttered his eyes open. "I don't feel good."
Jonathan gently rubbed his shoulder. "Yeah, it's because of the pain. And you're probably getting stressed out too and it's making you feel sick. Just try to relax, okay? You're going to be okay."
William nodded slowly, but didn't say anything.
Jonathan took his cell phone out of his pocket. "I'm going to call Carl now. We'll get you home," he said with a smile. But William didn't say anything. He just leaned his head back, with his eyes watering again. Hang in there, kid, Jonathan thought as he dialed Carl's number.
"Hola. Great One, Incorporated," Carl Rojas answered after a few rings.
Jonathan rolled his eyes. "You're a funny guy, Carl."
"Where are you?"
"Eh...I'm on my way down there, but I'm running a little bit late. The traffic was nuts today. And then I got a flat tire. You know, when it rains, it pours."
Jonathan heard Carl laughing. But Jonathan was not amused. "Ha ha. Very funny. That can happen to anyone, you know. I should laugh the next time your car breaks down in the rain."
"Yes, but not everyone breaks down in a hail storm. You must be cursed, my friend."
"Yeah, yeah. Just when are you going to be here?" Carl was his best friend, but he was obnoxious sometimes.
"I should be down there in about 10 minutes or so."
"All right. Oh, and hey, there was a kid here that fell and got hurt. I mean literally a kid, he's only fifteen. He's not doing too great and we need to take him home."
"Where's his mom and dad?"
"They're both still at work. He took the bus down here by himself."
Carl hesitated for a few seconds before he replied. "Well...maybe we should take him to the hospital."
"I think he'll be okay. But he sprained his ankle pretty bad and probably bruised his side and hip. He's just in a lot of pain and wants to go home. I told him that he needs to go to a doctor, and he said his parents will take him when they get home."
"Okay. Well, I'll be there in a few minutes."
Jonathan sighed with relief. The long day was finally going to be over. Once he got William safely home, he would be able to get home himself. Maybe he'd work on his plans for the "cold steam engine" a little more, and then maybe play a few games on his computer. Then later that night, he'd set up his telescope. He was just glad that he wouldn't have to worry about getting to school anymore. And, hopefully, would never have to walk home in hail storms any time soon. "All right. I'm by the Liberal Arts building."
"Okay. Cool. I'll see you in a little bit," Carl said as he hung up.
Jonathan put his phone back in his pocket. He looked back over at William. The boy's eyes were open, but he was just laying quietly on the bench, and hadn't said a word. He still looked pale, and in general seemed miserable. Jonathan wished there was something, anything, he could do to help him feel better. He would have preferred to take William to the hospital and have his parents meet them there, but he seemed determined that he just wanted to be taken home. There really wasn't anything more Jonathan could do. Well, there was one thing, he realized as he looked down at William's bare foot laying on the hard, cold bench. William had tried to lift his foot up to rest it on his other leg, but that seemed to hurt. He winced, and then gave up and set it back down on the bench. Jonathan unzipped his jacket and took it off. "Here. Maybe this will help a little," he said as he carefully cradled William's foot and then lifted it as gently as he could.
William gasped. "Ow...oww!"
"I'm sorry. Just hang on," Jonathan said as he bunched up his jacket and set it down on the bench, making a cushion. He gently eased William's foot back down on it.
William caught his breath. He looked up at Jonathan. "Thanks."
Jonathan nodded. "Is that a little better?"
"Yeah. A little. But...aren't you going to be cold?"
"Nah, I'll be okay. Carl should be here pretty soon anyway." Actually I'm going to freeze my butt off and by the time he gets here, he's going to have to defrost me. Hurry up Carl! Jonathan thought to himself. But there was no need for William to know that.
After a few minutes, Jonathan had started shivering. He crossed his arms over his chest and paced back and forth, trying to keep warm in the biting cold.
William watched him, and felt a bit guilty. He knew Jonathan must be freezing. "Hey, it's too cold. You can have your jacket back. I'll be okay," he said as he reached down to take the jacket out from under his foot.
Jonathan looked at him and shook his head. "No. It's all right. Don't move. You shouldn't move your foot too much or you'll make it worse. I'm more worried about you right now. Besides, I've been through a lot worse than this. Last week, I had to walk home in the rain and a hail storm because my stupid car broke down," he said, rolling his eyes as he relived the memory. He suddenly heard someone laughing behind him. He turned and looked to see Carl walking towards him. About freaking time.
"Like I said, Jonathan, you're cursed," Carl said, smirking.
"Well, I know you, don't I?"
"Whoa! Good one! But come on, what would the world be like without me?"
Jonathan shook his head and smiled. "The world would never be the same with or without you, Carl."
Carl smiled, and then pointed at the boy laying on the bench. "So, what, are you babysitting now?"
William frowned and looked away. Jonathan caught the hurt expression on the boy's face. He turned back to face Carl and shook his head. Don't do that. They had been best friends for years, but sometimes Carl didn't know when to shut up. The last thing Jonathan needed was for the kid to start crying again.
Carl seemed to recognize the serious look on Jonathan's expression, and immediately wiped the grin off his face. "Is he okay?"
Jonathan sighed. "No. He's in a lot of pain, and he's not feeling good. We need to take him home."
Carl nodded and then walked up to William. He looked down at the boy's swollen and bruised ankle and gasped. "Ay dios mio!" He said in Spanish. "Are you okay, little dude? How'd you do that?" Carl genuinely felt sympathy for boy now. His ankle looked pretty bad, and he knew that had to hurt.
William shrugged, but didn't say anything. He wasn't sure if he trusted Carl, after the smart 'babysitting' remark.
Jonathan answered instead. "He took a really bad fall on the steps," he said as he pointed back at the concrete stairs that led down to the quad. "He twisted his ankle and I'm pretty sure he bruised up his hip and his side."
Carl shook his head in disgust. "Man, people have been telling them for years that they need to regrade that walkway. It's too steep and if you didn't know your way around here, it's hard to see the steps. I don't know why they didn't do it when they put in the wheelchair ramp. I knew somebody was going to get hurt one of these days."
"Yeah. I know."
Carl nodded slowly. "Well, we better get him home. Can he walk at all?"
"No. His ankle is hurting him too much. I'll probably just have to carry him."
William didn't like people talking about him so much when he was right there. "I...I can try. Maybe if I stand up really slow - "
"No, William," Jonathan cut him off. "Don't try it. You're going to make your ankle worse, and besides you know that's going to hurt like hell. I can carry you, it's no big deal. Where did you park, Carl?"
"I got really lucky and I found a space in front."
"Okay." Jonathan looked back at William. "I'm going to pick you up now, all right?"
William nodded. Jonathan reached down and gently scooped him up off the bench. It was a lot easier this time.
Carl took Jonathan's jacket from the bench, and then picked up William's shoe and sock. "Is this yours too?" He asked, pointing to the notebook.
William nodded. "Yeah."
Carl put the notebook under his arm as they started walking towards the parking lot at the front of the campus. He looked over at Jonathan carrying the boy awkwardly, like a bundle of firewood, with the boy's legs dangling over his left arm. "Don't drop him, dude." True, the kid was small. But Jonathan wasn't really that big of a guy himself.
"I got him," Jonathan said. But he suddenly felt a little uneasy. God forbid if he tripped on something and did drop William, that would be very bad indeed, he thought. He shifted William a little to get a better grip on him, but accidentally put pressure on his bruised hip.
William gasped. "Oww!"
"Sorry! I'm sorry!"
William sighed. He was starting to think he might be better off crawling to the car. He knew that Jonathan didn't mean to hurt him, but it seemed like any movement caused him unbearable pain. He just wanted to go home and lay down. Maybe he'd lay down on the couch and watch a movie or watch cartoons for a while. That's all he wanted – to go home and for everything to stop hurting. He didn't even feel like drawing any more today. "Are we almost there?"
"Yup," Carl said with a smile as they came up to a black Toyota Tercel in the parking lot. "It's not a Porsche, but hey, it gets me around." He took his keys from his pocket and unlocked the front passenger door. "You're going to sit up front, little dude," he said to William. He then pulled the lever to recline the passenger seat.
Jonathan gently eased William down into the seat. "Are you okay?"
William nodded. "Yeah," he said quietly.
Jonathan went around to the other side of the car and sat down in the rear seat, behind Carl. After Carl turned on the ignition, he reached over and helped William put on his seat belt. He then noticed how pale and weak the boy looked, and his conscience suddenly weighed on him like a ton of bricks. "Hey. Look, I'm sorry about the whole 'babysitting' thing earlier. I was just kidding, you know? If I knew you were really hurt like this and that you weren't feeling well, I wouldn't have said that. I really am sorry, okay?"
William sighed, and then shrugged, not knowing what to say. "It's all right."
"You know, he does have a big mouth sometimes," Jonathan said from the back seat. He laughed and hoped he could cheer William up a little. Even if it was at Carl's expense.
Carl nodded. "It's true. What can I say? I think my last girlfriend broke up with me because of that. And my mom told me one time she was going to tape my mouth shut...and I think she meant it too!"
William looked over at Carl and managed a little smile.
"Atta' boy," Carl said, giving him a thumbs up. They then drove out of the parking lot and headed for William's house.
Carl had asked William for the address to his house, and then entered it into his GPS. He and Jonathan thought that was better, so William could just rest and not have to give turn-by-turn directions. They arrived at his house about 15 minutes later. Jonathan frowned when he noticed that there weren't any cars in the driveway and no lights on in the house. He still didn't feel right about leaving William by himself, especially since he was hurt. "Are you sure you're going to be all right?"
William nodded. "Yeah, I'll be okay. I'm just going to lay down and maybe watch tv for a while until my mom and dad get back."
Jonathan sighed. "Carl, do you have something to write on?"
Carl nodded. "Yeah, hang on a sec." He reached over to the passenger side and opened the glove compartment, being careful not to touch William. After digging around for a few seconds, he found a pen and a flier someone had left on his windshield earlier. "I don't need that," he said as he handed them to Jonathan.
Jonathan looked at the flier. It was an advertisement to a new Weinersnitchel that had opened up recently. "You sure you don't want this? Because there's a coupon here for 50 percent off and we're always looking for cheaper places for lunch."
"Eh...I don't really like hot dogs that much."
Jonathan shrugged. "Okay, whatever." He tore a scrap off the flier, and then wrote his home phone number and cell number on it. He handed it to William. "Look, William, I'm serious about this. If you start feeling worse like you get a headache or you start feeling dizzy or anything, I want you to call me right away, okay? We can come get you and take you to the hospital and your mom and dad can meet us there. Or if your ankle or hip really starts hurting again, and you can't take it, call me and I'll get you some pain medicine or something from the store. I mean, if you want, we can go get something right now. Tylenol or something maybe."
"Yeah, we did pass a grocery store down the street a little. Maybe you should take something so you can get some rest," Carl agreed.
William turned and looked at his house, and then looked back at Carl, as if he were contemplating it. But he shook his head. "No, it's okay. My mom and dad should be home soon. Thanks, though."
Jonathan nodded. "All right. Well, I'll help you up to the front door then." He stepped out of the car and came around to the passenger side. William held out his arms, waiting for Jonathan to lift him up. He had a mischievous grin on his face. Jonathan smirked. "I think you're getting a little too used to free rides," he said, laughing. He held William's hands and slowly pulled him up, and then gently scooped him up from the seat.
William winced. "Ow...ow."
"Sorry! I'm sorry!" Jonathan apologized, for probably the tenth time that day. No matter how gentle he tried to be, it seemed like he couldn't help William without hurting him.
"It's okay," William said in a strained voice.
"I hope you feel better soon, little dude," Carl said as Jonathan carried William towards the house. William turned around at looked at Carl over Jonathan's shoulder. He gave a little wave good bye to him.
"Okay, I'm going to set you down really carefully. Then just lean on me and try not to put any weight on your foot," Jonathan said as they came up to the front door. He let William slide down slowly out of his arms.
William took a deep breath as he set himself down on the ground and tried to put his weight on his left foot. But he almost lost his balance, and had to bring his right foot down for a moment. He gasped loudly and felt like he was going to pass out.
Jonathan quickly grabbed him, and took his arm and wrapped it over his shoulder. "Just hang on to me."
William nodded, and used Jonathan for support as he gingerly took his weight off his right leg and lifted his hurt foot off the ground. He dug in his pocket for his house keys and he awkwardly hobbled closer to the door. He unlocked the door and pushed it open.
"I'll help you inside." Johnathan said, and they made their way into the living room. Not bad, Jonathan thought as he took a quick glance around the room. It was simple, but comfortable. There was a large sectional couch and a recliner arranged in front of a flat screen tv. He also spotted a computer on a desk in the corner of the room. "You should lay down," he said, and helped William walk towards the couch. William slowly sat down, and then gasped when he tried to swing his body around to stretch out and lay down.
"Easy, easy!" Jonathan said. He lifted William's legs and gently turned him. William reached down to take off his other shoe and sock, but Jonathan stopped him. "No. I got that. Just lay back." He untied William's shoelaces, and then slid off his shoe and pulled off his sock. At least that foot wasn't hurt. He found a small pillow by one of the armrests. "Here," he said as he gently lifted William's hurt foot and then eased it back down on the pillow. "Is that okay?"
William nodded. "Thanks."
"Where's your fridge?"
"Over there," William said, pointing to the kitchen, which was just off to the side of the living room. "Why?" he asked, a little confused.
"Just hang on a sec," Jonathan said as he went to the kitchen and looked around until he found a plastic grocery bag in one of the drawers. He scooped some ice out of the freezer and filled the bag. He came back over to William and gently pressed the bag of ice against his hurt ankle.
"Oww!" William screamed and immediately pulled away.
"I know it hurts, but it's going to help," Jonathan said calmly as he gently set William's foot back on the pillow. He held the ice against the boy's ankle. William gasped, but tried to lay still.
"I know. It'll stop hurting in a minute. Just try to put it on about every 15 or 20 minutes or so. That will get the swelling down. Maybe after you rest for a while, you'll be able to limp or hobble on it."
William shrugged. "I hope so. Right now I can barely even move it. It really hurts."
Jonathan nodded. "Yeah, you sprained it pretty bad. You took a really hard fall, and down concrete steps, no less. When your mom and dad get back, be sure you tell them about anything else that hurts. I think you might have bruised up your hip pretty bad too. I just really hope you didn't hit your head."
"I didn't. My head's okay. But I'll tell them what happened."
"Okay. Good. I'll be right back, I'm just going to get your stuff," Jonathan said as he gestured to the door.
William nodded, and Jonathan went out the door and ran back to Carl's car. He saw Carl still sitting in the driver's seat and playing with the tuning knob on the stereo and muttering something about the bad reception. "How's he doing?" Carl asked.
Jonathan reached inside the car to pick up William's shoe and his notebook. "He's still not feeling too great, but he's laying down now and I had him put ice on his ankle. I'll be right back."
Carl nodded. "Okie dokie."
Jonathan jogged back up to the house and went inside. William was still laying on the couch, holding the bag of ice on his ankle. He looked like he was doing a little better. He set William's shoe down on the floor by the other one and handed William his notebook. "How are you feeling?"
"A little better. I think the ice is starting to work."
"That's good. Just don't leave it on too long or you'll burn your skin. Just put it on once in a while."
William nodded. He looked up at Jonathan. "Thanks...I mean, for everything."
Jonathan smiled. "Hey, it's no problem. I'm just glad you're feeling a little better. Are you sure you're going to be okay?"
"Yeah. I'll be all right."
"Okay. Well, uh, before I leave...do you have to go to the bathroom or anything?"
William laughed a little. "No. I'm okay. And maybe in a little while, I can try to limp or something."
Jonathan nodded. "Just take it easy on it and get some rest."
"Call me if you need anything. And actually call me, anyway, just to let me know how you're doing."
William nodded, and then hesitated for a moment. "Hey, Jonathan, it was...cool to meet you," he said with a small smile.
"Yup, you too. You're really talented with drawing. You should definitely keep up with that. Seriously, you're really amazing at that."
William looked down shyly. "Thanks. Well, I do go down to the college sometimes. Maybe I'll see you around again."
"Yeah, that would be cool. Well I have to get going. Carl is still waiting outside, and you know what a big mouth he has," Jonathan said, smirking a little.
William smiled. "Yeah. Well, I'll see ya later then."
Jonathan nodded. "Yup. Well, get better, William," Jonathan said with a little wave. He headed for the door, locking and closing it behind himself as he went outside. When he came back to the car, he noticed that Carl had given up trying to tune into a station and had just turned the stereo off.
"We ready to go?" Carl asked.
"Yeah." Jonathan said quietly. He turned and looked back at William's house. There was nothing more he could do.
"He'll be okay," Carl said, picking up on Jonathan's apprehension.
Jonathan sighed. "Yeah. I hope so."
"Hey man, you would've been a really good big brother."
Jonathan turned to look at Carl, but noticed that he wasn't laughing or grinning. He was being serious. "Yeah. Maybe," he said as they drove away.
It was indeed a bitterly cold night. It was the kind of chill that seemed to penetrate right through your clothes and make you shiver if you stopped moving. But the sky was crystal clear, and it had been a while since Jonathan had seen so many stars. So he was out for a bit of stargazing, as he had promised himself earlier that day. He had his telescope set up, and earlier that night he had been looking at the "Summer Triangle," which was formed by three stars – Altair, Vega, and Daneb. Although it was called the Summer Triangle, it was actually visible for much longer, into the early winter. In the middle of the imaginary "triangle," there was a fainter point which looked to the naked eye like just a single star. But it was actually a double star named Albireo. In a telescope, you could see a pair of stars – a blue one and a gold one. It was beautiful. Jonathan always thought they looked like Christmas tree lights. It was one of his favorite sights to see in the sky. But it had started getting too cold and his fingers were getting numb. So he was looking at a few easier objects to spot with a pair of binoculars. It was a bit harder to find at this time of year, but at last he managed to spot what he was looking for – the Andromeda Galaxy. In binoculars, it just looked like a sort of faint glowing blob. And even with a telescope on the best nights, there still wasn't much detail. If you were really lucky, sometimes you could faintly see a spiral to it. But it was just the thought, the realization that he was looking at another galaxy. Not a star. Not a planet. But a whole other galaxy! Who knows what may be there. Jonathan found himself dreaming again. Fantasizing, perhaps. Maybe, just maybe, someday, somehow he could fly to space. He had actually thought of it many times before. Never mind trying to become an engineer or physicist and joining NASA. He had a snowball's chance in hell of that. He couldn't even finish college. No. His ultimate dream would be to build some kind of flying vehicle of his own. His own experimental spacecraft. Right. He'd have to build something that could climb out of the atmosphere and accelerate up to 17,000 miles-per-hour in order to reach Earth orbit. Mach 25. And then the thing would have to be able to survive slamming back into the atmosphere at that speed for re-entry, when it was time to come back home. Yeah, right. Keep dreaming, Jonathan. He told himself. But still...maybe someday. He was snapped out of his fantasy when his cell phone rang. He took his phone out of his pocket and looked at the display. He didn't recognize the number, but decided to answer anyway. "Hello?"
"Hi. Umm...is Jonathan there?" It was a young voice. A kid. William!
"Hey! William?" Jonathan asked. He was still surprised that William actually called.
"Yeah. It's me," William said, a bit nervously.
"That's cool that you called. How are you feeling?"
"My ankle still hurts and I can't really walk on it that much. But it's getting better now. My mom and dad took me to the hospital, and the doctor said it was just a really bad sprain. I had a huge bruise on my hip though, and I guess I pulled a ligament in my knee or something too. The doctor gave me medicine for pain. It definitely helps, but it makes me drowsy when I take it."
"Well, that might be good anyway, so when you go to bed it will help you sleep."
"Yeah, I guess so. That's what my mom said too. But they both freaked when I told them what happened and they saw my ankle. My dad didn't even want me to go down there by myself anymore, because he freaked out, saying that I could have hit my head and got a concussion or something. But I told him it was just a weird accident and it could happen anywhere. And I told him a student there helped me, anyway. You know, you. So he was okay with it. They just told me next time to call them if I ever get hurt again."
"Well, yeah. We should have called them. I'm just glad you went to a doctor and you're feeling a little better now."
"Yeah. It just still kinda hurts, but I'm doing better now. Hey, Jonathan...thanks a lot for everything. I mean, thanks for looking at my drawings and everything too." William said. He sighed and hesitated for a moment. "And I'm really sorry I got mad at you."
Wow. This kid really is the little brother I always wish I had, Jonathan thought. "It's okay. You were just upset. I'm just sorry you were feeling like that. I just wanted to help you."
William sighed again. "I know."
"Hey, it's cool. Don't worry about it. You really should submit your drawings somewhere though. Seriously, they're amazing. I mean that."
"Thanks. Actually, I did see something in the newspaper about an art contest, and kids can enter it too. So maybe."
"Yeah, give it a try."
"Okay. I'll think about it. Well, hey, Jonathan I have to go now. But thanks again. And I guess I'll talk to you later."
"All right. Have a good night, William," Jonathan said, and hung up. Maybe he had accomplished something today, after all. Maybe he had made a difference in someone's life. He hoped he was able to help William. He cared about people, but he often wondered how much of an influence he really had. Jonathan picked up his binoculars and looked at the Andromeda Galaxy one last time that night. Maybe...someday, he thought.