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Little Herbert & the Rocket Ship

Little Herbert invited his friends, George and Nick, to play in his back garden. Herbert’s house was the last house at the bottom end of the cul-de-sac, so there was plenty of garden space to play in, especially at the side of the house. Herbert had told his friends of his plan to build a rocket ship to take them to the moon and they were just as keen on the idea as he was.

Excitedly, the boys began to strip the pallets and the old Formica wardrobe that Herbert’s Dad had dumped against the sidewall of the house and with hammers, nails and a length of plastic washing line; they began to construct their space ship. With orange boxes for seats, an old transistor radio and an old, wind up alarm clock for instruments, the rocket was beginning to take shape, even if it wasn’t exactly rocket shape. George provided an orange, plastic indicator light casing from his older brother’s old mini cooper and he wanted it back afterwards, even though his brother was driving a Zephyr now and Nick striped the handlebars and gear stick from his old chopper bike. The finishing touches were a glossy astral chart for a pretend view screen and an old paint tin filled with tap water and placed under the rocket for fuel. At last, the rocket ship was ready for its maiden voyage.

The boys agreed that Herbert would be ships captain, because it was his idea and his back garden. Nick would be pilot, because he had provided the handlebars to steer the ship and George would be navigator, because they couldn’t think of anything else that he could be and as George was the youngest, it seemed only right, to Nick and Herbert at least, that his role was the less integral. For friendship’s sake, George had bowed to seniority on numerous occasions.

 

The journey was to begin. Herbert slid a piece of Formica in front of the entrance to the ship and pretended to lock it shut, for which, George provided the sound effects by making a hissing noise. Then Herbert gave the order for take off. Nick nodded, leaned back on his orange box, raising his handlebars up and made a whooshing noise. During their journey into the unknown, the boys talked of asteroid belts, meteorites and star clusters, all with a slight American accent.

After about an hour it was nearly lunchtime and George dropped his American accent and expressed how hungry he was. Supplies was the one thing that the boys had forgot to take on their mission and Nick agreed that the mission should be aborted, temporarily, as he had remembered that he had some water pistols that they could use as ray guns. It was time to turn the ship around and bring it home. “Coming in to land”, said Nick. “Brace yourselves men”, Shouted Herbert over Nick’s whooshing sound effect.

The ship had landed. The worrying thing was that it had landed with a thud. “Did you feel that?” asked Herbert. The three friends looked at each other with concern. “There must be somebody outside” whispered Nick. The boys cautiously removed the Formica board from the entrance and stepped outside. They were no longer in Herbert’s back garden. Instead, they found themselves in the middle of a field of long, sun-scorched grass. George began to panic. “Don’t worry,” said Nick, “We can’t be that far from home” he said. The boys walked out into the long grass. As they looked around the field, Herbert spotted something. “Over there” he said, pointing to the copse of trees on the far side of the field. Nick came running to Herbert’s side, closely followed by George. “What is it?” asked Nick. “Can you see that church steeple between the trees?” asked Herbert. “Oh, yes” said Nick, “Where there’s a church, there has to be houses and people,” he concluded.

The boys made their way across the field, past a clear shallow brook to a fence lined narrow road that must surely lead to the village. Before long, the boys were walking alongside the dry stonewall of the churchyard. Beyond the church, the road veered to the right. The boys had made it; they had arrived in the village. Nick recognised the place straight away. “I’ve been here before” he said. “Where are we then?” asked Herbert. “We’re in the village of Tipton Dell” Nick replied, “I remember I came here with my mum last summer and we bought some raspberry jam from the garden centre here. It was lovely. So, I reckon we’re only about ten miles from home” he said. At this, George began to sob. “That’s miles away” said George “It’s going to take ages to get home and I’m not supposed to go off anywhere” he sobbed.

“Best we get walking now then” said Nick. At that, he turned and began to walk down the winding lane leaving Herbert to comfort George. Herbert knew that George was right. It would take a very long time to get home and it was a journey that Herbert didn’t fancy taking. Neither George nor Herbert was as athletic as Nick. “Wait”, Herbert called after Nick. Nick turned around. “What is it?” he called. “If the rocket ship got us here, then it should get us back,” said Herbert. Nick shook his head in disagreement. “We could end up anywhere,” he said. “Let’s at least try,” said Herbert. George wiped his tears with his sleeve and nodded in agreement. Nick held his arms up and then dropped them to his side in resignation. “Alright then”, he said, “but I think we’re wasting our time”

The three boys made their way back to the field and climbed aboard the rocket ship. Three times they attempted to take off, each time with disappointment, they had not moved. “This is useless”, said Nick, “We may as well start walking”. Herbert jumped from his orange box. “I know what it is”, he yelled excitedly, “We’re out of fuel”. Nick disagreed. “That’s silly”, he said, “It’s just a tin of water”. Herbert, was in no mood for arguments, he knew he was right. He ran out of the rocket ship and scrambled underneath. A second later he came out, carrying the paint tin. “You see”, he said, “it’s empty”. Nick took the paint tin from Herbert. The tin was bone dry and there was evidence that it had been subjected to some heat. Nick didn’t know how or why, but it seemed that Herbert was right; the rocket ship had indeed run out of fuel. “Alright”, said Nick, “There’s a brook that runs alongside that road. Let’s go and fill it up”

The boys hurriedly filled the tin and replaced it under the rocket ship. They then went through their take off procedure once more. “I don’t think this is working,” said Nick. “Give it a chance,” said Herbert. “Right then”, he said, “let’s go through the landing procedure again”. George and Nick agreed and using sound effects they landed the craft. Once again the rocket ship landed with a thud. “Quick”, said Nick, “See where we are”. The three friends scrambled to the opening, pulled the Formica board to one side and jumped out of the rocket ship. To their relief, they were back in Herbert’s garden. “Hooray” they yelled.

George, who lived next door, made a dash for it. He was famished and wasn’t waiting a moment longer. No doubt, once he had eaten and watched TV he would be back out to play. Nick decided that TV could wait a while longer. Even though the boys had experienced another strange and exciting adventure, it seemed only right and proper to Nick that he helped Herbert decommission the rocket ship.

THE END

Contributing Story Teller:  Paul F Clayton, paulfclayton@gmail.com New Parks Estate Leicester LE3 9HH


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