Little Herbert & the Rocket Ship
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
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
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.
Contributing Story Teller: Paul
F Clayton, [email protected]
New Parks Estate Leicester LE3 9HH