Verbosity21's Blog
Short Stories by Ralph Proenza– mostly Fiction, but some based on true events

*JEREMY’S SPACE ROCK


The boy stared up from his bed, his thoughts bouncing from one thing to the next.  His eyes wandered to the window where the constellation Orion shone clearly in the blackness of the clear night sky.  Barely visible just below Orion’s belt was its large cloud nebula, and below it the star Betelgeuse.  “I wonder how long it would take to fly to Betelgeuse?” he mumbled to the styrofoam planet Jupiter hanging from his ceiling.

Jeremy Braddock had gotten a telescope just two months earlier on his thirteenth birthday.  He loved astronomy.  “Maybe one day I’ll discover a supernova or something, and they’ll name it after me, you know, like the Hale-Bopp comet.”

Outside the window one particular star had suddenly gotten bigger and brighter.  Jeremy shot up in bed.  “Hey, wait a minute.  That star doesn’t belong to Orion.”  The pinpoint of light appeared to be growing.  “But that’s impossible!  Newton, do you see that?”.  He looked briefly down at his pet white mouse puttering around in his cage.

Within seconds it had grown even more.  Jeremy jumped out of bed and ran to the window.  Gaping upward he noticed a small tail of fire coming from the star, which had now become a small white ball.  As he saw the movement of flames coming from it the realization hit him like a photon torpedo:  “Holey moley Newton— that’s a real live shooting star!  Well, beam me up, Scotty!”

He fumbled with the telescope, yet couldn’t look away long enough to raise it toward the sky.  The shooting star, for that’s what it had to be, was getting bigger, and yet seemed to stand still — as if it were headed…right at…HIM!  Jeremy stood frozen, his heart pounding in his chest, as it apparently soared closer,  flames streaming behind it.  The light became huge as a wooshing sound reached him.  He quickly ducked behind the window frame and at the same time heard cracking timber in the wooded area behind his house.  He caught his breath and leaned out the window.  He thought he could pinpoint where the meteotite had fallen.  He paced back and forth, frought over what to do next.  It was too late to go into the woods tonight.  He needed daylight and he knew the rest of the night was going to last forever.

The following day the school clock seemed to move in slow motion.  Jeremy was about to explode with a secret he couldn’t share — not just yet anyway.  It took all of the self control he could muster to stay within the walls of the building.  Finally, the bell rang and he was home in a flash.  In minutes he was at the wooded area behind his house and ready to begin the hunt for the E.T. rock.

After a tedious search of  the woods, he found it.  The meteorite’s fall had been slowed down by the trees, and now rested in a shallow depression in the ground.  It was surrounded by burnt underbrush and a ring of dirt made on impact.  Several scorched fragments lay nearby.

Jeremy gazed in disbelief.  His science teacher said that some two hundred million meteors enter the earth’s atmosphere every year, but very few ever landed.  Yet here was one…..a meteorite of my own, sort of….wow!

It looked like a large dark-gray and black pocked-marked boulder about 3 feet in diameter.  He could barely stand the excitement as he reached out his hand to touch it.  He suddenly jolted to a stop with a gasp.  “WAIT!  What if it’s infected with a new space germ like in the movie Andromeda Strain and clot up all my blood?  Or what if it’s radioactive and my eyeballs get fried and my teeth all fall out?

He sat on a nearby fallen tree to ponder his dilemma before a plan came to mind.  He had to make sure the world was not in danger, and he knew he had to work fast to beat nightfall again.  He bolted home for a call to his science teacher.

“Mr. Philips, this is Jeremy, you know, from second period.”

“Oh, yes, hello Braddock, one of my best students.  What can I do for you, son?”

“I’m sorry to call you at home, but…Well, you see, I was, uh, having this talk with my friend and, uh, we were just wondering how you can check something to see if something is radioactive, if you don’t have a Geiger counter?”

“Ah, a good question, Braddock.  Well, let’s see.  I suppose you could place a watch with an old radium dial next to the object and in about fifteen minutes check to see if the dial glows in the dark.  But cover it first so it won’t be responding to just the light.”

“Hey, that’s a good idea, Mr. Philips,” the boy said excitedly.

“Well, I’m glad I could help.  What, did you find some plutonium or something?”  Mr. Philips chuckled as if he had made a joke.

“No…no plutamomium, uh, we….were just wondering.  Thank you and see you Monday, Mr. Philips.”

Jeremy’s plan called for some necessary supplies.  Rummaging through his dad’s junk box produced an old watch with a radium dial.  With a small cage containing the white mouse in hand and a fishing pole, he set out again for the meteorite.

He peered worriedly at the mouse. “Sorry Newton, but this is in the interest of science.”  He hooked the cage to the end of the pole.  Stretching out he placed it up against the fallen space rock.  Next, he tossed the duct tape covered watch on top of the meteorite.

It was near bed time when Jeremy returned to the woods clutching a flashlight.  He grinned at Newton scampering around.  He was still alive!  OK, no death-germs here.  Holding his breath he carefully picked up the watch.  Removing the tape off the face showed no glowing dial.  Just to check it, he hit it with his flashlight and the dial dimly lit up.  OK, no radiation here.  His eyeballs were safe.

Reaching out with a trembling hand he touched the rock’s surface.  The excitement was almost too much to take.  He wrapped on it with his knuckles almost expecting something to knock back from inside.  It felt as solid as lead.  After basking a while in his excitement, Jeremy called it a night.  Tomorrow I’ll tell Mr. Philips.  Maybe the University will want it, or maybe even NASA so they can study it.

Before turning to leave he looked around for one of the fragments.  He found a chunk the size of a cantaloupe and held it like it were a giant diamond.  “Wow, Newton, I own a piece of outer space….a space rock!”  He clutched it to his chest all the way home.

~    ~    ~    ~

Two weeks later he sat reading the newspaper story for the umpteenth time:   “LOCAL BOY FINDS METEORITE.”  It showed a picture of him standing next to the large boulder, holding Newton’s cage.  They had named it the Braddock Meteorite.  He grinned at his prized space rock resting on his bookshelf and a sigh of accomplishment escaped from his lips.

Jeremy turned out the light.  Sleepily, he looked up through his window at the constellation Orion , and with starry eyes wondered how long it would take to fly to Betelgeuse…

*    *    *    *

One Response to “*JEREMY’S SPACE ROCK”

  1. This was my favorite!


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