Sunday, April 6, 2008

A Gift From Space

Eddie’s propulsion pack thrust him from his bed through zero gravity. He collided with the orbiting satellite that was his entertainment center and grabbed hold. He didn’t dare let go, lest he find himself floating hopelessly through the void of space also known as his bedroom.

‘Captain Eddie has a tough job today,’ he said.

To say that he had an active imagination would be a gross understatement. By eight years old, Eddie Wilson had aspired toward and tried his hand at many professions.

Eddie tinkered with the wires in the back of his television.

‘Satellite repair nearly complete.’

When he was six, Eddie’s mother, Sheila, spanked him for the first, but far from last, time. She came inside from working in the garden to a smoke-filled kitchen. Eddie had been watching the Food Network a great deal, and decided that he might want to become a chef. Previous aspirations to become a firefighter proved handy when he started a small fire on the stove. He used the spray nozzle on the sink to put it out, but not before he caused five hundred dollars in smoke damage.

‘The satellite is fixed. Good job, Captain Eddie.’ He mimed taking off a space helmet, then flopped down on the bed. The television wouldn’t turn on, when he pressed power on the remote. Eddie decided to go downstairs.

Sheila sat in the dining room with Eddie’s Uncle Steve. Uncle Steve always made stupid jokes and had red eyes. Eddie hadn’t yet figured out the correlation between the two.

‘…and now I have to do another year of probation.’ Steve noticed Eddie standing there. He sat him in his lap.

‘Hi, Uncle Steve.’

‘Hey, big guy. How are you doing?’


‘How do you keep an Amish woman happy?’

‘Um … I don’t know.’

‘Two Mennonite!’

‘Steve, I don’t know how appropriate that joke is for him,’ Sheila said.

Steve appeared bewildered by the concept. ‘He’s a big boy. What are ya? Thirty-six? Thirty-seven?’

Eddie chuckled. ‘I’m eight, Uncle Steve.’

‘Oh, that’s right. So what are you playing up there?’


‘Wow, that sounds fun. Hey, Eddie, you know how astronauts go to the bathroom in zero gravity?’


‘They’ve got these vacuums that suck the pee and dookie in so that it doesn’t just float around.’

‘Ok, Steve. That’s enough of that.’ Sheila’s nostrils flared.

Steve shrugged. ‘What? I’m teaching him.’

‘Mommy, can I have some cookies?’

She looked at the clock. ‘We’re going to be eating dinner here pretty quick. Why don’t you just go play for a little bit longer, then I’ll call you down when it’s ready.’

Eddie jumped down from Steve’s lap. ‘O.K. Are you going to stay for dinner, Uncle Steve?’

‘Ew! Free food? Yucky!’ He laughed. ‘Yeah, I’m sticking around for grub time, buddy.’

‘Cool!’ Eddie ran upstairs to launch himself back into space. In the span of fifteen minutes, he discovered new life forms on Jupiter and played Xbox on the moon. His mother called him down for dinner.

”… so he says to me ‘Drive it like you stole it,’ and I says to him, ‘I am driving it like I stole it.’ I mean what does he want to do? Get pulled over for a rolling stop in a stolen car? How stupid can you be?’ Steve said.

‘You stole a car, Uncle Steve?’ Eddie sat down.

‘No, honey, Steve’s just talking about a movie he saw,’ Sheila said.

‘Uh, yeah. A movie.’ Steve looked down at his plate. ‘How’s–uh–school going, Eddie?’


‘You got a girlfriend?’ Steve winked.


The response shocked Steve. ‘Really? You don’t think they’re gross or nothing?’


‘Sheesh. Kids these days. Oh, speaking of girlfriends, Sheila, I been scoring dope for-I mean hanging out with this guy that lives up in Pasadena. Craziest thing. He does infomercials, right? You know, like the Magic Bullet and Miracle Blades and shit?

‘Guy’s name is Darius Loveweather. I shit you not. Big black fella that does ads for soul compilation CDs. Right now, he’s doing this one called ‘Most Love-makin’-ist Soul Songs in the World.’ It’s good stuff.

‘Anyway, so we went to this party, and he introduced me to this group of chicks that also do infomercials. Get this: guys in the union-’

‘Wait a minute. There’s an infomercial union?’ Sheila shook her head in disbelief.

‘Yeah. So anyway, the other guys in the infomercial union call these chicks the Shelf. Isn’t that crazy? They call them that, because it’s a bunch of chicks that all got really nice racks. Eh? Like a shelf? A bunch of racks?’

‘I think I get the point, Steve. I think Eddie gets the point.’

‘So anyway, I met this chick, named Daphne. She’s the girl in the Swing the Weight Off deals where they basically just sell a swing that hangs in a doorway, but claim it helps you lose weight. She has got incredible abs. Me and Daphne have been goin’ out for about two weeks now.’

‘What about Aunt Leslie?’ Eddie turned his big, innocent eyes up from his mashed potatoes.

‘Oh, me and Leslie broke up a couple of weeks ago.’

‘That’s too bad. I liked her better than Aunt Casey and Aunt Sarah.’

‘All bitches.’

Sheila slammed the table. ‘Steve!’

‘Sorry about that.’

‘Anyway, it’s good that you’re seeing someone. She sounds like she’s a real swell girl. What with the great abs and all.’ Sheila rolled her eyes.

Steve raised his eyebrows. ‘Oh, she’s smoking.

‘Here’s a funny story: I was riding my bike the other day, and I saw this funny looking ‘tard. I mean, he was all wearing a helmet and shit. Hobbling down the street. I got so distracted looking at him that I fucking hit the curb and wiped out.’ His hand struck the salt shaker when he swung it for emphasis. The shaker shattered on the floor beside him.

‘Come on, Steve! God help me. I swear if you weren’t my brother!’ Sheila got up.

‘Relax. I’ll get it. Where’s the vacuum? Upstairs?’ He bounded up the stairs, and quickly returned to clean his mess.

The vacuum hummed as though it were working fine, but would pick up none of the mess.

‘What the fuck’s with this thing?’ Steve shook the vacuum hose.

He held the end of the hose up and looked into it. After a couple of shakes, a moist brown mess plopped onto his nose.

‘Oh, fuck me running! That’s fucking shit! There’s shit on my face! Shit fell out of the vacuum, and it’s on my face! Sheila!’

Sheila hustled in from the kitchen with a towel. He snatched it from her and pulled the mess from his face.

‘What gives? I mean, that’s fucking sh-’ Steve vomited on the carpet.

‘Oh, sweet Jesus!’ Sheila averted her eyes.

Eddie minded his food. He knew he was in it pretty thick. It only took a moment for Sheila to put together Steve’s conversation with Eddie about astronauts from earlier and the problem at that moment.

‘Eddie, what did you do? Did you poop in the vacuum?’

Eddie’s bottom lip jutted out. His eyes welled with tears. ‘I was playing astronaut.’

‘Eddie, you can’t poop in the vacuum.’

‘Hell no you can’t!’ Steve scrubbed, vigorously at his face with a new towel.

Sheila hit him on the shoulder. ‘Serves you right, asshole. You know better than to tell Eddie about something like pooping in a damned vacuum cleaner.’

‘Whatever. I’m taking a fucking shower.’ He stomped out of the room.

Eddie sniffled. ‘Am I in trouble, mommy?’

Sheila knelt beside Eddie. ‘Sweetie, what you did was very, very wrong. It was also incredibly gross. You shouldn’t have done that, and I’m angry at you. But it was also funny as hell, and I think that Uncle Steve learned his lesson. Now I don’t want you to do that anymore. I want you to think before you listen to your uncle. OK?’

Eddie nodded. ‘OK, mommy.’

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