Assignment in creative writing:
Write a story using at least three of the following words:
POPSICLE, FOOT BATH, SPACESHIP, CAT, BICYCLE, MISUNDERSTANDING, BUS PASS
Note from author: All of these words are in the following story.
For a ten-year-old boy in 1950 living in Roswell, New Mexico, getting a job was no easy task. I was a man on a mission, to earn enough money to buy the Delta Rocket Ray headlight for my Schwinn BICYCLE, the Panther. A business in town called “Spaceships and Beyond” opened and that sucker lay in the storefront window, shining and calling my name.
It seemed at the time, the only thing people talked about was the SPACESHIP that had crashed in 1947. Weird visitors showed up to find spaceships or aliens. They waived welcome signs, and sat up vendor stands and sold stuff.
My dad told me the incident was a MISUNDERSTANDING. Some said it was a weather balloon. People had to decide whether they believed in aliens or not, and that divided the town folks. Everyone argued his or her side of the story. Even in church, until the preacher started preaching.
I laid awake at night with a stupid grin on my face and shivered with excitement and anticipation. I imagined myself riding down the street on my bike. The dark would hide my existence, and the beam of light from the Delta Rocket Ray would blind my friends. They would think an alien spaceship was coming after them, to suck them into the craft and take them away never to return. They’d freak out, that would be so cool.
Every time my mom sent me to the store in town, I’d check the windows for help wanted signs. I rode my bike along the dusty road and wiped sweat from my forehead with a hand towel tied to the handlebars. Temperatures were scorching. When a car drove by, the road dust was like a cloud hovering in the air and settled all over me and made it hard to breathe. I would usually hold my breath until I cleared it, but one time I inhaled, and fine particles of dust sucked up my nose choking me. My summer was nowhere close to what I had planned. When summer ended, I still hadn’t found a job.
School started, and my attitude brightened. A job opened for a delivery boy at Phelps Pharmacy, and I got the job because I showed up with transportation, my Panther. I worked after school, five days a week and on Saturdays. Mr. Phelps said my bike got me through all the deliveries faster than any delivery boy he’d ever hired. I earned fifty cents a day, double on Saturdays, and he always gave me a POPSICLE from the cooler when I finished my shift.
I’d pulled out an old cigar box I kept hidden under my bed and counted my money every Saturday night after getting paid.
I was two more paydays away, and my dream would come true.
The next week on Friday after school I went to work, and my worst nightmare happened. I picked up the deliveries, organized my route, and pedaled down the street. I finished all the deliveries and walked into the pharmacy wiping my forehead with my sleeve, pushing my blond hair back up under my cap.
“Mr. Phelps, when I delivered Mrs. Springer’s prescription, she gave me this BUS PASS. Here’s the rest of the money I collected.”
“Stevie, I can’t take a bus pass to cover her prescription. Go back and get the money. Make sure you get $1.56.”
“But sir, she said the pass is worth exactly $1.56.”
“Son, I need you to go see her and collect the money. If I took a trade for everything how would I pay you tomorrow?”
“Okay, Mr. Phelps, that makes sense.”
I rode back to her house feeling sorry for the old gray-haired woman, although I never understood why; I just did. I knocked on her door.
“Hi, Mrs. Springer, um, I need to return the bus pass, and Mr. Phelps said to pick up the money for your medicine. I’m awful sorry about this ma’am.”
“Stevie, I’m out of money until the first of next month. Just a minute, here take this.”
“What is it?”
“Burns Cuboid FOOT BATH. My sister gave this to me for my birthday, and it's still sealed. Return the powder to the pharmacy and tell Mr. Phelps I want cash back, not a store credit. I can pay you when you bring me the money.”
“Okay, that makes sense.”
I took the tin, happy everything worked out and arrived back at the pharmacy as Mr. Phelps closed the store. He unlocked the door, and we went inside. When I handed him the tin, I explained what Mrs. Springer had said. He laid it on the counter, took off his glasses, and rubbed his hand down his face. My stomach clenched, and my shoulders hunched down.
“Stevie, this Foot Bath is only worth eighty-cents. She will need to give you the rest of the money. Tomorrow is Saturday, be here at nine o’clock in the morning and let’s resolve this then, okay buddy?”
“Yes, sir, that makes sense.”
Mrs. Springer lived the farthest from the pharmacy, so she was always my last delivery on my route. Saturdays were busier than any other day, and I figured I wouldn’t have time to deal with her. I rode back to her house even though it was almost dark. I wasn’t scared of the dark, too much. I thought about mom. She might be worried if I was late for supper.
I arrived with about half of my Popsicle left. Mrs. Springer asked me to come inside and sit down; she would put together other things to return. I plopped onto her old stuffed couch and scared her CAT to death. He hissed at me and darted out of the room. Mrs. Springer came out of her hall bathroom yelling.
“Here’s something my granddaughter left, it’s brand new.”
The old woman tossed a box of feminine pads at me from across the room. Suddenly everything went into slow motion. The box spun tumbling over, and over, slowly hurling through the air straight for me. My eyes went wide, and I freaked out. My body twisted to avoid it, screaming, “Nooooo.”
I didn’t want those things touching me. I understood what was in the box, and where they went, and my cheeks were on fire. I worked at a pharmacy after all, and I had my older sister who complained every month about…. I raised my arm protecting myself. It bounced off my elbow, and I dropped my Popsicle on the couch. I got my senses back, grabbed my Popsicle, and ran out the door as fast as my legs could carry me. I thrust the Popsicle in my mouth to mount my bike and tried to gain traction on her gravel driveway.
The next thing I knew, I pulled over to the side of the road, jumped off my bike and puked out the Popsicle covered with cat hair. So much hair covered the inside of my cheeks and tongue; I couldn’t spit it all out, and I know I swallowed some.
When I showed up for work the next morning, Mr. Phelps was disappointed when I told him I wanted to quit my job. I explained why and he was sorry I had to go through that ‘episode’ with Mrs. Springer. He folded his arms, and crossed his lower lip with his index finger, looking at me over his glasses.
“Stevie, do you remember that I held back a week’s pay when you first started working here?”
“Yes, sir, I do.”
“Well, here, I’ll pay you for this week and give you that money before you leave and you’ll have enough to buy….”
I screamed, “The Delta Rocket Ray headlight!” My eyes widened, and my heart banged against my ribs. “Thank you, Mr. Phelps.”
The next night, my friends were hanging around outside. I snuck out the back and pushed my bike to the next street over, and rode around the block. I headed toward them at lightning speed, and someone screamed, “It’s a spaceship, run!”
“I knew it!”