|Writing Prompt #688|
My brother and his best friend Greg were always in the basement. It didn’t matter how nice it was outside, whether the rest of the neighborhood kids were having a water fight or happily building a ramp to launch our bikes dangerously into the air. One year they even skipped a Fourth of July parade and picnic. It wasn’t like they were playing video games or trying to summon a demon or grounded and forced to do laundry all day.
They were “scientists.”
The basement was their laboratory. I called it that too, but only so I could draw out the “bore” part to let them know just how lame I thought they were.
Our mom didn’t think they were silly even though she did try to encourage them to go outside sometimes. She always smiled happily whenever they trooped out of the basement on one of their treks through Car Mountain. It wasn’t hard to see where my brother got the bug for tinkering: our father kept a growing collection of junk cars on one side of our garage that he promised he was going to get running and sell. It pleased my mother when my brother and Greg hauled off pieces of the cars and took them into the basement, because, she said, at least those cars were getting some use, because my father was never going to do anything with them, no matter how many New Year’s Resolutions he made.
One of my chores, besides folding the laundry and clearing the dinner table, was making sure my brother and Greg were going to eat lunch. The first phase was yelling down the stairs, “HEY, ARE YOU GUYS GOING TO EAT??” The next step was tromping down the stairs and saying, “Mom wants to know if you guys are going to come upstairs and have lunch.” The third step was my mother giving in (even though she said every day that there was no way she’d let them eat downstairs again) and sending me back to the laboratory with two sandwiches and back again later to get the empty plate.
It wasn’t often that I asked what they were doing, since they usually gave me stupid sci-fi answers. “Building a hyperdrive” and “trying to pull a Crazy Ivan” and “reversing the polarity” were all things I believed they thought they were doing, but I never believed they could actually do them.
So the morning I wandered down after my usual shout about lunch and found my brother standing in front of a small platform lit from below with what looked like several headlights from various Ford Fiestas, no Greg in sight, I frowned and gave in. “What are you guys doing down here, anyway?” I sighed.
“Uh…” my brother looked slightly nervous. “We built a teleporter. And… I sort of teleported Greg to Krypton. We wanted to know if humans from earth would have the same kind of powers on Krypton as Superman has on earth, because of the different suns, you know, so we started late last night and now Greg is there. I think. I’m not sure how he’s going to get back, but I’m sure I can just push the same buttons I used to send him, only in reverse. I don’t wanna bring him back too soon in case he’s having a good time flying or something.”
I looked behind the washing machine for Greg. He wasn’t there.
“Yeah. Flying,” I said, backing slowly toward the stairs.
“Bringing him back shouldn’t be a problem. So… if anyone asks, tell them we’re fine.”
My mom was getting lunch ready when I came back upstairs. “Are the boys having fun?” she asked, as she always did when I came back. She didn’t expect they were coming upstairs to eat, so she wasn’t even waiting for me to report and instead was already making sandwiches for me to take down to them.
“They’re pretending to be Superman,” I told her.
“That sounds nice,” she replied, and handed me the plate of ham and cheese, helping me balance two tall cups of chocolate milk on the edge.
Greg was "back from Krypton,” or had reappeared from a better hiding place than behind the washing machine as I returned and set their lunch on the dryer.
“It was awesome!” Greg was saying, I knew, for my benefit. I rolled my eyes at them and turned to go back upstairs.
“Dude, it is so my turn now!” my brother cried, leaping up onto the platform. Greg pushed a sequence of buttons on what looked like an old model airplane controller, and there was a flash of light.
My brother was gone.
“Is everyone okay?” my mother sang down the stairs.
I turned my shocked eyes on Greg, who winked at me as he grabbed one of the glasses of chocolate milk.
“I, uh… thought I saw a cockroach, Mom,” I called back. “The boys are… they’re fine.”