By Harrison Abbott
Many people thought Kelvin was an odd child. Not just his family. Lots of people recognised, even when he was a baby, that he was different. The majority never said anything. But they all noticed it.
When Kelvin was in nursery the nurses noticed that he never talked. He could do the basic words of communication. But he never spoke to the other children; he had no interest in them, even with the pretty girls. All Kelvin did was draw or concentrate on the toys. He would draw endless pictures whilst the other kids mucked around.
The nurses mentioned this to Kelvin’s mother. There was a hint that something might be wrong with her son. She chose to ignore it. Whereas other people thought Kelvin was a freak, she saw him as special.
Kelvin was bullied atrociously in primary school. He had zero ability to defend himself and was physically attacked with chronic greed by the other boys. He would come home crying. The family were unsure what to do about him.
The only time he was happy was on the week nights or the weekends, when he could be creative. He’d draw and paint and he could hammer the piano as if he were twenty years older. School was brutal for him but he was saved by his talents.
A Christmas came and Kelvin’s Aunt gave him an encyclopaedia as a gift. An encyclopaedia about space. It was a D.K. classic, filled with pictures and quirky facts about Man’s adventures into orbit. And it hooked Kelvin the instant he saw it.
And he devoured the pages and relished the information. He stayed up of nights and could concentrate on nothing else. And on one school night he vowed to his mother:
“I’m going to build a rocket.”
“What do you mean, honey?”
“I am going to make a rocket in the woods.”
She laughed, innocently.
“That sounds great, honey. Show me it when it’s done.”
The next morning Kelvin left the house with a massive rucksack. His mother saw him from the window. He didn’t come home and until night and she gave him a row when he walked in the door. He was tired and muddy and was too dazed to accept her anger.
“Where were you all day, Kelvin? I was so worried!”
“I told you. I was in the woods.”
“Building my rocket.”
She blinked at him.
“I don’t want you doing that anymore, son. I don’t like this.”
He disappeared from the house the next day. And this time he’d broken into his father’s shed and stolen a load of tools. Kelvin took them deep into the woods. Then he ventured back along the valley and sneaked into the town junk yard. He scouted out sheets of metal and tipped them over the fence and carried them back into the forest. It was hard work but enjoyable.
There was a fantastic place to make the rocket. It was by a creek where the land opened up in an oval area under the hills. Beautiful, spacious. Kelvin lugged the metal all day back and forth from the junk yard. Until he had enough. Then he started hammering and welding.
When he got home that night there was another row from mother. But he didn’t care. The only issue was that he would have to go to school the next five days. When all he wanted to do was work in the woods.
On Friday evening he properly tanked into the task. He compiled the initial structure of the rocket, his hammer sending sharp echoes through the pine hillsides. His encyclopaedia sat watching him by his rucksack.
The book was his doctrine, his religion. When he’d finished with the physical structure he knew that he needed chemicals. To make fuel for the rocket to launch. Kelvin had already searched his father’s shed for chemicals – to no avail.
But he knew that his uncle, who lived the other side of the town, ran a motor repair workshop. And Kelvin had been there many times and knew how to creep into the store. There was a toilet at the back which had no lock. Kelvin’s uncle often called it the worst toilet in the world. It didn’t matter that there was no lock on the door because nobody but the family used it.
All Kelvin had to do was climb the roof, jump down the back of the building and enter via the toilet. And that’s what he did. That Friday night. He broke in to the workshop and found the chemicals.
He inspected the fat tubs with his torch. The red warning labels sent glee through him. He put the tubs in a bin bag and left the workshop seamlessly back through the toilet. It was hard to lug the bin bag back into the woods. But he eventually reached the creek. And technically had all the ingredients to complete his magnum opus.
When he looked up into the sky, he couldn’t quite contemplate infinity. That the stars and the stretch of black behind them went on and on and never ended. There was a perfection to that notion. And the little poignant rainbow plots of stars were the sheer antidote to that indigo canvass. Space astonished and inspired Kelvin: he knew it was his destiny to join it.
Kelvin didn’t come home that night. And by Saturday afternoon his mother sent out people looking for him. By Sunday the whole town was searching for him. In teams through the pine forest.
He was found. By the creek, on the pretty evening. His left foot was blown off and he was unconscious but still alive. Parts of metal were scattered around the bank and the grass was strangely blackened. An odd smell was in the air. There were burn marks all across Kelvin’s arms.
They took him to the hospital.
When he regained consciousness the doctors asked him what he’d been doing in the woods. He said he was experimenting with fuel ignition techniques for his rocket. He’d obviously made a mistake. But since he was still alive he would like to get back to his pad for further work.
The doctors looked at each other. They were still amazed that Kelvin hadn’t bled to death from the loss of his foot. And his shin was just hanging there, heavily bandaged at the nub. Kelvin barely seemed to feel any pain. Regardless of the morphine. He seemed charged only by mental energy.
“So when can I be free, doctors?” he said. “When can I get going again with the rocket?”