Authors: Will Hobbs
Tags: #Ages 8 & Up
this one's for Clay
Quinn on the Line
The Rock Thief
Across the Barbed Wire
You Gotta Be Mental
A Strange Summer
Bring Me Your Serious
You Were an Animal
Give Us Your T-shirt
The Meteorite Expert Guy
We're Never Going to Forget This
The Worm Grunter
You Guys Got a Problem
Extreme Is the Word
Boldness or Folly?
Attila, Go Home
The Halls of the Dead
Promise Me One Thing
A Simple Contest
I Know You're in There
It's Not All That Great
How It All Came Out
HERE MIGHT BE MORE
unlikely ways to die, but I can't think of any.
It was late in the evening at the end of the first week of August. I was home alone and sitting on the edge of my bed, only seconds from crashing. I let out a huge yawn.
In a way, I owe my life to my watch. As I reached to take it off, I had the vague feeling that I was supposed to do something at a certain time.
Do what, Brady?
Then I remembered. I'd been checking out the Perseid meteor shower off and on since the middle of July, and this was the night it was going to peak. I threw open my window, swiveled outside onto the flat roof of our garage, and pulled up the lawn chair I keep out there.
The sky was inky black and blazing with stars, which is nothing unusual for the Black Hills of South Dakota. Most nights are cloud-free, and our dry mountain air makes for excellent stargazing. Living out of town helps, tooâno lights.
I'd barely found where to lookâin front of the Perseus constellationâwhen the first shooting star fell, then another, and another.
What a show. I could read my watch by starlight alone, and I started timing them. Five to seven a minute!
Mars was hovering just above the treetops, brighter than any star and twinkling bloody red. Mars hadn't passed this close to Earth in a couple hundred years.
Too bad Quinn is missing the show, I thought. My cousin lived forty miles north in the town of Lead, which rhymes with
On Quinn's block the streetlights make for lousy stargazing.
I'd been outside awhile, long enough to feel the chill, and was about to crawl back inside and hit the sack. My dad might be getting home soon, but he wasn't expecting me to wait up.
All was quiet except the burbling of Spring Creek and a slight breeze in the pines. Nothing unusual was happening. Then, in a split second, something
unusual was happening: the sky was changing from black to blue.
Horizon to horizon, the night sky was glowing a brilliant blue. My jaw was on the ground. Strange, beautiful, bizarre, eerie, weird, awesomeâ¦words can't begin to describe that light.
Two tremendous explosions rocked the sky, so powerful they rattled my bedroom window. What in the world?
I didn't know what to make of the blue light, but I wondered if the booms had come from the Crazy Horse Memorial five miles south, where they're carving a mountain into the biggest statue in the world. Lately my dad and his crew had been widening the gap between Crazy Horse's pointing arm and the mane of his warhorse. Saturday evenings in the summer, like this one, they do a night blast for the tourists. It's totally spectacular. From home we sometimes hear a muffled rumble, but nothing like this.
I didn't have time for another thought. All at once, a roar and a blinding fireball were coming down on me like a freight train strapped to a runaway skyrocket. I hit the deck, and as I did,
Something crashed right into the house. From the earsplitting sound of it, I'd nearly got hit.
Blinking and stupefied, I got to my feet, amazed to discover I was among the living. The sky was black again and lit with stars. Except for the burbling creek, everything was dead quiet.
Meteorite? I wondered. Could that be possible?
I climbed back through the window into my bedroom. When I switched on the light, more strangeness awaited. My bed was littered with debrisâbits of wood, chunks of plasterboard, shreds of asphalt shingle. My eyes went to the ceiling over my bed and found
a ragged hole there, big as a softball.
I glanced back to my bed. The sheet was ripped open and scorched, right where I would have been lying. I stuck my fist into the hole and pushed it all the way through my foam mattress. Whatever had done this had punched a hole between two of the slats spanning my bed frame. I couldn't reach any farther, so I dropped to my knees and looked under the bed. And there it was, among splinters on the floor, unbelievably real. A meteorite!
Heart hammering, I sat on the edge of my bed with my prize in one palm and then the other. The space rock looked like a baked potato, all burned shiny, but with rougher edges, pits, and sparkles. It was heavy, and almost too hot to handle, as well it might be after blazing a fiery hole through the atmosphere. We'd been hit by an intruder from outer space! I couldn't think of anything cooler that had happened in my entire life.
I grabbed my cell and punched in Quinn's number.
KEPT HITTING THE REDIAL.
Finally, Quinn. The TV was turned up loud. “What's up, Brady?” my cousin hollered.
“I just took a showerâknow what kind?”
“Just heard about it. They're saying the sky turned blue.”
“Like you wouldn't believe. I saw the whole thing!”
“Lucky stiff. The TV station in Rapid City said it could be seen from all over the Black Hills, even in other states. They said they'd just talked to an expert from the museum in Hill City.”
“What'd he say?”
“From the brightness, the meteorite had some size to
it. After it exploded, a few chunks might've made it all the way to the ground without burning up, but probably they won't ever be found.”
“He was wrong about that.”
“What are you talking about, Brady?”
“I'm holding one in my hand right now.”
“You lie like a rug.”
“It came through the roof.”
“Your roof? What does it look like?”
“Green asphalt shingles, brown trimâ¦”
you fungus. Tell me about the meteorite.”
“What can I say? It crashed through the roof and went clear through my bed.”
“Lucky you weren't in the sack. You would've been dead.”
“Tell me about it.”
I knew what Quinn was going to say next. He was going to deploy one of his two favorite words,
“Brady,” he said. “That's extreme. That's insane!”
“I know, it's extremely insane.”
“Dude, fate had you in its crosshairs. You dodged a space bullet.”
“So, when are you coming down here to check it out?”
“That quick? What about your job at the restaurant?”
“I just quit.”
“Can you get your dad to bring you down here?”
I hung up grinning. It never takes Quinn long to make up his mind. Like when he's playing basketball, for example. He can slash to the hoop or stop on a dime and go vertical with that smooth, deadly jumper of his. You can't tell from his eyes. He's not even thinking about it. It's all instinct.
Still, Quinn doesn't always score. How was he going to talk his dad into this? They'd been going through a rough patch ever since Uncle Jake lost his job back in May.
One thing was for sure. Quinn had to get here. My summer had been a bust without him. He'd always come down to our place outside of Hill City for a couple of weeks every summer, sometimes even a month. The stuff we'd get into, our parents had no idea.
I heard my dad's pickup pull in. A minute later, his footsteps were on the porch. Once inside, he called softly from the foot of the stairs.
“I'm still up,” I called back, then went to the landing where he could look up and see me. My dad was wearing his dusty overalls. He's a big guy, and solid as granite.
All serious, I said, “Dad, we've had a break-in.”
His face fell. “I hope you weren't home.”
“I'm afraid I was.”
“You scared him off?”
“Found him hiding under the bed.”
By now I wasn't doing such a great job keeping a straight face. My dad looked mighty relieved. “Raccoon? Squirrel?”
“Space traveler,” I replied. I brought the intruder from behind my back, then spilled my story as my dad came upstairs and checked out the damage. He'd seen the fireball from Crazy Horse, heard the big booms. “Pretty amazing,” he concluded with a bearlike yawn. “Glad you're alive, son. We'll patch the roof in the morning.”
It was disappointing to have my dad's exhaustion trump his amazement, but it had been an especially long day on the mountain. He headed down the hall for a quick shower and then to bed.
It would take awhile for me to settle down. I was as wired as if I'd knocked off Grabba Java in Hill City and drank all their coffee. I tiptoed downstairs and played a couple of video games I'd gotten from Quinn,
Skateboarding for the Insane
Snowboarding for the Insane.
It was around 1:00 when I cleared the mess off my bed, stuffed some old T-shirts into the hole in my mattress, and hit the sack, meteorite in hand. I tossed and turned, ending up on my side with the space rock pressed against my chin, shot-put style. I could picture it slinging around and around the sun as a meteoroid for millions and millions of years. I could imagine its view of the rings of Saturn, the moons of Jupiter, the giant volcano on Mars, and our own phenomenal blue planet.
What must it have been like, your fireball ride down to Earth? Were you afraid you were going to fall into oblivion on the bottom of the ocean? Welcome to the Black Hills, space traveler. By the way, they're just
hills. Actually they're mountains, and black is how their forests make them look from way out on the prairie.
It seems I neglected to set the traveler on my nightstand before drifting off. I slept as soundly as the meteorite and woke up with it against the corner of my mouth and covered with drool.
Brady. Remember not to tell Quinn about this if he shows up.
He better show up.
I fretted over breakfast. “Maybe I should call up to Lead. Find out what's going on with Quinn and Uncle Jake.”
Like I knew he would, my dad took a long sip of coffee. He was working up to saying, “Let's wait and see.”
He took another long sip. “Let's wait and see,” he said finally. “Let's let them work this out between the two of them.”
My dad hates to talk on the telephone, and the same goes for his brother. Either one would just as soon pick up a poisonous snake.
Uncle Jake had been laid off from the Homestake Mine at the end of May. As far as we knew, he still hadn't found another job. My mom had nudged my dad into calling his brother every couple of weeks during June
and July. The last I'd heard, Uncle Jake was still “exploring his options.”
One thing was for sure, his job with Homestake wasn't coming back. After a century and a quarter, the richest gold mine in the history of the United States had finally ground to a halt. It had been sputtering the last ten years.
The way I understood it, families were managing to stay in Lead if they had two incomes. A lot of the mothers were working in Deadwood, just a couple of miles away. Deadwood had a slew of hotels and restaurants, and thirty-some casinos. The fathers, in search of a bigger paycheck, worked far away and drove huge distances to get home to their families as many weekends as they could.
With only one income, how was Quinn's dad going to manage to keep their home in Lead? Quinn's mother had died before he could even remember her, back when he was only three. From then on it had been just Quinn and his dad.
“So, what do you think Uncle Jake's going to come up with?” I asked as I was clearing the dishes. “What kind of options has he been exploring?”
“Last time we talked, he mentioned Wyoming. The gas fields are booming over there. He said he might have to go over there and check it out.”
“Not that I know of. But he'll have to soon, with school starting in three weeks.”
“Quinn would go with him, move to Wyoming?”
My dad raised his huge hand. “Whoa,” he said. “I have no idea what's going to happen.”
“Maybe Quinn could live with us.”
“I don't suppose that's outside the realm of possibility. One thing I know for sure, we have to let them figure this out for themselves, no interference from us. Uncle Jake wouldn't have it any other way. I want you to respect that, Brady. My guess is, your call last night got some serious discussion going, which is why we haven't heard from them.”
“Reality bites,” I said.
“Exactly. So don't be too disappointed if your cousin doesn't show up. They might be on their way to check out Wyoming.”
“If only a job would open up on your crew at Crazy Horse.”
“Last time that happened was six years ago. Don't look so gloomy. I could be all wrong. They might show up this afternoon.”
We got up on the roof and patched the hole. By midmorning we had it done. It was a typically glorious blue-sky day, and my dad proposed a bike ride. We'd been doing thirty or so miles every Sunday. The bike helped him to keep flexible. The work at Crazy Horse was awful hard on his body.
I passed on the bike ride, on account of how I didn't want to miss Quinn in case he showed up. My dad understood.