“Wow!” Cried Tommy, “Look at that spaceship over there.” The other children looked across the road to where Tommy was pointing, but saw only an old car perched high up on a pile of junk in the local scrap yard.“Where?” They all asked together, “Where’s the spaceship Tommy?”
“Look” said Tommy, “If you half close your eyes and use your imagination, that old car looks just like a spaceship on its launch ramp ready to fly us to the stars.”
Tommy and his friends had marvellous imaginations; they could imagine themselves into all sorts of exciting games and situations. But just as often their imagination got them into really big trouble.
Tommy’s Mum had given the four friends the title of the Imagination Gang, but later she said she should have called them the Double Trouble Gang.
Looking through half-closed eyes, the children allowed their imagination to turn the old car into a beautiful gleaming spaceship, just waiting to take them to the stars.
“Come on,” said John, “It’s Saturday afternoon, so the men won’t be working in the scrap yard. Let’s go in and fly our new spaceship to Mars.” The four friends squeezed through a gap in the fence and began climbing up the junk pile towards their spaceship, when Julie stopped them with a yell. “Wait! If we’re going to Mars, we can’t go dressed like this, we’ll need space suits and helmets. Let’s look around to see what we can find.”
In a hut they found some far-too-big overalls and some even larger gumboots and some leather gloves which they ‘borrowed’ for their space flight. Tommy found an old crash helmet, while Julie found a goldfish bowl, which made her eyes look really big. Dan found a large paint tin that made his voice echo, echo, echo when he spoke. John found a plastic container that looked nothing like a space helmet. The lot of them looked absolutely ridiculous.
But, in the wonderful world of their imagination, they were the smartest gang of astronauts that ever ventured into space.
Quickly they scrambled up the junk pile and settled into the old car. Tommy was in the driving seat, holding onto the steering wheel, John was next to him, and Dan and Julie were in the back. Tommy looked at the instruments on the dashboard, then out of the windscreen at the approaching rain clouds. His eyes glazed over and his imagination moved into top gear and he became astronaut Captain Tommy.
“Right crew,” called Tommy. “Strap yourselves in tightly. Looking at the weather, we could be in for a rough take-off.”
“Eek!” cried Julie. “There aren’t any seat belts in the back.”
“Stop yelling in my ear, space cadet,” yelled back Tommy sternly. “Use your imagination.”
“Oh! Right,” said Julie, and strapped herself in really tightly, using imagination straps.
Suddenly, Tommy stopped twisting the steering wheel and flicking the switches and raised his right hand. “Wait, before we take off, what emergency food supplies have we got for our flight into space?” Tommy had a marvellous imagination, but he never stopped thinking about the two most important things in his life: food, and him eating it.
Dan searched his pockets, “We have a packet of Minties, a bottle of lemonade and a sausage roll with a bite out.”
Tommy thought for a moment and then said, “I think we should share out the Minties and eat them now to keep the weight of the spaceship down for take-off. Right, stand by for launch.”
Just then, as the imagination spaceship was lifting off the launch ramp on its way to Mars, something serious was starting to happen in the real world of old cars and junk piles. Gale-force winds were advancing on the junkyard, buffeting the old car on its none-too-safe perch. It began to creak, groan and rock alarmingly.
Suddenly, a huge gust of wind pushed the car around and made it slip sideways with a loud screech clang crunch, giving our astronauts a big fright. “Ground Control, this is Captain Tommy. We are experiencing turbulence as we leave Earth’s orbit. I am taking over manual control.” He grabbed the steering wheel and gave it a few twists and the spaceship appeared to steady on its flight to Mars.
They flew on while the Earth disappeared behind them, but in the real world of gale-force winds, a piece of loose roofing iron was flipped up high into the air by a strong gust and then crashed down onto the roof of the old car with a mighty crash, grate, bang, wallop, slither, crunch, dong, bonk.
“Ground Control, this is Captain Tommy. We have a problem. It seems a meteorite has struck the ship with considerable force.”
“This is Ground Control. Can you report any damage please, Captain Tommy?” John tapped the dials and reported, “All seems okay here Captain, everything normal.” But suddenly Julie burst out, “I can see out of the porthole, the meteorite has knocked a hole in the outer skin and broken the upper and lower middle phoo phoo valve assembly. We are losing oxygen.”
“Crikey,” yelled John. “Someone will have to go outside and spacewalk to close those phoo phoo valves.”
“I’ll do it, Captain. I’ll volunteer to go through the airlock and close those valves.”
“Okay,” called back Tommy. “But don’t forget to fasten your lifeline; we don’t want you to drift away from the ship. If you did, we couldn’t get you back and you’d just float away into the vastness of space.”
John put on his helmet and quickly exited the airlock into space where he secured his lifeline and began working on closing the valves. However, just as he was completing the work the spaceship was struck by a swarm of tiny meteorites, one of which cut John’s lifeline. Before anyone realised what was happening, John began to drift away into the darkness of space. “Crikey, crikey, crikey,” yelled Dan into his echo helmet, “He’s, he’s floating, floating away away, what what can can we we do do?”
For once Tommy’s imagination failed him; he couldn’t think of anything they could do to get John back. But suddenly, Julie, who was the real leader of the gang and twice as clever as any of the boys but tried not to let them know it, said, “I have an idea. Give me that bottle of lemonade and my space helmet. I’m going out to rescue him.”
Within seconds Julie was fully dressed and outside the spaceship with the bottle of lemonade. Carefully, she removed the cap. With her thumb over the bottle top, she gave it a good shake-up, then let some of the gas fizz out from under her thumb, acting like a rocket motor, pushing her backwards through space towards John.
Within moments Julie had reached John and lassoed him with her safety line. “Right, hang on, John, and we’ll start back. I just hope there’s enough fizz left in this lemonade to get us back to the ship.” So saying, she gave the bottle a big shake and away they flew to safety.
The rescue was soon accomplished and the tired astronauts re-entered the spaceship just in time to hear Ground Control calling them on the radio.
“Captain Tommy, this is Ground Control. You are now entering Mars’s orbit, with touchdown on the red planet in 10 minutes.”
“Okay, Ground Control, understood. We are ready for landing.”
About then, in the real world of junk piles and gale-force winds, things were getting decidedly dangerous. The blustery wind gusts had pushed the old car around so much that it began to slip down the rear slope of the junk pile, towards the rear fence of the scrap yard and the large duck pond beyond, where farmer Brown’s pigs were wallowing in some very smelly, oozy, gooey black mud.
“Ground Control, this is Captain Tommy. We have a nose-down angle for landing and all systems are go.”
But the gale had pushed the old car too far over, so with a squeak and then a screech, it started to slither faster and faster down the rear of the junk pile. “Ground Control, we are in trouble. I have lost control, and we are going to crash-land on the Mars surface.” With increasing speed they slid down the junk pile until crash, bang, wallop, they burst through the rear fence. “Ground Control, we are breaking up; we are going in.” And in they went, slither, slather, splosh, splash, gurgle, gurgle, right into the duck pond where Farmer Brown’s pigs were wallowing in the smelly, gooey, oozy black mud.
The windscreen of the old car fell out and the smelly, oozy water gurgled in. Julie, being smallest, was soon under the water in her goldfish bowl helmet and quickly used the radio. “Ground Control, this is space cadet Julie. I can confirm that the atmosphere on Mars is wet, feels like liquid mud and has a terrible pong.”
Just then, a large pig that had been startled from happily wallowing in the mud stuck its angry snout into the car and snorted loudly. “Eek!” cried out Tommy. “The Martians are attacking us. We are under attack by Martians and boy are they an ugly bunch of guys.”
Dan tried to pull his paint-tin helmet off, but it was stuck fast. “What, what, is, is, happening, happening?” he yelled at Tommy. Finally, Tommy regained control of the situation. “Okay crew, abandon ship, everyone out and meet on the roof.” The gang scrambled out and gathered on the roof of the car in the middle of a very smelly pond, surrounded by angry pigs and startled ducks.
As they looked around, they came to realise that in order to reach dry land they would have to swim and wade through the smelliest, muddiest duck pond in the whole world, which was guarded by some very angry Martian pigs. Just then Dan managed to pull off his paint-tin helmet. “Blimey! How are we going to get out of this one. I don’t think imagination or Ground Control can help us out of this mess,” he said with a grin.
“I have an idea,” said Julie, trying not to sound too clever. “Where is that sausage roll we had earlier?” John produced the soggy sausage roll from his pocket and handed it to Julie, who had picked up a piece of stick that was floating by. Julie stuck the end of the stick through the sausage roll and waved it towards the pigs. After a few minutes, one of the pigs got interested in the sausage roll on a stick and came closer to investigate.
“Right,” whispered Julie, “when I get the pig close to the car, I’ll yell ‘jump’ and we’ll all jump together onto the pig’s back. Then it should run out of the pond onto dry land. Okay, let’s do it!”
Slowly Julie coaxed the pig right alongside the car, where it should have been easy for them all to jump onto its back.
“Right gang, is everyone ready?” whispered Julie. “When I yell ‘jump’, we jump. Ready … jump!”
Unfortunately, Julie’s shout startled the pig, so that it lunged forward. Only Tommy and Julie managed to end up on the pig, while the other two jumped straight into the smelly, gooey, black muddy water, right up to their necks. Meanwhile, Tommy and Julie hung on very tightly to the pig, but he didn’t run out of the pond. Instead he turned and waded back into the centre of the pond, where he sat down, throwing Tommy and Julie into the smelly water.
So, the gang ended up in the smelliest, muddiest duck pond in the whole world, up to their necks in mud and trouble. “I wonder what my Mum is going to say when I get home, wet and covered in mud,” said John.
“Perhaps,” said Julie with a mischievous grin, “Tommy could imagine us a nice hot bath and some clean clothes before we go home. What do you say, Tommy?”
Tommy gave a silly grin. “Er, I think I’ve had enough imagining for one day. Perhaps someone else would like to imagine us a bath.”