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Argus-Courier’s showcase of Kid Fiction continues


Hurtling away from Earth, I tried to think of a Plan G.

Plan F had been to crawl out of the rocket as it was launching, but I realized that would probably be more dangerous that just letting NASA make me, a turtle, its test subject in the first Mars mission with a living cargo.

I’d need better ideas than that.

I had to find a way to get back to my oasis in Arizona, where I had been mastering the art of cooking bugs on rocks.

I was getting REALLY good at that.

A white video screen suddenly rolled down in front of me. On the screen was the grinning face of John McGregor. He had recently been accepted back into NASA after a ten-year period of probation. He had been put on probation for pointing a billion-dollar rocket at the moon, because he thought it needed another crater. To be fair, the moon looked much better afterward, but he still wasn’t the kind of person I wanted as head of my launch team.

“How’s our little astronaut doing, Wilbur?” he asked. I shifted uncomfortably in my space suit. The suit was neither necessary nor functional. But someone at NASA had thought it looked cute. I heard laughter in the background. The video screen rolled back up into the ceiling, and I took the opportunity to fall asleep.

I slept for a while, lulled by the clanking of the ship. For all I knew, it was coming from a loose bolt in the life support system. But the effect was still soporific. Sometime later, I was woken up by the wailing of alarms.

“A fuel tank has exploded,” said a robotic female voice. I winced. I had known that SOMETHING would go wrong on this voyage. But I hadn’t expected it so soon. I heard a hissing noise behind me.

A concealed airlock in the wall had just popped open. I watched in disbelief as John McGregor climbed out. Behind him, the rest of my ground crew – Doreen Sanders, Ted Roman, James Corman, and Rachel Bluff – removed themselves from the hidden compartment.

“Hi, turtle,” said James Corman. Rachel Bluff cocked her head as the voice picked up again.

“Further travel may be dangerous! An EVA is required immediately!”

“Is that bad?” Rachel asked.

“I think so,” said Doreen Sanders.

“I don’t know,” Ted Roman said. “The voice seems so relaxed about it.”

“I’m sure it’s fine,” John McGregor decided. “Now, who’s ready to do some filming?” He shoved a cart labeled DO NOT TOUCH out of his way, where it fell over and spilled its contents on the gleaming metal floor. Somewhere, a red light beeped angrily.

I had no idea what was happening.

“What’s the music video going to be called?” asked Rachel Bluff.

“Some Folks Call Me Space Turtle,” replied John McGregor, proudly. He reached back into the compartment the group had emerged from, and pulled out a keyboard, clarinet, drum set, camera, and turtle costume. He climbed into the costume. “Sending a turtle into orbit to film a music video, under cover of a Mars mission,” he gloated. “People love turtles! I really am a genius, aren’t I?”

“I still don’t know how we got the money for this, just to film a music video,” Rachel Bluff said.

“Government. They funded us with billions of taxpayer dollars,” said Teed Roman. “Of course.”

“Oooh! Oooh!” James Corman joked in a deliberately squeaky voice. “Tax payer dollars? But I thought those went to INFRASTRUCTURE!” The group started laughing.

“And EDUCATION!” said Doreen Sanders, causing everyone to collapse in hysterics.

“And also,” John McGregor choked out through spasms of giggles, “HEALTH CARE!”

They all exploded into raucous laughter.

“All right,” John McGregor said, clambering up from the floor. “”We should really start filming now.”

Still wearing his turtle suit, he picked me up and held me to his chest. Doreen Sanders pointed the camera directly at my face.

“Where’s the list of corporations that gave us money?” asked Ted Roman. Rachel Bluff hurriedly hung a roll of paper on the wall. It read:

Coca-Cola.

Starbucks.

Home Depot.

Walmart.

Rachel scrambled over to the piano and began playing a middle D over and over again. I saw Doreen Sanders turn on the camera, and John McGregor started awkwardly dancing in his turtle suit, waving me in front of him. James Corman jumped in with a repeated drumbeat, and Ted Roman’s cheeks puffed out as he blew into the wrong side of a clarinet. Shaking me in a way that implied I was talking, John McGregor began to sing.

“I am a turtle in space, it’s true.

Not even on the same planet as you.

But I still drink Coca-Cola every day.

And everyone on Earth would if I got my way.”

Ted Roman gave up on the clarinet, and scrambled over to the list of corporations on the wall. HE grabbed a Sharpie from his pocket, and made a check mark next to Coca-Cola.

“I need Caffeine in the morning, and when it’s late,

And, well, Starbucks makes mochas that are really great!

The inside of a spacecraft can look bland you know,

So I’m glad that I got furniture from Home Depot.”

Roman checked off Starbucks and Home Depot.

“Space Antenna, windows, bolt, oh where to start.

There’s just nothing that I leave on the shelves at Walmart.

Yes, I’m a turtle in space, as you can plainly see,

And the companies I’ve listed are important to me!”

Ted Roman checked off Walmart, and the camera switched off. McGregor grinned.

“That was AMAZING!”

The other four people high-fived each other.

“So,” Rachel Bluff said, “it’s time to tell the public.”

“Yes,” said John McGegor. “And have NASA send a ship to get us back.”

“They’re not going to be happy when they find out where their money went.”

“Oh, they’re used to it.”

“Good point.”

I breathed a long sigh of relief.

I was going home, after all.