Posted on Monday, December 02, 2002 by Rob Meronek
By Hank Tanqueray
The teacher asked us to tell the class about what we wanted to be when we grew up. Every kid seemed to know exactly what he was going to be. He knew how big his house was, how many pools he would have. They never had a house with less than two stories. Nobody ever wanted to be a pool cleaner. Nobody ever wanted to sit behind a desk, push a broom, file papers, or take abuse from bosses. Futures were boundless. Wives were blond. Dogs were Irish setters.
It was my turn. I, too, was going to become an astronaut. I was going to travel to outer space, and the moon. I didn’t tell anyone, but my wife was going to be a blond with a great ass. I was going to live in a two-story log cabin in New York City. I was going to make it with my wife ten times a day. Life was going to be a piece of cake once I was older.
When the rest of the class had finished telling what they were gonna’ be, I counted up how many kids were going to be what. I counted four astronauts, five firemen, three lawyers, six truck drivers, three nurses, and one kid that wanted to go to work with his dad. There were a couple of oddball jobs that a couple of students wanted to do, but I didn’t write those down.
We had done a real good job, too. We picked all the best jobs and all the nicest houses. The other classrooms must have had janitors, and mailmen, and teachers. That was all that was left to do since most everybody in my class was going to be astronauts. Mrs. Carol reminded us, “Not everybody can be astronauts.” Otherwise, we’d all be sitting in outer space. But she also added that we “could be anything that we wanted.” That was the one thing that all grown-ups told you.
When I got home that day, my mom forgot to ask me what I did at school. I usually forgot to tell her, but I was kinda’ excited about what I was going to be. I went into the kitchen. She didn’t even hear me come in. I said, “Mom, I’m going to be an astronaut. I’m going to go to the moon.” She turned around and raised her soapy hand and said, “I’ll sendja’ to the moon all right. Get in there and clean that room up. And take those school clothes off!”
I walked into my room and put my book bag on my bed. Then I went out to the garage and got on my bike. I felt like jumping my bike. I found Paul at his house and he wasn’t doing any chores. We went down to the lot at the end of the neighborhood. There was a dirt jump that we shaped just right so that it would fling you high when you jumped it. Sometimes my chain fell off when I landed. Me and Paul took the chain guard off so it was easier to get to, and so my bike didn’t look like it came from a department store. All those girls had chain guards on their bikes, too. They had tassels hanging from their handle-grips and real cushy, banana seats. My bike was a BMX. You took some parts off a BMX so that it would perform better when you raced and jumped. It hurt like hell when you hit your nuts on a racing seat though. I had a racing seat. It was hard plastic, and real light so you could jump higher and go faster. But it hurt like hell when you hit your stuff.
The front of the jump was getting a little worn down. There was a trench in the middle of it from riding off on the same spot. The top of it was starting to crush, too. Me and Paul dragged a white plywood sign over from the corner of the lot. It was one of those “For Sale” signs that had a picture of the guy that was selling the house on the corner of the sign. His name was Jonathan Kelly, Jr. “Boy he’s ugly,” Paul said. “He sure is,” I said. “Let’s ride over his face,” Paul laughed, but I could tell he liked the idea of running over the man’s face. We set the sign over top the front of the jump. Jonathan Kelly’s face was sideways. I took a couple of test rides. I was already marking up the sign with tire tracks. “C’mon, I wanna’ try it, too!” exclaimed Paul. I got further back so that I would get a real good jump. Once Paul got his chance at it, he would probably jump farther than me or get hurt trying to. I pedaled fast as I could. I was really gonna’ show off with this one. I got almost to the jump when I started having trouble pedaling. It was harder than it should be. When I looked down I saw that my pants were caught in my chain. But I had no brakes, on account of me and Paul taking ‘em off to make my bike race-ready.
It must have been real funny, because Paul laughed for a long time. This spill really hurt. I sat under my bike with my pants leg caught in the chain, holding my stuff. I smashed ‘em good this time. After making Paul the happiest I’d seen him in weeks, I got up and walked my bike home. I couldn’t sit on the seat. When I got home, mom was waiting for me and Dad was looking like he was going to take off his belt. They yelled at me and asked me where I had been, and why had I been out so late without telling anybody where I was going. I told Dad, “I was going to be an astronaut. And I hurt my nuts.” His face changed when I told him what I’d hurt. He smiled like I never see him do. I liked that he smiled. I went into the tub and sat there for a while. My nuts were hurting real bad.
The next day I couldn’t get out of bed. My mom had to help me up and take me to the hospital. They made me put on a dress with a slit in the back and then took a look at me. It was really weird to take my pants off in front of a doctor. I stayed the night there and had lots of ice cream. When my dad came to pick me up, I heard him talking to the doctor. The doctor told my dad, “James may not be able to have kids as easy as he was supposed to.” My dad nodded and I realized that he wasn’t smiling like he was when I told him what I had done. He was real pissed. I told him again, “I’m going to be an astronaut.” He looked straight ahead and said, “Yeah, you’re going to the moon, I heardja.’”
After I finished up my third bowl of ice cream, we went home. He was just driving and mumbling things at other drivers. I sat in the back of the mail truck, in between crates of letters. I couldn’t hear anything but the clanking of my dad’s key chain against the side of his seat. I wondered if his third grade teacher asked him what he was going to be when he grew up. When we got to our house, I got out and went inside. He went back to work.
I didn’t have to go to school for a week. My balls were as purple as an eggplant and as big as a grapefruit. I sat on the couch all day, and even got mom to buy a big tub of chocolate ice cream. It didn’t hurt so bad anymore. The ice pack was real wet though, and it got the couch real soggy.
I couldn’t wait to go back to school and tell Andrea Catcher that I was going to be an astronaut, and that we were going to live in a two-story log cabin in New York City. But that I might not be able to have kids, being that one of my nuts got squashed.