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Imagine yourself in a multiplex movie theater. Curiously, no walls separate the half-dozen theaters that form the multiplex. Miraculously, you are watching six different screens all at once, thoroughly understanding and enjoying every scene, word, character.

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Icarus Blackwell launches

   Really, it isn’t in the Blackwell nature to accept being Earthbound …

Thor, next-youngest brother and fellow adventurer, smoothly talks me into buying boomerangs.

Screen Five says in admiration, Pretty cool that nobody else in the neighborhood really knows how to use them.

We, at 10 and 12, prove we’re no different.

Bruised knuckles, knots on the head, limited flight time, mulls One. There has to be something more fantastic flight-wise.

“UFOs are everywhere,” I casually say as my brother and I enjoy a toasty summer day, one that might rival those being lived by outer-space aliens in equally toasty Roswell, New Mexico.

“We should make one,” replies Ted. “Make a UFO.”

“Make a bunch,” I one-up him.

“Like it’s an invasion,” says Ted, topping me.

The Wright brothers we are not. “Our planes are too heavy,” laments Thor. Press on, lad! urges Six, unwilling to succumb to flyboy failure.

“Mom says rockets will poke our eyes out,” I sigh. “Fireworks look fabulous – ”

Presentation, interjects Three, is everything in a neighborhood invasion.

“ – but leave no surviving pilot to steer the craft, which gets blown to bits, anyway.” I fall silent, prompting six screens to unite in fast-thinking hyperfocus mode. Soon, quite soon, an image forms.

orange flight“Hot air balloons,” I gasp. Five builds on the idea: Dirigibles. Floating airships. Zeppelins. The possibilities cannot be counted.

Neither can the disasters. My research in the all-knowing Encyclopedia Britannica reveals graphic photos of the 1937 Hindenburg zeppelin explosion in Lakehurst, New Jersey.

Ohhh,” I moan, grim-faced and sober. “Ted … look at these people jumping off this exploding balloon.”

“Wow!” he exclaims. “Think we can do that?”

Not a flutter of fear goes through his misunderstanding eyes. ADDers cannot be killed. Not by hydrogen bombs, and certainly not by hydrogen Hindenburgs.

“Maybe we shouldn’t actually be in what we build. Let’s just launch something that we don’t have to fall out of.”

Or jump out of, shudders Screen Two, eyeing the photos.

We rush the UFO into production. I staple cardboard around the mouth of a Glad Bag™ to keep it open. Thor punches holes in the raised edge of an aluminum pie pan, threading twine through those and the holes punched in the bag’s cardboard edging.

Sneaking separate directions, Thor raids the kitchen matches and I shred newspapers for fuel. We meet back at our spacecraft.

The aluminum pie pan – shiny, so it will appear to glitter and hover –  receives my crumpled papers, to which I apply purloined match. Combustion produces smoky heat, the Glad Bag™ Thor holds upright above the pan slowly fills with whitish warmth, and to our wild whoops of utter astonishment …

We have lift-off.

At face level of two excited boys, the twine uniting the “fuel section” (pie pan) and the “pilot’s quarters” (Glad Bag™) catches fire, burns through and brings the fast-separating UFO crashing to the ground.

Blackwell brothersWe replace the flammable twine with cut-to-length metal pieces taken from Mom’s new coat hangers. At dinner, we – Wilbur and Orville Blackwell – announce our intent to launch.

Your parents, observes One, are exchanging that knowing look again.

A small crowd mills about us in the gathering darkness. I, kneeling to light the newspaper, scan Thor’s confident face, his smile prompting my own. Moments later, a Glad Bag™ – heavy-ply, this time – inflates, pie pan wiggles to shrug off Earth’s relentless hug, and Old Oak Drive’s first UFO dreamily ascends into the starry night.

This flight, cheers Three amid his celebratory tears, is our turning point, Boss. Goodbye, ridiculous conceptions. Hello, miraculous inventions.

The skies flicker approval as glittery ship rises to meet them, its bright flames a warm contrast to the unexpectedly cool summer evening. Then a breeze unfelt by ground crew shifts our UFO, and it slowly, eerily wafts toward our lemon-yellow house.

Startled, Dad wonders aloud, “So, how do you boys control the ascent and descent of your spaceship?”

That, applauds Five, is a particularly good question.

Looking into brilliant Douglas Blackwell’s disquieted eyes, I beg screens for answers. High overhead, the Glad Bag™ catches fire. Our wobbling UFO, powered by an excessive and unscheduled burst of heat, mimics a shooting star, blazing across the heavens and crashing onto our own home’s dry roof.

Pop gasps. Screen Two exclaims, Your home is the first attacked in the neighborhood invasion!

My father whirls and runs for ladders. I nearly hurl and run for life.

Weeks earlier, Dad had put bows and arrows, hammers and nails, gas and matches on a high, “Keep from Den and Ted” shelf. The next day, those dangerous items are joined by Glad Bags™.

Only the heavy-ply, laughs Three.


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Postscript: The unanticipated and rather swift death of our UFO venture disappoints us at the same time it spurs us forward. Thor masterfully wears down Mom’s resistance and gains permission to purchase a flying airplane.

As opposed to, say, a swimming plane? asks One.

My brother peruses newspaper ads, singles out a potential model and pursues it with the diligence of an orca chasing seals. He brings the prize home and grabs me for a run to nearby Grove Terrace, a large field perfect for the test flight.

“Gotta make some last adjustments,” he shouts, tinkering at this and that. Then he runs over to where I stand and excitedly takes the controller. “Here we go!”

The little craft lurches forward but doesn’t leave Earth, so Thor dials up the juice traveling through the wires attached to his plane. We hear the motor cough, roar to life, and coax the wings into the skies  …

Where, by golly, smirks Three, the plane flies. Backwards.

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