By Lily Elkind (10) and Rob Elkind (45)
Today two astronauts will fly to the moon for 18th time in Earth’s history but when they get there they will find that the moon and the planet Oogabooger have switched places. This happens every 6,525,096 years. If you’ve never heard of this happening, it’s probably because you’re not old enough to remember the last time that it did. If you are old enough, I bet you could answer a lot of interesting historical questions, like ‘What really killed the dinosaurs?’ and ‘Who invented the wheel?’
The first astronaut is named Georgoni the 3rd. He loves cats and even brought his kitten, Missy with him for the journey. His round head looks like a bumpy rock with a few pieces of crab grass on it. He is short and chubby and walks with his toes pointed inward like a pigeon. The other one is named Alexander Twofeather. He is very smart and likes to correct everyone. This can be very annoying however, and sometimes he has to eat his lunch alone in the NASA cafeteria. He is the youngest astronaut on record at only 24 years old. He is tall and gangly with dark hair and glasses. His thick eyebrows seem to move independently on his forehead, resembling fuzzy caterpillars climbing across a leaf.
Both of them have had extensive astronaut training and because of this, they feel well prepared to pilot the spacecraft and deal with any problems that might occur. They have even made sure to eat all their vegetables. All except for the brussels sprouts that Georgoni dislikes and has been sneaking off his plate and into Missy’s dish. Excited to start their thrilling adventure, they enter the spacecraft and strap in for liftoff. The cabin is cramped but they will only be in it for a limited time. Georgoni thinks to himself, “Thank goodness the trip to the moon is so short. How anyone could stay sane, stuck sitting in a chair that’s inside a 6x6 box for more than a few days, I can’t imagine”.
Alex makes sure his uniform is exactly to NASA’s regulations but he notices Georgoni (or G3 as he’s called by everyone) has something extra on his wrist. G3 tells Alex that his mother made him a string bracelet for the trip that she said has special powers. If it falls off, something good will happen to him at same moment that he realizes it has been lost.
3…….2…....1……. Blast off!!! Ppppppppppffffffffffttttttttttttttsssssssssssssssssssss
AAAAHHHH….. smooth sailing.
The ship has left the Earth’s atmosphere and mission control has turned off the seat belt sign. The astronauts are now free to move about the cabin and enjoy zero gravity.
“Did you see that?” G3 asks Alex. “I think there’s something flying around in the capsule”. As a small black object whizzes overhead, Alex jumps up and tries to throw his jacket over it. He shouts out, “It’s coming around again G3, see if you can catch it.” G3 lunges for it, but it’s too fast for him. It moves so fast that they barely get a glimpse of it each time it circles around the cabin. After about twenty minutes of trying, finally Alex manages to hit it with his helmet which stuns and it just floats in place.
“Aww, it’s a cute little bat. I wonder how it got in here” G3 remarks. Then as the bat starts to tremble and emit high pitched sounds, he says “I guess you didn’t hurt it because it has started chirping.”
“Actually G3, that is the bat’s echolocation used for navigation, it’s not ‘chirping’. I guess we can stow it away until we return to earth and then release it.” Alex replies. He then picks it up gently and puts it in the storage cabinet.
“Hey look! I see the moon out the window and it looks green!” G3 exclaims. As the astronauts approach their moon landing, it is clear that something is different this time. They see a mostly green planet with rivers, trees, mountains, canyons, villages and even a few large buildings.
“Alex, I think there’s something wrong with the moon. It shouldn’t have skyscrapers on it, should it?”
“Well G3, technically they’re not skyscrapers since there isn’t any sky or atmosphere on the moon, but you are correct, there shouldn’t be those big buildings on the moon. Perhaps we got turned around somehow.”
“But I can still see the Earth when I look out the rear port hole. So this is not the Earth or the moon.” Missy looks out the window and yawns, she doesn’t seem to care if this is, or is not the moon. The astronauts’ curiosity wins out and they decide to land and explore this strange place.
After a mildly bumpy landing during which only one tube of milk was spilled, certainly nothing to cry over and Missy was quite happy to clean it up with her tongue, the two travelers depart the spacecraft. Well it was obvious that this was not the moon, but then where the heck were they?
According to their instruments, the atmosphere is safe for them to breathe and they remove their helmets. Missy is allowed to tag along as well. Off in the distance they see some movement and a large sign. When they get closer they notice that the sign says Welcome to the fabulous Seartadovanbattioogabooger in the Galaxy of Ebere. The Astronauts see many creatures walking around that seem almost human except for the fact that their skin is green. Also, they have black stringy hair resembling dreadlocks and they are wearing what appears to be Scottish Kilts. Lastly, they notice that the aliens have very unusual noses. These are so pointy that it looks like you could sew with them.
One of the aliens with small glasses and a big belly approaches them and asks, “Are you here to help adjudicate the exhibition?” Alex replies, “No, but if we were, wouldn’t we have special uniforms? Actually, we just arrived here. We intended to land on Earth’s moon but somehow got lost. We’re still trying to figure out where we are and how we got here.”
“That’s a common enough concern among sentient beings. The discussion of this question ‘how we got here’ usually ends up in a religious argument though and my mother told me, “Never talk about religion with aliens”. Come to think of it, she also said never discuss soup either, but mainly religion is off limits with aliens. However, it’s fortunate for you two that you arrived today on this auspicious occasion. Did you know that today is Ooogabooger’s …
“No, no” Alex interrupts, “Isn’t this place called Seartadovanbattioogabooger.
“Yea yea, whatever kid, we just call it Oogabooger. Like I was saying, it’s our annual the Ugliest Piece of Art in the World contest. The contest will begin right after dinner. We have to start after dinner because if we began before dinner, everyone would have already lost their appetite.”
G3 extends his hand and says, “My name is Gerogoni, but you can call me G3, my friend’s name is Alex, what is your name?” The alien, unsure what to do with the pink hand in front of his chest, decides to lick it. G3 pulls his hand back quickly and discreetly wipes it off on his pants.
“They call me Kholer, but I can never remember who ‘they’ are. Would you like to watch the competition today? I have extra VIP passes for weird looking aliens just like you two.”
“Can my cat Missy come too?” G3 asks as Missy rubs up against his leg.
“Cat? What is a cat? Well I guess as long as it’s not dangerous that would be fine.”
The two travelers and Missy follow Kholer down a long stony path to the entrance of what looks like a big flee market. There are a number of tents that have signs on them as well as food stands and stalls with many items on display. Alex thinks to himself, why is it that no matter where you go in the universe, there’s always someone trying to sell their junk. And amazingly enough there is usually someone else who comes along and actually wants to buy it. The closer they get, the more they get a whiff of the numerous different smells coming from the food stands and hear the sounds of various negotiations at other booths.
As they approach the entrance, they can see a small stage in the far corner and a number of Oogaboogerians with badges and sashes that are standing together mumbling about something on their right. G3 overhears a bit of the conversation, “Is ugly really just in the eye of the beholder? What evidence do we have that repulsiveness is even measurable? If beauty is truth, is ugly a lie?”
G3 asks Kholer, “Who are those official looking guys?”
“Those are Oogaboogerian philosophers. They’re in charge of organizing the contest”, Kholer points out. “Usually they just spout that nonsense to get out of doing the dishes, but today this event gives them an excuse to go on and on in front of an large audience. There is nothing they enjoy more than the sound of their own voices. On our planet, it’s easy to tell which children will grow up to be philosophers. They’re the ones that will spend two hours arguing with their parents about the meaning of ‘time’ just to avoid doing ten minutes of homework.”
As their hunger increases, they can’t resist stopping at some of booths and stalls that are selling food. G3 orders something that seems like a hamburger except that the ‘lettuce’ is blue, the ‘tomatoes’ are yellow and the meat resembles chopped liver. Worst of all there is no mayo or mustard. Alex finds a plate of orange syrup with what appears to be wood shavings on top. He also picks out some fried bugs on a stick. Fortunately their VIP passes allow them to get food for free because they didn’t bring any money with them. G3’s doesn’t really like the food but eats it to be polite. Alex though, finds his meal deliciously delectable.
Kholer escorts them to a spot right in front of the stage after they show their passes to the usher. They have to walk through a twisty rope maze that eventually takes them back to where they started.
Alex wonders aloud, “What was the point of following that rope path? We could have just walked next to it and we’d still be right here in the same spot.”
The usher replies, “But then, how would you know how to get here.” Alex, realizing that he’s not going to get a logical answer, just waits for the event to begin. One of the few times that he’s resisted his natural instincts to correct someone.
Spectator eyeshade glasses are passed out in advance so that the audience will be protected against the hideous sights that will soon be on display. These extraordinary glasses have a small string attached that when pulled, lowers a little black cloth blind over each eye. They are a must for any spectator who wants to survive the contest without serious side effects. They even have special glasses for pirates that have a cover for just one eye. The judges are hand-picked from citizens that failed the eye test at the DFV (Department of Flying Vehicles). Their vision problems range from the slightly near or far sighted, to one’s with cataracts the size of golf balls.
G3 remarks to Alex, “Boy, these glasses make me as blind as a … what’s that animal again? Hmm... It‘s on the tip of my tongue. I’m sure it will come to me in a minute”.
As they approach the stage, they hear a voice that is broadcast over the audience.
“Welcome to the annual Ugliest Piece of Art in the World contest. I hope you’ve all finished your dinner because we’re unveiling the exhibits now. Our first entry is so awful that it has been described as having the same effect on your eyes that a skunk has on your nose. Thank goodness I, your humble announcer am hard of seeing. This next entry is especially popular with the home crowd. The chants of, ‘We will, We will, blind you, blind you’ are almost deafening“. The announcer continues to describe each entry in all its hideous glory.
The group’s spot to watch the contest just happens to be under a sponsor’s big sign advertising ‘POOF’, the latest cosmetics that are guaranteed to make your wrinkles disappear. Under the billboard is an open bucket of purple paint that was obviously used to make the large purple letters spelling POOF on the sign.
“Bat!” yells G3, “It’s blind as a bat. I knew I’d remember that expression.”
Unfortunately, at that very moment, Missy notices the bat – which has somehow freed itself from storage and the spacecraft – flying underneath the sign. As she chases it, she jumps up trying to catch it, misses and lands directly into the open paint can. Poof, her wrinkles didn’t disappear, but her fur is now matted down and covered in purple splotches. Continuing the hunt, Missy climbs out of the can and runs through the back of one of the food stalls. This stall’s floor is covered in feathers because the vendor is removing them from ‘duck like’ animals (called Karachoks) which he is serving on a platter surrounded by Ayberjie eyeballs. For some reason though, these don’t seem to be selling at all. Unluckily for Missy, the paint is still tacky and she ends up with Karachok feathers stuck to her fur as well. Unfazed, she continues to follow the bat and ends up leaping onto the stage, landing right next to the last entry in the contest.
The announcer notices Missy and proceeds to describe her as the next entry. “Well, it appears we have a surprise entry. This purplish hairy, feathery thing really makes my eyes water, with its bumpy face, five legs (one pointing up) and multiple skinny noses pointing in all directions, I can barley stand to look at it.”
After a brief conference among officials, the judges unanimously select her as the winner. Kholer is too surprised to speak and just waves his arms in the air.
As G3 explains “That’s just our cat, it’s not an art entry” to no avail, he is handed the first prize trophy. The trophy is topped by the sparkling image of an Oogaboogerian wearing spectator glasses with the blinds covering both eyes. On the base it says, “First Place in Oogabooger’s Ugliest Piece of Art in the World contest.”
Alex points out that they need to return to the Earth soon, they were only scheduled to spend two days on the moon. Missy, whose fur is now dry but still quite purple is looking hungrily at G3 and starts to Meow. G3 knows it’s time to feed Missy as well.
“But Alex”, says G3, “do we even know how to go back to Earth? We don’t even know how we got here.” Kholer who has been eavesdropping says, “Pardon me fellows but I’m sure that the old wise man could help you, if only you could locate him. I’d help you with directions if I could, but no one ever seems to be able to find him when they need him. He seems to vanish whenever there is work to be done or problems to solve. I guess that’s one of the reasons he’s considered so wise”.
As G3 pulls out a pouch of food from his pocket for Missy, he notices that his bracelet is missing. Oh no, he thinks I’m not sure if this is good news or bad. On the one hand my mom will be disappointed that I lost it. But on the other hand, this is supposed to bring good luck. While G3 looks around for his lost bracelet, he notices a strange green rock. When he picks it up it starts to glow.
“Hey Alex”, he asks, “any idea what this is made out of?” Alex takes the rock and start to examine it carefully. After a few minutes he replies, “G3, I believe that it’s petrified booger.”
“No way”, responds G3, “it’s not”.
“Yes, I’m afraid it is snot alright.
“Yuck!” G3 screams, and drops the rock immediately. But something amazing happens as soon as it leaves G3’s hand. It starts to float in the air and move slowly to the left. They can’t help themselves and proceed to follow it. It leads them through a thick forest with screeching birds overhead. There are annoying little bugs that are buzzing around their ears and what looks like lizards stuck to almost every tree trunk. A roaring river is getting closer to blocking their way but the booger rock seems to want them to cross it. A little further on, they see an old rickety rope bridge that crosses the river. As they walk across it, the plank that G3 (who is the last to cross) just stepped off falls into the river.
“Run!” shouts G3, and they all start to hurry across as more of the planks fall just as they manage to get to the other side of the river. They take a minute to catch their breath and make sure that everyone is OK.
“Although Missy could use a bath, I’m sure glad we made it across without falling in the river” Alex remarks. They continue following the floating rock when they see two holes in the ground next to a clearing of trees. They climb down into the one on the left and the glowing booger disappears when they reach the bottom. Now they’re in a bigger cave with green stuff dripping from the walls and in the center is an old man sitting on a thick rug.
Alex says, “We found him, we found the wise old man”.
The old man looks up and points, “No, he’s over there in the back of the Nasal cave”. Walking in the direction the man points to, the group sees an even older man eating something that looks like popcorn as he’s staring at a soap box.
“Excuse me”, G3 asks, “we were hoping you might be able to help us get back to Earth.”
“Well it just so happens that I’ve already figured out that the switching of Oogabooger and your moon will reverse itself tonight at midnight. So all you fellows have to do is leave this planet before then and you can be on your way. Otherwise you’ll be stuck returning with us back to Oogabooger’s galaxy Ebere. I do think that your Milky Way galaxy is quite nice though. By the way, can you make sure to take that small brown flying creature that is stuck to the ceiling with you? I don’t think it would survive here for long.”
“Certainly”, says Alex as he is just able to retrieve the bat standing on his tippy toes and puts it in his duffle bag, “and thanks for the information. Do you mind if I ask how you figured all this out?”
“Not at all my boy, I used ‘Kookle’. It’s the smartest thing in the galaxy. All this green phlegmy looking stuff on the walls here is actually living bacteria that can communicate together as one giant hive brain. It collects and stores all the data in the universe. It’s also very good at giving directions; I’ll have it give you a shortcut back to your spacecraft so you’ll be sure to make it there before midnight.”
“That would be great. We landed right next to the contest fairgrounds”.
They hurry back to the landing site using the short cut from the ‘old wise man’ and say goodbye to Kholer as they get ready to depart. They have just enough time to take off for Earth before midnight.
As they are approaching Earth, they can see the moon from the rear port hole and they both are glad that things seem to have returned to normal. Even Missy looks more comfortable and relaxed, but that may be because she’s finally removed all the paint and feathers from her fur.
They land uneventfully and try to figure out how they can explain all that has happened. Even if they tried, they couldn’t have made up a more bizarre adventure.
G3 asks, “Do you think anyone will believe us when we tell them where we’ve been?”
“Well, I guess we can show them the trophy Missy won as evidence.”
G3 notices Alex unpacking his equipment and shouts, “Hey, don’t let the bat out of the bag”.
“The expression is, ‘Don’t let the cat out of the bag’ and I thought you wanted us to talk about what happened Oogabooger”.
“No no, I meant the actual bat in the duffel bag. We want to make sure he doesn’t get loose inside the capsule again.”
“Good thinking, I’ll make sure to release him in a nice park.”
“Boy, I never knew ‘boogers’ could be so smart – I’ll never look at a napkin I’ve sneezed in the same way again”.
“Technically G3, those weren’t… never mind, I guess maybe we should all be thankful for our boogers.”