Here it is, the final part of “Bucket”! Buckle up, kids. It’s gonna be a wild ride.
* * *
Time passed, and Helena was finished by sunset.
“You ready?” Antonio asked her.
Helena turned around to look at him, and of course, he was busy stuffing a glazed donut into his mouth. Her gaze fell to the stainless steel work table, which carried a box of Krispy Kreme glazed donuts and her orange Home Depot bucket. Helena sighed and directed her gaze back to Antonio, who was now lounging casually on the yard chair, putting his feet up on the table, and grabbing another donut to eat.
“Yup. Let’s do this!” Helena chirped excitedly.
The bucket’s gas tanks were fully stocked with motor oil, but they were poorly attached. No matter. Helena guessed they would supply the engine enough oil before they fell off.
“Hello? Earth to Helena?” Antonio teased after he swallowed.
Helena continued to inspect every detail of the bucket she knew so well. “Helena-aa!” Antonio hollered, slightly irritated.
“Yeah. Oh. Sorry,” she responded, facing him again.
Helena took one last look at Thomas Bucket and at the strawberry-colored milkshake straws that were superglued to the engine and the tanks. She looked at the old red Polaroid camcorder also superglued to the bucket. She looked at the name Thomas Bucket written in her father’s neat handwriting and the message scrawled across the front in her seven-year-old self’s handwriting.
If lost, please return to this
The word “address” had been misspelled, crossed out, and rewritten.
A wide smile creeped onto her face. She had waited forever, and the time had come.
Thomas Bucket was going into space.
Helena turned on the camcorder and checked the battery. It was full. Sighing, she then brought the two loose red wires together. Please work. Please work.
The engine began to purr.
YES! Helena thought to herself. “Superglue, Antonio,” she requested.
Antonio handed her the superglue tube, which was caked with donut glaze. She turned to him and gave him what she liked to call “the look that you give your friend when they screw things up.” Groping for another donut while holding Helena’s gaze, Antonio quirked up a dark eyebrow. “What?” he asked, his mouth full with the second donut.
Helena snorted and held out the superglue. “Wipe it.”
“Whatever.” Antonio rolled his eyes as Helena passed him the superglue. He grabbed a napkin and wiped the glaze off of the tube. Helena snatched it clean from his hand, ignoring Antonio’s annoyed grunt. She twisted it open, and superglued the ends of the red wires together, covering the glued ends with a piece of cloth. The engine began to purr. It was loud, but Helena was proud. She glanced at the built-in timer on the engine, which showed that the bucket was set to launch in twenty seconds.
“Yes!” Helena cheered to herself as she sat back down in her chair, put her feet up on the work table, and snatched a glazed donut from the box.
“Hey!” Antonio protested.
“They’re for the both of us. Don’t hog them,” Helena retorted.
“Oo-kay,” he said mischievously.
Starting the final countdown, he yelled “Ten!” Helena joined him at “Nine!” Helena’s mind went back to the highlight of the day, which was when she and Antonio found a rocket engine at a garage sale. She still thought that was incredibly serendipitous and miraculous. It was very cheap for a rocket engine, and because rocket engines are expensive, it was still priced expensively, at two hundred dollars. She and Antonio had used the Bucket Fund to buy the engine, along with the complimenting wires and two dozen Krispy Kreme glazed donuts.
Now, Helena and Antonio counted together, “Eight…Seven…”
Helena remembered when she was four, which was when her father gave Helena her bucket for the first time. She had squealed, and her father had asked her to name it. She had looked him eagerly in the eyes and yelled excitedly, “Thomas Bucket!” Nodding, her father had written Thomas Bucket on the bucket.
“Did you know that you can do anything with an empty bucket?” he had asked.
Helena’s eyes had widened. “Like make it go to space?”
At that, her father had chuckled and grinned a bright, toothy smile that spanned from ear to ear. “Of course!”
Helena’s mind returned to the present, where she and Antonio counted, “Six…Five…Four…”
Helena remembered how the sun was setting over the front yard the day when she first received her bucket. Excited to see if her bucket would go into space, she had thrown it up and counted down from ten, but she watched gravity pull Thomas Bucket back down to Earth and back into her front yard. She had crossed her arms and pouted, tears welling in her eyes. Her father had then come to her side.
“You can do it, Helena. I promise.” His voice had been soft, and his smile was fatherly and kind. His hand went to her shoulder, and Helena had smiled. Letting go, he picked up her bucket and handed it to her. “Do you promise you’ll try?” her father asked, looking at Helena intently. His grin grew only brighter.
Looking him in the eyes, she had answered, “I promise.”
Helena then thought of one of her favorite attempts to launch Thomas Bucket into space. She was seven, the sun was setting, and she had used two fire extinguishers to launch Thomas Bucket. Those makeshift engines had gotten the bucket no farther than across the street, and it was tangled in the power lines. That had gotten her grounded for a solid month, but Helena didn’t care. What she cared about was that she made progress and that she started a new tradition: from then on all of her next launches would be at sunset.
Back in the present, Helena and Antonio both chanted, “Three…Two…”
Helena remembered all twenty-one attempts to send Thomas Bucket into space. Ever since Helena told him of her plan, which had been a day after the first launch, Antonio had been by her side, watching all of the unsuccessful launches and watching Thomas Bucket fall to the ground in the golden light of sunset. He had always been patient, helping her create new ideas and never giving up on her or on Thomas Bucket. Whenever she was upset about an unsuccessful launch, he would smile, take out his wallet, offer to buy more donuts, and tell her, “Wow. These launches are really breaking the bank, aren’t they?”
This last launch was going to be a tribute to not only her father, but Antonio too.
“One…” the two both chanted. Helena took a deep breath, readying herself.
For that very last time, she and Antonio yelled, “BLASTOFF!”
Fire spurted from the engine’s bottom as its purr turned into a thunderous roar. Thomas Bucket launched off of the work table, the engine roaring its loudest roar yet, which could make even lions quiver in fear. The bucket began to shoot toward the heavens at full speed, its superglued attachments threatening to break off. Somehow, they miraculously didn’t fall. The rapidly climbing Thomas Bucket was ascending in all its glory. Soon enough, Thomas Bucket disappeared into the orange, golden sunset sky.
“Good work, Helena!” Antonio praised, excited. Helena turned around and high-fived him. A smile grew on Antonio’s face.
As she turned back to the golden sunset, a sudden realization hit her. Tears pricked at Helena’s eyes, making kaleidoscope patterns in her vision.
Thomas Bucket was in space.
The astronaut headed back to her space shuttle, which was not far away. Within her sight was the endless landscape of stars and the patterns on the blue planet, which soothed her.
Amidst all this, a flash of orange caught her eye.
She turned, spotting an orange Home Depot bucket. A Polaroid camcorder was superglued to it and was currently recording the footage of space and the blue planet. Also superglued to the bucket were miniature oil tanks and a rocket engine. Curious, she grabbed it and inspected it. When she turned it around, she found a name written in black permanent marker. She traced a finger over it as she read.
It read: Thomas Bucket.
* * *
That’s the end of it! Thank you for bearing with me, and I hope you all had a great start to your 2019!