Tires tore through the rough dirt of the desert. Their large tread crushed the dried dirt clumps into powder as the weight of the large truck rolled across them. The dust flung up and clung to the side of the truck. It drained the color from the paint as the layers of dirt became thicker.
Inside, the tired eyes of a father struggled to focus on the road. Turning his eye to his passenger seat, he smiled at his son. He tussled his hair as the eyes of his son were wild with excitement as he bounced in his seat.
“I can see it, Dad; it is coming up.”
“Yea, it is; you ready to help dump all this trash?” The father said as he tapped the back window of the cab.
The son looked back at the piles of scrap metal that rested on the back.
“Yea, if I get enough time.” The son replied. “I decided that I want to build a go-cart.”
“Oh really?” The dad chuckled to himself. “How do you expect to pay for all the parts?”
“That is what you are for, Daddy. You make the money; I build things. We are a team.”
“I feel like I am doing most of the work in this deal.” The father said with a sly grin.
“Well, duh, you are the adult. I am only a kid. It would be weird if I did more than you.”
The son looked up to his dad, resting a hand on his thigh and slowly patting it.
“I wouldn’t want to make you look like a kid dad.”
The father laughed hard, his eyes lighting up a little as a little energy returned to him.
“Okay, I will do all the unloading, but in return, you better build a cool go-kart!”
The son twisted in his, sitting on his knees, he pulled at his seat belt. Peering over the dash, he watched as they reached the gates of their destination.
“Don’t worry, Dad, I will build the best of go-karts.”
The father grabbed his son by the shoulders, and the pair of them smiled as they made their way into the scrap yard. Pulling around mountain after mountain of scrap metal, they lost sight of the horizon, the view of the desert slowly becoming nothing more than mounds of metal. They parked in front of a run-down wooden shack with broken windows. Inside, they could hear music, its volume increasing as the door swung open and a large jovial man exited, looking almost as run down as the shack. His bulbous body was covered in tatters of stained cloth. He threw his hands out wide to the excitement of the man’s son in the truck. With a deep chuckle, he watched the boy climb down from the truck and jump into the man’s arms.
“Uncle, Erit. I am so glad to see you.”
“Ho, young buck. How are you doing, Charles?”
“I am great; I have decided that I am going to build a go-kart. So I need you to take me to the workshop.”
Eric bent down after dropping Charles. Struggling, he leaned on his knees to lower to eye level.
“Think I might help your old man out with his scrap?” Erit looked up to Charles’s father, then back to Charles. “Heck, you are pretty big now. How about you head down to the shed by yourself? I know you can handle a simple go-kart by yourself.”
Charles lit up with glee, his father looking concerned for a moment. But his concerns were quelled as Erit patted Charles on the back to run off.
“Don’t worry about him. I turned off all the big machines, just simple power tools; he was smart. He will be fine.”
“You are very reckless with kids, you know that?” Said the father.
“Hell, I got left alone in this place all the time as a kid. He will be fine.”
“I don’t think I could count how many scars, infections, near-death experiences, or strange pets that you gathered in these piles of junk.”
“Woah, this may be a literal scrap yard, but these are not piles of junk. This is the scrap of the whole planet and of the nearby passing spacecraft. This is the haven of technology and wonders to find.”
“You are terrible. You know, this is where he gets his fascination from this place. His big uncle Erit, glorifying a hemisphere trash can.” The father laughed.
“Woah, slow down there, Arthur.” Erit said, slapping his stomach. “Did you just call me fat?”
There was a short silence before they both started laughing. Erit slamming his hand on Arthur’s shoulder. Pushing him with the sheer size of his hand.
“Come on, pip-squeek. Let’s get your truck empty.”
“Na, I got this.” Arthur said, pushing Erit away. “You go make sure that my son isn’t going to hurt himself.
“You are too soft on the boy. But, hey. Not my kid, so I will go. Don’t worry about weighing in; just dump your scrap in an empty bay.”
“Pft, like I was going to pay for this service.” Arthur chuckled before going back inside his truck.
Erit dismissed Arthur with a grunt and a wave of his hand and pulled his sagging pants up with his other hand.
“You lost any limbs yet?” Eric asked as he walked into the workshed.
Charles looked up from behind a workbench with dirt on his face and hands full of tools.
“Not yet, but I have already started. Look!”
Eric made his way around the bench to see a thick metal plate with four wheels attached to it. Erit gave an exaggerated look of surprise as he pressed his foot on the metal plate, rolling it forward and back.
“Woah, actually pretty good. It actually rolls.”
Charles folded his arms, frowning. “Why do you say that, like that? Of course, it is going to roll; I made it good.” Charles stared down Erit until he raised his hands in defeat. “Now I found a motor, but I can’t move it. I need your big hands to help.”
Charles walked off into the workshop, pointing at a large motor on a shelf. It was rusted with pieces of metal chipped and missing. Eric scratched his head.
“You know there are engines around here that would actually work; that one seems a little… Busted.”
Charles shook his head. “Nope, it needs to be that one. That one will make me go the fastest.”
“Why do you think that?” Eric asked as he lifted it from the shelf. Bringing it back to a workbench to look over.
“Well, it is red, so it will always be faster. But also because it looks the coolest, which is very important.”
“Well, I am convinced.” Erit pulled a small piece from the engine and handed it down to Charles. “You clean up this part, and I will fix the rest.”
Charles nodded seriously; taking the small, rusted tubing, he made his way into the workshop. After scrubbing and dipping the part in a chemical bath, the rust was lifted. Returning back to Erit after nearly an hour, he presented the part. Erit received the part and patted him on the head.
“Good job, champ; I just finished up here.”
Eric fiddled the part back into place and lifted the now functional-looking motor over to the go-kart base. Together the two worked away at the go-kart over many trips until Charles got the chance to sit down in the seat as it vibrated to the roar of the engine. It was loud and clunky. But it was finished, and Charles could drive it around as fast as he wanted.
Ten years later
“Charles, I swear if you are not cleaning those new parts up, I am going to beat your ass.” Erit cried out from the middle of a pile of scrap.
“Yeah, yeah. Keep ya pants on, you fat bastard. I will have them cleaned up before we open.” Charles screamed as he blasted pieces of metal with sand. Stripping all the rust from each piece in seconds, he flipped them over and cleaned the other side. Moving as fast as he could, he reassembled the pieces to complete the now-cleaned mechanical parts. Loading them onto a trailer attached to the back of an ATV, he drove them over to Erit.
“This lot going over to the export platform, or are they going to the shop?”
“Come on, kid, they are going in the shop. I can’t ship nonsense like that in that state. Use your head for once and put it in the shop. Hurry up, too; doors already opened.”
“Don’t get snappy with me. I am the reason you have such a successful business, so better give me some respect.”
Erit took his hat off and bowed as low as his gut would let him. Charles rolled his eyes before driving off to the shop. His vehicle skidded to a stop, kicking up the dirt against the back of the store.
“Come on, Charles, don’t make the shop dirty. Erit will have my head if I get his precious shop a little grubby.” Cried a soft voice from inside.
“His shop? I am the one that started this shitty thing, and if it wasn’t for me, there wouldn’t even be anything good to buy.” Charles replied, his frustration sitting on the end of his tongue.
He wandered into the store with an armful of parts, his muscles tensing as he struggled to keep his grip.
“You know you don’t have to carry everything in one armload. Remember how long it took to fix your back when you tried carrying the arc reactor by yourself?” The soft voice said as she turned from the counter she worked at to watch Charles.
Charles slammed the machine parts down hard, drawing the attention of the nearby patrons that had entered the store
“If I don’t hurry, that old fart will have my head. You know how he gets about the loss of income. If we are going down memory lane, may I remind you of the last time you were caught napping at work, Maeve?”
Maeve scrunched up her face and turned back towards her counter.
“Okay, I will call this one a draw.”
“Right, I am, so glad.” Charles said sarcastically. “Anyway, I am off. My workload is finished for the day. I am going to head back to my baby.”
Maeve rolled her eyes as she heard Charles disappear out the back.
“That idiot is going to get himself killed.” She muttered under her breath. “I will come annoy you when I am done.” Maeve called out moments before Charles turned on his ATV and drove off.
Parking up, he ran into a small workshop made from the empty shell of several small spaceships. He placed his hand on his original go-kart. Making his way down to the back of his shop, there were several iterations. In the end was his final product. Roaring out of the shed, he skidded through the scrap yard. Goggles on, his face got covered in the flying dirt. As he roared past Erit, he could hear him screaming into the wind, but his voice was consumed by the sound of the engine that screamed behind Charles’ head. He slid and skidded through the scrapyard until he came across a platform with a nearly perfect shuttle. Cables ran from its interior to external generators, and leading to external control panels covered with tarps. Jumping from his cart, he tore all the tarps down and started powering up the many panels. He whistled to himself as he went, reading the control screens. He tried his best to determine where the next issue was. Over the afternoon, he made alterations to the small shuttlecraft as he deemed fit. As the sun started to fall, Maeve walked over; her foot fell slowly and dragged as she approached Charles.
“You need to give me one of your karts. Because the walk here is honestly so tiring after working for a whole day under Erit.”
“Under Erit ae? Is that how you get such a good pay rate?”
Maeve stared at Charles expectantly.
“I am not apologising.”
Maeve sighed. “I guess that was asking too much. You got some time to stop? I brought food.”
“Damn, I appreciate having you around. Yeah, I will; come on inside.”
The two of them climbed through the back of the shuttle. The inside had all its panels loosened; cables spread all over the halls. They stepped carefully until they entered the cockpit. The seats sat on the ground, and they sat upon the seats. Maeve handed over half the food, and they reclined into their seats. The soft glow from the green screens gives color to the grey metal walls of the craft.
“Have you made any good progress today?” Maeve asked as she unwrapped her food.
“Not really, like I made progress. But I don’t think it was good. You have no idea how complex these machines are. It baffles me to how they even design something this complicated.”
“Maybe this one is too beat up to fix. Maybe you need to wait for a better drop off.”
“Urgh, now you are sounding like Erit. I don’t need an easier project; I just need more time. The longer I spend here, the less time I have to explore out there.” Charles said as he leaned to the side, getting a clear view of the night sky through the overhead cockpit window. “Dozens of worlds have been populated, not to mention all the space stations and everything else we have accomplished too. I want to see it, at least some of it, before I die.”
“Come on, don’t be like that. You know that there will be plenty of time for you to travel out there one day. It doesn’t have to be today or tomorrow.”
“It won’t be today, or tomorrow, or even the day after that. The bottom line is it could take years before I get this beauty off the ground. Which is still a flash in the pan compared to trying to save for a shuttle like this. So I need to work as hard as I can every day, so I am not too old before I get to see everything I want to see.”
Maeve leaned forward, pressing her hands together nervously.
“You know, you are pretty young. So am I, but I am not the one with the issues here, so that is irrelevant. But my point is, it could take you ten years, and you will still be young. You don’t need to throw away your years in pursuit of something that you could obtain here. Or maybe there is an adventure here you have not seen because you are so focused on what is going on out there.”
Charles leered at Maeve as he took mouthfuls of his food in relative silence.
“Look, there are more things to life than seeing other planets or man-made constructions in space. You live on a planet, a freaking planet. Do you know how big this chunk of rock is? Because there is no way you can know how big it is and still sit there and say there is nothing here for you. There is still adventure here; it may not be as exciting as out there. But there is no point in missing out on it now, to maybe someday get to see something better.”
Maeve shrugged her shoulders before continuing to eat.
“But that is just my opinion.”
Charles and Maeve talked deep into the night, joking and talking with depth as they saw fit. Slowly they both fell asleep in their chairs. Erit came passed and found them, so he powered down all the lights and equipment before putting the tarps back over the water-sensitive parts. Playing with his hand, he put down a crucial element on the back ramp before wandering off. Leaving Charles with a little gift to wake up to.
“Good work, champ; you will get out of here someday.”