from A Grandpa's Notebook, Meyer Moldeven

With the trapeze adventure behind them, our three friends are on the path that leads to the Super-Rock Midway.

'The Midway,' says Chug, 'is the fanciest and flashiest Midway between Planet Mars and Planet Pluto far out on the Solar rim.'

You're right,' says Stobey. 'This Midway really is the last word in midways and I'm looking forward to seeing it. How about you, Slutter?'

'Yep,' Slutter says, 'me too.'

Up ahead, they see the gate leading into the Midway. It's on the other side of the space-block where the bus line space ships are moored to the tops of tall towers. Spaceships smaller than busses land on the surface, so they're lined up in parking lots.

'Let's cut across the parking block,' says Chug, 'it'll shorten the walk to the gate.'

'Fine,' says Stobey.

They head across, cutting in and out among the rows of parked space ships and space buggies.

Half way across they suddenly they feel a deep, thrumming vibration from space. Looking up, they see a gigantic, pancake-shaped, interplanetary space liner moving in above the parking block. Interplanetary space liners are not like the little single-seaters, family wagons, or even the big bus line and ferry space ships that carry folks like Stobey and Slutter from their homes to Super-Rock. Space liners are much larger than the biggest ocean liners that sailed the seas of Planet Earth long ago, and you've seen in history books how enormous they were.

Stobey, Slutter and Chug watch as the huge space liner slows and stops in space just above the Super-Rock Playground. Colored lights flash and glow brightly all across its underside, along its rim, and through thousands of portholes.

'What's that space liner doing here?' Stobey asks, turning to stare at Chug.

'Gosh, I don't know,' Chug replies. 'I don't recall ever seeing a big spacer like that coming to Super-Rock. They always go to the big space ports in orbit around moons Io and Europa. I wonder what's going on.'

They watch the space liner, and after a short while see one of the huge panels along its side move aside. An orange-and-green-striped space boat drifts out and holds in place. The space boat is as big as a bus and is known as a 'flitter.' Flitters are used to ferry people and cargo back and forth between big spaceships, or among planets, satellites and other places where the big interplanetary ships can't land. As Stobey, Slutter and Chug watch, the tail of the flitter glows yellow and the space boat turns down toward the surface.

'Look, look,' Slutter yells. 'The flitter is heading this way.'

The flitter hovers just above the Super-Rock parking block. Stobey waves her arms.

'Over here, over here,' she yells. 'Here's a parking slot. Right over here.'

Slutter rushes to the empty parking slot and waves up at the flitter. The pilot must have seen him. He guides the flitter to the slot and lands gently.

Stobey and Chug rush up beside Slutter. Together, they watch the flitter's door.

'I wonder who'll be coming out,' Slutter says.

'...or what'll be coming out,' Stobey mumbles. 'There are many strange beings living in our Solar System.'

'Yes,' adds Chug, 'real strange.' His long, thin spaghetti-like head bobs up and down. His long, thin spaghetti-like body sways. 'Yes,' he repeats with a nod.

Stobey and Slutter look at Chug and then at each other. They smile. They know Chug looks different than they do. They also know that all people and things look a little different from each other, and looking and being different is natural and just fine. They turn back to stare at the flitter's portal.

The portal slips aside. It's dark inside.

A ladder slowly lowers from the portal and unfolds as it approaches the surface. They hear a clicking sound and the ladder locks into place. Stobey, Slutter and Chug are quivering with excitement. A space-suited figure moves into the doorway. It stands there, not moving.

Our three friends look at the space-suited figure, and they see a face through the clear plastic space helmet. The face's eyes are looking at them. Stobey, Slutter and Chug do not need space suits since they're where they live all the time. They're used to getting around just the way they are, but people who come off space liners, they know, aren't able to get around without their own kind of air and pressure. One of the jobs of a space suit is to hold the right kind and mix of air and pressure for the wearers. The space suits do look strange, though.

'Whatever it is, it's just standing there,' Stobey says.

'Sure is,' adds Slutter. 'I wonder whatever is in that space suit looks like.'

'Me, too, Chug mumbles.

The space-suited figure starts down the ladder. As it leaves the doorway another space-suited figure appears. That one, too, looks around and starts down the ladder.

Stobey, Slutter and Chug run to the bottom of the ladder.

'Hi,' Stobey says.

A voice comes out of a speaker panel on the strange figure's helmet. 'Hello,' it says, followed a moment later by a 'Hello' from the other space suit.

'Where are you from? 'Stobey asks.

'Third planet from the Sun.'

'Planet Earth?'

'That's right,' from the other space suit.

'Well, then, call it that, 'Stobey says. 'Who are you? Do people on Planet Earth have names?'

'Of course we have names. Every one on Planet Earth has a name. How could we tell each other apart, or write each other letters, or call each other on the telephone if we didn't each have our own name.'

'We also have names,' Stobey says. 'My name is Stobey and,' she points to Slutter, 'this is my friend, Slutter.'

Stobey points straight up at Chug's head towering above her and adds, 'This is our guide around Super-Rock Playground and he's our friend. His name is Chug-a-lug, and he's a Hooten-Nanny.'

'We're very happy to meet you,' says the voice from the first space suit.

'Now tell us your names,' Stobey says.

'Our names,' says the same voice, 'are Suzanne and Roger. I'm Suzanne.'

'Suzanne and Roger. What strange and interesting names.' Stobey repeats the names a few times, and so do Slutter and Chug. 'Suzanne and Roger. Suzanne and Roger. Hm..m..m, strange sounding names, really strange.'

'They're not strange where we come from,' says Roger.

'I suppose not,' says Stobey. 'Tell us, Suzanne and Roger, why has an interplanetary space liner come to Super-Rock Playground. Aren't the regular ports for space liners in orbits above Io and Europa?'

'Well, yes,' Suzanne says. 'We're on our way to Europa to visit our uncle who's in charge of a space colony. The colonists are also people from Planet Earth.'

'The Captain of our space liner told us the port at the Europan colony is temporarily filled with other space liners,' Roger adds, 'so he brought our liner here for a couple of hours to wait until a mooring slot for us opens up there.'

'Right,' Suzanne adds. 'When we got here and saw this beautiful playground we asked the Captain if we could visit it for a while. As you see, he agreed, and here we are.'

'We're certainly glad you came,' Stobey says. 'We're heading for the Midway. Would you like to join us?'

'Oh, yes,' says Roger, 'we sure would.'

'Yes, we would like to join you,' says Suzanne, 'and we thank you for the invitation. But we must be back aboard the space liner in two hours. Will you be sure that we don't miss getting back here in the parking block in time to lift off?'

Chug steps forward. He draws himself up to his full height, raises one spaghetti-thin arm to point upward, and speaks with a deep voice.

'It shall be my honor and my pleasure,' he says, 'to show you all the wonders of the Great Super-Rock Midway, and then to bring you back here in time to return to your space liner. I, Chug-a-lug the Hooten-Nanny, will be your guide.'

He proudly points at the brilliant, many-colored lights of the Super-Rock Midway.

'We're off to the Midway with a fanfare, and in our finery and frippery,' his voice booms like a drum, 'to see a galaxy of games which give everyone gales of galloping giggles. If you wish, you can gulp gallons of grape juice, and gaze and even gawk at glittering gold goblets and gargantuan gemstones. You can also buy gewgaws, gimmicks, gizmos, and glamorous gifts to give to your friends.'

Chug starts across the parking block, taking long steps.

'Hold on, there, Chug,' Stobey calls after him. 'Slow down. Your long legs take such big steps we can't keep up with you.'

Chug turns and looks back. He waits until Stobey, Slutter, Suzanne and Roger catch up. They form a line across, Chug in the middle, Stobey and Suzanne on one side and Slutter and Roger on the other. The two children on each side of Chug link arms. Chug's arms are so long that they reach down to where his hands can be held by whoever is next to him. With Chug's booming voice describing what they will see, they head for the gate into the Midway of Super-Rock Playground.

Overhead, the great space liner from Planet Earth waits silently.

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