The Menace

Jimmy Miller was a small eleven year old black haired boy. He was walking toward a convenience store while playing a game on his android smartphone. A shadow streaked by him. He nervously looked around but saw nobody.

Jimmy's dad passed away a year ago. Since then everyone recognized a change in Jimmy's attitude. Jimmy did not hesitate to speak his mind. He got into trouble in school due to his attitude. Jimmy had been put in detention several times since his dad passed away.

Jimmy wanted to join the Space Academy. Jimmy became a member by getting written permission from his mom.

In the Space Academy, one's abilities were limited only by one's imagination. The Space Academy was described by some as a utopia. But that wasn't completely true. It might have been a utopia ... without Frank.

Frank was the Space Academy trainer. He was an eighteen year old blond hair menace with a scar on his right cheek. He bullied and robbed those he trained. All the members of the Space Academy knew this. They avoided Frank whenever possible.

Jimmy stopped in front of the convenience store and searched his pockets for the short grocery list his mom had given him.

Frank confronted Jimmy. "You got any money?"

"No! Leave me alone." Jimmy tried to back away but Frank grabbed him by the arm and reached into his pocket. "Where's the money?"

The store owner, Jack, came out and pushed Frank to the ground. "Get out of here!"

Frank cursed Jack before getting up and walking away.

Jack had known Jimmy since Jimmy was a little toddler. When Jimmy's dad passed away, Jack attended the wake and funeral. Jack also paid for the plot of land Jimmy's dad was buried in. Jack and Jimmy's mom were good friends. Jack was also the manager of the Space Academy.

As Jimmy and Jack entered the store, Jimmy handed Jack the grocery list.

At length, Jack told Jimmy the cost of the groceries.

Jimmy took off his shoe and pulled out a twenty dollar bill.

"You've been robbed before." Jack bagged the groceries for Jimmy and then gave Jimmy his change.

"Take care." Jack said as he opened the door and looked up and down the street. "You should be okay. Frank's not here."

Jimmy started walking home.

After Jimmy had walked a block, Frank popped out from behind a tree.

"I told you I have no money."

Frank disappeared.

Jimmy scanned the area for Frank, Not finding Frank; Jimmy shrugged his shoulders and continued walking.

Frank popped out from behind another tree ahead of him. As Frank snapped his fingers, a metal cage appeared.

Jimmy rattled the cage. "Let me out!"

"Give me your money"

"No!"

Frank lifted the cage and held it above his head with both hands.

"Leave him alone!!" Frank recognized Jack's voice.

Frank lowered the cage to the ground and let Jimmy out.

The cage disappeared. As Jimmy walked away he did not hear Jack say. "Jimmy, bring the groceries home and come straight back here."

Jimmy ran down the street toward home. Frank popped out from behind a tree directly ahead of Jimmy.

Jimmy turned and continued running. He heard the loud squeal of brakes. Then he fell to the ground.

The elderly man named Ralph got out of the car. "You look like you've seen a ghost." said Ralph as he helped Jimmy to his feet.

Jimmy realized the car stopped two feet away from him.

"You'd better tie your shoelaces." Ralph said. "Are you okay?"

"Yes, sir" Jimmy responded.

"Why were you running around in the street? You can get badly hurt doing that."

Jimmy did not respond.

Ralph shook his head back and forth as he walked back to his car.

Jack came out of his store and approached Jimmy. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing"

Jimmy walked home alone but Jack kept an eye on him.

Ralph pulled his car into a parking space and walked toward Jack.

"You know that boy?" asked Ralph.

"Yeah"

"You think I should call someone? I mean - the way he was running around -- "

"I'll handle it." Jack responded."

“There's something wrong with that boy!" Ralph walked away while pulling a phone out of his pocket.

Jack followed Jimmy home.

When Jimmy got home, he went straight to his bedroom. He closed the door.

His mother knocked on the door. "Jimmy?"

Jimmy did not respond.

His mother opened the door. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah."

“I got a phone call from someone named Ralph.”

“Who is Ralph?”

“He is the elderly man who almost hit you with his car.” said Mom, “He was asking if you were okay.”

Mom paused for a few moments. She came over and hugged Jimmy. "You know you can talk to me about anything anytime." She kissed him on his forehead.

“I know. Thanks, mom."

"I love you." Mom said.

"I love you too, mom." Jimmy responded.

They heard someone knocking on the front door. Mom went to open the front door.

Jimmy recognized his friend's voice. "Is Jimmy here?"

A few moments later a short brown haired boy stood at the entrance to the bedroom.

"Hi Allen. Close the door."

Allen closed the door and sat on the bed. "So what happened yesterday?"

"Nothing”

"I saw you running in the road."

"Oh -- that" Jimmy said.

"I saw Frank too."

Jimmy hesitated "You did?"

"Yeah."

“Did you see the cage?”

“What cage?”

Jimmy shook his head from left to right and back. “Forget it”

The two boys were silent for a few moments.

“What should I do?” asked Jimmy.

Allen shrugged his shoulders. "That's a question for Jack."

"I’d like to try to put Frank in his place first."

"How?”

“Not sure. Still thinking about it.”

"How about kicking Frank in the shin?"

"Then he'd beat me up."

"You need to talk to Jack." said Allen

When they arrived at the store, a customer was coming out the door.

Jimmy glanced across the street and saw Frank standing there.

“I guess you forgot what Jack said” Frank was approaching Jimmy from behind,

“Huh?”

“Jack said to come right back after dropping off the groceries.”

“Jack never said any such thing!”

Both boys entered the store.

"Hi boys." Jack turned to Jimmy, “What took you so long?”

"Hi" Jimmy paused, "I'm hoping you can help us."

"With what?"

Jimmy glanced behind him. Frank was not there. But Jimmy heard Frank whisper, “Go ahead. Make an idiot of yourself.”

Jimmy looked around. "This might seem weird but Frank can disappear"

"Huh?”

"Frank appeared and disappeared several times earlier. He really scared me."

"You’ll learn how to disappear too as you continue your training. " said Jack.

Jimmy left the store and started walking back home with Allen.

They heard Jack’s voice, “Jimmy.”

Jack went back inside his store.

Jimmy opened the store door. “Jack, Did you want to say something?

“Yeah,” said Jack, “Is everything okay?”

“Everything’s okay.” Jimmy replied, “Why?”

“You just seemed a bit frustrated. Feel free to talk to me about anything anytime.”

“Thanks,” said Jimmy.

Jimmy and Allen started walking toward the house Jimmy lived in.

Jack watched as Frank appeared in front of Jimmy and Allen.

"Leave us alone" Jimmy yelled as he pushed Frank aside and walked by him.

Frank followed Jimmy and Allen. He pointed at Allen with his forefinger and Allen disappeared.

Jimmy was stunned. "What do you want? Why are you trying to scare me?"

Frank laughed, "Scare you? You were not just scared. You panicked!"

"Answer my question." Jimmy insisted.

"You need to react calmly during any crisis.” Frank said.

"That's true."

"Read this." Frank handed Jimmy a brochure. "Oh and just so that you don't make an idiot of yourself a second time ...... No one else can see that brochure except you and me."

"Where is Allen?"

"He is still here. You just can't see him." Frank paused, "Allen, tap on Jimmy's shoulder."

Jimmy jumped as he felt the tap.

"Make Allen visible again!"

"Nope. Making him visible is one of the skills you will learn. Follow me" Frank walked down the sidewalk. Suddenly he stopped, "Close the door."

Jack watched Jimmy mimick the act of closing the door. Suddenly Jimmy was able to see the room he had walked into.

"Fast learner too." Frank mused.

"You forgot to mention my creative skills" Jimmy took a pencil out of his pocket and drew a door on the wall. He drew a doorknob and a sign that read 'Rest Room.' .

"Not bad for a beginner" Frank changed the sign from ‘Restroom’ to ‘Conference Room.’ Below he wrote 'Do Not Disturb.' They entered the room. Frank sat opposite Jimmy at the table. Jimmy opened the brochure.

"You understand it?" asked Frank.

Jimmy looked at Frank. “Not really”

Jack was inside the conference room but he was invisible to both Frank and Jimmy.

After a few moments of silence Jimmy asked, “You tried to rob me. Why?”

“I was testing you.”

“Huh?”

“You’re a fighter..” Frank commented.

Jack sighed as he heard Jimmy reply, "Really?"

Jack knew Jimmy was being sarcastic.

“Any other questions?”

“Is Allen coming?”

“Of course!” Frank replied. “Let me know when you’re done.” Frank got up.

“Not so fast.” Jimmy said while pointing to the chair.

As Frank sat down, Jimmy pointed to the brochure. “This is not English.”

“What language is it?” asked Frank.

Jimmy stood up. “Stop playing games with me. Talk to me or I’m going home.” Jimmy walked toward the door.

“Game over.” Frank replied, “I have an assignment for you.”

“An assignment? Why did you choose me?”

“You’re smart. You’re a fighter. And you’ve got guts.”

Jimmy returned to his seat. After a few moments, Jimmy looked at Frank eye to eye and said, “Well?”

“Well what?”

“You’ve got a lot of explaining to do.” Jimmy paused, “I created a door by simply drawing it. You converted that room into this conference room by simply changing a sign on the door. How’d this all happen?”

“Yes. We are in a room created by simply drawing it.”

Frank sighed, “In the Space Academy, anything is possible. We are limited only by our imagination.”

“Sounds like a bunch of bologna to me.” Jimmy laughed.

Nobody could see Jack sadly exiting the room.

“Jimmy, you have to believe in order to belong.”

Frank frowned.

“Huh?” Jimmy paused, “What’s wrong now?”

Frank did not respond to Jimmy’s question.

“That way.” Frank pointed down the street as they left the building.

Suddenly something exploded a few yards behind them..

“Frank. Stop it!” Jimmy yelled.

“That wasn’t me.” Frank lied. “Run!”

As they ran, Frank asked, “Did that explosion sound like bologna too?”

After running a few blocks, Jimmy sat down against a brick building. “Where is the Space Academy?”

“You’re leaning on it.”

Jimmy stood up and backed away from the building. He could see the huge sign near the top of the building. It read ‘Space Academy.’

“Let’s go in.” Jimmy said.

“No.””

“Why not?”

“Because you think it’s a bunch of bologna.”

Jimmy did not respond.

Frank sadly shook his head from side to side and said “You have to believe in order to belong.”

Frank and the sign on the building disappeared.

A tear rolled down Jimmy’s cheek as he saw a group of kids dressed in Space Academy uniforms enter the building.

Allen appeared beside Jimmy.

Jimmy looked at Allen and said, “Frank’s a freakin bully!”

“Frank bullies everyone” replied Allen.

“The question is ‘will everyone stand up to Frank?’ ”

Allen shrugged his shoulders.

As Jimmy entered the building, a guard stopped him. “You don’t belong here.”

“I know.” Jimmy walked past the guard. When the guard tried to grab Jimmy’s arm, Jimmy disappeared. He saw a podium and appeared on it facing the Star Academy members. Frank appeared beside him and said “Get out.”

“No. The Space Academy needs a trainer; not a bully. Frank is a bully.” Jimmy said loud enough for everyone to hear. Jimmy turned to the Space Academy members. Frank tried to shove Jimmy off the podium but Jimmy responded by pushing Frank away. “How many here have been bullied by Frank?”

All hands were raised.

Jimmy’s phone rang. Jimmy walked away from Frank. He took his phone out of his pocket, “Hello”

Jimmy paused.

“Okay,” Jimmy made one more phone call before putting his phone away. Then he left the building.

Jimmy met Jack in front of the store. After greeting each other they entered the store

Jack shut the front door.

“How did Frank gain those powers?”

“Which powers are you talking about?”

“Does it matter?”

“It matters.” replied Jack as he pulled up two chairs. “Have a seat.”

“The power to appear and disappear.”

“He earned those powers.” Jack said.

“Earned?”

“Yes, earned.” Jack replied, “You don’t become a trainer without training and hard work.”

“How did I earn those powers?”

“You were being trained by Frank.” Jack paused, “ You lost those powers after you referred to the functions of the Space Academy as bologna.”

“I didn’t lose the power to appear and disappear.”

“Try disappearing now”

“I can’t”

“Point made.” said Jack. “You want to replace Frank at the Space Academy?”

Jimmy shook his head from side to side. “Frank should not be a trainer.”

“Why?”

“Because Frank is a bully.”

“You need proof that Frank is a bully. Do you have proof?”

“Ask the other members. He has bullied them all!” Jimmy replied.

“Follow me.” Jack locked the front door and pulled down the shades on the window.

Then he led Jimmy into his private office and closed the door. “Years ago I had wide angle cameras installed to catch thieves robbing the store.”

“Huh?”

Jack pulled the lid up on his laptop,

“Sit here and watch.”

Jimmy sat down. He watched a video of Frank attempting to mug him in front of the store.

“Frank violated the oath he took when he became the trainer at the Space Academy.”

“So why is Frank still the trainer?” Jimmy asked, “Why didn’t Frank lose all his powers”

“Frank is still the trainer because he has good leadership skills. You don’t believe in the Space Academy.” Jack paused, “You have to believe to belong. Furthermore you need training.”

“So why are you holding on to the video you showed me?” asked Jimmy.

“Good question.” Jack replied, “It’s evidence”

“Frank was training me.” Jimmy paused, “Are there other trainers?”

“Frank is your trainer. I’ll talk to Frank.” Jack sighed. “In the meantime you have to change your attitude.”

“What attitude?”

“If you really wanted to be a member of the Space Academy, you would not have called it bologna,”

Jimmy’s mouth dropped open.

“Well?”

“I didn’t mean it. I was joking,”

“Jimmy. Here at the Space Academy we are a team. We must work as a team toward a common goal. Understand?”

“Yes but ----”

“You and Frank have to work out your issues without putting the Space Academy down.” said Jack.

“I am working out my issues. I told you that Frank has bullied all the members.” Then Jimmy surprised Jack with the following advice. “Maybe you should do your homework before telling others what to do!”

Jack’s mouth dropped open.

“It’s not fair!” Jimmy blurted out. “I’m being punished for what I did. Why isn’t Frank being punished for bullying and robbing me?”

Jimmy had his phone in his hand for the whole conversation. He put his phone near his face and mumbled something Jack couldn’t hear. Then he opened that door and left.

Jack realized that Jimmy had phoned his mom before entering the room so that his mom could hear the whole conversation.

Jimmy’s mom entered the room. “Jack, Frank deserves disciplinary action for bullying Jimmy.”

“Jimmy does not believe what we are teaching him about the Space Academy.” said Jack.

“Give him time. He’s only eleven years old,” Mom left the room.

“What’d you tell him?” asked Jimmy.

“We’ll talk when we get home.” Mom replied as she placed her cell phone in her purse.

When they arrived home, Jimmy asked, “How did you know about Frank?”

“An elderly man told me.” Mom answered.

“The elderly man who told me my shoe was untied?”

Mom smiled and shook her head up and down. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Cause I thought I could beat Frank.” Jimmy said.

“Do you still think you can?” asked mom.

“Not sure.” Jimmy replied, “Maybe …” Jimmy’s voice faded.

“Ok” Mom said.

“Mom, Jack knows Frank tried to rob me.”

Mom looked stunned. “Frank tried to rob you? How does Jack know about this?”

“He caught it on his video camera.”

“Jimmy, Is there anything else you haven’t told me?”

Jimmy told his mom everything Frank did and said. He also told his mom everything Jack said.

That night somebody knocked on the front door. Jimmy opened the door. “Hi Allen.”

“Hi Jimmy. Just wondering if you wanted to play.”

Jimmy glanced at his mom. She smiled and said, “Have fun.”

Jimmy and Allen went into Jimmy’s bedroom to play.

“Allen, did Frank bully you after you joined the academy?”

“I told you …..Frank bullies all the newcomers.”

“All of them?”

“Yep.”

At 10:00 PM Mom glanced out the window. She saw a blond hair heavy set boy standing across the street. Mom knew it was Frank. She took out her new powerful flashlight and opened the window. She shined the bright light in Frank’s face.

Frank shaded his eyes from the bright light and slowly walked away.

Mom turned to see Jimmy and Allen walking toward the front door.

Allen said “See you later, Jimmy.”

“Okay.” Jimmy replied.

Allen walked away..

“Jimmy, what’s wrong?” asked mom.

“I don’t know what to do.” Jimmy replied, “Mom, how do I stop Frank?”

Mom hugged Jimmy. “You mean ‘how do we stop Frank?’ ”

“How?” asked Jimmy.

Mom whispered in Jimmy’s ear.

“Why are you whispering?” asked Jimmy.

Mom shrugged her shoulders.

Mom was pleased to see Jimmy smile..

The next morning Jimmy woke up to hear Mom talking on the phone.

“Okay. What time? ….. No, that’s fine …… No problem … We’ll be there.” Mom hung up.

Jimmy smiled, “You made pancakes!”

Mom took the syrup out of the refrigerator and told Jimmy to sit down.

After breakfast was finished, they got dressed and went outside. Jimmy and Mom got inside mom’s four door sedan. Then mom drove down the street.

“Where are we going?” Asked Jimmy.

“We’re going to the Space Academy headquarters.”

“Why?”

“To file a grievance against Frank.”

“Will Frank know about it?”

“Not immediately.”

“But he will find out.” Jimmy paused, “Let’s go home.”

Mom parked the car. She reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a small cylindrical container and gave it to Jimmy.

“What is this?” Jimmy asked.

“It’s pepper spray.” Mom replied, “Don’t show it to other kids.”

“Okay,”

“Then if Frank hurts you, threaten to spray it in his face.”

Then mom drove home.

The next morning Jimmy felt emboldened. He no longer feared Frank.

“Jimmy, I need some groceries”

“Okay.”

“The list is on the table and the money is in the envelope .”

Jimmy grabbed the list and the money. He walked down to Jack’s store.

Jack opened the door and saw Frank across the street.

“Come in, Jimmy,” Jack said.

With a smirk on his face, Jimmy waved at Frank.

Jack waved at Frank and closed the door. .

“Here’s the list.” Jimmy handed Jack the list.

Jack got the groceries and bagged them.

Jimmy gave Jack the money in the envelope.

Jack counted it and gave Jimmy his change.

Jimmy left the store and started walking home.

Frank caught up with Jimmy and said. “Give me the money.”

“No!”

As Frank grabbed Jimmy’s arm, Jimmy pulled out the pepper spray.

Frank reached for the pepper spray but Jimmy kept it out of Frank’s reach.

“I’ll use it if I have to.” said Jimmy.

Frank noted Jimmy’s anger and said, “I’m sure you would.” said Frank as he backed off, “You just flunked out of the Space Academy.”

Frank did not realize that Jack heard and saw everything.

“Frank!” Jack angrily yelled. “Get over here right now!”

Jimmy picked up his groceries.

He heard a heated exchange of words between Jack and Frank. Both Jack and Frank entered the store as their heated exchange continued. {EXPOUND. Frank considered Jimmy's speaking bluntly as disrespectful.}

When Jimmy came home, he told his mom everything that had happened.

The next morning, Jack phoned Jimmy’s mom. He wanted to talk to Jimmy and mom in private.

Jimmy and mom arrived at Jack’s office at about 10 AM.

“”Hi,” Jack said as he opened the door. He signaled them to sit down.

Jack sat down in his seat.

Jack smiled, “Jimmy advised me to do my homework. It was good advice. I found out that Jimmy was right. Frank had bullied all of the academy members.” Jack paused, “Jimmy, you are the only one that stood up to Frank. You’ve got guts, kid. And you have integrity. Frank is not the Space Academy trainer anymore and will not be training new recruits.” Jack smiled, “Jimmy I owe you an apology for not recognizing what was going on sooner.”

Mom looked at Jimmy and whispered something in his ear. Then she turned to Jack and said, “Apology accepted.”

Mom and Jimmy rose to their feet.

“That’s not all. ” Jack said.

Mom and Jimmy sat back down.

“Jimmy, after reviewing your experience with Frank, I am willing to reinstate you as a member. If you still want to be part of the academy, your history is wiped clean with the exception of the training you have received thus far” Jack paused, “Do you want to be a member?”

Jimmy’s face lit up with a bright smile. “You bet I do!”

“Very good” Jack said. "I have one question for you."

"What's that?"

"When you joined this academy, you were quite bold, speaking your mind without regard for the consequences of what you said. What have you learned during your time here?

Jimmy looked at his mom. "I don't understand."

"Jimmy, There are consequences for everything one saids. My advice for you is to think before your speak."

Jack realized Jimmy did not understand ............

"Jimmy, You said that Frank's explanation was a bunch of bologna." Jack paused, " Saying that got you expelled from the Space Academy. If you thought about the consequences ---"

"I would not have said that." Jimmy responded.

"Very good." Jack said, "Welcome back to the Space Academy."

As they walked out, Mom told Jimmy she was very proud of him.

Ten Years Later

A little boy approached the door. He read the sign on the door aloud,“Space Academy Trainer: James Miller”

The boy knocked on the door.

He heard someone say, “Come in.”

A black haired man was sitting behind the desk. “Hi.” James extended his hand. “I’m James but I prefer to be called Jimmy.”

They shook hands.

“My name is David,” The little boy said, “But it’s okay if you call me Dave.”

“Have a seat.” Jimmy pointed to the chair.

David sat down. “I want to become a member of the Space Academy.”

“What do you know about the Space Academy?”

“My friends say it’s a lot of fun.”

“That it is,” responded Jimmy, “The first step is training. As you progress, you will learn more skills.”

“Oh you mean like being able to disappear!”

“That’s only one of many skills you will learn during your training.”

“How long does the training last?”

“One month.”

Jimmy took out a brochure and handed it to Dave.

“After training, will I be a Space Cadet?”

“Yes. If you choose to be.” Jimmy took a little pamphlet, “Here are the rules every trainee must abide by. Violation of any of these rules will result in a written warning.” Jimmy paused. “However there is one golden rule. No written warnings for bullying. Bullying will result in being expelled from the academy. Understand?”

“Yes.”

“Once you become a Space Cadet, you will engage in battles with other cadets in other Space Academies. If you do well you will be promoted.”

“Promoted?”

“Yes, You will wear a uniform. You will start with one stripe on each arm. You have to earn more stripes. Once you’ve earned five strips, you become a captain meaning you will lead your troops into battle.”

“Cool” Dave paused.

“You have another question?”

“Does anyone get hurt in these battles?”

“Nope”

“How could that be?”

“Getting hurt is not possible.”

“I don’t get it”

“Try walking through that wall.” Jimmy said.

Dave walked toward the wall. He put his hand out to feel the wall but felt nothing. Then he walked through the wall.

“Okay. Come back.”

A few moments later, Dave appeared with his back to the wall.

“Your powers are limited only by your imagination.” Jimmy said, “That’s why the motto of the Space Academy is: ‘You have to believe in order to belong.’ ”

THE END


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