Tommy and Charlie's Night Sky

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
Charlie is a big little brother. He looks out for his older brother who is challenged with difficulties communicating with others including their parents. Charlie thinks his brother is brilliant but others don't see him the same especially their parents. He find the rewards from assisting his brother are priceless. Charlie is Tommy's biggest fan.

Submitted: August 11, 2014

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 11, 2014



Tommy and Charlie’s Night Sky

Charlie drifted into consciousness slowly as he became aware of movement in the bedroom he and his brother Tommy share. They had separate bedrooms until their parents realized Charlie could help keep a close eye on Tommy and they joked, “Little brother is always watching you.”

“Tommy!  What are you doing?" Charlie whispered while only half awake.

“Convection has stopped.” He answered with his attention directed at the ceiling as he pulled his pajama shirt over his head.

Charlie rubbed his eyes not bothering to ask what the cryptic response meant.

In the dark room, with only faint moonlight to see by, Charlie watched as Tommy quietly got dressed in jeans and a tee shirt.

“I’m tired and I want to sleep.  Go back to bed."

Charlie sighed.  It was pointless and Charlie knew it.  When Tommy got an idea in his head there was no stopping him.  All Charlie could do was get up, get dressed, follow Tommy and do the best he could to keep Tommy safe.

“A cold front is coming.” Tommy said to his shoes.

Charlie got out of bed and quickly dressed wondering if this has anything to do with the contraption Tommy was building in the garage.  He spent a lot of time watching over Tommy for his parents especially in their dad’s garage.  Well it’s not really their dad’s anymore.  Their father long since abandoned the idea of ever reclaiming that space for himself.

Charlie enjoyed his brother’s randomness.  He was always amazed at how Tommy’s seemingly unconnected needs came together and resulted in brilliance. His brother never showed an interest in weather before as far as Charlie could recall, so he was becoming more interested in what was in store for him tonight.  He looked at the clock and found it was 2:38 am. Charlie corrected himself mentally.

“Tommy. Look at me and listen.” Charlie demanded quietly. Tommy looked at Charlie with attention.  This never worked for mom and dad but always for Charlie.  Probably because their mom and dad were usually angry or not paying attention to what Tommy wanted.

“I won’t stop you but I am coming with you. OK?”

Tommy smiled.  Charlie took this as understanding and did not force a response. Their mom and dad always want reassurance from Tommy he understands.  They don’t trust Tommy’s ability to comprehend the way Charlie does. He knew his brother was always listening and was able to process information even when he was humming or throwing one of his fits.

They crept silently together into the hallway trying not to wake their parents up.  Charlie knows he won’t get in too much trouble since he is just making sure Tommy doesn’t get hurt. They appreciate the big brother role Charlie plays despite him being 2 years younger.  They do not appreciate Tommy’s eccentricity.

Not at all surprising to Charlie, they headed straight to the garage.  Earlier, he sat watching Tommy take apart the old useless lawn mower. Their dad removed the blades from it and made sure there was no gas.  

Three weeks ago, while out for a bike ride with their dad, Tommy stopped his bike in front of a house with several items out near the curb waiting for trash removal. Dad yelled at him to keep up but Tommy continued intently staring at the pile of garbage paying no attention to his father’s escalating frustration.  

Charlie looped back to investigate the situation. Their dad did too with a heavy sigh. The boy’s dad immediately scolded Tommy. He accused Tommy of being naughty and threatened never to take him on bike ride again.

Tommy wouldn’t budge and started flapping his arms around and making loud noises. Their dad’s frustration turned to embarrassment as he saw the homeowners starting at the scene from their garage, which it appeared they were in the process of cleaning.

Charlie noticed Tommy’s eye never left the center right portion of the garbage heap containing several boxes piled up on an old push mower. They were only a block away from the house and their dad was angry.  

“Charlie. Stay with the bikes I will be right back.” and he lifted Tommy who was kicking, and hitting his dad but still had his eyes on the garbage.  

Charlie noticed Tommy was not screaming but instead was kind of growling mimicking a machine type noise. The arm flailing was in a pushing motion from his chest out. Charlie understood Tommy wanted something from the garbage and assumed it must be the old beaten up lawn mower.

Charlie made eye contact with his brother, touched the lawn mower and nodded. Tommy calmed down in his father’s arms and surrendered to his punishment.

Once they were out of sight Charlie walk down the driveway to the couple who went back to working on moving stuff around in their garage.  They were older than his parents were, Charlie had seen them several times walking their dogs, and occasionally with a child he guess was a grand kid.

“I am so sorry for the disruption we caused in front of your house.”

“No problem at all. What can we do for you?”  The woman asked wiping hair away from her forehead and creating a black streak on her skin from the mess on her hand.

“My brother has some difficulty explaining himself but I think he was interested in your old lawn mower. If my dad says it’s ok can we take it? It looks like you’re getting rid of it.”

“That old thing has not worked in years.  Why would anyone want it?” The man said with a grumble.

“I don’t really question my brother’s plans but he always surprises me with what he comes up with.”

The man shrugged and his wife stepped out in front of him. 

“You are kind to look out for your brother.  Of course you can have it and I will ever have Mr. John here bring it over to your house for you if your dad agrees.” She said and gestured to the man who rolled his eyes but did not argue. She leaned in a little closer and quietly said, “He could use the exercise anyway.” She winked at Charlie.

Charlie enjoyed the evening watching Tommy pull the lawn mower out and detach all the mechanics.  Every so often, Tommy would motion for Charlie to help if he needed it. When Charlie could not understand from the exaggerated hand gestures, expressions or sound effects Tommy would augment his communication with brief statements or just one word.

In the darkness of this early morning adventure they entered the garage.  The lawnmower no longer resembled a device used to cut grass.  The wheels and handle were still intact but Tommy altered it significantly.  He created a platform that spins with an old record player from the basement.  He inverted a round top stool and placed that on the turntable.

On the other side of the garage was a project Tommy worked on last week.  He headed over there and grunted when he tried to lift it.  Charlie walked over and picked up the opposite end of the tube structure.

“Careful.” Tommy whispered and glanced at the glass piece on the end of the tube. Charlie was aware there was also more unseen glass on the inside since Tommy inserted it into the bigger one last week. Charlie thought Tommy abandoned this project and until now had no idea they were related.

Obtaining the tubes was another almost hysterical moment in public with their mom instead of dad. Tommy was already in big trouble that day because he drew dots and lines all over the wall in the hallway with a permanent marker.

Their mom woke to find Tommy in the hall still working on his project she referred to as scribbling. Charlie thought it looked a lot like a child trying to create a connect-the-dots puzzle and could not accomplish the task.

The drawing confused Charlie. Ever since he could remember, Tommy showed fantastic artistic ability and rarely did anyone question what he illustrated in his images.  People looked like individuals. Trees and flowers were always a specific type, never just a generic tree or flower. Friends and family all thought their mom and dad should get him into art school or at the very least art classes.  They tried once but he refused to follow the program. Tommy ended up just doing what he wanted which he could do at home with a lot less frustration for everyone.

While their mom was still fuming over the ruined wall they headed out to the hardware store to get paint.

“Now we have to spend the day tomorrow repainting the hallway and I wanted to take you to the museum.” Charlie was not all that disappoint with missing the museum.  Going anywhere was always such a hassle and his parents always ended up mad over something Tommy did or did not do.

They got out of the car and through the parking lot without incident.  Tommy was cooperating and Charlie saw his mother relax a little when they entered the store.  They headed to the paint section but Tommy stopped as they were navigating through the store. While he stared at some big tubes his mom attempted to coax through the aisle.

She tugged on his sleeve but he was a rock standing there.  She begged him to follow with no success. Tommy grabbed a big tube off the shelf that was almost as big as Charlie was. It hit the floor loudly and rolled toward Tommy, hit the toe of his shoe and rolled back to the base of the shelving unit.

“Tommy what in the world is wrong with you? We need paint to fix the wall you destroyed.  Help me get this thing back up where it belongs.” She contained the volume of her voice but it was clear to Charlie she really wanted to scream at Tommy at the top of her lungs.

Tommy sat down on the floor and put his legs in the tube.  Then he grabbed another smaller one off the shelf, shoved his arm into it, and waved it around. He nearly knocked his mother on the side of the head. Charlie looked at his mom and the ridiculous scene his brother was making.  He was fully aware this was going to turn out very bad for all of them quickly.

Charlie looked at the prices on the shelves and then to his mom while he did some quick math.

“Mom it will cost $15 dollars to buy those tubes.  He might make something awesome. I’d like to find out.” Charlie interjected.

She looked at Charlie, then Tommy with confliction.  She did not want to give Tommy what he wanted because of the principle of the matter.  He had just cost them a day and the money to buy new paint.  Rewarding him with buying tubes for which she had no idea what he’d use them for seemed ridiculous.

Charlie glanced over her shoulder. She turned and looked to find several people, a couple of shoppers and a few employees were watching the scene already. She nodded at Charlie and looked at Tommy.

“Tommy. If we buy these tubes and bring them home will you cooperate while we get the paint?”

Tommy smiled. He slowly moved the arm with the tube on it toward Charlie who promptly removed it from Tommy’s arm without disturbing anything on the selves. Tommy scuttled out of the bigger tube and picked it up.

Their mom moved away from the cart so the boys could put the tubes in. They walked to the paint department and got out of the store as fast as they could without further incident.

When they got home Tommy headed straight for the garage with his new treasure and Charlie helped his mom with the painting supplies. “Mom, don’t you think it’s odd the drawing he made doesn’t look like anything?” Charlie asked.

“Hum.  I think he was just bored honey and well he does not think about the consequences of his actions.  I have to get ready. We’re going out and Melanie is coming over soon to watch you boys.”

Charlie lit up.  He really liked nights hanging out with Melanie.  He was too old for a babysitter and she was only a little older that Tommy but their parents felt more comfortable with someone else around incase Tommy had a problem too big for just Charlie to handle. 

Charlie went to the garage to see what Tommy was doing but he appeared to be playing childishly with the tubes and it was not very interesting.  When Melanie arrived, Charlie greeted her at the door. His parents were behind him up stairs in the hallway discussing the plans for painting the wall.

Melanie heard them talk about the drawing Tommy did and Charlie explained the situation to her.

“Charlie, I want to see it. It seems strange for Tommy to scribble. All his drawings are better than anything I can do.” Melanie said.

“I know that’s what I was thinking too. Follow me.” He turned and headed up toward his parents.

Melanie followed and before she reached the halfway point she declared, “That’s incredible!” and she carefully brushed past Charlie.

The boy’s parents stopped talking and looked at Melanie as if they were unsure now if they wanted to leave her with the boys.

“It looks just like my grandpa’s den ceiling.” Melanie explained the dots are stars and the lines between connecting them are constellations.  The large cluster of dots extends almost the length of the drawing on the right is the milky way galaxy which we see only the center as we exist on an outer band and can look into it.

“Now that makes a lot more sense than the thought of Tommy just scribbling doesn’t it mom?” Charlie asked in an ‘I told you so’ sort of way.

“Well with this new information we may just want to leave this up for a little while and decide later if we want to paint over it darling.” Charlie’s dad said to his mom and kissed her on the cheek. “Let’s go have some fun and forget about the wall for a while.”


Charlie and Tommy, each holding their ends of tube made their way over to the lawnmower that didn’t look like a lawnmower any more.

“Put your end there.” Tommy said to Charlie and used his eyes to indicate directly in front of the front two wheels.

Tommy twisted the tube a little so the hole closer to him he cut was pointing up.

“Hold it still.” Tommy said.

Charlie did his best but with the think cardboard tubes and the glass and plastic it was pretty heavy and teetered a little.

Tommy crouched under and pulled two of the legs on the stool apart. Tommy cut the stabilizer bar between the two legs and attached a magnet to both cut pieces of wood earlier that night before they went to bed. Tommy carefully guided each magnet tipped wood piece through a hole in the tube and then looked at Charlie.

“Let go now slowly.”

Tommy rummaged through a box and pulled out what looked like a piece from a microscope and attached it to the hole on top of the tube close to him.

“Done!” Tommy declared and started pushing the lawnmower, which really did not look anything like a lawnmower at all anymore, out the door of the garage and into the driveway.

“Turn off all the lights.”

Charlie di still confused and a little surprised at the amount of talking Tommy was doing.  That was a sign Tommy was excited.

Tommy looked around in all directions and then headed to the street.  He pushed the lawnmower thing down toward the little neighborhood park at the end of the street and through to the dark field beyond the swings.

“Convection has stopped because a cold front is coming. We will see better now than tomorrow night.” He leaned over and looked through the eyepiece.

Then for Charlie all the pieces fell into place and he understood finally. Its telescope and the weather must be good for viewing the sky now.

Tommy gave Charlie a turn to look at the night sky. While his brother was enjoying the view from the device Tommy pulled out two candy bars and juice boxes from his backpack to share with his brother for helping him.

He put the snacks down and then took a notebook, pencil and flashlight out of the backpack.  Charlie ate his candy bar and watched his brother take down numbers and draw more pictures. Charlie was impressed!

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