"Great Galactic Galvtrons! The ship is under attack! Battle stations!" A heroic voice could be heard in the dark room of Sheen Estevez. As the voice continued to shout, Sheen jumped out of bed sleepily, saying, "Battle stations? Ready for orders!" He saluted clumsily and then shook his head, realizing there wasn't any battle. He pressed a button on the platform of an Ultralord alarm clock with the purple-clad hero standing majestically, standing with one foot on a boulder and one hand thrust up into the air in a fist.
"Man, that clock's too realistic!" Sheen said as he searched the floor of his room, trying to find a relatively clean T-shirt to wear. He picked one up, scratched some old food off it, and put it on. When he was done getting ready, he ran down the hall, arms out like an airplane and slid down the banister downstairs. His dad was in the kitchen, sitting at the table reading the newspaper and drinking coffee.
"Good morning son." He said as Sheen 'flew' into the kitchen. He jumped onto a step stool and opened a cabinet.
"Morning dad." he said as he sat down at the table with a box of Ultralord Coco Sugar Blasts, a bowl, milk, and a spoon. His dad knew that he had only a few seconds before Sheen would be practically inhaling cereal, so he quickly asked, "Son, after you come home from school, will you be willing to assist me with a project in the backyard?"
"Sure dad, what for?" Sheen said, looking up curiously at his father.
"It's a surprise." His dad said, being playfully mysterious.
"Aw, come on, what is it?" Sheen whined.
"You'll just have to see after school." His dad answered. Sheen shrugged and then started eating, finishing two bowls in five minutes. Then yelling bye to his dad, he ran out the door.
"Pay attention, claaaass. Brawwck!" Ms. Fowl crowed to a dreamy eyed class. Almost everyone was staring out the window at the hazy, warm, spring day outside. "Class!" She squawked. Everyone snapped to attention. "Thank you. As you remember, last year's Father Follies were a big success, so this year we are going to have Mother Marvels in time for Mother's Day next week. So have an act ready in time, or if your mother isn't able to attend, you can write an essay about her to present at the assembly. Brawwck!"
Everyone started murmuring excitedly when Ms. Fowl finished talking. Everybody was so caught up by their excitement; no one noticed that Sheen was not talking with the others. "…if your mother isn't able to attend…" he thought as he looked down at his desk miserably.
When the bell rang, and everyone ran out the front door of the school, the only thing that was on the lips of the students was Mother Marvels. Everybody talked excitedly about what their moms were going to do.
"Finally! This is just what I need to get my popularity back up from the Father Follies incident." Jimmy said to Carl as he walked down the street with him and Sheen.
"Yeah, your mom will definitely be better than your dad was. Plus, everyone likes your mom, 'cause she's sweet, and nice, and pretty, and everything that makes life wonderful…" Carl said singsongily, with a dreamy look on his face.
"Umm…ok. Anyway, just as long as she does something cool, I'm fine." Jimmy said. Through this conversation, Sheen hadn't said a word, which is odd for him, and he walked sadly, with his eyes glued to the sidewalk. Mrs. Fowl's words resonated in his head: "Unable to attend…unable to attend…"
"Huh?" he said as the sound of his name shook him out of his trance.
"I said, what's your mom doing?" Jimmy said.
"Oh, um…" Sheen looked around desperately. "Oh, there's my house. See ya, bye!" he said quickly. He rushed toward his house and around to the backyard. He stopped just out of sight and caught his breath. "Fuew, that was close." He said, glancing back at the street.
Jimmy and Carl were staring at the place where Sheen has disappeared. "Ya know, I've never seen Sheen's mom before." Carl said at last.
"Yeah, me neither." Jimmy said. "Maybe she's…ya know…" He looked at Carl cautiously.
"Nah. I bet she just works a lot." Carl said with assurance.
"Maybe…Yeah, you're probably right." Jimmy said. They continued down the street without another glance.
Sheen's dad was leaning against a big tree in the backyard when Sheen walked up to him. There were piles of wood on the ground, and tools. "Well," he said to Sheen as he gestured around the area. "What do you think?"
"Um...I think you went a little overboard with the tools." Sheen said, picking up one of the ten hammers crowded in the toolbox.
"No, I mean what do think we are going to do with so many tools?"
"Oh, um…" Sheen looked around at the piles of wood helplessly. "Um…I don't know." He said at last with a shrug.
"Well," his dad said. "I guess I have to tell you then. It will be…" He turned around and gestured to the tree behind him with his arms spread. "A tree house!" he said, yelling the last part. His eyes shone with a triumphant glow.
"A tree house! Cool!" Sheen said. "But dad, why are you Mr. Handy-man all of a sudden? First it's the porch, then the pool table, and now this." Sheen's dad turned back to his son, suddenly very sad. He scratched his neck nervously.
"Well," he said. "Your mother always wanted you to have a tree house, and I… well…" Sheen put his hands up to interrupt him.
"It's ok dad. I know what you mean." There was a moment of silence as both Estevezes stared at the ground, unable to find something to say. Finally Sheen said, "Um, dad? Today in school, Ms. Fowl told us that they're going to do something for Mother's Day, and all the moms are supposed to be there and…" This time his dad held is hands up to stop him.
"Come son. We will start on the tree house, and I will tell you a story, about your mother."
All that week after school, Sheen and his dad worked on the tree house; and all that time they talked about the only woman that had come into their lives, Sheen's mom. By the time the tree house was finished, Sheen knew exactly what to do about the Mother Marvels. As he sat at his desk that weekend, he picked up a pencil and started writing.
At the Mother Marvels assembly at the end of school, everyone in the audience, mostly all dads and grandparents, were excited to see what marvelous things the mothers of Retroville can do. Jimmy's mom, much to Carl's delight, showed an edible display of all the desserts and sweets she can prepare, and she had baked everyone in the audience a pie, even one safe enough for Mr. Weezer. Libby's mom had a mini fashion show, all with her designs. Cindy's mom put on a one man, or rather, one woman show: Snow White. Mrs. Weezer showed off her knitting and told how she knits baby blankets for the hospital. Then it was Sheen's turn.
As he walked onstage with a piece of paper in his hand, everyone leaned forward in their seats. Anything involving Sheen almost guaranteed big laughs. One or two men in the audience, friends of Mr. Estevez, knew about his wife, but they still looked at Sheen with great interest. Sheen, meanwhile, had gotten to the middle of the stage, and was staring unemotionally at the crowd. He took a deep breath, and then began to read from the paper in his hand:
"UltraMom, by Sheen Estevez. Well, what can I say about my mom, Mrs. Gloria Estevez? She's all the mom I could ever want, and more. She's got my back and I've got hers. And she's always there with me. But before she was my mom, she was a little girl, growing up in the same small Mexican village as my dad. They were neighbors, and she and my dad were that little boy and girl couple that everyone knew would end up together. Her and my dad's families immigrated to New Mexico at the same time, when they were both fourteen, and they both studied English together, to become American citizens, and during those study sessions, their love started to grow. She was the wild and adventurous type, and he was more serious and down-to-earth. But they were a perfect match for each other, like two pieces of a jig-saw puzzle. After they both graduated from the same college together, they got married and moved to Retroville. My dad got a job as an air conditioner technician, or whatever he calls it, and she became an at-home wife, and when I was born a few years later, an at-home mom. And over the next few years, everything was perfect. Since she was the one I saw most of the time when I was little, I guess I took after her in a way: wild and adventurous. She gave me my first Ultralord action figure when I was old enough not to chew on it, and it all started from there. Soon my whole toddler room was full of Ultralord stuff. But because she was the bold and risky type, she was never fully happy with being a stay-at-home mom. My dad wanted to fix that by taking over for her while she got the exciting job she always wanted, but he never got the chance." Sheen paused to look at the audience. Every eye was on him now, and not a sound could be heard. Mr. Estevez was sitting in the middle of the crowd, and his eyes were shiny with tears. He knew what happened next.
"My mom was never the person to over-worry about getting sick. But she always kept the house pretty clean. In the winter when I was seven though, my mom got a really bad case of the flu. She tried to keep up a cheery attitude in front of me, but finally she ran out of smiles." Sheen stopped and closed his eyes, as the painful memory hit him, like a smack in the face. "In January of that year, my mom was really sick, and on her death bed, with me and my dad beside her. She whispered to me to come closer so she could tell me something. And then she said, 'Sheen, I want you to know what life has taught me over the years. Always live your life like it's the last battle in the war of good and evil. And always try to find the courage to fight for justice. For if there isn't any justice, who will defeat Robofiend? Can you remember that?' And when I said yes, she said, 'Good. Now go, Sheen, and may Ultralord watch over you from the great Druidian Galaxy.' And then, with one last smile, she took her last breath on this earth." By now, every weak-eyed person in the auditorium (and all the moms) was silently crying. Sheen's dad himself was quietly weeping, nodding to himself as he too remembered that fateful day. Everyone else, though they were not crying, was trying very hard to keep their faces straight. Sheen read on, after pausing for what seemed like an eternity.
"I said earlier that my mom is always there with me. And she really is there, inside me and inside everything I do. She's in the sky, the trees, the sun, the grass; she's Mother Nature herself. She's in every single one of my action figures and in my room when I'm just starting to fall asleep. She's in the ice-cream sundaes I eat at the Candy Bar, in my sugary cereal in the morning, but mostly I see her in my dad, and in my friends, and everyone who is somehow nice to me, even for a little bit. You can say my mom is gone, and that she's not anywhere but in a dark hole in the ground, or in a nice place where people can fly and dreams come true, but I know that, sure maybe she's there, but she is also here, with me every day, and she will always be UltraMom to me. Thank you." Sheen hung his head dramatically and walked backstage. Everyone stared at his unemotional face with awe, mouths open. Sheen kept on walking right through the door to the hallway, and then he strode out the front door of the school, and didn't look back.
The tree house in Sheen's backyard was a spectacular piece of work. It had a plank ladder nailed all the way up to the wide porch, and the house itself had a built-in desk and a chair, and windows on all four walls. A rope swing hung from the bottom. And in the tree house, Sheen sat curled up into a corner, staring out the window. On the walls hung Ultralord posters and drawings. But there were also picture frames hanging in places on the walls. Pictures of Sheen when he was very little, being hugged from behind by a beautiful Hispanic woman with deep black eyes and wavy dark hair, pictures of Sheen's dad and that same woman at their wedding, and pictures of the woman on a hospital bed, holding a screaming baby Sheen in her arms as she smiled exhaustedly at the camera.
Sheen looked slowly at the door when he heard someone on the porch. Libby stood in the doorway, leaning to one side with her arms folded. "So," she said. "This is the tree house you and your dad built. Cool." She walked in, looking curiously around, and stopped at a picture of Sheen's mom. She stared at it a moment and then said, "She's beautiful." Sheen nodded, smiled a little, and looked down at his knees. Libby went over to him and sat down beside him on the floor. "That was an amazing thing you did back there." She said.
"Yeah." Sheen said. "Ya think so?"
"I know so." Libby said assuredly. She paused for a moment, looking around at the Ultralord posters mingled in with pictures of Sheen's mom. "How come you didn't tell anyone about her, even Jimmy and Carl, or me?" Sheen was silent for a moment, his eyes unseeing.
"Ya remember what I said about my mom telling me to find courage for justice? I guess I couldn't tell because I could never find the courage to give her memory some justice yet, ya know?" he said at last.
"Ya, I know what you mean. I felt the same way after my grandma died." Silence settled into the tree house as both of them retreated into their thoughts. Libby continued looking at all the pictures Sheen had put up, mostly of his mom, but there was one picture that had both his dad and mom standing in front of the front door, with the two of them holding hands, and with Sheen between them, his arms spread wide above him, and a goofy grin on his face. He only looked about six years old. Libby glanced nervously at Sheen, and said, "Ya know what you said, when you were on stage, about you seein' your mom in your friends? Is she in me?" Sheen stared at his knees for a minute.
"Libby," Sheen said finally, looking up at her and smiling. "She's more in you than anyone else I could think of." He reached up and took Libby's hand in his. "Even Ultralord." Libby stared at him, amazed for a second, and then she said, "Do you really mean that?"
"Of course I mean it. Even I wouldn't kid about something like that." There was a moment of silence as they both soaked in the meaning of his words. Then Sheen said, "Come on, I'll push you on the rope-swing." They both went down the ladder, and Libby got shakily onto the rope-swing cross-legged, holding tightly to the rope. "Are you sure about this?" she said.
"Come on, my dad did most of the work on this. I mostly just handed nails to him and stuff." He got her started swinging and pushed from behind. She hung on tightly, eyes closed, but after a while she realized she was safe and started laughing. Sheen smiled at the musical sound of her laughter and pushed harder. After a while, they switched. They continued for the whole afternoon, and when it started getting dark, they walked back towards the front yard.
"That was fun. We should hang out there more often." Libby said.
"Yeah, and maybe I could get my dad to build a watch tower, and Jimmy could have a second lab there and…" Sheen said.
"Let's just start with hanging out." Libby said patiently. They came to the front yard just in time for the street lights to come on. One lamp came on right where they were standing on the sidewalk. Sheen looked up at it a moment and then locked eyes with Libby.
"Ya know, you're probably going to be the center of attention at school tomorrow after what you did."
"Eh, I don't care. I just wanted to get that off my back." Sheen said. Libby slipped her hand into Sheen's and stared at him intently for a second.
"I guess sense I have your mom in me, I get to give you a goodnight kiss." She said, and she kissed him on the cheek. Sheen stared at her, surprised, putting a hand on his cheek. They stared at each other, until Libby said, "Goodnight."
They slowly let go of each other's hands. "Yeah, goodnight." He said. Libby smiled, and whispered, "And may Ultralord watch over you from the great Druidian Galaxy."
Sheen's face lighted up, and tears collected at the corners of his eyes. He looked into Libby's licorice eyes, seeing for the first time in a long time, his mother's glow from deep inside her, and he realized that his mother's love had never truly left him at all.