I didn't mean to write another Little Tracy fic, but I did. It was just so much fun! Ms Imagine and Freeflow beta-read this. Their help is the only reason it makes any sense. The mistakes that are left are mine.
Thank you so much for reading this, and for any reviews. They really are better than chocolate.
Summary: Jeff receives an envelope full of memories.
Jeff was having a quiet coffee when Tin Tin arrived with the mail. There was the usual mix of parcels from Internet bookshops and hard-copy magazines that Alan couldn't live without. Grandma had a couple of 'snail-mail' letters from penpals who liked to keep in touch this way. The only unusual item was a large, thin brown envelope. Jeff's name and address were written in a spidery scrawl and the postmark was Kansas, USA.
"I didn't recognise the handwriting Mr. Tracy," Tin Tin said. She was obviously intrigued and stood at the desk, waiting. Jeff gestured at the visitor chair and she sat patiently on the edge.
He had to admit to a certain curiousity too. It was a long time since he had been sent an unexpected letter. He bent it slightly, and guessed that it contained a number of sheets of paper. He tore it open.
"Why would they not send you an email?" Tin Tin wondered aloud.
Jeff realised why. The handwriting on each of the papers was as familiar as his own. Only one sheet was in a hand he didn't recognise; the same writing as the envelope's address. He read this first.
'Dear Mr. Tracy,
You may not remember me, but my name is Edwin Ross. I used to be the caretaker at the Junior school in Manchester, Dickinson County. My wife Martha was one of the teachers there.
When she died last fall I went through her stuff. (It took me some time to do that. I remember your wife died, so maybe you will understand.) She was a hoarder, my Martha. I had such a time trying to get her to keep her junk under control at school and she would just bring the stuff home instead.
When I was cleaning out the attic with all her things in, I found a box with papers from her students. Each year she would ask her class to complete this assignment and then she'd bring the papers home and let me read them. Sometimes we would wonder what happened to the kids.
When she got sick I forgot about them. I only found them again recently, and I think she would have liked you to have them. I know she thought a lot of your boys. I could tell when she talked about them. She'd be pleased that I returned these essays to you.
It was signed in a slightly wobbly script E. Ross. The address was a couple of blocks from their old home in Kansas. Tin Tin read the letter too.
Jeff placed the individual sheets of paper out on the desk. There were five in total, one for each boy. The photocopied heading was the same on each one.
'What I would like to do when I am older. Please discuss with words and pictures.'
Each page was filled with childish writing and illustrations. They were all dated and spanned seven years.
He picked up Scott's essay first. The writing was impeccable as always. His spelling was less so, and the report was littered with corrections.
'When I grow up I will be a pilot. This is because my father is a pilot. He has been in space and to the moon, but I think it would not be so much fun to fly in space because there is no atmosfeer. I will fly in really fast plaines and I will be in charge of flying them. Virgil says he would like to be my co-pilot, but he gets sick on plaines so I don't think he should.
'I would like to fly a F-22 Raptor, because this is a fighter jet made by Lockheed-Martin. It can go at Mach 2.0 which is two times the speed of sound. I looked this up and it is 680 meters a second. Its wingspan is 44 feet.'
Underneath this sentence, Scott had drawn a labelled diagram of an F-22. It did not escape Jeff's notice that the spelling here was accurate. The teacher's note in red pen was 'Good work Scott. Please use your dictionary more often.'
Jeff smiled, and picked up the next page. It was written in a cramped untidy scrawl.
'When I am older,' John had written. 'I am going to discover a way to travel faster than light. This might need wormholes or bending space, and this technology is not around yet. I will maybe have to invent it first. To do this I will have to become a scientist. This won't be too hard because I am clever.
'When I have invented a space ship that can go faster than light, I will visit other solar systems. I don't expect there will be any aliens to start with, but maybe if I go to 7 or 10 planets I will be the first person to find intelligent life.
'Relativity will be a problem because Einstein said that if you go at the speed of light then you don't get old, but everyone else does. I think my family will have to come with me because I would not like them to get old and for me to stay young. Virgil wouldn't like it because he gets sick when we fly and we will have to get a swimming pool on the spaceship so that Gordon can still play in the water. I think being stuck with Alan for a long time might be really annoying so Scott can have that spaceship to fly.'
John's illustration was as haphazard as his writing. There were two spaceships with an uncanny likeness to Thunderbird 3 flying towards a swirly mess. On the other side was a circle named John Tracy Planet.
The teacher's note read 'Well done John. This is excellent work.'
The third sheet was Virgil's.
'When I am older,' it started, 'I will probably be working for my father. He has just started a new business and he says that he would like us to work with him someday. I am not sure what he does at work, but I am good at drawing and designing things. I made a pick-up with legos that really works.
'If I can't work with my Dad then I would like to be an engineer or something. Or I would like to be a gardener and a painter.'
Underneath was a picture of a caterpillar-tread vehicle ploughing into a mine. The illustration showed all of Virgil's natural talent. The machine looked familiar and Jeff grinned. That explained his son's insistence that the Mole be painted yellow when it was in development.
The teacher had put a small smiley sticker on the work.
Gordon's paper was heavily illustrated on both sides. The teacher's comment caught Jeff's eye first. It was written in block capitals beside a picture of a shark - "SEE ME GORDON TRACY."
Gordon had written; 'When I am older I want to be a fish. There are lots of different kinds of fish. My favourite is the barracuda. I think I would like to be one of them. Dolphins are excellent swimmers but they are really mammals and so that is probably cheating. I would like to be a shark too, but I would get tired because they have to keep swimming always or they will drown. I think it would be embarrassing to be a shark that drowned. All of the other sharks would laugh.
When I am a fish I will work at Seaworld and then Dad and Scott and John and Virgil and Alan and Grandma can come and see me do tricks. On weekdays I will swim in the ocean instead. Sometimes I will go and visit my family even though there is no beach near my house. This will be good because Virgil will not have to go in a plane. He gets sick if he does.
I think Alan should be a fish too, but he wants to be an astronaut today.'
Gordon had drawn fish all over his sheet of paper. Some were recognisable species, but most were fantastical renditions. One looked like a mermaid.
The final sheet was Alan's. He had written in large letters. 'I want to drive a racing car.' Instead of further words he had drawn a red car. In the background there were five people. Each had a small annotation. 'Dad - Come back from business to watch me. Gordon - He is not allowed in my car because he'll break it like he broke my go-cart. Virgil - He is a good mechanic and will have to look after my car. He can drive it to races because he gets sick in planes. John - Reading a book like always. Scott - Can only come if he doesn't bring that stupid girlfriend.'
The teachers comment was 'Nice artwork Alan. I am sure Scott will be pleased you like his girlfriend.'
Jeff sat back in his chair. Tin Tin read through each of the essays. "It was very thoughtful of Mr. Ross to send these," she said.
"It was indeed. I wonder what the boys will make of them."
"Make of what, father," John asked as he came into the office.
Jeff let John read the letter then the essays. The other boys soon joined them.
"I cannot believe," Tin Tin said to Virgil when they had all read the papers, "that you used to be sick when flying."
Gordon laughed. "Sick as a dog! It was not a pretty sight."
Virgil threw a pen at Gordon. "At least I didn't want to be a fish when I grew up."
"No, you just wanted to be a gardener!" John said, laughing.
"So, how are the plans for faster than light travel? And have you found John Tracy Planet yet?"
"Not yet, but I'm working on it."
The bantering continued in a similar vein, until a call came in. International Rescue went back to business.
A week later Mr Edwin Ross, Manchester, Kansas received an old fashioned snail-mail envelope. The letter inside was hand-written on thick paper.
'Dear Mr. Ross,
I am Jeff Tracy. I wanted to express my gratitude for sending the package. I am sorry to hear about your wife. The boys remember her well, as they do you. John tells me to thank you for rescuing his football from the school roof.
The essays that you sent were very gratefully received and brought back memories for all of us. There was great hilarity for days. I now have them framed on the kitchen wall.
The boys have excelled themselves in their chosen professions. Some are not so far from their childhood dreams. Scott is now a pilot, who indeed flies 'very fast plaines'. Fortunately his spelling is now better. John is still working on faster than light travel, but is a scientist like he wished to be. He has not yet discovered intelligent alien life. Virgil does work with me and builds things out of bigger bits than legos. He asked me to tell you that he is no longer sick on aeroplanes and it 'wasn't such a big deal anyway'. I am quoting here. I remember too many flights with a vomiting, screaming child to be so flippant.
Gordon is not a fish yet. I think he may still be working on it as an option, however. He is one of the finest aquanauts I know. He has won medals for his swimming. Alan has driven racing cars, but currently I am proud to say that he is following in my footsteps as an astronaut.
I wanted to thank you for sending these insights into my children. I was lost after my wife died and I think you understand that feeling too. My sons brought me back, but I missed some of them as they were growing up. These were like windows into their past and I thank you for them from the bottom of my heart.
My sons continue to make me proud.
Yours sincerely, and with thanks,
Mr. Ross stuck the letter on the pinboard. Each of Mr Tracy's boys had signed their names at the bottom and there was a hint of the childish writing that had penned those assignments. It made Mr Ross smile. He reckoned Martha would have been proud too.