At a time when all the other kids were decked out in the latest Marvel or Disney costumes, Hercules the Lesser was squeezed into the undersized rocket ship costume. It was like red polyester sausage casing with fins. He never gave a thought to entering the costume contest because he knew they wouldn’t let him win anyway.
The Halloween dance was always a disappointment for Hercules the Lesser. His mother squeezed him into the same red rocket costume year after year. No kid wants to be the same thing year after year especially if it’s the exact same costume only now it’s worn out and a little dilapidated.
When Hercules the Lesser was a toddler someone gave him a pop-up rocket ship book. The first time he opened it he was startled by the brightly colored paper rocket that popped out of the pages. What he was showing was pure panic. What his mother saw was excitement. Soon she was bringing home every spaceship book she could find.When it came time to dress him up for Halloween she made him a red rocket jumpsuit of his very own.
That costume lasted four Halloweens before she was forced to start patching it. Every October 22 she pulls the old suit out of the closet and gets it ready for another year. She loves her Little Red Rocket Ship.
Miss Kravitz loved to play the piano and Hercules the Lesser loved to water the plants in her classroom. They both had their jobs to do to get the cozy little room ready for the day. He was grateful that she never forced him to speak, but she was always there if you needed someone to talk to. He just wasn’t very talkative, but she was there if he ever decided he had something to say.
When he arrived at General John G. Pershing Elementary School on the first day of classes, he walked straight to Miss Kravitz’s classroom. She would always greet him with a warm smile and a nice word. He didn’t get many of either of those in this place. Miss Kravitz was young and smart. She seemed to be just barely out of school herself. She was short – not much taller than Hercules the Lesser. Her clothes never fit quite right – straining against the seams although she was rail thin.
Hercules the Lesser walked to school every day. His mother was happy to drive him, but he enjoyed the walk alone with his thoughts. Some days he thought about how great it would be if he were Hercules the Greater not Hercules the Lesser. Other days he counted his blessings for being exactly who he was.
Roger and Louise had no children so Louise took great joy feeding a whole lunch room full of kids every day. She would never admit to having a favorite kid, but she only ever played ball with one kid. She gave certain kids an extra helping of vegetables if they needed it. She complimented the students on their haircuts or their good grades. She smiled greatly and everyone – every single kid at General John G. Pershing Elementary School loved her, but she only played ball with one kid.
Louise was large, but not uncomfortably so. She wasn’t fat. She just a good farm- fed Midwestern girl who couldn’t resist sampling the meals she made for the kids. She lived in an apartment on the northeast side of the city with her husband Roger and their small furry dog with an epic under bite. The dog’s name was Queenie.
Every morning over coffee and eggs Roger and Louise worked the crossword together – both the Chicago Sun-Times and the New York Times. When they were done Roger kissed Louise long enough to make Queenie jealous. After the kiss – Roger went to his job fixing cars. Louise took Queenie for a walk long enough to take care of her business then Louise got dressed in her kitchen uniform and headed to the school.