The Time Box by Leon Capetanos
Publication Date: November, 2015
A sixth grade field trip to the local planetarium provides more questions than answers for Thomas Adkins Johnson, a twelve-year-old going on thirteen, whose head begins to spin as he contemplates the vastness of the heavens projected on the dome above him. The field trip marks Tommy’s transition from sixth grade, where his major concerns centered on school and vacation, sports and gaming, to a more complex world where questions of identity and belief take hold of the imagination. Tommy and his friends—Micky Boonaling. Kareem Brooks, Mignon Eubanks, and others—tackle the challenges of seventh grade with a mixture of humor and bewilderment. When Tommy’s uncle Aaron dies unexpectedly in a motorcycle accident, the boy’s questions about life take a deeper, more complicated form, and Tommy begins to search for a way to create meaning in his life, a search encouraged by his friend, Mignon. The solution they create takes the two of them on a heart-warming adventure, tinged with the bitter-sweet desires of young romance.
"An understated, grounded account of getting older." Kirkus Reviews
"Tommy’s introspection and transformation will be sure to resonate with young adults on similar paths." Stephanie Bucklin, ForeWord Reviews.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Leon Capetanos is writer and director whose screenplays include “The Gumball Rally” (1976), “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” (1986) (for which he shared a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Adapted Screenplay with Paul Mazursky) and “Fletch Lives” (1989). To learn more about Leon, visit his website at www.lcapetanos.com
The Time Box will be available from Baker & Taylor, Follett Library Services, YBP, Brodart, and Ingram Book Distributors.
The Time Box
I HAD A DREAM the other night. I was floating out among the stars and planets. I didn’t have on a space suit so far as I could tell. I was just floating, freer and lighter than when I’m in the water. I felt there were others with me but I couldn’t see them because they were behind me. I could hear some whispers and a couple of laughs. I wasn’t scared. I was enjoying myself. I did a flip turn and then I could look back at the Earth. It was beautiful and the bright moon was over it. Then I noticed that I was speeding away from it. The Earth was getting smaller and smaller. I suddenly wondered where was I going? And just as I was getting queasy from the question in my head, I woke up.
My name is Thomas Adkins Johnson. You can call me Tommy. Adkins is my mother Claire’s last name before she got married. My dad is Rick Stanley John- son. I’m twelve years old but I turn thirteen in about a week. I can’t wait to be thirteen. I’ll be a real teenager then. Being what people call a “tween” is the worst. You’re just in some kind of holding pattern, or what Catholics like my friend Mignon call purgatory.
As you may or may not know, Johnson is the sec- ond most popular last name in the USA. That’s after Smith, which, of course, is number one. Go look in your local phone book (if you can find one) and see how many Johnsons there are. Even in my small city, there are pages and pages of Johnsons and quite a few Thomas or Tom or Tommy or Tommi or T John- sons. Get on Facebook. See how that works out. Seven hundred thousand so far for Tommy J. So I have an ordinary name and it makes me feel kind of ordinary. Because of my initials, some of my friends (basically Kareem) call me Taj, which I kind of like.
I envy people with unique names. One of my good friends is Micky Boonaling. His mother and father are from Thailand. Micky’s a math whiz and really a silly, nice person. Just think. They are the only Boonalings in our phone book. Another friend of mine is Maria Papadopoulos. Her family has a restaurant downtown, The Acropolis. They probably never get the wrong mail or the wrong phone calls or emails. She says in Greece Papadopoulos isn’t a rare name, but it is here. My friend Kareem has a normal last name, Brooks, but he has a cool first name, which means “generous” in Arabic, or so he told me.
Some people have really interesting names. My favorite was a girl who was born on an airplane go- ing to Germany, where her dad was in the army. Lufthansa Jenkins. We were friends in the fourth grade. I called her Lufti. My other good friends are: David Ryan, who has red hair and is a real prank- ster; Jacob Meyer, who knows some serious jokes; and Mignon Eubanks who I mentioned before. She’s a girl. You might say she’s my girlfriend, but in a cas- ual way. (At least that’s the way it was.)
Mignon is a unique name. The only “mignon” I ever heard of was on the menu at Sullivan’s Steak House: filet mignon. Turns out (well, I looked it up on the Internet), “mignon” in French means “cute” or “nice” or “delicate.” And she’s sort of that. She has delicate features I’d say, grey-blue eyes and pale skin. Her hair is black as a crow’s feathers. She’s nice but on the soccer field she’s a real competitor and she’s not delicate there.
Once Mignon told me she thinks she has African blood somewhere in her past generations. Her fam- ily’s originally from Louisiana, and she says most people down there have a drop of African in their DNA. Speaking of this, my friend Kareem is an Afri- can American, but to be honest, I don’t like that term, “African American.” It just seems so long and clumsy. Say it: “African American.” It’s so fancy, so ooh la la. Too stiff. Doesn’t match somehow. One day Kareem and I agreed on this. So we invented a new way of saying it quickly. Double A, like the bat- teries. So if we’re describing somebody—like the new guy, Lawrence Jennings—we say, Lawrence is a stocky Double A guy. That’s how we use it.
Anyway, all this is beside the facts of the story I need to tell. This whole year has been full of important events and what teachers call “challenges.” Good and bad challenges.
They can be sad or happy or a mixture of both.
I guess I should describe myself. I have sandy brown hair and blue eyes like my mother. I’m about a normal height for my age and I’m not fat or skinny. Almost everything about me seems average. I’m not great at sports. I did play some football last fall but I was a reserve in the line. This year I found a sport I really liked: cross country. I couldn’t play football this year, because they share the same season.
I’m not the fastest on my team, but I do have en- durance, especially running in the woods or over the hillsides. I don’t think I would have the same endur- ance if I was running around on the track, round and round like a hamster in a wheel. I usually finish in the middle of the pack with my team. My times are getting better, which keeps me positive for practice. (I don’t want to be huffing at the rear.) But what I really like is the feeling you have, running out in na- ture. You feel like you’re getting somewhere, travel- ing, and that the air you’re breathing is sweeter somehow. The light is always changing through the leaves and the moving clouds. You hear the birds singing and the squirrels dashing through the brush. And you have time to think about stuff in your life, which I have been doing more and more of these last months. Some days I run on my own down a green- way along the creek near my house. There are a few regulars on the greenway. An old man on a big bike. A large woman who jogs in a trash bag. A couple walking their little dog.
Anyway, there’s always baseball in the spring. Coach Wrenn says I have good hand-eye coordina- tion, which seems to be essential in baseball. The main thing is I like baseball. The grass. The smack of the ball in your glove. So that’s a little summary.
Of course, things change all the time. Last year, in sixth grade, I only thought about regular stuff: school and vacations, sports and gaming and what girl I liked, etcetera. But this year that all changed. The change started with a fall field trip to Chapel Hill, the home of the University of North Carolina. The Tar Heels are my favorite team. Mignon pulls for Duke, but I think she does that just to annoy me.