It was bedtime, Boogi was in a rowdy mood. “I will crush you all!” he roared like a giant, as he stomped all over his bed.
“Go to sleep, or else!” his Mum’s voice came through the wall. Boogi’s sister, Bonnie, just smiled. He could be as crazy as he wanted. It was always like free television to her.
“I am a giant…” he insisted, in a whisper, so as Mum couldn’t hear.
“I know,” Bonnie grinned, looking dreamily at the ceiling. “It’s just a shame the rest of the world is giant, too.”
Then, she noticed something tucked into the end of her bed. “An invitation…?” she said.
“Hey!” Boogi yelped. “I’ve got one, too!”
There’s a race, it said.
If you have the right imagination, it said,
and are at the right age, it said,
it unlocks doors, it said.
You are cordially invited to The Imagination Race!
“Woh, sounds fancy,” said Boogi.
“Quick, read the back for details…” Bonnie gushed. This was great.
“A… poem?” Boogi squawked. “Brrrr!”
The race between the cracks of facts, will once again soon start.
Bring your oil drums, watermelons,
your crazy ideas
and little billycarts.
The only rule, is find your own way there.
And if you see the unusual,
so are you to them – please try not to stare.
Bonnie was a dreamer, before she could have time to think too much, she walked through the attic door, and reappeared somewhere else.
“Oh, it’s like that, is it?” Boogi protested, grabbed their bath, and dragged it through the wall, without so much as a ripple, and was also gone.
“This… is… amazing…!” little Bonnie said.
“I’ll say!” Boogi boomed, standing in their bath.
“What did you bring that for?” Bonnie protested.
“Well it’s a race, isn’t it?” Boogi said. “It was all I had time to grab.”
“I wonder what’s going on?” Bonnie asked.
“I dunno,” Boogi replied. “There was a manual with my invitation, but I didn’t bring it.”
“Yeah, it’s more fun this way.”
Boogi and Bonnie were on a what looked like a savannah plain, full of long, tall pale people, and little angry people, and skeletons wearing space helmets, and tribal Africans from 1654. Each of them tinkering with light beam spanners, chicken claws, stereo systems, working on their racing vehicles – if you could call them that.
“Look,” Boogi gasped, pointing to some rock’n’roll dudes preparing to race using a jukebox propelled by Elvis tunes…
“That’s nothing…” said Bonnie, breathlessly, pointing to a rhino in a long canoe.
Beside them was a vessel made out of fine watch parts. “One billon gears and cogs,” its owner, a clock maker, politely said.
“What propels it?” Bonnie asked.
“Wasted time,” the man smiled.
“Gah! We’re giving him fuel to beat us!” Boogi said.
Bonnie just scratched her head.
“What are we going to propel our bath with?” Boogi asked.
“Okay, here’s the thing…” Bonnie mused. “I suspect there is some sort of science involved. See over there?” She pointed to a bushman making a motor of exquisite detail, pistons, fan belts, everything, from carved wood. The timber of his long cart seemed to breath. “That is… I dunno… of him. If he just wished for a rocket, or tried to imagine it or something… well, that’s just silly. But he is a bushman, and the cart is of him and what he knows. I bet it grows in the direction he wants to go. Something like that.”
“Oh,” Boogi said.
“I think that’s why those fairy-like creatures have a pod made of dreams,” Bonnie thought aloud.
“Guessing so,” Boogi huffed, scratching lines in the sand. “But, what are we experts in?”
“Not much,” Bonnie mumbled, lowering her head.
They both thought.
“Well, I know the things I don’t like,” Boogi said.
“Maths!” Bonnie cheered.
“Being told what to do!”
“Except when there’s pillow fights!”
“Being told off for pillow fights!”
“Haha, you run from those things!” Bonnie laughed.
Boogi walked around their bath, framed by a background aliens with giraffe heads, a platoon of teenaged soldiers sick of war, a politician in a polling booth about to be carried by volunteer helpers, bees in a hive propelled by their collective mind, and babies steering cots with ABC blocks.
“Maybe… try steering using the hot and cold taps, Sis” Boogi thought aloud. “And I’ll stand at the back and do maths and spout bad poetry, which will try and push away from me, but I’ll be holding the tub. So we will push away from them.”
“I don’t believe it!” Bonnie yipped.
“I know,” Boogi winced. “Full-on. But it just might work.”
“No, that you can think something through! Amazing!”
Bonnie adjusted the taps, while Boogi practiced bad poetry and maths.
“I wonder what first prize is?” Bonnie thought aloud.
“I bet it’s loads of cash!” Boogi said.
“Hey, look… That man over there… I’m sure that’s our local butcher?” Bonnie winced her eyes.
Boogi looked around. “Wait, there…” he pointed through the crowd. “I think I see that kid who sells newspapers near our house.”
Then, Bonnie’s jaw dropped. She whispered, unsure: “Way over to our left… behind the elephants and wrestlers, in front of the mutant Neanderthals… Isn’t that Dad?”
A weird little announcer stepped up on a podium. It had three eyes, two floating above it, held a microphone to a wombat, and the wombat’s voice appeared in everyone’s heads.
“Welcome, start your engines. For those that have been here before, thank you for your help once more. Now lets race.”
There was a loud SHOOM! Dust! Suddenly. Boogi and Bonnie realised there were only about 50 contestants left.
“Wha…? Did we miss the start?” Bonnie asked.
“Where were the fireworks?” Boogi sooked.
“Let’s GO!” Bonnie shouted, twisting the taps.
“Wait. I have to warm up first. Mi, mi, mi… One potato, two potato…” Boogi hummed.
Bonnie noticed a man still standing next to them. He was whispering ideas into his cupped-together hands. Each whisper squeezed out between the small gaps in his interlocked fingers, lifting him that bit higher. His ideas were his energy source, and his body was his vehicle.
He’ll never win anything… but how cool… she thought.
“TWO PLUS TWO EQUALS FIVE!” Boogi shouted.
They held on for dear life as maths tried to push Boogi as far away from itself as possible, and ZOOM, they were off!
“Big socks rocks
when the moon stops
and flops and pops for the diddy-wops…” Boogi rhymed.
His poetry was the worst! So bad they found themselves catching the rest of the pack.
“Something’s not right, ” Bonnie said, twisting the cold tap for left, the hot for right. “We should be further back than this.”
But that was nothing. The man with cupped-together hands was moving as slowly as a Sunday stream, yet was even further ahead. Suddenly, there was a flash, and a boom, and the bathtub passed through a door in space. The savannah was gone, they were arching through rocky peeks.
“Wha…?” said Boogi, dodging springs and sprockets falling off the hippo’s vehicle – an abandoned school bus.
“What’s even powering that?” Bonnie shouted, dodging as they rounded a never-ending bend, this way and the other.
“Good food and big farts,
get a hippo off to a mighty start,
but alas, it all soon falls apart,
wen, uh, art, wart, cart, um, jam tart…?” Bobby rhymed.
He was so bad, they passed a rabbit sitting in a top hat, pushed forward by the ohs and ahhs of a magician’s crowd, a little girl in a basket, releasing small sounds she’d trapped in jars – a tear hitting the ground, the first leaf to catch a new breeze, the sigh of a sad child.
They bumped into and bounced off Johnny Rocket, who looked a million, billion dollars from far away, but up close his rocket was just painted cardboard. There was a Chinese lady on an origami tiger, facing backwards, singing to dragons.
FLASH! They went through another door.
Boogi looked around “Surely, this place isn’t what I think it is…?” he gasped. The bathtub began to plummet towards a never-ending landscape of grey dust and creators, fast.
“Boogi! Don’t talk! Quick! Do more bad maths!” Bonnie screamed. Fortunately, bad maths was the only type Boogi knew.
“Six squared equals I don’t know! Five divided by seven equals go to heaven! Five times five equals five-tee-five!” he blabbered.
Zoom! They were near the front again.
“Funny, but I don’t even know where we’re racing,” Bonnie pondered. “What if we race to the front, how will we know where to go?”
“You don’t get it, do you?” a voice scoffed. It was the man with the cupped-together hands and ideas for motion. “This race has no real direction, not as you know it,” he said, as another door appeared, and they found themselves racing ahead of an underground train.
Just then a gorilla in a crate, powered by throwing its poo at tourists, lunged at the bathtub! The race for some creatures, it seemed, was deadly serious! The gorilla swung again. Bonnie began to scream. Boogi yelped. The bathtub dipped beneath its arm.
Bonnie was really scared. If they fell at this speed, either of them, or both, could die.
Suddenly the threat of death was real. Everything was real. Too real. The bathtub began to sputter and jerk. The gorilla swung again.
“No, no,” the man with cupped hands sighed at it. “Violence is the death of imagination. Use the logic of the race. Just pull out their bath plug…”
The gorilla reached over. Bonnie bit its arm as hard as she could, but still, its fingers got closer.
“Hey, be nice to my little girl,” a voice said, and Bonnie turned to see her father beside them, racing a barbeque propelled by the smell of burnt corn fritters.
“Hey, hey gorilla, what do you do?
Hey, hey gorilla these acts don’t befit you!
Don’t act like you were born in a zoo.
If you’re in this race, then you must dream too.
Don’t do it, don’t do it,
whatever you do.
The good, the bad, on the other shoe,
Soon someone will be slinging
their poo at you.
if you can keep pace,
will see you
barred from this place.
Hey, hey, gorilla, whatever you do…”
Dad finished singing his barbeque song while poking at his burnt fritters, beer in his other hand. He didn’t even look at the gorilla as it fell, beaten by someone with more imagination that it. Slowed by music into forgetting to fling poo. Even the tourists dissipated.
“Dad!” Bonnie moaned, as they continued to rocket along. “Why are you so casual, we could have died.”
Dad leaned over to get more coals for his barbie, revealing his bum crack.
“Sorry, my vehicle is propelled by the smell of burnt corn fritters, which are symbolic of a lazy attitude, honey. If I break character, I fall.”
“Did you just kill that gorilla?” Bonnie asked, a tear in her eye.
“No, he just fell back to where he came from. Everything’s groovy,” Dad said, putting onions on the grill, and turning on his small portable telly to get the footy scores.
“But… I mean… what the…?” Bonnie sputtered.
Dad sighed, and kicked back on his banana lounge, letting the fritters burn even more. He scratched his bum crack and farted at the same time!
“Dad, disgusting!” Bonnie moaned.
“I know what you’re thinking, honey: 8 billion people on Earth, plus animals – what are the odds – your Dad here? Imagination is often inherited, at least a little bit. Remember all those nights other families were watching telly, and we were in the backyard, just looking at the stars? Not saying much, just looking at space, imagining all sorts of stuff? Great times…” he gave a lazy burp and raised his beer. “Yep. I’ve been in this race LOTS of times…”
SHLOOK! They passed through another door. Wherever they were, the wind was now blowing hard.
“Hmph,” Dad shrugged, trying to shield the barbeque’s flames, while spilling his beer and accidentally flicking his telly to infomercials all at the same time. “This might be the end of my race…”
“But I have so many questions…” Bonnie called, as the barbeque flames flickered out and Dad started to trail behind.
“Relax, Honey! You’ll figure it out!” Dad called after her. “Your imagination’s great. You’ve already skipped a door or two. You’re right near the front.”
“Just don’t forget how important this is!”
Dad’s voice was really far away, now, small. Like someone calling his mate from down the block to come over for a feed and backyard cricket. ”Of course it’s important, the Earth depends on you winning!” he shouted. “Didn’t you read the manual that came with your invitation?”
And with that, Dad’s voice, farting, and the smell of burnt corn fritters were finally taken by the wind.
Bonnie and Boogi were lost. They hadn’t seen another racer for what felt like hours.
Boogi’s face was turning blue. He needed a rest. He slowly mumbled to a stop and they landed on a bumpy patch of rock and bush outside a forest of giant trees.
Boogi leaned over the bathtub edge, heaving in air.
Bonnie smiled. Her brother hadn’t interrupted, shouted, or told a stupid fart joke since the race started. He couldn’t! It was perfect.
“How long have we been racing?” he wheezed.
“According to my watch, about… ten minutes!”
“No way…” Boogi gasped. “Help…!”
“I guess that’s imagination for you,” Bonnie thought aloud. “Time has no meaning.”
“If time has no meaning, we could be stuck here forever!” Boogi protested.
“I doubt it. Still, you should have read than manual,” Bonnie grinned a little. “I wonder what Dad meant by saving the Earth?”
“Maybe the winner gets to fight dragons!” Boogi goggled his eyes. “Yeah, let’s fight dragons!”
“I dunno. Why would Dad race, then? I couldn’t see him bothering to fight a garbage bin.”
“Well, whatever. But when we win, I still want my treasure!” Boogi huffed.
Bonni couldn’t see Dad too worried about money, either. She took the moment to think: If time had no meaning, they could re-enter the race and still win. It must be about how fast you go when racing, she guessed.
The better your ideas, the more logical they are – according to your own logic – the faster you seemed to go.
Eventually, pushing their bathtub along, Boogi and Bonnie came across some other racers around a campfire. One look at their wagon circle of vehicles and she knew, like Boogi was out of breath, each one of them had lost cogs, ideas, confidence. They were all down on parts.
“I remember one race,” a tall Arabian man said to the rest. “I was on my moped-“
“What’s that?” the little boy who sells newspapers asked.
“Like a baby motorbike. In Egypt I am a postman. It was powered by the smell of my mother’s cooking, dragging me forward. She has since died. Now it is powered by my fear of dogs. But as I was saying, there was this one race where the doors took me through…”
Bonnie listened, Bonnie listened, as they told story after story, which reminded each other of more stories, that lead to stories.
“Hey, it’s YOU!” Boogi growled.
The man with the cupped-together hands smiled.
“It is,” he said.
“You tried to stop us?” Bonnie replied, as if it was a question.
“I did,” the man smiled more. “Non-violently, with an idea. It IS a race.”
“I don’t get it,” Bonnie confessed. “You never go fast, or seem in a rush, yet you’re always near the front. What kind of ideas do you whisper into your hands, anyway?”
The man bent down, to be right in Bonnie’s face.
“Theories of time and space,” he grinned, smugly.
“But…” Bonnie thought.
“But, that’s science!”
The man laughed! He laughed and laughed. “Of course it is…!” he said. “Then he cupped his hands together again, whispered into them; “E=Mc2…” and was away once more, mumbling into a gap in his interlocked fingers about the speed of light.
“Quick, Boogi!” Bonnie shouted. “We have to leave! I know what this race is about now! That man would have built this fire! These stops are a trap!”
“I’d love to go, Sis,” Boogi said. “But he stole our plug.”
“So, what’s your big theory?” Boogi moaned. He was sick of dragging the bathtub through the giant trees. “Why don’t we just give up on this race?”
“We CAN’T!” Bonnie pleaded. “I figured out why the man with the cupped hands is so good. The best science totally depends on imagination! So does the best maths! To be able to picture things, and ideas, no-one has ever thought of, and then use maths and science to make them make sense! The best books need imagination, the best parents! That’s why Dad was in the race, and that big, smelly garbage truck driver, and the little kid, and the hippos and gorillas. The dreamers, who imagine better places, more amazing things, new stuff to do. Imagination keeps the world spinning!” she said.
“It makes the sun rise, and the moon orbit! It makes the rain fall. It puts ideas into heads. It keeps us moving forward, it keeps us alive! Monkeys, come out of those trees!” she yelled. “Learn how to plant food, have the imagination to invent wheels and fire and walk on your hind legs! Dream of building homes!”
“Well, aren’t we the thinker…” Boogi huffed, as he pushed the bathtub into another tree. “Ouch.”
“Dad was right. If we don’t just imagine, but dream, everything will stop!”
“So the people at the camp fire…”
“They’re talking too much about the past. They’ll never push ahead again.”
“Gahhh…” Boogi wailed. “This is all too much. Can’t you just find me some dragons to fight?”
“No, no, that’s an old idea. Obvious. Make it new, give it air…” Bonnie said.
“Oh. Uh…” Boogi thought. “Dragons are ancient, maybe one or two of them could help me learn maths?”
“That’s it…” Bonnie smiled, as a sight breeze began to rise through the giant tree trunks. “Think new thoughts…”
“Maybe dragons have languages that are older than time,” Boogi thought. “Maybe… Maybe they can use the heat of their flame to make tree bark twist and bend into words only they can notice, that form stories that only they can read!”
“I don’t get it?” Bonnie said.
Boogi was really flowing with his thoughts now.
“Think about it – maybe, to like, say, a caveman, our writing would just scribble on a flat, white surface. They wouldn’t even know what it was. So, what if… What if the bark on the trees all around us, is just bark to us, but… What if the bark of each giant trunk, to dragons, reads like a book!?”
“Shaped, over centuries, by warm dragon breath…” Bonnie said, looking around in awe.
Then breeze picked up more, becoming a gentle push, that tilted the bath onto its top end. It stood on its head, like a hanging chair, taps near the ground, its plug-end in the air, catching a wind that almost felt like dragon’s breath…
Steering through the trees was tricky. The bathtub was still on its head. Bonnie was down the bottom, controlling the taps, Boogi was standing on her shoulders, talking through the plughole, sending them forward again. But they couldn’t go fast. Every time they did, there would be another giant tree, and they crashed.
Boogi spouted more bad poetry through the plughole. The bath lurched forward.
“Look out!” Bonnie shouted, as they grazed past a man wearing a grannie’s red hood, as he snuck through the trees, shadow to shadow, as if he was a wolf.
“That was so close! We almost hit him!” Bonnie gasped with relief. “It’s impossible to see what’s about when we go quick. Why don’t you try good poetry? It might not push away from us so fast. I don’t want to kill anybody.”
“Or crash again,” Boogi said, then tried to clear his head.
Good poetry? This would take thought – Not his strong point! The desire to grow, be better, through imagination.
Grrr. Boogi hated it when brainy people wanted him to be brainy, too! He cleared his throat, and spoke into the plughole:
Oh, strange man get out of the way,
don’t go splat, don’t die, don’t stain.
Don’t stain you, your clothes,
my sister and me,
the spot on the ground
where we hit,
keep being free.
A stain like that,
Death on my hands,
how do I wash that out?
Surely, it would just grow,
cover my head, my heart.
Cover my family, who love me,
cover my teachers,
who might think they’ve failed.
Become a pool I might fall in,
Keep your stain to yourself,
yourself out of our way.
Let’s all be
whole and unbroken,
be warm, be safe,
our bows unbloodied,
by the ripples of our days.
The bathtub slowly steered around trees, Bonnie turning cold tap, turning hot tap, happily confused. A smart brother? That could take getting used to, she thought.
Boogi and Bonnie were out of the trees. The bathtub felt like it was going faster than light! Bobby, now better at poetry, had moved onto song lyrics. He was the WORST at remembering them! Each tune pushed them away at frightening speed!
They passed racer after racer while flying above the pre-dawn streets of suburbia somewhere. Only the man with the cupped-together hands was in front of them now.
He dropped old ideas and pockets of tired logic as traps, words from documentaries everybody had seen before. The bathtub ducked and weaved around every one. Boogi was too busy singing horribly and spouting bad maths to be distracted, Bonnie was too focused on their goal.
The finish line was weird. It seemed to be more of an attitude, an idea that approached with the sunrise.
Whatever it was, they were almost there!
“Treasure…” Boogi whispered, as the man with cupped-together hands and they, in the bathtub, dove for the finish line…
There was a white flash of light! Boogi tumbled forward. He saw his sister tumbling, too, and the bathtub, and briefly caught a glimpse of the man with cupped hands, now held in celebration in the air.
Finally, they stopped rolling.
“We LOST!?” Boogi protested, having tumbled onto his head.
The race starter was there. “No, you won, very much so,” he said.
Up close he looked ordinary, like he only had two eyes, and it was all just a trick of the light.
He was puffing, as if he had been racing, too.
“There are several winners for each and every race. Anyone who grew, who with their improved imagination and dreams helped the world spin one more day. Dawn is the only finish line, and we all reach that!”
“So why race?’ Bonnie asked. She was also on her head.
“To test and challenge each other, to push to greater heights, to move forward!”
“Because racing is fun!” the boy who sold newspapers said.
“Wishy-washy,” Boogi protested. “We won. You said it! Where’s my treasure?”
“There…” the starter said, waving his hand on a new dawn. “You helped the world spin one more day,” he repeated.
Boogi was exhausted. He sat. Grumpy, sore, tired, he watched the sun rise. He thought. His sister gave him room.
Finally, he stated, with a grumph: “Well, if we get invited to race again, we’re gunna beat the man with cupped hands by a mile!”
The starter directed him to a storm drain. Boogi stepped down into it, but never hit the bottom. He was simply gone.
“That’s the spirit,” the starter said. “Through imagination we build.”
Bonnie walked into a curtain with no other side, vanishing from view. “And through dreams,” her happy voice faded, “we grow.”
Boogi sat up in bed.
“You know, I just had the weirdest dream,” he said.
“Me too, only it didn’t feel like a dream,” Bonnie agreed, tilting her head.
“What was yours about?”
“Oh! Er. Poop. I can’t remember! Yours…?” Bonnie asked.
Boogi thought hard, scratched his bum, just like his Dad. “I dunno. It’s fading… Dragon’s breath… something… a race…?” he tried real hard. “Nope. It’s gone. I hate that! They seem so real at the time.”
“Maybe it was real,” Bonnie said. “Maybe something amazing happened that your brain can’t quite explain.”
“Haha! My sister, always the dreamer,” Boogi laughed.
“My brother with the imagination,” Bonnie returned. “Well, if it’s worth remembering,” she smiled, “it will come to us again.”