Colin fills 3×5 index cards with imaginary planets, moons, and planetoids—the well-tooled cards hole-punched on one corner and clipped together with a plastic ring (no doubt his mother’s work). He presents the cards to me as a treasure. Flipping through more than forty names and descriptions, I see hints of Greek and Roman mythology, Star Wars, Narnia, Hayao Miyasaki films, Middle Earth, and, most of all, The Periodic Table of the Elements, this month’s obsession.
A few examples:
Xeno: A planetoid filled with widowed valleys and giant beehives.
YHer: A planet that is home to the toxic jungle.
Oxyg: A planet with restaurants and abandoned fairgrounds.
Dubn: A planet that was near Kolob until it exploded.
Boron 4: A planet filled with ancient ruins.
Sulfaro: A moon full of holes and grasslands.
Phosph: A planet with giant lightning storms and ghost towns.
Amonia: A world full of thick jungles and mushrooms.
Hydro: A planet with mostly mist swept swamps.
Seaborgi: A planet full of islands.
Sodi: A planet with five moons orbiting.
Stronti: A planet with water flooding the entire surface.
Alumi: A planet similar to earth.
And dozens more: Metathano, Andaea, Berelli, Argon, Polon, Thalli, Bismu. Chlor, Acidos, Vanad, Helip, Seleni, Tellur, Osmi, Tatorei, Noya, Potas, Nethon, Radi, Lithuo, Iod, Plati, and on it goes.
“That’s a lot of planets.” I tell him.
“I know dad. Let me tell you about Niobia, a planet filled with valleys . . .”
“Where does the name Niobia come from?” I ask.
“Dad, it’s like one of the transition metals.”
Colin takes the name of an element, cuts it in half, or adapts it to sound more like the name of a place. He doesn’t go too far with the element talk—crystal structures, atomic weights, boiling points, etc. Instead, he launches himself to these imagined worlds as if he stands on the surface and tells what he sees: lakes, giant tornados, floating cities, domes of craters, acidic canyons, planetoid rings, dusty moons nearby, streams, mushroom forests, rivers, mountains, crystal caves, misty valleys, haunted castles, oceans, coral reefs, meters of canyons, volcanoes, and spiky peaks. There are hot planets, colder-than-Antarctica planets, full-of-cities planets, deserted planets.
This boy makes words, creates worlds. So what if he talks a lot and too loud, or cries over a misplaced sock, occasionally interrupts the classroom, runs naked through the house after his bath, or laughs at an insult he mistakes for a joke. Or perhaps, it is no mistake at all.