“This is the last transmission we received sir,” General Moberly informed the President.
“I feel so immature, but if you must know, my last thoughts here are of the ending of the most recent War of the Worlds film. The one with TC. You know the part I’m talking about, right? The part when nature does what man couldn’t do. Yep, that’s what I’m thinking about right now. It’s kind of funny really. Three nine-month one-way trips to a distant planet. Three successful landings. And we’ve been here for six years, nearly thriving. All twelve of us. And now this.
“No, it’s not martians that are going to wipe us out. No, it’s not bacteria. No, it’s not a lack of supplies. What’s killing us is an asteroid that’s arriving in a few minutes. Of course, it’s not going to hit us directly. Instead of a nice clean death, we’re being told that we’ll see it, feel the Mars shake beneath our feet, and then within minutes the aftermath of debris and shock-wave will rip apart everything we’ve worked so hard to build. First, the dust will erode the domes, then our suits, then our skin, and finally our bones. Apparently the cosmos doesn’t like us humans squatting wherever we damn well please. Well, I say fuck the cosmos. Sorry ma. But whoever’s listening needs to know that everyone here knew the risks and is content with this end. Don’t stop exploring. You can’t let this change anything.
“Okay, this is it. Wow. It’s so bright. I didn’t expect it to be for another two-minutes. I’m sorry for everything! I don’t want to die!”
“Is that it?” asked the President, “Everyone’s dead? The base is destroyed?”
“Well, then. It seems to me there’s only one thing to do,” the President continued.
“What’s that sir?”
“We’re going to honor their wishes. Get me NASA. And schedule a press conference. We’re going to Mars.”
People don’t remember that twenty years ago the first minivans had two bench seats. And just one sliding door. And no TV screens. Worse yet, the speed limits were slower. Road trips, coast-to-coast family vacations took longer. It was quite miserable having to spend time with your family.
Only then came bucket seats. And CD players. And space. And younger brothers. Soon, everyone sat in their own seat.
But there were occasionally short moments, usually right after a sack lunch at a rest area, when the trip would become bearable. And in those moments, the family played car games that involved talking to each other. Single words became phrases and phrases became conversations. Conversations, of course, became love. And love blossomed into memories.
A simple, yet fun, way to prolong the sugar high was a game where players had to name cities which began with the last letter of the previous city. Bismark, led to Kansas City, which led to Yorkshire, to Edmonton and so on and so forth.
Anyone who has played this game can remember that after a few rounds, everyone seemed always to get stuck on cities that ended in “y”. Not the youngest brother. Receiving New York City, he quickly returned Yukon. Oklahoma City became Yonkers, and Sioux City led to Yorba Linda. Wait, what? Yorba Linda? How did Sam know Yorba Linda?
As one, father, mother, sister, and brother all turned back to see how he was doing it.
Looking up towards the silence, young Sam feigned ignorance to the rules of the game as he closed the giant road atlas and its alphabetical index.
That reminds me. The first minivans didn’t have GPS either.
“Relapses were inevitable,” he told himself. Everyone knew this, and he figured people would understand. It was only his inner circle that knew he was an addict anyhow.
And as much as he wanted to point a finger at her for causing the relapse, he couldn’t blame her. He wanted to. But he wouldn’t. She just wanted to have fun. What did she know?
He also wanted to blame work. Why did they have to give him two days off in a row? And in the winter? It’s like they had set him up for failure.
He had been clean for nine years. Nine years. Of course he missed it every single one of those days. Technically, he still was on the wagon. “Technically. Ha!” he laughed. He knew all about technically. No, he had fallen off the wagon–no “technically” about it.
It did feel amazing though. The rush. He could sense his blood flowing throughout his body as if it was reporting constantly that the journey was amazing–all while surrounded by a crowd of people. Wow. Naturally, he hid his high from everyone, avoiding any unwanted judgement, though deep down he knew that they all saw a man who was trying to pretend like he wasn’t high.
His primary thought then turned to money. Like any addiction, his had a price, and an expensive one at that. “Yep, I know it’s shameful, but I’ll just ask my parents for the money. Flat out. No lying this time. I’m just going to tell them what it’s for and if they love me, they’ll understand and help me,” he reasoned.
“Hello?” said the voice on the other end of the call.
“Mom, it’s me.”
“Are you alright?”
“Sure, yeah. Well, no. That’s what I’m calling about,” he said, forcing an undignified voice.
“What is it? You know I hate when you call like this.”
“You know how I took H-, your granddaughter who misses you very much, to the mountains yesterday to go tubing? Well, I saw people skiing and I couldn’t control myself. I need money to ski. The season’s nearly a quarter over, so it shouldn’t be too much, and of course you and dad are invited to come out and ski with me any time you want as well. Ballpark figure, I think that only $2000 should cover me, equipment and all.”
“Mom? You there?” he asked, looking at the screen only to see the call had ended. “I can’t believe she hung up. She never did love me. I guess I should’ve seen this coming. I don’t know why I punish myself. I should have just called the ol’ softy first anyhow. Besides being a true believer, everyone knows the man can’t say no to anyone.”
“Dad. Father. How’s it going? Are the Cubs still looking strong next season? Say, I’ve got this favor to ask…”
Rock Gods Metallica just became the first band to perform live on all seven continents last week. Adding icing to the cake, they accomplished this enormous feat within the last calendar year. However, the news isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. Without stating its intentions, a private polling organization released survey results which strain credulity, and frankly, are depressing.
736 randomly selected participants, ages 13-25, were given the following information and question: “Metallica just performed on on Antarctica. This means they have performed on all seven continents in 2013. What is a continent?”
- 13% answered “I don’t know”
- 36% answered “Something in space; like an asteroid, I think. Metallica sure is crazy”
- 19% answered “It’s another word for country”
- 32% answered “One of the main landmasses on the globe, usually reckoned as seven in number (Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, North America, Australia and Antarctica).
More surprising than the fact that more participants thought a continent was an off-earth body is that these young people never learned that the longest answer is usually the right one.
Nevertheless, “you can’t keep a good dog down” as they say, and the older Metallica fans are lifting themselves out of these findings’ mild depression by reminding themselves that over the last 22 years Metallica’s Black Album is the “highest-selling record in the U.S., period.”
Lockheed Martin just signed on to the Mars One mission.
Mars One has pushed the landing date to 2025, two years later than the original 2023.
The mission got legitimized and stigmatized in the same breath. That’s life.
Still no news on who was chosen for round two. They’re supposed to let people know yes or no by the end of the year. What do you think? I really wanted this group to have their stuff together, but that seems like it was asking a bit much at the moment. Oh well. That they have Lockheed Martin really does break the fall from the date sliding.
Cross your fingers for me being selected for round two. Can you even imagine?
Well, I’ll tell ya. Working at a car wash–for me–is like listening to a broken record on which is recorded Mr. Miagi’s “Wax on, Wax off,” Improved-George McFly’s “Now, Biff, I want make sure that we get two coats of wax this time, not just one,” and Chris Rock’s “Scrape, scrape, scrape…surely two hours have passed…WHAT?! Only 15 minutes!! AHHHHHH!!!!!”
In other words, it’s kinda fun. Thanks for asking.
Like any pilot, he feared hospitals. Any fool knew the buildings themselves were stable and not prone to injure their inhabitants, so he knew his fear must have been generated by something inside the buildings. It was. For this pilot, the doctor was the root of the fear. The doctor was the one person who could take away, without him having any say, what he worked so hard to achieve–the wonder of flight.
He couldn’t help but notice that his fear was never lonely. The other pilots feared the doctor too. More than that, he noticed that even some civilians feared entering those sterile buildings and visiting this flesh expert. “But what would give the civilians pause?” he wondered, now distracted by the thought. Quick as lightening, the horrible truth revealed itself: doctors were omnipotent.
He wondered if they knew. Perhaps they did, then again perhaps they didn’t. Prior experience told him that this wasn’t exactly the kind of information that should be shared lightly. Who could he tell? If doctors didn’t know their power, upon being told, they might begin to abuse it. But if they did know? Wow. What a benevolent group of individuals they were!
More than soldiers, more than policemen, more than politicians, more than clergy, it is doctors that hold this life ransom.
“Take this,” they say, knowing full well its a crap-shoot.
“Do that,” they command, never feeling resistance.
“You’ll live,” they pronounce so matter-of-factly that the recipient of even the worst boo-boo’s spirit is lifted.
“You’re going to die,” they deliver, never betraying whether this is good news or bad.
Truly more powerful than the caped crusader himself, these lab-coated demigods hold all of life’s keys. With a sure-grip they hold humanity’s heart in their stable hands. And yet they choose not to squeeze too tightly.
He realized, then, that it’s okay to be afraid. But he knew he should also be grateful. He should be grateful that these quiet professionals choose to meekly implement their duties with reserve. He wouldn’t allow himself to consider the other option; it was too terrible.
So go on being afraid, it’s justified. Just the same, never forget to thank the doctor.
He hadn’t flown in a couple of years now, but it was time to renew his flight instructor certificate. The process involved reviewing a series of lessons and special interest items before taking quizzes to demonstrate mastery of the material.
As he didn’t really plan on flying again, he was doing this strictly to “be prepared.” He had worked hard to get the certification, and didn’t want to lose it if he didn’t have to. Who knew? Maybe he’d change his mind in the future. Regardless, the point is that he reviewed the data with curiosity, rather than practical application. The thing about aviation, the thing which he loved–and missed–the most, was the dedication of all involved to “doing it right.”
The noteworthy finding this time was the conclusion that overrunning the end of the runway on a botched takeoff is safer than trying to force an aircraft to fly. He loved it. What a metaphor! You see, he knew that a major reason pilots would choose to force an aircraft to fly was to save face. That’s it. Overrunning the runway on takeoff will inevitably lead to embarrassment–though likely not much else. And if there has ever been a group of individuals who would rather die than suffer embarrassment, it is pilots.
As he knew, as the reader knows, forcing the metaphorical aircraft to fly in grounded-life won’t cause death. But it does cause drama. And who among us doesn’t know someone who would rather create drama, than suffer embarrassment? He tallied how many times in recent memory he tried to “force the aircraft to fly.” How many times had he crashed and burned in life because he didn’t want to suffer the embarrassment that would have followed if he would’ve just put on the brakes and let his momentum peter out?
He’s asking us, “How many relationships could be deepened–or healed–if we made the decision to “overrun the runway” every once in a while?”
It happened back in the early 2000s. He couldn’t remember the year exactly, but for some reason he remembered seeing a PT Cruiser drive by when she said it. They were eating at a restaurant, him and his woman. She had just spilled some food on her favorite pair of pants. He was not surprised. Hell–by this time detergent companies had specifically developed pen-size on-the-go cleaner in an effort to save relationships. And on this occasion his girlfriend said, “What’s the point of trying to not spill if I have a Tide-stick in my purse? They work wonders!” Unintended consequences as they are, the invention of Tide-sticks resulted in women, his girlfriend included, becoming more daring while eating.
What happened next was unbelievable. Women everywhere just gave up on trying to not spill while eating. At first this was all silly. He would even find himself laughing at all the funny ways women would splink. Splinking–that’s what they called it. Women would intentionally miss their mouth in the most nonsensical situation possible and capture the result on camera. Like planking and duckface before it, the photrend caught on quickly. In the first month, the major social media players actually shutdown for an entire day because of the unexpected traffic. People weren’t laughing for very long though. What no one seemed to notice was that women weren’t eating as much food anymore. Weren’t-eating-as-much-food, quickly became weren’t-eating-enough-food. Sadly, unable to resist the Western-trend, the third world suffered the initial blow. Never had the planet seen such merciless loss of life. Inevitably, all eyes turned upward.
Make no mistake, God was aware of the situation. He just hadn’t exactly prepared for this. Finally, Michael spoke up.
“I have an idea.”
“All these eons, I’ve trusted in your infinite wisdom. Specifically, I tried to never complain that you gave the humans hands, while we only got wings. But with the situation they’ve got themselves into down there, I can’t stand idly by anymore. It’s time God. Give us–your messengers of mercy–hands. With hands we’ll be able to answer their prayers.”
“I don’t think I follow.”
“Here’s how it’ll work. We’ll be waiting and watching for the female humans to take a bite. Then, as the food falls we’ll fly in and reach out, with our new additional appendages, to save the falling food. In that same instant, we’ll return it to the plate and they’ll never know we intervened. After a couple miraculous interventions, they’re sure to catch on. It’s the only way.”
In the next moment Michael and the other heralds were happily dashing around the planet using their new hands to ensure women reached satiation.
He thought enough time had passed, so he finally delivered his joke, “You know hon…I always said it would take an act of God for a woman to eat a meal without spilling.”
He was wrong.
This was it. His last day on the job. He’d waited, mostly patiently, for years to be able to quit as he pleased, and now he’d done it twice in one year. How does it feel? Remember Owen Wilson’s description of the ratio between excitement and scared in Armageddon? Nothing like that.
His life had been so planned up until this year that he still couldn’t believe how relieved this all felt. He just wanted to drink it up.
The great joy of the journey. What was going to happen next? He had some inklings, but no real vision. Honestly, while he had narrowed down his professional joys, he knew just one thing above all. He knew he was tired of trying to convince people of his value with his voice. Experience as his mentor, he was learning that the great thing about self-respect and dignity is that they are heavy enough to squash self-doubt.
How would it all turn out? That is what he longed to know. Emerson wrote about what it must have been like three days before Columbus and his crew discovered America. That day embodied the peak of excitement. That day exemplified the joy of living. Intuition caused him to identify with the sentiment as he read those words years ago. Now, experience was teaching him the full truth of it.