By Tim Hayes
Neil turned his head as far as possible, although in this enormous suit and bubble helmet, admittedly that wasn’t very far. He wanted to get a good look, knowing he would be one of only three people to ever get so close.
Michael manned the controls, gauging pressure from the undercarriage, lowering the craft onto the dusty, shifting surface. Buzz remained unusually quiet. He had to pee like a racehorse, but didn’t want to ruin the moment. Way too much Tang on the way up here. He’d have to modulate that on the return trip in a couple of days.
Buckled and strapped in tight, the three pilots heard the crackling voices in their earphones coming from Texas, literally a world away. Just seconds to history, they felt the module settle onto the lunar surface for the first time. The date: July 20, 1969.
“Although, who knows what date it is up here?” Neil thought to himself. “Who knows what reality exists on this little gray rock? What is history to a place without people, without life? What’s waiting for us out there?”
“I get to do the flag! I get to do the flag!” Buzz reminded his crewmates, his urinary emergency of a few moments before, forgotten in the excitement of the landing.
“At least you two get to go outside – I have to stay in here the whole mission while you get to hog all the camera time, bouncing around, planting flags, saying all of your stupid rehearsed lines,” Michael scowled. “I ought to move this thing and park somewhere else while you’re off gallivanting like a couple of sailors on shore leave.”
“Whoa! Seriously? Shore leave? Are there chicks up here? Neil, did you know that? Mikey says they got chicks up here!” Buzz shouted. His need to pee really went away then.
Neil sighed. It was so difficult being the grownup on this trip. “Mike, we ready to open the hatch? Let’s get this show on the road.”
“Neil, remember – you get to go down the ladder first, but I get to stick the flag in,” Buzz reminded.
“Yes, Buzz. That was the deal. Don’t blow this for us, all right? Take it easy. The whole world’s watching us right now, so get a grip, will you please? Okay, Mike. Open the hatch.”
Down the ladder Neil climbed. “That’s one small step for man…one giant leap for mankind,” he said as his foot touched the surface. Next came Buzz, flag in hand, shouting, “I’m an astronaut and I’m here to say…we’re claiming this land for the USA!” – but they’d shut his microphone off. They’d heard him practicing that line for months at Cape Kennedy, and knew they could never let that particular stupidity make the history books.
Carefully scanning the board full of lights and knobs and readouts inside the module, Michael heard in his headset, “Hey Mikey! It’s incredible down here! Don’t you wish you could come too, Mr. Science? I just planted the flag! What have you been doing, besides playing with your slide rule, all alone! Ha, ha!”
Neil went about his business, collecting rock samples, surveying the surface, marveling at the stark cosmic beauty stretched out before him. And Buzz? He started hitting golf balls that never landed, laughing his head off. Then he jumped into the motorized Rover moon buggy, stuck an extra flag out the back, and kicked up enough dust to choke a horse. If you could get a horse up here, that is.
Neil watched the lunar lunacy unfolding before him and thought, “Screw this,” then used a private channel to talk with the module.
As Buzz whipped the Rover around the far end of an especially large crater, Neil started jumping. Startlingly high, long leaps that covered 50 yards of ground, over and over, until he had gone completely out of sight. At the same time, Michael shifted the module into low gear, got her to hover about five feet off the surface, and silently moved away four miles or so, to the agreed-to rendezvous point.
Buzz caromed around a craggy stalagmite, then took the Rover deep into the bowl of a huge crater. As he hit the gas to come up the other side and back onto level ground, the gauge sunk to “E.” Game over. Out of gas. Time to put those converted Converses to work and walk up the sheer, nearly vertical hill.
“Boy, I hope Mikey’s mixed us up some Tang,” Buzz said, to no one in particular as he climbed, slipping and losing ground every few steps on the surprisingly fine surface dust. “I’m thirsty enough to drink straight out of Neil’s canteen, the big bossy goon. Man, who knew it could get so hot up here?”
Nearly three hours later, Buzz finally climbed over the lip of the crater, gasping and wheezing and panting and fogging up his helmet with perspiration and heavy breathing. He looked around for Neil, but Neil wasn’t there anymore. He walked back to the craggy stalagmite, but the craggy stalagmite wasn’t there anymore. He scanned his horizons on every side for the module, but even the module wasn’t there anymore. Buzz began walking toward the only thing he spotted – a speck of something very small and far, far away.
Another hour later, Buzz arrived at the spot at last, and stared in stunned silence at a five-gallon gas can, a bottle of water, and a jar of powdered Tang mix, with a note that read:
Buzzy Boy: Have a drink on us, then use the bottle to pee in. Here’s enough gas to get to our new parking spot, if you can figure out which way we went. Hope you’re enjoying your shore leave, you dope. We leave in 23 hours. There’s room for one more, and we’ll save that seat for you, but this bird will be leaving on time, no matter what. Happy Motoring! — Neil and Michael
Miles away, Neil wondered out loud, “Do you think he knows enough to follow our tracks here?” Michael said, “Eh, 50-50 at best. Hey, Neil, could you do me a solid and grab me a Bud from the cooler?”The two astronauts chuckled as they sat on lawn chairs under a beach umbrella next to the Sea of Tranquility, enjoying some squeeze tubes of dehydrated pepperoni pizza. Michael took a big swig of beer, leaned back, closed his eyes, and said, “God, I am so sick of Tang.”
Copyright 2016 Transverse Park Productions LLC and Tim Hayes Consulting