Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Day Franc Donahue Broke Down A Door

It happened the day that Franc Donahue and Krazc Chettern were taking the groceries up to Krazc's apartment. She lived with a girlfriend in a one of the nicer townhouses in Madison although Franc had not asked how she could afford such nice digs. Krazc Chettern was Tommy Kyle's newly hired sketch artist, she being a recent graduate from the local university in art and computer graphics. Franc wasn't overly excited about having someone "assigned" to him, but his biggest client, the aforementioned Tommy Kyle, had agreed apparently to find work for a friend of a friend and Franc got the nod --when, and if, he needed someone that is.

Over the early part of the summer a friendship developed. Krazc (Karen Ruth, i.e., KR, i.e., KRC, pronounced "craze-zee" by her friends) had proved her ability and professionalism mostly by doing good work and being there when Franc needed her. She was about 5'2", slight build, long shimmering blond hair, round faced, and a white smile that Franc immediately fell in love with. She was only 15 years younger than he, which kept him in check, and she was gay.

She roomed with Agnes Anderson. Not a girlfriend in the sense used by too many people to denote some intimacy but a friend who happened to be female --same age, same profession but with an overload of boyfriend problems. Those kinds of problems people denote as being, well, problems.

Agnes and Kracz were hosting a party the next evening and Krazc had been designated procurer of the produce since Agnes was the chef de massion. Franc Donahue and Kracz Chettern trudged five bags of groceries up the long steps and in to the common entry way for three-apartment to apartment "1A." Kracz was lowering a bag of groceries and fumbling for the keys to unlock the door when they heard a muffled yelp from inside.

"Agnes!" yelled Kracz. "Is that you? What's wrong! Agnes?"

Another muffled yelp and the word "gun" cut off at the throat.

Hand over her mouth, eyes wide open in terror, Kracz muffled a worried shout of her own. Donahue backed away from the door, dropping his load of produce, reflexively reaching for his .38.

"Agnes," again yelled Kracz. It was a panic now.

She and Donahue exchanged glances, almost a signal of something was wrong and worried and scared and she should get the door open. Impatient with her aiming the key in the lock, Donahue took her wrist and pushed her determinedly a side. He took the house key, standing next to the door rather than in front of the door like most of us do, twisted the lock.

The shot nearly, but not quite, blasted through the door. The boom and the power of the thump on the door indicated a heavy firearm.

Donahue had the .38 out and with one giant boot banged the door open. In an instant he saw a scared girl--presumably Agnes--in t-shirt and jeans, and a guy with his arm around her neck, lynching her a full foot off the ground, and the double-barreled long-barreled shotgun smoking like a chimney. The room was filled with smoke. Donahue ducked behind the doorway wall as a second round tore off most of the trim and jam just above his head in a deafening crash. He couldn't hear Kracz's scream over the explosion of gunfire and shattering woodwork and his own deafness. But he had seen the double barrel and launched himself through the door without hesitation, .38 in hand, and, luckily, trigger finger on mental safety.

The shooter, an ex-boyfriend maybe, also realized he had better retreat, dropped the girl and the empty shotgun and turned to hightail it towards the open kitchen by which he'd entered. He needed about three strides to make it to freedom.

Donahue, no track star and not nearly in shape as a 25-year-old boy, leapt over the slowly crumpling body of Agnes Anderson and was on top of the kid in one stride, halfway into the kitchen. The kid had to double step in order to launch himself through the open window and Donahue clapped him hard on the shoulders throwing the kid off balance and off stride like the way you'd knock somebody down when you were a kid when tackling wasn't going to work. Donahue sailed to one side and landed on his knees in a shot of pain.

The kid's aim at the window was good but Donahue made him float high. Very high. Window sash high. And with the window open, both sashes up. He caught the sash handle square in the top of his head and then his weight carried his noggin on into the lower sash trim shattering it but not his head. The second sash didn't give much and probably saved him from getting decapitated by falling glass but the first sash split in two. Crumpled like a collapsing gas-bag politician.

The kid rebounded, spiraled down to the tiled floor, on his rear end, then full on his back, trying to get breath and cover his head and scream for mercy all at the same time. Franc Donahue was on him like snake, yanked the kid over on his stomach, pinned the boy down by stomping the heel of his brogan on the kid's scrotum, and jamming his sole up the boy's kazoo.

The kid screamed even louder but had that punk's limited knowledge of claiming his innocence, "I wasn't doing nothing!"

"Yeah, I noticed," said Franc Donahue, "I always like fondling a shotgun more than some girl, too."

And blew him a kiss.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

The Contained Alien

Let’s just suppose that humans make the journey to Mars. There is lots of controversy about this venture, all of them well intended and worth reflection, but, for the sake of this story, the trip happens. And, let’s just suppose that Martians are about a thousandth the size of ant legs. After all, Martians don’t know they’re supposed to be large as Earthlings. Or larger. But, in fact they could be smaller. It takes a lot a Martians to screw in a light bulb. A lot! Would they know what a light bulb is?

And let’s also remember that because of the astronauts' needs required them to empty the onboard waste system because they still have to go the bathroom (wonder why it's not called a latrine or head?) and, because they were well trained and the planners knew how to handle this problem, the periodic emptying of trash and waste in space went well (how else would you describe it: "as planned"). But the crew had arrived at Mars, on time, where treating the universe as just a vast open collection refuge had to stop. (Of course, it began well outside the limits of Earth's gravity. Talk about public relations nightmare? All that space and your trash ends up bombarding Earth's atmosphere!)

Also, an early decision fixed the crew as all male. Better for privacy, said one side. Not fair for everyone else, said the other side. Why one side actually won, given they both changed positions several times over the years the plans were being made, is not in itself important. It was, it would be, an all-male crew.

The plan was for three of the crew to remain in orbit and three of the crew to land. The large crew of six was picked to ensure not-to-worn out bodies and brains when they arrived at Mars.

But, as with all space voyages, weight (food and water, six 180 pound persons, something to read, toilet paper, clothes, soap, and all the rest of the stuff you would pack into an RV for a six month journey, fuel to lift more fuel) requires fuel and when food (weight) was changed to waste (just lesser weight) something had to go--if you’ll pardon the pun. But the plan wasn’t so crude or crass as to just dump waste on Martian soil. There had been speculation that once upon a time space travelers had done just that, leaving germs to populate molds and bacterial growth on Earth, but the favor was not going to be repaid. If humans were to attempt population in the universe they would go at it with a plan and a purpose. Garbage disposal was both.

Six months to Mars. Six men. Six tons of water and food. Three tons of waste. Much of the waste was burned to generate heat. In fact, by the time the astronauts edged into Mars orbit, the trash load (waste, packageing, "stuff") was measured in less than one thousand pounds. But, half a ton to carry all the way back to earth, a six-months journey--or not bring back hundreds of pounds of Mars soil samples-- was not an option. To avoid leaving behind a biological mess, planners had determined the need to collect all the trash in one heavy duty container. But the container would have double duty on the trip out. It would have to have utility, be strong enough to with stand the Mars weather for just about forever on the surface of Mars, yet be light enough to make the trip.

The plan set out that astronauts would visit the surface of Mars and their return ship would be just a small capsule with enough lifting capacity to bring back plenty of Mars soil samples and three crewmen. The capsule would be jettisoned back to the surface with a load of trash in it. That was the plan.

The first problem was bulk. There had been not much idea of how bulky trash would be and how it would be confined to a space designed for spacemen and not for spacemans' trash. The astronauts --trained scientists, pilots, engineers-- spent the better part of a morning ripping and stomping all kinds of packaging, broken parts (someone noticed there were more “broken parts” than anticipated), odds and ends, bags of garbage and human wastes, into some compact heap in the capsule. There was little concern for what got banged up inside the lander as soft trash was wedged into corners and no-longer-need tools just tossed in. Time spend getting ready was time not spent on returning, and they fully expected the capsule to crash heavily onto the Martian surface. The lander would record the impact and relay information about the geologic structure of Mars. No one bothered to weigh anything.

The plan went well. Went well enough, as waste, garbage, "stuff", was crammed, bent, tortured, beaten into the capsule filling it nearly to the hatchway. That was more than anticipated. How they had so much junk to leave behind was not ever questioned. And then the capsule was jettisoned, as planned. And crashed, as planned. And, then forgotten.

For years.

And years.

The crew made it back to the moon and then to earth. Then another crew was readied but canceled and soon the first crew grew old and became history. And nothing changed much on the surface of Mars. Except this dark object the size of a mountain, from the point of view of the Martians, filled a former void in the landscape.

The sun rose and set countless times. Martians lived and died and buried and re-arose and loved and hated and warred and peace-d beyond too many times to count. Floods came and went. Drought came followed by too much water. Martians rampantly procreated enough to cover more of the planet but they didn’t grow in size. No one on Earth noticed. No one on Earth cared anymore about Mars. They had been there. It cost a lot. Time to change challenges like changing cell phone covers. They'd gone elsewhere.

Because all this was a mere blink of time for the universe.

All the while, roving the universe were countless rocks. Call them meteors. Call them comets. Call them fast. Slow. Large. Small. Tiny. Ugly. Mostly call them patient. And it wasn’t that these rocks struck Mars. They struck everywhere. From afar, Earthlings were intrigued on an intellectual level about geology and fading hopes of returning to Mars. That several rocks impacted in the area of either the lander or the crashed capsule only fueled the intellectual exercise. When the sensitive, earth-bound instruments detected a large boulder (the consensus was in the 50-foot diameter size) struck Mars “close” to the crashed capsule, it didn’t even make the evening news.

But for the Martians, it was the end. A new disease had been released from the half-buried monolith. The thing had been discovered eons before and no one knew when, their collective intelligence could only go back so far, and since it did nothing, the Martians did nothing about it. What had been “close” on earth had been deadly on-target on Mars. The capsule was smashed into millions of pieces. Flattened. Exploded. Buried. Blasted across the landscape. The earthlings thought something had happened and there was speculation but talk lasted only as long as the news segued to the newest survey results about nothing. The contained alien, the forgotten but not destroyed wastes, the leftovers, the left behinds, the left arounds, invaded the germ-innocent Martian world.

And destroyed it all. From afar nothing was ever there and from afar nothing is still there.

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