Friday, August 26, 2016

The Astronaut Had Been Drinking

The Astronaut Had Been Drinking
Bobby Derie

Out on the empty launch pad, flat on her back, staring up at the stars. Weeds poked through the cracked cement, bottles and rusty cans littered here and there. This wasn't the first time.

She heard me coming, never looked up, but pulled herself up enough to take another long pull from the bottle of Red Eye.

"You want to hear something funny?"

The weeds swayed under the breeze, some waist-high. The Florida night was warm and humid, we both had lines of sweat under our armpits - just out here in our work shirts and crew pants and boots, nothing else. I could hear the ocean lapping, not far away. Too close, and ever closer.

"When they sent Voyager up - the Golden Record, you remember that? Out into the deep darkness. Our greeting to whomever, whatever might find it. Little scratches. A nude man and a woman. A planetary system. How do you express those things to something that might not even exist, that might not even have eyes to see? I knew the model for the woman. Later, of course. She used to do the pose, if you asked her to. Would shed her clothes at the drop of a hat. That's not the funny part."

She passed the bottle.

"The funny part was, I found Bill out here one day, just like this. Right here, drinking and staring up at the stars. I think he wanted into my pants. But he looked at me and told me it was all a lie. Such a childish, stupid fucking lie. The Golden Record, you see - the high ups, not the guys at NASA, but in the White House or whatever - they were scared. They were stupid and small-minded and scared. So they made a little change. Everyone tried to tell them not to. Everyone that knew about it, I mean. Bill near fucking had a heart attack. It was so fucking stupid. You can tell when people are really stupid because they think they're being so fucking clever. The worst are the ones that are stupid but powerful and efficient. Oh, they showed everyone the Golden Record, yes, but the one that actually went up with Voyager? It pointed to the wrong planet."

The astronaut's laughter was bitter.


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