IN AN ORANGE CRATE, GROCERS TAKE THE FINAL LEAP
There was a pitter-pattering of little feet, the geese were clucking away, and there'd been a holdup attempt at noon. It was not an unusual day at Jed's General Store. Returning his shotgun to its mantle under the counter, Jed turned and said to me, "Perhaps today we ought to travel to outer space."
Now, I hadn't really given it much thought before, at least not this early in the afternoon. But, seeing as there wasn't much playing at the movies and I'd already finished that week's issue of Field and Stream, it didn't sound like a bad idea. I turned to Matilda, the bag lady, and said, "What do you think?"
"I think about the regularity of sugar-phosphate backbones."
"And of space travel?"
"Less regular, but necessitating the exudation of a greater degree of patience. On the whole, more cubist than expressionist, more expressionist than cherry soup, like particular physics, only in a different dimension. A box without sides, or sides without a box. I guess it depends on how you look at it."
"In space, time is eternal. You know that, don't you? Much like a Stephen King novel, it just seems to go on forever."
I tried to picture forever in my mind, but was unsuccessful. I must have gone to the wrong school.
"If time is eternal," I couldn't help but help but ask, "Then what does it say on your watch?"
Matilda glanced down. "A quarter after two," was her reply.
"Oh," said Shirley Temple who was walking by with a can of Coke. "That's a good deal."
I didn't think so, since with a little foresight one could buy a 24 pack for five dollars, but I kept my silence. Loose lips sink ships, and I didn't want to have another look at Ed Harris and a roll of duct tape. Instead I simply remarked, "Do we have any of that cheese that Saint-Amant had? Forgotten lunch breeds melancholy, and I've got too many syllables already."
"But we have space!" said Jed. "Lots of space, in fact."
"Where," I asked. With all these chocolates and punctuation marks, I didn't see how there could be much space for anything.
Without saying a word, the taciturn gunman pointed to the sky. He looked comparable to Clint Eastwood in Unforgiven, or Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments, or John Belushi in Animal House. He looked God-like, only with a deeper voice and no thunder. We just looked kind of puzzled.
"Do you mean, like, the moon?" said Matilda.
"No," Jed said, as one does. "I mean space. Outer space."
That cleared it all up, like a fog in a steamer. I turned to Jed, "Do you mean now, or after business hours."
"HOURS? Don't you understand?" He shouted. "Time is meaningless! We have posterity to think about, and posterity doesn't hold office hours, certainly not ones that are posted on a peeling painted slap of ill-digested wood."
I looked at the door. It did look like it could use some work. I thought about Gregor Mendel and his peas. I thought about the peas I had for dinner last night. And I decided. Having missed Pepper the first time, I didn't want to miss him again. "When do we start?"
"Why, it's obvious," said Matilda. "He intends to start as soon as the popcorn comes out of the microwave."
And that was that. Pulling out the crates of tangerines, Jed took them out and rolled them down the aisles. "I always wanted to do that," he said with a big chubby grin on his face. Next, he took out the popped corn and replaced it with a big bag of potatoes. "Idaho's premium," he said proudly. "We only serve the best."
Hopping in the crate, we pulled on watermelon shells for helmets, and grabbed a hold of the sides. "All systems ready," said Matilda. Jed stuck the microwave on high.
Five, four, three, two, Boom! And we were off into space.
We'd been up there for a while, and we're approaching Pluto, when it suddenly dawned on someone to suggest: "And how do we turn back?"
And suddenly, I wished I had some duct tape. I missed the sounds of the geese clacking. I missed the movie theater that didn't play anything not out on video. I missed watching Jed bang customers over the head with plastic bottles. And I said, "How do we turn back, Jed?"
"Oh," he said. "That is simple. We simply need to find the time. Five minutes at most. That's all we need."
But the minutes had deserted us, leaving behind only the memories. Time flew on by, too quick to grab on to. The solar system fell behind us, and we had only the journey to look forward to. Or behind. It all depends on how you look at it, and I was looking at it from the inside of a tangerine crate. With a decent view.
So it was, so it is, so it will be. For eternity. Or at least until we crash. If I get a chance, I'll send you a postcard.
Copyright 2002 China Shop Productions
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