Monday, March 24, 2014

What thrilling heroics

     No time for incredulity, the seconds are ticking away and the space pirates are closing in. My converted freighter has broken out of the atmosphere, but must achieve light speed in 60 seconds, that’s how long before the enemy ship will intercept. The passengers are counting on me. Escape is their only hope. Already, a shot from the pirate's directed energy weapon has damaged my ship, and that’s why I’m crawling along the outside of it wearing magnetic grips on my hands and feet.
     The ship’s hull shudders, a result of the damage and I hold my breath inside the space helmet, but the grips hold and I keep moving. The pirate ship, closer now, fires another energy bolt that lights everything around me. Even though it misses, the proximity of the flash darkens my visor momentarily. I hate not seeing where I’m going, but creep along anyway, the seconds are ticking.
     Finally, I reach the primary buffer panel, rattling loose from the enemy fire. Only a quick fix for now, I begin to bolt it back down. The visor goes dark again as a directed energy bolt hits the ship. The deflector shields absorb the blast, but for just a moment, my magnetic grips lose touch. I grab at the loose panel and feel my body tossed up and then slam back into the ship. Pain stings up my left leg, but I keep up the repair until the panel is fixed.
          It takes four rivets to secure it, but I feel the ship stop shuddering. I make my way back. As soon as I’m in, I throw the lever that closes the airlock. When the door clicks and the air begins to fill the chamber, I feel the ship accelerate to light speed. I’ve done it, the orphans are safe. I feel something else too, my foot is injured from being tossed around out there. Well, at least it was for the greater good.
     At least that’s what I’d like to say when people ask me what I did to my foot.
     Waiting at the Grand Canyon for the train to take us back to Williams, a little boy looked at me with amazement and concern as I walked by on my crutches. “What happened?” he asked.
     I did not want to tell him that I had been hanging my foot out of a golf cart, like I did every day, when I drove up against a fence post, unnaturally pointing my foot down, spraining it. So I just told the boy, “I wasn’t being careful.”
His mom seemed to like that answer, she looked at her son, the dad too, with a look of “you see what can happen?”
     So I did the vacation on crutches and I managed. At meals, my family would help me with my food. Most places we went had ramps and the steps weren’t too difficult. There were limitations. Doors were sometimes a challenge, heavy restroom doors especially. And on the train ride, I didn’t try to get up and move around. I still enjoyed it all.
     And I enjoyed the vacation too. It was everything I hoped it would be. And I was really just hoping for one thing, that it would be a good time with the family.
     I used to abhor the idea of settling down with a family. I thought I was destined to be a free spirit, out on the road in a retrofitted muscle car like Mad Max, or better still, out in space executing some thrilling heroics. I dreaded the thought of domestication and a mini-van.
     But all of that changed when I actually became a husband and father. And last week, we as a family took a righteous road trip, saw The Grand Canyon, Route 66, Meteor Crater and The Petrified Forrest. We drove through Winslow, Arizona where I stood on the corner. We took a scenic drive down through Sedona and went through the town where I lived as a young kid.
     Friday night I drove from Phoenix to Yucaipa with only one stop. It was about a 5 hour drive and I loved it. There were no space pirates in pursuit. My passengers were my family and it was interstate 10, not hyperspace. But it was better.
     Even though I wish that I had sprained my foot in a less embarrassing way, or better still, not sprained it at all, I can live with the injury knowing that the thrilling space heroics are nothing compared to what last week really was. Like I said, it was what I hoped it would be, a time that will create memories that last a lifetime. The family together in a van, a hotel suite, a lookout point, or gathered together for a photo. All of that was better than any fiction I could ever compose. Reality, sprained foot and all, at its best.

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