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by Brian Henley

Copyright 2013 Brian Henley

Smashwords Edition

Gradually the reporters file in. They greet each other, make smart industry jokes. Once seated, one in the front row twists awkwardly around to flirt with the woman behind him. Reporters will act like teenagers. It can’t be helped.

But generally the mood is subdued. There was no mixer, no meet-and-greet. Attendance is feeble, and perfunctory. Of the three rows of folding chairs provided, only two are populated, and those only toward the middle.

The chairs face a small stage. On the stage there is a desk. Stage left of desk stands American flag, loud and proud and bordered all around in dim gold tassels. Mounted to the blue curtain backdrop behind the desk are two seals. One is the hallowed seal of NASA, its cosmic blue background overlaid with a dramatic red swoop that defies its own borders, the glory of human endeavor writ large across creation. The other is the current mission badge. It reads, “Odysseus”, and shows an ancient Greek gentleman lashed to a trireme’s mast.

The set is tawdry. It looks like a school assembly. The desk is wood veneer on castor wheels. The seals are painted plywood. The flag’s brass stand is smudged and tarnished. But it was always thus. Even in the fever pitch of the Apollo missions the camera props were laughable. It just never mattered. The bad lighting, the flimsy construction, the placards and backdrops and furniture all looking hastily prepared: it was all gorgeous in the dazzling splendor of public adoration. Now the bare spots are showing. Sic transit and so on.

Major Tom enters stage right, crosses to the desk and sits. He is an older gentleman, still fit, his hair precisely cut in the classic Young Buzz Aldrin, his chin shaved so close it’s blue. He wears an Air Force flight suit, and his shoulders are squared.

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