Author Topic: God Speed Billy Hawke  (Read 2071 times)

Bomber

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God Speed Billy Hawke
« on: July 29, 2009, 08:20:38 AM »
The seed for this story was planted in my head when I was chatting to a colleague about famous quotes. My thanks go to Tina, Xerika and Laurence-Of-A-Radiator for giving it a once over.

I delayed posting it to avoid all the fuss over the Moon Landing 40th anniversary. I hope you like it...

 
God Speed Billy Hawke

It was a cold February Saturday in 1962. Grey clouds blanketed the sky, threatening to spill their heavy load at any minute.

John Glenn's space flight had been put on hold yet again. The world waited for a lucky break in the weather over Eastern Florida. When it came Mr Glenn would sit in the command module, Friendship 7, to be thrust violently heavenwards by the Mercury rocket beneath him. He would become the first American to orbit the Earth.

Well that's what the public thought. Today, I would beat John Glenn, I was going just after lunch on that cold Saturday afternoon.

With my Space Patrol crash helmet tucked firmly under my arm I strode along the garden path. I was so proud of that helmet, the moment that I had seen it on the table at Mrs Tinley’s yard sale I knew that it had to be mine. I had raced home to my mom, yelling to her to come quickly. My mom was a good lady, she knew what was important to me.

As I climbed the wooden ladder, a familiar voice called out to me.
"Hey there, Commander Hawke, what program is it today? Another test or is this the real thing?"
Mr Ostrowski knew my secret too. I had told him one day when we sat in his kitchen. Sometimes I struggled to understand him, but I always tried very hard. His sad, honest eyes told me that he was one of the good guys.

"It's the real thing, Mr O." I called back.

"Good luck, Billy. Remember, look out for my old place as you go by."

"Sure thing. I'll give them a wave for you."

I moved two of my kid sister Joan's dollies from the pile of cushions in the little tree house and pulled the heavy curtain across the door. I made myself comfortable on the soft, musty smelling pile. From where I sat I could look through the observation port to the launch control building. My mom was standing at the window, I watched for a moment as she washed the dishes.

There was a large plastic globe next to me. I spun it and found the big red cross which marked Cape Canaveral. I traced my finger out across the ocean to a place called Africa. That's where I would leave the Earth's atmosphere and start my orbit. Above Africa was a place called Europe. That's where Mr Ostrowski and his family used to live before coming to live next door.

My pop had told me that there was once a bad man who hated people like Mr Ostrowski and his family. He had put them all into camps where lots of them died. Once I had asked Mr Ostrowski if that's what had happened to Mrs Ostrowski, had she been in a camp?

I hated it when grown ups cried. I put my arm around Mr Ostrowski's shoulder but he just kept right on sobbing. I snuck out as quietly as I could. Neither of us mentioned it ever again.
My pop said that it was important that we beat a bunch of guys called The Soviets in some kind of race in space. He said that we owed it to people like Mr Ostrowski. He said that if they got there first they could take over the free world.

“Surely Mr Kennedy will keep us safe, won’t he Pop?”

“Huh, even President Kennedy can’t stop missiles once they’re in the air, son.”

My pop looked worried. There was something in his voice that unsettled me.

“Isn’t there anything that we can do to stop them?”

“Not you and me, Billy, we can’t do nothing. We just gotta pray that all of those clever guys know what they’re doing.”

I pulled up the hood of my coat. It was cold up there in my rocket. My helmet was a snug fit over the top. I jammed it down hard.

I punched several of the buttons on the cardboard control panel in front of me. All systems were go for launch. In my head I heard a voice from Launch Control.

"Friendship 7, we are doing final go's for launch. Please give us your status.”

“Launch Control, this is Friendship 7. All systems are good here. I’m go for launch.”

The torrential rain tore trough the leaves above me a second before the deafening thunderbolt shook the tree that supported me.

“Friendship 7, this is Launch Control. We are no go for launch, I repeat we are no go for launch.”

“Launch Control, Friendship 7. I’m good here. Let’s go.”

Another voice broke in. “Billy, come down from that tree house. Do you hear me, Billy?”
Jeez, I’ll bet John Glenn never got called out of his capsule by his mom.

*****

I never did make it into space.

John Glenn did though, February 20th 1962. He orbited the Earth 3 times and returned a hero. He went again in 1998 aged seventy seven. The oldest man ever to fly into space.

Mr Ostrowski died a few years after my abortive mission, just after Neil Armstrong took his giant leap for mankind. Many years later, I visited Warsaw with his granddaughter. We went to the street where he once lived. It didn’t look anything like the photographs that he had shown me. All of the pretty, old buildings were gone. Just square concrete monstrosities, a legacy to the frantic rebuilding program to reinforce The Soviets’ policies after the War.

Dominika cried that day. I held her tight in my arms as we stood on that featureless sidewalk. I thought of the day that I had tried to comfort her grandfather as he wept. I realised then that he was crying not only for his lost wife, but for the life that had been torn from him. A few people shot curious glances at us as they scurried past going about their business. I ignored them. At that moment my wife was all that mattered.


Offline Tina

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Re: God Speed Billy Hawke
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2009, 11:50:56 PM »
I love this story!  It's got everything in it! ---- History, old and young people, mother/father/child relationship, comedy, tragedy, and a surprise romantic ending.   Though its kind of a sad story----I feel happy after reading it knowing Billy has someone to take care of him-----he was such a likable kid---who grew up to be a loving husband.   How you fit all this in such a short story----brilliant.

Nice one.  Thanks for sharing it!

T.
« Last Edit: July 30, 2009, 12:04:40 AM by Tina »

twisted wheel

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Re: God Speed Billy Hawke
« Reply #2 on: July 30, 2009, 03:41:27 AM »
hi bomber. that was a great read. thanks for posting.

Offline Xerika

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Re: God Speed Billy Hawke
« Reply #3 on: July 30, 2009, 09:38:16 PM »
Great story, Bomber. I think Tina has it just right when she says how much you pack into such a short space.

All power to your writing elbow, dear chap.  :)
http://rob-johnson.org.uk/ - writing, podcasting and reluctant olive farming

"I'd Rather Eat My Own Face" podcast. The truth about olive harvesting. http://wp.me/p2bC2C-8U

"If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." - Elmore Leonard

Offline eric

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Re: God Speed Billy Hawke
« Reply #4 on: July 30, 2009, 09:40:54 PM »
You say what?  He wrote this with his elbow?

Offline Xerika

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Re: God Speed Billy Hawke
« Reply #5 on: July 31, 2009, 09:10:38 PM »
That was certainly my understanding, eric. Bomber's versatility as a writer is well known, and he can produce great stories using almost every part of his body. How many of us can say that?

Personally, I prefer his knee period, but others may well disagree.

For example, I am led to believe that Mrs Beane from across the way is adamant that Bomber sometimes uses the conventional finger method and his best work results from tapping away at her keyboard and occasionally clicking her mouse. **

** NB: Sadly, Bomber does not have his own computer and must usually resort to availing himself of Mrs Beane's state-of-the-art equipment across the way.
http://rob-johnson.org.uk/ - writing, podcasting and reluctant olive farming

"I'd Rather Eat My Own Face" podcast. The truth about olive harvesting. http://wp.me/p2bC2C-8U

"If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." - Elmore Leonard

Offline Tina

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Re: God Speed Billy Hawke
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2009, 09:16:34 PM »
 ;D ;D ;D

Bomber

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Re: God Speed Billy Hawke
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2009, 02:44:31 AM »
**** Message for Brigadier Buffy O'Shea ****

You're bang on about Old Mrs Beane from across the way, you know old chap. We've tried many different ways of bashing one out, but the old finger on mouse method always elicits the best results.

She tells me that it's a method that she learned during her time in the WAAF, taught to her by a filly from Rodean. Apparently the two of them would spend many hours of a night time huddled together in their barracks with just a small stub of a candle between them. Obviously they didn't have the advantage of a computer, but Mrs Beane maintains that in times of hardship one can get very a pleasing output from a Royal Portable.

Toodle pip, old thing.
Bomber.

****Ends****

Offline eric

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Re: God Speed Billy Hawke
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2009, 12:20:01 PM »
You mean that blooming blighter-bounder Buffy is about? That bilioused, balderdashed, non-terpsichorean tanker with the googly, gangrenous mouth? He claimed to such high heaven that I owed him ten quid, I finally had to get the Pope to absolve me.  And most graciously did he do so.  It took a five quid tithe, but who am I to complain? Well, yes, I did have to convert, but the Moslems took me back right after.  ... And who indeed?  Not to deviate from the purpose of this thread, but do you think it the done thing to invite just anyone to comment, Bomber?

Granted, he knows the ins and outs of the same Miz Bean, you may consider her old but I still think of her as young, heh, but didn’t he leave these precincts, I thought for good, after an encounter with Tessa-Lou Simpkins just around the corner and across the street? I used to be her mailman and recall fondly the many times duty called on me to insert my letters into her slot. She got a lot of mail, that girl did. I don’t recall any addressed from the Buffster, though. I suppose Tessa-Lou has gone on to email these days, and rarely has need for paper and pencil except to invite a tradesman to service her appliances, in the odd moment, what?
« Last Edit: August 04, 2009, 11:30:00 PM by eric »

Offline Xerika

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Re: God Speed Billy Hawke
« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2009, 09:13:11 PM »
Firstly, I must beg the forgiveness of Bomber (the author) and the various other contributors to this thread (i.e. Tina, MC and eric) for being coerced into posting the Brigadier's comments herein. (I will not bore anyone with the exact details of how he holds the power of coercion over me as this would inevitably involve the naming of names and the potential collapse of a variety of governments, and I'd probably have to kill you if I did.)

I have pleaded with him frequently to become a member of MWC himself to save me the bother of acting as his intermediary, but he has been consistent in his refusal to comply with my request. On the most recent occasion, for example, his reply (not verbatim and with expletives deleted) was:

"Writers Circle? Good lord, man, why on earth would I wish to consort with a bunch of unwashed ***** who spend their whole time ****** around scribblng a load of ***** about ***** and daffodils whilst simultaneously plunging their own ***** so far up their own ***** that they've no idea which orifice [I think it's OK to use that word in full, Moderators?] to use their toothbrush."

Having (I hope) apologised enough, I will now summarise the Brigadier's responses on this thread:

Bomber: Your candle sharing yarn brought back some fond memories from those days and reminded me of my time in the trenches. Due to the absence of light, we made our own out of collected ear wax from the chaps in our platoon. Trouble was, it was so bloody cold, none of us could keep our hands steady enough to get our wicks in. Fortunately for us though, there was a third generation Inuit there, who didn't feel the cold at all, and could dip his wick for us at the drop of  hat.

Eric: The Brigadier informs me that the aforementioned Tessa-Lou Simpkins, who you apparently introduced him to as 'some pretty hot stuff', never received a package from him as he quickly discovered that her real name was Stephen 'Big Boy' O'Shaugnessy.

http://rob-johnson.org.uk/ - writing, podcasting and reluctant olive farming

"I'd Rather Eat My Own Face" podcast. The truth about olive harvesting. http://wp.me/p2bC2C-8U

"If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it." - Elmore Leonard

Offline eric

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Re: God Speed Billy Hawke
« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2009, 11:27:02 PM »
Oh, that explains the lump in her panties.  I thought she was just happy to see me.