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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A funny thing happened on the way to the moon, and when they got there, it was time for communion!

Submitted: April 02, 2015

A A A | A A A

Submitted: April 02, 2015



EARTHSHINE by Cori Burns

Twenty-One, July 1969.

Dear Diary

Today is a good day. I can feel it in my bones and I know my colleagues do too.
We are four days into our mission and there's not too long to go now before the show starts but the eyes of the world are already upon us and have been for months now. Joe Public wants to learn all he can about Brand Astronaut and where he can buy the tee-shirt, get the dinner set and free astronaut candy and bubble gum.
Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins and I, Buzz Aldrin. We are the all-American white-boy heroes and this is our time. Joes' not interested in the mechanics, the electrics, or the millions of taxpayers dollars spent to get this lump of space junk into orbit, oh no. What they want to know is what brand of coffee we're drinking and what its it like to pee in space whilst floating weightless. Gee!  But it’s a good day, yes, it is, cos this is the day we land on the moon.
Now I don't want to give away too many of our secrets, but the answer to question one, by the way, is Maxwell House. Decaf! For the answer to the rest of those questions, well they are just gonna have to use their imaginations!
I adjust myself into the shuttle seat and gaze at the galaxy through a small porthole above. I romance at the way the stars are glistening and pulsating to the Samba rhythms of the Milky Way; music we have made love to for a zillion years, and I remark on this. Neil Armstrong gives a wry smile,

‘Sexy’, he says, licking his lips imagining he's holding a good looking woman and caressing her in his arms.

Michael Collins laughs and replies:

‘Buzz Aldrin wants his mama!’.

Neil cracks a gag about trespassing in Heaven to nobody in particular. Nobody acknowledges.
The three of us start to sing Led Zeppelin's 'Stairway to Heaven', laying on my back, I play air guitar real good. Having murdered The Beatles catalogue earlier on, we are now crucifying the songs of Led Zep!  '…and she's buy-i-ing a stair-air-way to Heaven...' we crescendo and whoop it up. We could be at our local bar instead of millions of miles from Earth.

A camera above us switches on and a voice cuts through the static almost like an imposition. They can see us but we can't see them,

'Hey, Buzz, this is John Mulligan from WZXR TV in Rockwell, Indiana. We're making history tonight. All across the universe people are watching you right now on live television. It's the biggest televised event ever. Do ya wanna tell the people how you got the name Buzz!’

Mulligan's trademark voice fills the cabin with its deep Southern drawl tinged with bourbon and high living on the East Coast.

'Ok, John', I reply, and shake my head thinking to myself how many times I have told the same old story but now perhaps with millions of people tuning in, I might not have to tell it again, thank God!

Neil groans and mimics a boredom yawn. We laugh as he pretends to go to sleep and say we can smell the ZZZZZZZ!

'I got the name Buzz from my sister, who could’t  say brother; it came out as buzzer, and then shortened to 'Buzz', the family made it stick. My birth name is Edwin.'

Out of the corner of my eye I see Neil and Michael laughing at me and mocking me, but do I care, no I don’t!

‘I changed my name when I got to the age when I was allowed to do so, and now I don t answer to anything but!’


“What was that, Buzz?  You’re a long way from home, ya know”

Neil replies:  ‘John, John, Buzz said he changed his name later.’

‘Much later’ I say.

'Well Ok.  Thanks for that. One more question while we still have the connection. Will you tell us a little bit about what your relationship is like with NASA?'

Mmmmm. How do you answer something like that diplomatically?
Diary, let me tell you that I aimed to hold Communion
on to the surface of the moon. I had intended to beam my communion passage back to earth, but at the last minute NASA had requested that I not do this as they were already embroiled in a legal battle with Madelyn Murray O'Hare, the celebrated opponent of religion, over the Apollo 8 crew reading from Genesis while orbiting the moon at Christmas. Reluctantly I agreed but even so remain not convinced and a little bitter.
With Armstrong and I only on the lunar surface for a short while, I thought I would make the following statement:

“I'd like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way."

But I don’t want to inflict my inner bitterness on the waiting watching world, so my reply to Mullighan is simply

‘They love me.‘

‘I heard a rumour.  They’re gonna move in together when he gets home, NASA, NASA, you are such a baaaad, baaaad girl..’ cracks Neil.


Mullighan cuts in.

‘Buzz, don’t you go and believe everything you read in National Enquirer.’

‘I don’t, I got it from you’

‘Hey…!’ says Mullighan.

"Cmon, guys. Show TIme.' I say, complete with jazz hands.

Now we're all floating around the cabin to the strains of "Astronomy Domine by Pink Floyd" being played live by the band in a television studio on far, far away Earth. Yeah we rehearsed, ho-hum, but they told us as long as everything looks natural it’ll be OK, and just like Simon & Garfunkle sang, you gotta keep the customer satisfied.
I'm beginning to think about my good buddy James Lovell, originally picked for this trip, and then suddenly dropped. No-one knew or dare ask why. Perhaps he loved God too much as well as the taste of a little too much stimulation.  
Lovell and I rode Gemini 12 together back in '66. Our mission was to capture a stray Agena Satellite and to make a space walk. I was out there for five-and-a-half hours; a long time. To do something like this you have to put your entire trust in your space buddy and James Lovell was there for me with constant encouragement even when we were both exhausted and trying to position ourselves in a totally weightless environment.
On this mission, Apollo 11, Neil Armstrong is leading and Michael Collins is pilot. My role is second-in-command and I am in charge of the rocks. 21.4 kilograms of lunar rock and soil, but most important of all, I get to tread on the surface of the moon 19 minutes after Neil. I also get to erect the United States Flag claiming the moon as ours. Neil walks first, I go second.
About a week before take off, we all went out for supper. We joked about what profound comment Neil would make when he stepped out on to the lunar surface for the very first time. Michael said he didn't mind not walking on the moon this time round. There would be other times, but Neil and I felt his disappointment, even though he laughed along with us, while the moon is made of Gorgonzola and Monterrey Jack Cheese jokes cliched through our beer sodden haze.
Neil said he would pronounce to the world as soon as he got out there, that the surface weightlessness on the moon, has improved his golf handicap. I told him to aim carefully for that hole-in-one as there was no way that Michael and I were up to rescuing Neil Armstrong's golf balls from the Sea of Tranquillity, and if he wanted to get his balls stuck in outer space, he shouldn't expect Michael and I to play fetch: my job's collecting moon rock, baby. Rock and soil. We sniggered helplessly. Oh man. A fond memory.
Softly I sing "Jupiter and Saturn Oberon Miranda and Titania Neptune Titan the stars can frighten. .. you" and smile. I think of my wife and close my eyes to see her face and the faces of my children. Its a time of quiet reflection coupled with craziness. I say a silent prayer of hope. I will get to see my family again. I will!
A sharp jolt ends my soliloquy as Houston advises that we are entering the moon's atmosphere.
Our President Richard Nixon who, enthralled us by saying,

'This will be the greatest week in the history of the world since the creation'.
And consequently in keeping with former President John F Kennedy's vow to get a man on the moon before the end of the 1960's. Neil, Michael and I are making history and on this very day, we are the chosen ones and the lucky ones born to ensure dreams do come true.

We're in high spirits. Our moon landing will be watched by over 600 million people and one last time, with adrenalin rising, the three of us clasp our hands together in victory and give a punch of triumph to the waiting, watching world.
Neil and I make our way to Lunar Module Eagle to prepare to land on the moon's surface.
We struggle with our spacesuits, our helmets, our visors, our radios and our air supplies, almost breathless, before eventually settling into our landing positions. With a crunch we separate from Michael Collins and salute him. We watch him make the first the lunar orbit as Neil and I in the Eagle, make our descent on to the surface of the moon.
Sitting in the tin can with chilling stillness for what seems like an eternity, Lieutenant Neil Armstrong finally speaks:

‘Houston. Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed.’

The clapping and cheering from the Houston personnel resonates around the module.

The noise quietens down and tentively Neil opens the module door, stepping out onto the surface stating to the world,

‘This is one small step for man, one giant step for mankind'

Where were the cheese jokes, the golf jests, and all those goddamn bad ass cliches! Uh? Uh?

Magnificent, as it was profound. I guess I always knew, Neil would say the right thing in the end.

19 minutes later. I stepped down into magnificent desolation that is our precious moon, tightly holding the plaque and the flag n order to state our claim and our right to the moon.
In the radio blackout, I secretly opened the little plastic packages which contained the bread and the wine. I poured the wine into the chalice our church had given me. In the one-sixth gravity of the moon, the wine slowly curled and gracefully came up the side of the cup.

'I am the vine, you are the branches. Whosoever abides in me will bring forth much fruit. Apart from me you can do nothing.'

I ate the tiny Host and swallowed the wine. I gave thanks for the intelligence and spirit that had brought two young pilots to the Sea of Tranquility. It was interesting for me to think the very first liquid ever poured on the moon, and the very first food eaten there, were the communion elements.

And of course, it's interesting to think that some of the first words spoken on the moon were the words of Jesus Christ, who made the Earth and the moon - and who, in the immortal words of Dante, is Himself the

"Love that moves the Sun and other stars."

And I did all this in the earthshine


© Copyright 2020 CORI BURNS. All rights reserved.

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