The Woman Who Fell to The Moon
“What page are you going to start on?” said the young bookstore clerk in white go-go boots. Her voice, high and clear, reverberating throughout the small bookstore cafe - one of many, one of a million ubiquitous bookstore cafes . Latte sippers, book browsers, and the curious people in the corner writing in notebooks or click-clack-clacking on their laptop keyboards looked in her direction. They knew her question was really for them.
“What page are you going to start on?” she says holding the print-out of the inventory in her hand, her hand with long, dark, elegant fingers. Fingers that thumb through book pages and sheaves of computer print out. Fingers that grip the metal bars running across the seat in front of her on the T bus on her way to and from work. Fingers that sometimes drum quietly on her crossed leg as her head nods to the sounds in her iPod, the sounds in her head - the sounds she imagines are out in the world out there. The sounds she can’t hear.
What page are you going to start on? A good question for which I am not sure I have an answer. What page should I start on?
She wears a white sweater over a grey T-shirt, glasses, and corn rows. Dark thick black glasses you would expect to see on a man in a 50s movie, no a teenaged boy who has not only entered the science fair, but has won first place and is on his way to the state sponsored fair which he will also win. Eventually this teenaged boy with the dark, thick-framed glasses will be one of those clean cut guys you see in movies like Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff - wearing a white collar shirt with short sleeves and a few pens stuffed into the shirt’s pocket. He will have a degree in space travel and one or two masters degrees and Ph.D. in physics. He’ll have built rockets, know all about quarks and mass and the universal gravitational constant.
But what page ARE you going to start on? Where should you start? Would page 15 be a good place to start? What would happen if you walked into a bookstore, browsed the shelves, and every book you pulled out started not on page one, but on page 15, or 28, maybe even page 62. That might be a bit too far, starting on page 62. You’d be dropped right into, perhaps, a dull moment in the book, in the story, a lull in which the protagonist is sitting in a bookstore/cafe - one of the many ubiquitous bookstore-cafes, just sitting there, sipping a decaf nonfat latte, wondering on what page her story will get going again, wondering on what page her car will break down on a back country road, changing her life, and the plot, irrevocably.
What page are you going to start on? You pull another book, because you don’t want to start on page 62, surely there’s another option - so you pull another book. This one starts on page 12. A woman has just stumbled, tripped in the grate of a busy city street (perhaps she was crossing the street to get to the other side, to get to one of those ubiquitous bookstore/cafes we’ve heard so much about of late). She has stumbled, skinned her bare knee, broken the nail of her big toe so the beautiful white line from her French manicure is ruined. And her purse has spilled - so classic, so cliche. And as she gathers her possession, a handsome man with sharp white teeth and dashingly well-trimmed mustache and beard, driving one of the buses, rolls up and runs her over flat. That would be a good page to start at. Page 12. But what will happen next, on page 13? Wouldn’t the story have ended on page 12 already? Start and stop on the same page. Not much of a book that.
You put that book back on the shelf. No, you don’t want to start on page 61 or 12. What else? You pull out yet another book, a thick, stubby book with a blue cover. You open it to page 3 and read:
Strolling down the street, wondering if she had let the cat out, she fell.
She landed upside down on the moon, grey-green moon-dust shoved up her nose.
She had always wanted a nose job. Now NASA could pay for it.
She took the gum out of her mouth and made a cast of the impression her nose had left on the surface of the moon.
In court, the lawyer showed enlarged before and after photos of her nose, and handed the jury the bubblegum fossil of her nose as it landed on the moon. A small baggy of moon dust was also handed over to the jurors, each Each one dipping a finger into the dust before passing it reluctantly along to the juror in the box.
Half the jury were women with long, hook-like noses that gleamed under the artificial light of the courtroom. Though they were jealous of of the woman’s options and didn’t buy her story, they were inclined to side with her.
In the courtroom sat that man with the close-cropped hair, wearing dark, thick-framed glasses and short-sleeved, white collar shirt. Yes, the teenager who had won one science fair after another and gone to work at NASA. Now he sat in the courtroom, listening carefully to the expert witness who discussed he universal gravitational constant, the moon’s earthquakes, its dust particles and the affects of a gravity-less environment on the nose. The man analyzed the evidence at hand. Then his eyes glazed over and in his head he saw equations
F net = m * a
F grav = G*m1*m2/d2
He ran the calculations swiftly in his head, determining the gravitational pull between the woman and the moon, Between himself and the woman. He wanted to know. And when he finished his calculations, he opened his eyes. The woman with the moon-dust nose was surely the girl of his dreams. His calculations could not be wrong. And she had been there, to that place he had, so long ago, designed rocket ships to reach. And she had arrived there simply by falling down.