Saturday, September 19, 2015


(pt. 8)
The time that Sputnik got sent up, by the Soviets,
that was some time around 1958*; I remember most 
everyone on our street, in the night-time air, being
outside in front of their houses and looking up  -  
straining their eyes to see. And we saw it  -  that single
weird spot of light, like a star, but not exactly, winging its
way across the night sky. It was Sputnik! Russia's first
space craft, lofted on high, and going right over our land!
That was when the space-race stuff all got started, right after
that the entire crazy nation went on high alert; to watch the
Commies and their every move. It was like some bizarre movie,
or even a Twilight Zone episode  -  not then of course, but looking
back now  -  the enemy, the alien nation, about to engulf all of
us  -  their strange and foreign, determined, matter threatening us.
'My God,' someone uttered, 'if they can fly right over us like that,
in space, what else can we expect? We're not safe any longer!'
Everyone muttered, nodded an agreement  -  all those pajama
kids, staring in awe, pretending they'd seen what they'd been
told to see, and 'back to bed now, for you!' The radios or the 
TV's everywhere, or maybe newspapers, had told everyone the
time and the area of the sky, where to watch, and when, for the
zombie craft overhead, the space vehicle, the enemy's new eyes.
It was nothing of the sort, of course, just more rubbish, this time
aloft instead of on the ground. we were forced to submit  -  all these
nice new people in their nice new houses on that nice new Inman
Avenue street  -  they were suddenly disrupted, jarred out of all
complaceny. In school, we were taught how to hide under our
desks, for the expected nuclear attack, the A-bomb, or worse, the
Hydrogen Bomb. It would obliterate everything, destroy all we'd
ever known. Of course, somehow, by crouching beneath our school 
desks on Air Raid Drill days (forget fire drills), we'd be safe ourselves, 
somehow, if only we could be protected from the flying, broken
school-window glass. Never made any sense to me, any of this.
Avenel couldn't cope. Neither could the cities out of which all these
new people had come : the world was about to be a fiasco, a new
iteration of flying death on wheels. Our lives, our places, our streets
and schools, had been entered into the absurdity sweepstakes of a 
lifetime, and God forbid if we were ever found out to have the 
winning hand or to be holding the golden, winning ticket.
The world was going mad.
*Oct. 4, 1957. 'Sputnik' means, in Russian, 'elementary satellite.'

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