Sunday, August 11, 2013

"Moon Madness" - Short Story from 1958.

A little story from 1958 about a huckster telling a tall tale to people waiting in line for the first Moon rocket.

Moon Madness

See that long line of people? Goes around the block at least three times. They have about fifty policemen trying their best to keep the people in line. Every now and then you hear somebody remark to somebody else: "Whatchya' shuvin' for?" Smart kids are making money selling refreshments to the tired people in line. One bright fellow even sold chairs with little wheels on them. You don't have to stand in line. You can sit in line and be comfortable.

But why should those people be in line? They want to purchase tickets for the first space flight to Moon. A lot of people like to be known what we call "Firsters." When a new play opens on Broadway, they buy tickets for the first night. When a new type of suit comes out, they are the first to wear it. They enjoy boasting always that they were the first to see this or that; the first to try that or this; and the first to be someplace.

But why all the excitement? I spent thirty five years of my life on the Moon. You heard me! I'm not going to repeat that again. Winslow the Great never, never told a fib in his entire life. Alas, my name doesn't strike a gong in your mind. But your father knew me when he went to the circus. I was the fellow they shot out from a cannon — Winslow the Great, who defied the Elements to be hurled from the blazin' mouth of a gigantic cannon.

So it happened thirty five years ago. The famous Snell & Hartley Circus had set up tent. Everybody came to see me for I was the featured attraction. On this occasion I had built a large plastic tube that looked like a big cigar. I was inside the plastic tube. They put me into the cannon. Loaded a charge of powder. Then Puffff! BANG! I should have gone up into the air three hundred feet and then headed down-ward into a big tank of water. But nothing of the sort happened. Instead I went right through the atmosphere, past the ionsphere, penetrated the microsphere and then into outer space. Only years later did I learn what happened to the circus on that fateful day.

Seems there was also a big cloud of smoke. We used black powder to charge the cannon and then fire me from the mouth of the cannon. So when the smoke cleared way, you couldn't find me. Then somebody in the crowd started to yell:

"Fake! Fake! We want our money back!"

Now what could poor Mr. Snells who owned half of the circus do? He talked it over with Mr. Hartley who owned the other half of the circus. They had a legal problem on their hands.

"If we don't produce Winslow the Great we will have to return the money. We are honorable people. But where is he?" said Mr. Hartley to Mr. Snells. The money was returned and the crowd was satisfied. They went on to the other features of the circus. Saw the lions, the elephants, the seals and the clowns.

Didn't anybody care about me? Winslow the Great was missing from this Earth. For three days and nights I traveled through outer space. I was ahead of Sputnik by thirty five years. Believe me, I was getting hungry and thirsty. I always carried emergency rations with me and something to drink. Once a meteor almost hit me but probably decided at the last minute to change its course.

I couldn't sleep a wink at all for those three days and nights. Actually you haven't such a thing as night once you pass the ionosphere. The sun is shining at an inverted angle of thirty eight degrees and seven seconds. You can get a terrible sunburn if you aren't careful. Was I fortunate that I had with me a jar of Moon Sunbeam Cream with me. Quickly I removed the cover and put the fine cream on my hands and face. It gives you an even tan. I have an extra jar of that cream with me — only one to a customer. Costs you fifty cents for the small size, one dollar for the big size. Listen to me folks, a sunburn in outer space can be annoying. So be sensible. For the sum that I ask you can avoid all these dangers.

There I was in my plastic tube headed for the Moon. I could spend hours describing this creation of my brain. When Winslow the Great thinks up an idea, it must be a great idea. When you get home tonight from work the kids are going to rush up to their pop and give him a big hug and kiss. Then comes the eternal question:

"Whatdidcha bring me?"

It must be awful embarrassing to tell your own children you were in a hurry and didn't bring them anything. Now you haven't the slightest excuse in the world. For twenty five cents you can bring to each and every one of your kids a small little model made out of plastic of the original space ship I built. For ten cents more I will even give the kid an autograph. You'll take one, over there, mister? Fine, here it is.

Three days and nights can be a long, long time when you aren't doing anything. So I looked at the stars. There were millions of them. When I was a kid I learned about the North Star and something which my teacher called constellations. I guess it means that stars sort of hang together in a group. As I passed the different constellations I felt ashamed of myself.

Here I was, Winslow the Great, headed for the outer space of an unexplored universe! But all over me I felt a terrible shame. I was ignorant of a lot of things that pertained to stars. I didn't know the name of the constellation to my right, nor the name of the constellation to my left. Once a star winked at me in a very friendly manner. I winked back. But that star was 234,567,902 light years away from me. So it is going to take a long time for the star to get my message.

Right there and then I decided to become unignorant if such a thing is possible. But for Winslow the Great, it was possible. I made up my mind to give those constellations names. Just like when an explorer for the first time comes across uncharted land. So I came across these uncharted constellations. I called one Fifth Avenue, another Broadway, one Main Street, another Pinehurst Avenue and one I even called Biglow Street. In about two hours I ran out of names. Then I remembered we gave the streets numbers in our city. So I called one constellation first street, the next was second street, and I kept on. You can't run out of numbers.

Now you folks will soon be going past all these constellations in your first trip to the Moon. Maybe you will even have the kids with you. There you are, peeping out of the plastic dome of your space ship. Suddenly your wife points her finger to a group of stars and asks you a very simple question:

"What do they call those stars?"

How red can your face get When you don't know the answer? So you try to cough or change the subject? Now if you had with you my special star name book that I wrote, everything would be a cinch. Just eighty pages of names of all the constellations, and only ten cents for this paper covered book. You want one? Thank you, sir. And you too? Thank you, sir.

I see the line is moving which means that some people must have already bought and received their tickets. What a surprise you'll get when you land on the Moon. I won't tell you everything, because it will spoil the fun. I finally landed on the Moon. There was a big splash of water when I hit the tank.

Now up in the Moon they also have circuses. Seems they were going to have a specialty called, SDNHAJABA The Great. This fellow gets shot out of an atomic cannon. But he was late for his job. They fired the cannon anyway. Hence they thought that I, Winslow the Great, was SDNHAJABA the Great. It took me all of thirty five years to convince those Moonites that I was an Earthling.

"Please let me go home," I used to plead.

"You belong here on the Moon," they insisted. "You are a Moonite, not an Earthling. So get that nonsense out of your head!"

Then all of a sudden I got a brilliant idea. Unfortunately it took thirty five years to reach my brain cells. So simple I should have thought of it at once. I managed to have that cannon loaded with a triple charge of atomic fuel. When they fired the cannon I went straight into outer space. This time I was headed back home for Earth!

It took a little less than three days and nights for the return trip. I only hoped that I would land right back in my old circus job. Hoped that Mr. Snell and Mr. Hartley weren't angry at me for what happened. You guessed it! I landed in water but it was out in the ocean near a public beach. I got out of my plastic rube. It filled with water and sank. However I did manage to reach the shore.

I regret that I haven't any evidence to substantiate my story. But wait till you reach the Moon. Go to the circus, the one near the Big Canal on the left side of Deep River. Then as for SDNHAJABA the Great. If he isn't there, then you know I am the Man! So go ahead and find out whether what I tell you is so-or not so!


 "Moon Madness" was first published in Outer Space #17, May 1958. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.


Beam Me Up said...

good find Dave. Enjoyed it!
Who wrote it anyway?


Dave Tackett said...

Thanks Paul. Unfortunately the writer is unknown. The text stories that were in old comic books so that they would qualify for second class postage, were often anonymous and quickly forgotten. Even the Grand Comics Database lists the author as unknown.

Beam Me Up said...

so strange. i never heard of it but then here is the proof! Only you could find stuff like this! strange and kinda spooky....ooooooooo chills

Dave Tackett said...

Thanks, though finding the stories isn't hard. but double checking for copyright renewals and running them through OCR and transcribing them is tedious.