Friday, October 28, 2016

NO UP OR DOWN

The 1960s Space Race between the USSR and USA exterminated young boys' worship of westerns and we retired cowboy hats, vests, guns, and holsters to the closet next to toy boats and teddy bears.

During the autumn of 1962 I pleaded with my parents to buy me an astronaut costume for Halloween and my father answered my request with a gleaming John Glenn space suit complete with a visored helmet. My older brother dressed as a green-skinned Martian and Frunk had fabricated a ray gun from a broken egg-beater. After dinner we were eager to trick or treat, but before leaving the house I purloined sunglasses from my father's desk.

"Aren't you going to ask Dad for permission?" My brother was better at following rules than me.

Our father was escorting my younger siblings around the neighborhood.

"He won't know a thing."

"Why do you need sunglasses."

"They're extra protection from your death ray." I pointed to his weapon. I had seen INVASION FROM MARS ten times. The Martians' main weapon vaporized soldiers into carbon.

"I don't think this is a good idea."

"We'll be back before you know it. What can happen?"

We lived in the suburbs, a land of two-car garages, good schools, and beautiful babysitters.

"I guess nothing."

"Other than getting a lot of candy."

"Chocolate."

"We left our split-level ranch house. My best friend, Chuckie Manzi, joined us on the lawn. He was a young Frankenstein.

"First things first." He pointed across the street. Mr. Martini's house drove truck for Arnold's Bakery. His wife put out cake instead of candy.

It was a moonless night. I could barely see. We climbed the Martinis' brick stairs. There was no metal railing. My brother rang the doorbell.

Mrs. Martini acted scared and offered a selection of cakes. I chose orange spice. Chuckie and my older brother picked chocolate cake. We thanked her with filled mouths and I slipped on my glasses and shut the visor. I then turned around and walked off the stairs.

Free fall.

My helmet smashed into the wall and mutilating my little finger scrapped down te rough brick. I thumped into the flower bed face first..

I sat up with blood all over my astronaut suit. I was more concerned with my father's sunglasses. They had fallen off, but luck was with me. They were intact.

My brother led me back to our house, careful not to let any blood drip on his costume.

My mother admonished my dangerous behavior. She had six kids. We were always in jeopardy. A band-aid stemmed the blood and my mother refused to let me leave the house again." "What about my candy?"

Here." My mother dumped a load a licorice, Mars bar and other treats in my bag. "One accident is more than enough for tonight."

And she was right and I replaced my father's sunglasses on his desk.

I still bear a jagged scar on my little finger from that fall and since that Halloween I have only worn sunglasses at night when I can't find my regular glasses, but I learned that on Earth we fall in one direction.

Down and no one ever fell in Space.

There was no up or down off this planet.

Especially boys from the South Shore of Boston in the fall of 1962.

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