Friday, May 7, 2010

Checking Out

"May I help you?"
The librarian looked at Jack, who was holding a book in his hand. Jack placed the book on the counter and the librarian started scanning it into the computer.
"'Deke', huh? That's a great book!" the librarian said.
"Yeah, I'd heard a lot about it, but I'd never actually gotten around to reading it." Jack replied.
"Yeah, Deke Slayton knew all the behind-the-scenes stuff at NASA. If you're a space buff, you'll really enjoy it."
"'Space buff' would be putting it mildly. It's more an obsession with me."
"Really? Me too! Say, I have a question for you! Everyone knows Neil Armstrong was the first man on the moon. But who was the LAST man on the moon?"
A smile crossed Jack's face.
"That would depend on how you define 'last'. If you're basing it on the order in which they exited the LM, the answer would be Harrison Schmitt. If you base it on the order in which the returned to the LM, it would be Gene Cernan."
The librarian responded with an even bigger smile. The smile of a hardcore space nerd recognizing one of his kindred.
"That's pretty good! You know the controversy!"
"Yeah, and I'm not about to attempt to resolve it, either", Jack laughed.
The librarian ripped the due date slip off the printer and placed it inside the book.
“Okay. Here’s another one for you,” said the librarian. “Can you name the only person to be buried on the moon?”
“BURIED on the moon?” Jack’s brow furrowed in thought as he took the book from the librarian. “You’ve got me on that one!” he finally conceded.
“Astronomer Eugene Shoemaker. A vial of his ashes was placed on the Lunar Prospector spacecraft in the 1990’s. When the mission ended, it was intentionally crashed onto the lunar surface. Thus he’s the only person buried on the moon.”
“That’s fascinating!” replied Jack. “I know a lot of space trivia, but even I didn’t know that one!”
“Yeah. Not many people do. I guess some Native Americans were quite upset by it, though.”
“Upset? Isn’t that rather hypocritical of them?”
“Hypocritical? How so?”
“Well, around these parts you can’t even dig a foundation for a parking garage without inadvertently exhuming a half-dozen Indians! And they’re upset over one guy buried on the moon?”
The librarian seemed taken aback. “I think it was merely because some Native peoples view the moon as sacred.”
“Maybe to us palefaces parking garages are sacred! After all, if there’s anything white people worship it’s commerce and urban sprawl! But dammit, if a backhoe happens to nick the skull of some Ojibwa who's been moldering in the ground for the past 3,000 years we have to stop digging, call in an army of archaeologists and get some overweight guy with an Italian last name and one-sixteenth Cherokee blood to hold some ceremony where he flings about some corn silk and burns some alfalfa seeds or some shit like that while the white folks have to stand around somberly and pretend they give a flying fuck! In the meantime, the building of the parking garage is held up two years! Give me a goddamned break! We’re expected to kiss their asses just because they were careless in disposing of their dead and THEY’RE ticked off because we put one dead guy on the moon? I say they should just cut us some fucking slack!” At that, Jack spun around and headed for the library exit.
“I'm sorry you're having a bad day," said the librarian. "Your book is due back in a month.”

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