Longshanks Bill And The Great Space Elevator.
As close this as we could get, no more, the boys and I. We lounged ourselves about the place, some on the hood, the roof and the pick-up’s bed, few more as hit the dirt. Passed us the beers around and drew long before they warmed out here, the arse of nowhere. We bade our fare-thee-wells to sobriety and set off.
“Bill, you lanky dog-fuck, what are we all of us looking at out here?”
I moved me about to the front of the truck and waved all grand to the fenced wilderness beyonds.
“That, boys my boys, is where all of the future is happening. Right in our backyard, as it is.”
Some unresponsive faces did greet this, some slack and blank, God love ‘em as I do. But I gave them my back and pointed with my beer-free hand into the distance, over the barbs of fencing and the dirt and the dirt and there, right there, I saw it all.
“There, I say, the great Space Elevator.” I sipped more like a swig to wet my whistle, and say, “That’s where they’re all for building it, I know.”
“You know, how’s that?” asked Con of me. I look to him, his beer up to his face like a telescope for the mouth, seeing the next hour through it sure enough, “Who says to you, I say?”
“My own Dad, he know people who know people. And some people say that’s where they’re after setting it down.”
Drew moved up to me, pushed his glasses up his nose a ways, squinted and did say, “That’s a good spot. Needs to be high.” Drew had a brain, more than the rest, and more than I, so I left him to that.
He turned, did Drew, and launched, as wont, into science. He, of all of us, would go on. Godspeed, I bid.
“The higher the spot, the better. Means that the elevator can be shorter. Also, the construct isn’t fixed to the earth, they can’t do that, so it’s held in place with electromagnets. The satellite the other end is tethered to holds it, balancing the whole thing vertically with gravity and centrifugal force.”
“Haw! I love how this one do talk,” cried Jeff, “he sounds like the telly, so he do.” He raised his can to Drew in mock and toasted him, laughed hyena.
“Shut your noise,” I say, “and listen good and close. There’s none of us save Drew alone can get any decent work beyond our school. We know we’re dumb as ox, bar Jeff here, who be far too dumb to know his own limitations as set by God.”
And too far in the telling, I see, as the oxen Jeff takes his umbrage and highs himself up and takes a swing. I swear, I can’t talk to no man without getting punched in the ear or nose for summat. It’s dust and scuffles then, with some blood to boot, until we be pulled apart and dusted down.
Jeff spits blood and dirt to the bloody dirt and looks at my way. “Fuck you, Lanky Bill, you ain’t no more smarter than I, and I say so too.”
“I say it myself that I’m dumb as ox, Jeff. I apologise, but let’s get on.”
“On with what, what’s this here today any ways?”
“We got some school left to us,” I say, “and there’s scant time left to pick a trade. But I say if we lean into the building trade, and lean hard for sure, then we got jobs for life building this here elevator.”
“Jobs for life?” say Con. “How long’s it take then, to build such?”
“I hear some thirty year, give or take. Drew?”
Drew scrunch his face and look at our horizon, almost like he’s a-quotin’ the job himself. “Give or take,” he does concur.
“Well, I say,” says Jeff, “how long you plan on living, this job for life of thirty years, Bill. How long?”
“We build it, you see,” I tell to Jeff, and Con and all, “and then we ride it. There’s few houses on the moon, you see, and even less on Mars. We build it and ride it and build some more. We fucking spacemen be, you see?”
And they pick themselves from lounging, and jump down from the flatbed and wander all to the barbs of the wire fence and they look and they see into the future with me. It’s all but packed dirt and stone now. There’s some hell digging to be done, sure enough.
“It’s building that’s the best bad job we’ll get, look at us. But building this, this will be a job for men, so I say.” I let for that to sink in, hit bottom. But these boys, some of ‘em are deeper than others, if you dig. “You can clairvoyant us, all pumping gas and hauling trash our born days. I see that, as do you. But a building trade is the first rung on a different ladder.”
“Yeah, may as well,” mutters Con and he and others, two or three, get back to his truck and pop some beer and they’re all done for this. Soon enough, they all wander back and away from the fencing. But Drew and Jeff, my extremes of human intellect, stay true. Jeff strums the fence a way, it vibes at it, into distance.
“I tell, boys, we’re a-getting’ out of our shit here town. We’re getting off this shit here earth. We build our own fuckin’ ladder, so we do.”
They see with me. A tall silver tower, a needle, shining in the sun merciless. It’s there, you just have to see it. You don’t need to squint or foretell, it’s coming like inevitable.
“One day, I say. We’re done gonna make it.”