Part Two

A Lost Monument in the Sea

Dave reached around the outstretched tray table and awkwardly pulled out the travel magazine to distract himself.  Opening to the middle of the magazine, he saw a picture of an airplane in the sky.  The headline read: When the airport is just as good as the destination.

 

Visit the local food court and find the pretzel stand, buy as many pretzels and hot dogs as you can.  Grab a handful of yellow mustard packets and empty all of them on the pretzels and “sausages.” Before eating your food, head over to the nearest pub.  There will probably be an overly talkative man sitting by himself at the bar whose accent comes from a faraway land, such as Texas.  Sit next to him and after about $150 worth of beer from the tap, you won’t know where you are and you will not be able to understand the man next to you.  You will swear you have been transported to Germany or Austria at a fraction of the price…

 

Dave flipped the pages ahead with a full hand movement looking for something better.  The headline read, 50 Greatest Water Falls of Iowa.

 

50.  Dunning’s Spring Falls

 

49. Bridal Veil Falls

 

48. Yellow Falls

 

47.  Piss Falls

 

46.  Dave Pissing

 

45.  Dave, you really have to pee

 

44.  Just let it free, Dave…

 

Dave slammed the magazine closed and shoved it in the seatback pocket.  He considered thinking of the case he just had in Sydney, but the idea of international commercial arbitration just then made Dave prefer to piss his pants with slow warm embarassment.  Initially he was excited to get the chance to do some international travel for work, but the process was so arduous and dragged out that his only glimpses of Australia had been from the airport, to the hotel, to the conference room he worked out of, and over again, except in reverse.  The arbitration had had great economic impact on both parties as well as their home countries; the results could have an impact on many people’s careers.  Dave was not legally allowed to disclose anything that happened in Sydney, nor that anything happened at all in Sydney.  Regardless, it was not a fulfilling event for him and probably quite tedious for anyone hearing about it.

 

He gazed at the horizon with thoughts of the tongue lashing he was going to receive from his bosses when he came back in to work that raised his heartrate.  Dave regretted not getting something harder to drink considering that he was going to have to piss anyway.  At least, he thought, he was not responsible for as big of a catastrophe as the one he could see out his window. 

 

Just visible in the far off distance was a dim line of a tower that was once to be the Pacific Space Elevator.  It rose with a heavy base out of the ocean and disappeared skyward.  Through the clear air Dave could see how tall it was, even in its unfinished state, fading from view to a great height in the sky.  He hadn’t thought of the space elevator in quite a few years.  The cable news channels grew bored of it a long time ago letting it go forgotten in the middle of the ocean as the news cycle churned along.

 

It was a big deal.  For a while.  Well, before it was a big deal it was more like a legend whispered through comment threads and blurbed about in little squares squeezed in the corner of seldom read magazines.  There may have even been a crude website with a ticking counter of the visitors at the bottom of the page. Eventually, there would be a yearly convention where dreamers, scientists and crackpots could argue over hypothetical methods, benefits, and dangers of a non-existent space elevator they couldn't afford to pay for.  All it takes is thirty guys who have a theme and need a weekend away to rent a hall in a hotel to make something into a convention.  At one of the earliest meetings, a reporter was invited to sit in the corner, munch on the spread, act bored and write a little something for freelance work.  On a slow news day, a simple article about the space elevator convention got picked off the wire by a few newspapers and websites.

 

Last weekend, the Space Elevator Discussion Society met at the Baltimore Ramada.  SEDS is a loose community of people from all over the country interested in the possibility, applications and dangers of constructing a space elevator.  For some reason, they consider a spread of deli meats and cheeses adequate catering for an event, as small as it was.

 

A space elevator would be a long series of cables extending above orbit so that the cargo being raised would not require massive amounts of fuel in order to get into space.  The top of the elevator would be anchored around 22,000 miles up and be stationary at a fixed location on earth.

 

Debate at the conference spoke of benefits of a space elevator.  It is thought that tourism to see earth from such an altitude or as a way station for a brief trip into space are the greatest draws of a space elevator. The commercial sector would surely be interested in the possibility of easier satellite placement without the use of rockets and expensive fuel as well as the ability to repair existing equipment in orbit.  Scientific applications of such an elevator would be practically limitless with the greater access to space.  Trips to the moon could be commonplace, and colonies would not be far behind.

 

The detractors at the event warn of the great cost, in the trillions of dollars, for construction of such an elevator as a major deterrent.  The materials needed for such a structure would require great strength and flexibility that have yet to be properly developed.  There is also the fear that if the cables break they would wrap several times around the Earth, destroying everything they land on as the earth spins, tangling itself in a hellish death tentacle, but who the hell cares?  Why do they seem to think a fork is a sufficient utensil for distributing single slices of stacked cheese?  How much more would it have cost them to get something more substantial, like a pasta salad, or a tray of grilled chicken like in a chafing dish or something? I don’t even care anymore, I’m done being sent off to clown shows like this.  They even had store brand soda…

 

Dave was fascinated by this and rehashed it over and over again at cocktail parties.  It was interesting enough that people would be distracted from his dreary personality long enough to get through their drinks.  He would think about it like the comic book heroes and science fiction stories he enjoyed as a schoolboy.  He had dreams of a luxurious trip into the sky.  A vacation of a lifetime eating dinners from world class chefs while having a view unseen by travelers since crossing oceans on the Hindenburg.  Views impossible to surpass from the edge of space, and experiences never to be paralleled, he imagined, at the moment of entering weightlessness.  He would tell his young wife about the article three or four times before she snapped back “Yeah Dave, I’ve heard that one,” and he would sheepishly go quiet.  She did love that big nose of his, though.

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