Flash Friday 25/09/2015: You Can’t Stop Ms. Mayberry
Hello, and welcome to my third anniversary piece of Flash Friday!
The last three years have been very interesting for my bitesize pieces. I saw more and more visitors every year, joined up with the Friday Flash website, watched that explode, and then hustled onto Facebook where the party kept going. Here’s hoping for another year of bitesize fiction.
As per tradition of this website, every time I celebrate my Flash Friday anniversary, I go back and revisit the two characters that starred in my very first Flash Friday: the stubborn entrepreneur Ms. Mayberry and her only customer, Gareth. You can read the previous entries here: Ms Mayberry, Ms. Mayberry Returns, and Ms. Mayberry Yet Again. Previous knowledge of these stories aren’t essential for understanding this one, but it helps. Plus, you get to see a time where I almost blew 1/5th of my wordcount budget on describing a store front. Good times.
Gareth hadn’t made it halfway down the street before someone in a spaceman’s suit jumped out at him, aiming a gun. Before he could speak, the astronaut had pulled the trigger, causing the plastic rings around it to light up in different colours and multiple sounds of laser-fire coming from the gun’s tinny speakers. After the astronaut was content, they lifted the helmet off, holding it under an arm.
“If I were an actual alien invading Earth,” Ms. Mayberry said, her old figure somewhat strange looking in futuristic clothing, “you’d be dead by now.”
Gareth blinked. “I’m sorry?”
“You hear me? Dead. Vaporised. Skin inside out, that sort of thing. But!” Ms. Mayberry struck a heroic pose. “You need not fear anymore, my good friend. For I am giving you the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be the very first trained professionally by the Ms. Mayberry Space Program!”
Something about being alone on a street with an old lady astronaut striking a heroic pose caused Gareth to feel awkward.
“That’s wonderful,” Gareth lied. “So what are you selling now?”
“Not selling nuffink,” Ms. Mayberry said, her face souring. “It’s a space program.”
“I’m serious, are you selling little toy spaceships? Perhaps some moonrock, or–”
Gareth couldn’t say any more, due to a plastic raygun being pressed up against the bottom of his chin. “I says, it’s a space program. No more selling stuff. No more crafts or creativity or nuffink. I went to a business startup meeting after my baby store got shut down for ‘health and safety’ — Lord knows what that’s supposed to mean — and you know what they told me? They said ‘shoot for the moon’. So that’s what I’m doing.”
“Listen, uhm,” Gareth began. “I don’t think that’s what that–”
“So you’re going to go into space, you’re going to find alien creatures, and you’re going to have the best damn experience you’ve ever had in your miserable life, or so help me. You got that?”
Gareth blinked. “You mean you have a way to get to space right now?”
“I do,” Ms. Mayberry said. “Why not come in and take a look?”
Gareth suddenly regretted his curiosity. Memories came flooding back of the baby crib that was simply a refurbished washing machine, and how her inventions got her into trouble. The rocket was probably a chair strapped to multiple fireworks, or an elevator attached to a trebuchet, or something else equally unappealing. This is what Gareth was dreading when he walked through the doors to Ms. Mayberry’s store, redesigned with waving astronauts and smiling aliens plastered across the windows.
What he saw inside defied expectation. The vehicle sitting in the middle of the room definitely looked like a rocket — if a little tiny, much smaller than its brothers and sisters at NASA — and even came with a little silo door on the store roof, presumably for allowing the vessel to actually reach space.
“Wow,” Gareth said. “Ms. Mayberry, what is this? You actually build a rocket?”
She nodded, folding her arms with a smile. “Didn’t think I could do it, could you?”
“But something like this — I mean, they call rocket science hard for a reason. How on Earth did you build such a thing without so much as a degree?”
A shrug. “Just found bits and bobs, really.”
Gareth began to clue into what was happening. Perhaps it didn’t actually fly — maybe there was a slot you put a coin in and it would rock back and forth and play a cheerful tune. Climbing into the one-man cockpit, however, revealed it was far too complex to be a toy — dials and switches for pretty much anything you could think of.
“Don’t press anything,” Ms. Mayberry said. “You’ll get the appropriate suit and breathing apparatus once you’ve finished basic training.”
Gareth wasn’t even dreaming of touching anything, but he appreciated the concern. “This could go to space? This can actually make it?”
“‘Course.” From the outside of the craft, Ms. Mayberry leant against the entrance. “S’got all that air stuff and pressure resistance and all that guff. And — get this — it’s got one-hundred whole gallons of fuel in it, ready to go.”
“That’s amazing. Wait — one-hundred? Are you sure that’s enough to get to the moon?”
“‘Course. I’d say you could drive there in a day or two.”
“Ms. Mayberry, you can’t get there with a hundred gallons. That’s, what — six cars worth? The moon is two-hundred thousand miles away. ”
Ms. Mayberry frowned. “Two-hundred thousand? The petrol station bill would be vast.”
“That’s what I’m saying. And there’s all the weird stuff that NASA put in the fuel, too. It’s a bit of a headache.”
Ms. Mayberry scratched her chin. “So if I can’t go to the moon with that amount of fuel, where can I reach?”
“I don’t know. France, maybe?”
Ms. Mayberry’s eyes glinted. “You think so, do you? You want to know the best bit about France?”
Ms. Mayberry closed the door to the rocket. “Don’t need a suit or breathing apparatus to go there.”
“Yes,” Gareth said, confused. “And what does that have to do with anything?”
Being the middle of the night, the only way the farmer was seeing anything was with a torch. Shining its beam across the wheat fields, he scanned the area where he thought he heard the loud explosion. His light found the smouldering remains of something metal within a crater. Yelling something in French to his worried wife standing in the farmhouse’s doorframe, he cautiously approached the strange wreckage.
Nothing seemed to move.
The farmer moved a large sheet of metal resting on the floor, revealing the face-down blackened and slightly singed man underneath it. The farmer gave a few prods with a stick, then turned the man over onto his back, revealing his very much alive and wide-eyed face staring at an unseen horizon.
“Well,” Gareth said, coughing up smoke. “Looks like I have to explain to her the concept of return trips.”