MARX ON THE MOON


BY:
J. A. Howe

      Since we lived right on the edge of Oceanus, we got good seats for the Star game.  Manny and I went in at about 2pm or so and arrived just in time to see the workers setting up the giant screens, before they closed the stadium hood.  They were cameras, those screens, that would broadcast the game to the various stations that floated nearby, and to the passing ships, not to mention Mars and Earth.  I felt sorry for the guys at Venus station; only radio would go that far. 

      It was the first time that such a game was ever played.  Baseball in the Sky, it had been touted all over the place.  We'd watched the Blinkers going on about it for the past few months as the mills swelled and the crops continued to grow badly.  We were spindly people, us Moon Men, but we were wiry: that was what my mom said.  And now we were going to host the greatest game in baseball history since Babe Ruth played way back when.

      I'd never seen baseball, not up close anyway.  You couldn't  play stuff like that here in low gravity, where the first colonists had to wear special suits and bounce around like beachballs while they planted their flags and made their great pronouncements.  But they didn't have thick skin like my people did, and they didn't use their leg muscles half as well.  That, my mom said, was due to adaptation.

      "They're going to be here in spacesuits, you know," Manny snickered as we climbed another rockface.  We were trying to get in as close as we could; a chance to see Earthlings was too good to miss.  Our town was too far from the station at Harding to ever get contact like that.  Manny checked his air tank, still blabbing.  "...Those huge, bulky ones, and they're going to be popping calcium pills."

      "Yeah, and they're fat," I finished for him, grinning.  We'd all heard the stories about what Earth people really looked like, mostly from the people who worked at the station and commuted.  My cousin Ariel was one of them; she said they were the ugliest people she'd ever seen.  "I wonder how they'll run in this atmosphere, then."

      "The dome," Manny shrugged dismissively. 

      The Space Sports Commission had finally finished Lunar Stadium back two months ago.  Manny and I had gone to visit it many times, just to hang out and bother the construction team or to pretend we were the players who were going to play there.  It was the first pressurized stadium ever:  supposedly there was  going to be gravity in there almost equal to Earth's.  Or at least that had been the original plan; at the first test, it failed miserably.  So the players who were going in today were going to have to deal with almost the gravity they were used to,  but not quite.  The guys and I had thought for a while about breaking into the gravity controls before the game and changing them to high for fun, to see what the Earth Men would do with that, but the gang up the way got to it first and the controls were locked up tighter. 

      "I still don't think it'll hold," I said as we entered.  The game was to be free because it was such a "momentous occasion," as our mayor had said at the Town Speech the night before.  Looking around, we found him sitting over by the bull pen.  "I give it till 2nd."

      "You never know."  Ram Vasquez and Una Silver popped into the seats next to us.  "My Dad says it's been hard tested since."

      "I say it won't at all, and won't that be something!" Una grinned.  "It'll beat Rolling, that's for sure."

      Rolling was the National Sport around here back then.  Basically it was something like old skateboard races.  Part of the game was keeping yourself as close to the ground as possible;  hard to do since you only had one leg on the ground at a time to balance yourself.  My stepsis liked gravity ball better, even though she was bad at it and kept punching the ball out to space instead of across the net. 

      Now the music was starting:  there they were, playing the Lunar National Anthem.  We stood up for it, looking around at the aliens.  They really did look huge in those suits:  big blobs of all different colors lined the stands, some with their heads covered in glass balls, others in body suits that gave every bulge and curve instant notice.  And they had a lot of curves.  "Is that a girl?" Una snickered, staring at one such glob of humanity in glaring magenta.  "Yuk."

      "Sssss, they're giving the list!"

      The crowd cheered as the players came out to the field.  Half the Earth World Series bounced out there, famous faces I'd only heard of on the radio or seen holo viz pictures of.  There was Harolds, there was Williams, there was Tora Norville - Una stood up and howled as she went by, heading for short-stop.  There were Yavez and Pedro Jacobsen and In Ban Chin. 

      The stadium got quiet as the announcer quieted, and then us Moon Men roared again when President Marceaux came out to pitch the first ball.  She looked great, wearing a beautiful gold and green swish that whirled all around her 100-pound, 6ft 5 body.  My grandmother.  "Yahoova! Yahoooova!" we yelled, and she saluted us all in the stands.  And then she reamed it, and the game began.

      The gravity held for four innings, as it turned out.  Chin got to third base, and Adrian Marx was just heading to first after a beautiful flier into the left stands near one of the screens, when suddenly it was as if time slowed.  Marx's feet left the ground just slightly, he began to swim uncertainly, to flail.

      It was like he was dancing in the air suddenly, in slow motion.  Up ahead his teammate was desperately trying to swim or something into the stands, for a very nice homer, but everyone ignored him: all eyes were on Marx.  Several people had risen from their seats.  Even the Moon Men, who'd been expecting it, had looks of astonishment on their faces: the Earthers were hanging on to each other in a half panic.  And out there on the field, Marx was wibbling and wobbling towards first base, his suit whistling slightly while the ball made odd little turns and dips of its own farther out near the screen.  People kept staring back and forth from him to it, watching as a crazy fielder whose name passes me by now and who'd been heading upward to grab the ball just kept on going, up, up, up and higher up.  Watching the ball bounce gently into the screen eventually and get grabbed by a Moon Man.  Watching Marx continue swimming for the base.

      He made it at last, and his boots locked into the magnetic locks that had been put on each base just in case and at certain points in the field.  The Earthers in the stands were recognizing that they had magnetic locks too, and were slowly calming down.  We were laughing out loud at them; the adults nearby tried to quiet us but some of them we could tell were having a hard time of their own not to guffaw.  The player who'd been jumping after the ball finally hit the roof of the stadium and stuck there to a magnetic panel, which made staying quiet even harder as rescue teams headed up that way.

      Everyone took a deep breath; you could feel it going across the stadium.

      Slowly, the coaches came bouncing out to talk to DePaulson on the mound.  I looked over and saw Granny fidgeting in her seat as she conferred with one of the reserve umpires.  We saw a head shake and then the announcer's voice boomed out over the field.  "The game will be finished, by decision of the coaches.  The emergency magnetic fields have been activated."  A cheer went up, drowning out the obligatory statement about what to do in case of injury, and the game went on.

      That was one of the funniest games I've ever seen, and probably the wierdeest that the Earth folks ever did.  That afternoon, we got treated to the sight of players doing everything they could think of to stay in a straight line.  There was Carl Amex in the outfield at the bottom of the fifth, bouncing like a dog for a bone, trying to catch the ball: he caught it ten feet up in the air and had a hell of a time getting back down.  His solution was to yell for Andy Sopheren to grab his feet from below, by which time Liz McCarlson had made it halfway around the bases.  We got to see In Ban Chin get innovative in the seventh inning and roll himself around third before he got tagged, and his mate Jacobsen trying to skip in a spacesuit.  It was great.

      In the end, the score was 3-2 and we cheered the Earth Men for good sportsmanship as they left the field."C'mon!" I yelled to my pals.  Una was already scrambling down from the stands to try and grab Norville's signature.  Manny and I found Marx down by the box, surrounded by people and reporters.  The Moon Men were perched on various parts of the stands around.

      "Tell us what it felt like!  What was the first thing that ran through your head?" reporters yelled into his ear, using radios. 

      "I thought I was going to *@#@!& myself, actually," he grinned, waving up at the Moon Men in the stands who waved back.        We managed to corner him a little later, near the exit of the stadium, squeezing past guards and more reporters and fans.  "Could you sign our shirts?" we asked him.  He looked at us.               What must he have seen, this big man from Earth, who was covered in sweat from the exertion of the game.  This person, who came to us from all those miles away just to play in the most historic game in the history of baseball.  We'd probably have been two undernourished-looking, weird things to him: our eyes spread a little too wide, our heads slightly too long to be really human.  Our leg muscles over-large for our bodies that had ever-tense abdomens.  At least that's what we'd always heard that  the Earth Men said.

      He grinned.  "Little Moon Men," he said.  "You know, I had a hell of a time here.  Damndest thing ever happened to me.  I should've asked you guys for advice how to walk here, just in case."

      "It takes a bit of practice," Manny said knowingly as Marx scrawled something on his shirtsleeve and more pictures got snapped onto holo film. 

      "Bet it does," the player laughed and saluted us, went away.        "Hey, what did he write on yours?" I asked as we made our way out of the crowd.  Manny shook his head.

      "Dunno, he wrote it in Anglish.  Here, read."  I read and laughed. 

      "Thanks for the opportunity to dance in the sky," he'd written.  "Hope to see you guys next season.  Marx."

      We didn't, of course; he got injured a couple months later during a game against Kentucky.  By that time, anyway, the SSC had managed to fix the stadium so that nobody would ever have to play in such conditions again. 

      We on the moon, though, preferred it.  I've seen many ball games by now; the moon even has its own team and SSC is in the process of building a second stadium.  But I will never forget the day I saw an Earth Man fly.








Votes for: Marx on the Moon.





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