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The Stowaway   By:

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The Stowaway

By Alvin Heiner

He stole a ride to the Moon in search of glory, but found a far different destiny.

His eyes were a little feverish as they had been of late and his voice held a continuous intensity as though he were imparting a secret. "I've got to get on that ship! I've got to, I tell you! And I'm going to make it!"

Different members of the group regarded him variously, some with amusement, some with contempt, others with frank curiosity.

"You're plain nuts, Joe. What do you want to go to the Moon for?"

"Sure, why you wanna go? What they got on the Moon we ain't got right here?"

There was general laughter from the dozen or so who sat eating their lunch in the shade of Building B. They all thought that was a pretty good one. Good enough to repeat. "Sure, what they got on the Moon we ain't got here?"

But Joe Spain wasn't in the mood for jokes. He burned with even greater conviction and stood up as though to harangue the workers. "You wanta know why I got to go to the Moon? Why I've got to get on that ship? Then I'll tell you. It's 'cause I'm a little guy that's why! Joe Spain working stiff one of the great inarticulate masses."

More laughter. "Where'd you get those big words, Joey? Out of a book? Come on talk English!"

Joe Spain pointed to the huge, tubelike Building A, off across the desert; the building you had to have two different passes and a written permit to enter. The mystery building where even newspaper reporters were barred. "It's only the big shots they let in there ain't it? Only them that's got a drag or went to college or something. Us little guys they tell go to blow ain't that right?"

"Who the hell cares? Maybe it's a damn good place to stay away from. Maybe it'll explode or something. Who wants to die and collect his insurance?"

"I got to get on that ship when it blasts off because they can't push the masses around! We got a right to be represented even if we got to sneak in!"

"Me I'll stay on the ground."

"And besides there's the glory! You guys are too stupid to see that but it's there. The glory of being on the first rocket ship to the Moon. The name of Joe Spain written down in the history books and said over by people and school kids for thousands of years! Immortality! That's the word!"

"Well, just forget about it, Joe, 'cause you ain't going."

Joe Spain's eyes burned brighter. "Joe Spain, coming down the ramp with the big shots when it's all over. News cameras snapping! People asking for interviews!"

"But you ain't going 'cause "

Joe shouted the man down. "And another thing. Us little people are entitled to a representative aboard that ship. We got a right to know what's going on. How come there's nothing about it in the papers? Only the big shots knowing about it and whispering among themselves? It's because they're trying to snag it all and freeze us out!"

"You're crazy. It's for security reasons. It's all hush hush so it won't leak out like the atom bomb did. The big boys are being smart this time."

"And you ain't getting on," the interrupted man repeated doggedly, "because there ain't a way in God's world to get on. With triple security all around the building, just tell me a way to get in. Just tell me one."

"I'm going to get on that ship," Joe Spain said. Then he clammed up suddenly. Joe Spain wasn't stupid. He was a talker, but he knew when to stop sounding off.

The men went back to work shifting the big aluminum barrels from trucks into Building B. Carrying the wooden crates and the paper wrapped parcels up the ramps and to the side of the building facing the big secret structure labeled A. They worked until five o'clock. Then they filed out and got into the waiting trucks and were hauled back to town; the boom town that had mushroomed up in the desert overnight and would die with the same swiftness when the project was completed.

Joe went straight to his rooming house, washed up, put on his good clothes, and found a stool in a nearby restaurant... Continue reading book >>

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