Ian Sales: All That Outer Space Allows

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Ian Sales All That Outer Space Allows
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    All That Outer Space Allows
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All That Outer Space Allows: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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It is 1965 and Ginny Eckhardt is a science fiction writer. She’s been published in the big science fiction magazines and is friends with many of the popular science fiction authors of the day. Her husband, Walden, has just been selected by NASA as one of the New Nineteen Apollo astronauts… which means Ginny will be a member of the Astronaut Wives Club. Although the realities of spaceflight fascinate Ginny, her genders bars her from the United State space programme. Her science fiction offers little in the way of consolation—but perhaps there is something she can do about that… Covering the years 1965 to 1972, when Walden Eckhardt lifts-off aboard Apollo 15 as the mission’s lunar module pilot, this is Ginny’s life: wife, science fiction writer, astronaut wife… because that is ALL THAT OUTER SPACE ALLOWS.

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Ian Sales


Chapter 1

“We choose to go to the Moon”

Ginny is at the table on the patio, in slacks and her favourite plaid shirt, tapping away on her Hermes Baby typewriter, a glass of iced tea to one side, a stack of typescript to the other. Something, a sixth sense, she’s developed it during her seven years as an Air Force wife, a presentiment, of what she can’t say, causes her to glance over at the gate to the yard. And there’s Bob, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lincoln Hollenbeck, cap in hand, his movie-star profile noble with concern. Ginny immediately looks over to her right, across to the Air Force Base and the dry lake. Her hand goes to her mouth. Oh my God my God my God. There’s a line of dark smoke chalked up the endless sky. My God my God my God. She pushes back her chair and lurches to her feet.

Is it…? she asks.

Have you seen Judy? Bob replies. She’s not at home.

Ginny’s heart takes wing. It’s not Walden.

No, she says and she’s not thinking straight as she knows Judy is out. She’s not at home?

She has to ask: It’s Scott?

He ejected in time, Bob explains, but he’ll be laid up for a time.

The smoke?

His F-104 hit the ground pretty hard.

Ginny knows the F-104, the one that looks like a silver missile. With its stubby wings, its sharp-pointed nose and the great burning orifice of its jet-pipe, it could be a starship— no, a star fighter… In fact, that’s not a bad idea. She pushes her sunglasses up onto her crown, picks up a pencil and scribbles a note on a piece of paper.

I think Judy has gone into Lancaster, she tells Bob. She’ll be back soon.

I guess I better wait for her, Bob replies. She’ll want to go see Scott in the hospital.

Is it bad?

Bob shrugs. Busted leg, he says.

I got some more iced tea in the refrigerator.

He shrugs again and settles his cap back on his head. I guess, he says. He seems to realize he’s being unmannerly, and adds, Yes, that would be real fine, Ginny.

Ginny leaves her writing—now is not the time to fill her mind’s eye with other worlds and other times. She’ll tidy everything away later, once Bob has gone, and before Walden gets home. Walden puts up with it but he doesn’t like it, and he especially doesn’t like to be reminded of it—his wife, the “space cadette”, it was funny, kind of endearing even, back when they were courting at SDSU and afterward, when he was in the Air Force and before she graduated, which she always insisted on doing. Since their marriage, Walden has used her writing far too many times as a weapon, a club with which to browbeat her into submission when they argue, when he wants his way and their stubbornness is equally matched. He’s a liberal guy in many respects and she loves that about him, and perhaps if he had not been Air Force he’d be something wild and crazy; but he’s also a man and he runs roughshod over her wishes and desires every moment of every day. She knows only too well which battles she can fight to the bitter end and which are better served by beating a tactical retreat.

But sometimes, too many times maybe, Walden gets his way, and her stories are where she puts the victories she feels she should have won. They’re a form of therapy for her, a catharsis, a way of vicariously living out a life the real world can’t give her, though she wants it so much, was brought up to demand it, remembering with pain and sadness her mother’s bitterness as she was marched back into the kitchen when the Second World War ended, “Rosie the Riveter go back home” tattooed on her heart, written in the lines of her face.

Ginny fetches the jug of iced tea and a pair of fresh glasses, and she and Bob settle down in the lounge, on sofas across from one another, the coffee table between them. Sprawled on its top are half a dozen magazines, the cover of the uppermost depicting a beautiful woman in a bubble helmet exiting a spaceship on an alien world, the name “Alice Eleanor Jones” prominent as the issue’s novella is hers—but then she’s a big-name author and has been for the past ten years. Ginny only wishes she were as good as Jones (and she’s jealous of Jones’s success in the slicks). Bob takes his glass, balances it on one knee, his cap now hung on the other knee. Ginny lifts her sunglasses from her crown, bends forward to put them on the coffee table, and uses the movement as an excuse to scoot the magazines together into a pile and then place the pile on the carpet. There’s a thin dusting of sand on the table-top and a series of smeared rectangles where the magazines sat—she never moves anything here in the desert, fine sand gathers on every surface—so she gives a swipe with the flat of her hand before sitting back.

For a minute or so, they smile uncomfortably at one another. Ginny likes Bob, he’s a swell guy, but they both know this moment is awkward; and she’s wondering what possessed her to invite him inside to wait for Judy. He would have been happy sitting in his car, it’s not like he can do small talk with a woman, even a “free spirit” like Ginny—that’s how Ginny likes to think the guys on the base think of her. (She knows it’s probably not true and Walden will tell her nothing; and she tries so much to fit in, even with the other wives but sometimes it’s hard and she says something and everyone turns to look at her like she just sprouted a second head.)

This is nice tea, says Bob. Not too sweet.

It keeps me going during the day, Ginny says.

You said Judy went into Lancaster?

Bob takes another sip of his tea, and then glances at his wristwatch.

Ginny looks at her own watch. I’m pretty sure it was about three hours ago, she says. I guess she’ll be back any time soon.

Bob rises to his feet. I ought to go wait outside, he says, so I don’t miss her.

You’ll hear her drive up from here, Ginny tells him.

The room is as silent as the desert, Ginny won’t have distractions like the radio playing when she’s writing. Her typewritten words drop into her stories like supersonic jet fighters stooping from the sky.

She thinks, was I being forward? Was that forward? I don’t want him to read too much into that, maybe I’m being too relaxed. It’s only Bob, but… She sits up straight, prim and proper, despite the slacks and shirt, despite the strappy slingback sandals and the chipped polish all too visible on her toenails, and says, But if you think that’s best…

Bob nods. I think so, he says.

His face is a mask, but Ginny thinks maybe she detects some relief. And she wonders if spending the morning in the head of her story’s heroine is making her see things in that handsome countenance which don’t exist, her imagination spilling over into the real world and laying a deceptive gloss over it. It’s okay when she’s with Walden, she knows him so well, she can read him like, well, like a book. And when there’s company over, she’s usually had all day to prepare for it, to rehearse for the role she must play, dashing from room to room getting them clean and tidy, getting the food ready, getting everything just right like she’s supposed to…

Bob puts his cap on his head and carefully straightens it. It was nice tea, he says, Thank you, Ginny.

So she rises to her feet, and says, You’re coming on Sunday, aren’t you? To the barbecue?

Sure, he replies, Alison and I are looking forward to it. He gives a curt nod. You’ll tell Wal I was here, he says (and it’s clear from his tone it’s not a question).

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