I said that “Patriotism” is a way of saying “Women and children first.” And that no one can force a man to feel this way. Instead he must embrace it freely. I want to tell about one such man. He wore no uniform and no one knows his name, or where he came from; all we know is what he did. In my home town sixty years ago when I was a child, my mother and father used to take me and my brothers and sisters out to Swope Park on Sunday afternoons. It was a wonderful place for kids, with picnic grounds and lakes and a zoo. But a railroad line cut straight through it. One Sunday afternoon a young married couple were crossing these tracks. She apparently did not watch her step, for she managed to catch her foot in the frog of a switch to a siding and could not pull it free. Her husband stopped to help her. But try as they might they could not get her foot loose. While they were working at it, a tramp showed up, walking the ties. He joined the husband in trying to pull the young woman’s foot loose. No luck — Out of sight around the curve a train whistled. Perhaps there would have been time to run and flag it down, perhaps not. In any case both men went right ahead trying to pull her free … and the train hit them. The wife was killed, the husband was mortally injured and died later, the tramp was killed — and testimony showed that neither man made the slightest effort to save himself. The husband’s behavior was heroic … but what we expect of a husband toward his wife: his right, and his proud privilege, to die for his woman. But what of this nameless stranger? Up to the very last second he could have jumped clear. He did not. He was still trying to save this woman he had never seen before in his life, right up to the very instant the train killed him. And that’s all we’ll ever know about him.
This is how a man dies. This is how a man … lives!
- Robert Heinlein Wikiquote – From an address he made to a naval academy in 1988.
Once upon a time not so long ago, in fact a few, or several, or some weeks ago just before we were ordered to shelter in our abodes because a deadly virus was encroaching upon the world and getting closer to home, I paid a visit to the local library. And, boy, am I glad I did because I checked out two interesting books. Did I read them? Well true confession: in parts. Both books are a series of short stories each by its own author, and the one I’m going to talk about now is by a very famous science fiction writer of the past, who wrote the novel “Stranger in a Strange Land.” A book I’ve never read but would like to. Short stories seemed more manageable. So the short story I am finishing now, is about someone’s house that mysteriously and tragically went up in flames and it turns out the perpetrator was a person who practiced witchcraft, or black magic, making it more difficult to fix the problem. The architect who’s hired to do so is an honorable and thoughtful man. Anyway, the truth of the matter is that I stopped in the middle of this story, and have no idea if what I told you is really what happened, or if I just made it up. I think they call that meta diction or metafiction, or something like that. Anyway, I will tell you what’s absolutely true – The title is “Magic Inc.” and in this story good people travel around on magic carpets to get from one place to the next. I also know gnomes, yes, gnomes, were hired to rebuild the house that bunted down, but since the gnomes were only four feet tall they were subject to verbal abuse, and a spanking if they dared to cross Mrs. Jennings the proprietor of the burnt house. Mrs. Jennings is just a little bit evil. Well, I think I will finish this story without looking back, as I’m fascinated with all the magic that unfolds within its narrative. My urgency to get back to it stems from the fact that the library just opened up in phase two of the sheltering in place process and they informed me that they renewed the books, but that they will be due July 21. Plenty of time!
As I look back at the strangeness of this invasive virus that has disrupted everyone’s life I can’t help but think that we are now living in sci fI times, and it truly feels like we are strangers in a strange land, and what we could really use is an army of gnomes to get us back on course, and maybe a few magic carpets to get to places we can only imagine these days, going to in our dreams. I highly recommend that you read “Magic inc” so you can tell me what happens in the beginning. Happy magic carpet flying! And watch out for bad witches.
P.S. Follow the links and read more about the author of “Magic Inc.” and “Stranger in a Strange Land.”
Did you know that French paleontologists have discovered massive footprints left by three gigantic long necked sauropods, in a location called Castelbouc Cave? According to Science News these sauropods walked along the seaside 168 million years ago. The discovery was made by Jean-David Moreau and his colleagues who descended 500 meters into the natural cave, where they’ve studied these five-toed herbivore tracks measuring 1.25 meters in length. The footprints were actually found on the roof of the cave. Imagine the immensity of these creatures that lived in the mid Jurassic era. The scientists work out of the Université Bourgogne Franche-Compté in Dijon, France.
Paraphrased in my own words, the information was taken from, “This paleontologist goes spelunking for dino prints” by John Pickrell
Science News / June 6, 2020