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by Daniel Braum

It happened such a long time ago. My Grandpop actually knew him. Can you believe it?

I didn’t. And all the men on the TV, men of science, my Grandpop one of them, didn’t either. Grandpop was a robotics engineer for NASA back around the turn of the century. Part of the team that landed that first rover-thing.

I remember watching the footage on the news. Grainy images of a man walking, one foot after another, against the blackness of space. From the family snapshots they showed he looked like just an ordinary man. Red-haired. A bushy beard and a kind, freckled face. His eyes were the enthusiastic kind, that reminded me of a substitute teacher first day on the job.

Grandpop said the whole shebang was just a trick. The TV shows paraded experts saying how it was impossible. One show said the man was able to do it because he believed he could. And that belief was stronger than the need for oxygen or warmth or our laws of physics. Aided by those who also believed he walked on “steps of faith”, only millions of them. The experts dismissed this. And besides being cited by the new-agers and a notable business man who wrote a success book, the story went away, eclipsed by long strings of daily crisis’s both real and imagined. The man who walked to Mars became a story lumped in with the faking of the lunar landing and the giant face in the Martian landscape that sometimes popped up on late night documentary TV.


Someone rapped at Grandpop’s door. Great-Grandpop thanks to my little Julie and Horatio. All the kids were out back looking for the Easter eggs. The girls were with Grandpop in the kitchen getting our big supper ready, so we weren’t expecting anyone.

I answered the door to find the man who walked to Mars standing there holding a paper shopping bag. He was older and just looked, worn for lack of a better word. But those eyes still brimmed with the energy I had noticed in his photos all those years ago.

“Your Grandpop here?” he said. He was all shifty, like he was in a big rush.

Grandpop must have heard and he ambled to the door.

“Marge said this day would come, but I didn’t believe her, rest her soul,” Grandpop said.

They didn’t say much else. But from their silence and half smiles, half scowls, I got the sense they were old friends, reunited, with years and a bad argument between them.

“I don’t have long,” the man who walked to Mars said. He handed Grandpop the paper bag then he was gone, like a fugitive.

Grandpop peered into the bag. He scowled. Smiled for real, then brought it to the kitchen and set it down on the table.

“Who was that Grandpop?” I asked.

“The man who walked to Mars,” he said.

“Really?” I asked.

He lifted a hunk of metal from the bag. It looked like part of a little metallic wagon with wheels and a stump of a robotic arm.

“Though I’d never see her again,” Grandpop said with that look on his face when the Astros come back to win it in the bottom of the ninth.

“What now?” I asked.

I meant about our Easter day. But he must have been thinking something else.

“Want to go for a walk?” he asked.

- END -


nice one :-)

Posted by: Jason | June 18, 2008 4:53 AM

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