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New Year’s Clouds

by Kat Beyer

New Year’s Eve on Ganymede: we still celebrated it on Earth’s Julian time. Paulie would always make sure the link was good, so we could watch Big Ben, and then the Ball in New York, and the Firepod in San Francisco.

“Pretentious dirtniks,” Paulie would say, sniffing as the Pod burst over the Bay. He still says it. He’s never thought much of anyone who didn’t have the guts to leave Earth’s gravity.

“You smoke Lucky Strikes, though,” Ming pointed out to him on our second New Year’s.

“Yes, they use up too much oxygen. Strains the manufacturing rig,” I added, because it was time someone brought this up.

“Never a big one for small pleasures, our Stefania,” Paulie sniped, and took a long drag on his cigarette; he knew by then his sexist quips wouldn’t draw any anthrax from me. I had been through naut training before the lawsuits. “Anyway, we’re not going to have to worry about that much in a minute, right?”

He was probably right, damn him. We had chosen Hawai’i’s New Year, in honor of our chief scientist, Dr. Hana, even though—actually because—she hadn’t made it through planetfall. Sometimes it takes someone. Maybe like the gods of a new land demand a sacrifice. That’s superstitious, I know. I wondered, just the same, what Ganymede’s gods (if any) would make of what we were about to do.

We had seated the first canister and the master switch by her grave.

“If this works can I turn the manufacturing rig into a barbecue?” asked Paulie, stubbing out his cigarette at 11:06, Hawai’i time.

“If it doesn’t work,” said Ming, taking our suits down from their hooks, “it will turn all of us into barbecue.”

Paulie shrugged and looked at me. Everybody knew I had the final say, by then.

“Sure. But let’s wait a bit, first,” I said.

By 11:45 we were suited and through the doors, having learned from past mistakes to allow plenty of time for them. We felt pretty silly standing by the master switch for a quarter of an hour, but somehow it still seemed right.

At midnight we all laid hands on the switch together.

“For Dr. Hana,” said Paulie, suddenly solemn.

“For Dr. Hana,” repeated Ming and I.

We pressed the switch.

We weren’t barbecue.

After a while, when the sky started to form above us, each canister adding to the atmospheric mix, Paulie said, “You know what I’m looking forward to?”

“Smoking outside?” asked Ming.

“No. Well, yes. But no.”

“What, then?” I asked, when he kept on staring upwards.


“Happy New Year, Paulie,” I said.


ooh, i like this one!

Posted by: susannah | January 3, 2009 11:54 PM

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