Wednesday, February 12, 2014

This Week On Mars They Found A Rock. (Infinite Monkeys)

This Week On Mars They Found A Rock.

This week they found a rock on Mars, which itself isn’t so unlikely Buzz supposed, the entire planet is rocks, really but it was what the rock did that was so amazing to everyone, or maybe it was not so much what the rock did that was amazing but it was what everyone else did, or did not do, that made the rock seem so amazing.

“This rock, what it did was it was there,” Buzz said to the bus driver in the morning, and the bus driver looked at him and looked at his bus pass and shrugged.  “That’s really all but that seems amazing to people because earlier the rock was not there, and then it was there, in pictures beamed back (I think) from Mars? Which is to say that I think they were pictures and not videos that were beamed back,” Buzz told the lady next to him on the bus.

She nodded.

“So: this rock that was not there and was there is amazing people to the point of lawsuits, which is a true fact I also read this week,” Buzz wrote on his blog, which he did at work on the network computers before he started working.  Once, Buzz’s supervisor had said to Buzz that Buzz really oughtn’t use work computers to write on his blog because they could track what he did and what if the higher-ups told him (by which Buzz knew the supervisor meant him-supervisor, not him-Buzz) told him to fire Buzz?  Just don’t do it, Buzz had been told, but the supervisor had quit to take a job at a mortgage brokerage and Buzz heard the mortgage brokerage had gone under so he supposed the man had moved to New Mexico.

“A man filed a lawsuit against NASA over the Not There There Rock and so I read about that, too,” Buzz wrote, but it was nearly 8:00 and he had to leave the post unfinished while he put on his headset and began calling people to ask them questions about stuff other people wanted to know about: this week, it was whether they (the people he called) were looking for work and if so what type of work they were looking for, as well as 17 questions about themselves like were they white or married or had kids or all three?

At lunch, Buzz looked at the menu above the heads of the cashiers, deciding between several different kinds of bread and several different kinds of dressing and several different kinds of vegetables he could put on his sandwich, making all the decisions before he got up to the bored looking heavy-set woman who recognized him but didn’t know his name, although he knew hers. 

“I’ll have the Italian bread,” he told her, and reflected on how they hadn’t offered that kind of bread last week but they did now.

Throughout the afternoon Buzz was distracted with his thoughts about the Not There There Rock, and he didn’t really pay attention to what the people told him, clicking things on his computer and saving the results almost automatically white black employed unemployed 53 years old 27 years old married single divorced kids no kids.  For a while, he imagined that he was the Mars Rover, that there was a delay between when he told his hands to do something and when they did something, he would try to remember the answers to the questions and enter them 10, 15 seconds later, but he was getting lost in the answers, couldn’t keep track, and didn’t want to get them wrong.  Somebody thought it was important to know how many 20-33 year olds with kids were seeking work, and so he wanted to get that information to that person.

During the afternoon break, when his autodialer gave him 15 minutes of peace, he looked up more about the lawsuit over the Mars rock.

“Did you see this?” he asked Peter in the next cubicle, leaning back.  Peter looked back at him quizzically, sipping at his soda.  “This guy is suing NASA to try to get them to prove that the rock isn’t a rock but it’s a kind of mushroom.”

Peter shrugged.  “It takes all kinds,” he said.

Buzz put more onto his blog, adding the part about the rock maybe being a mushroom and how the lawsuit guy thought that NASA was secretly trying to seed Mars with life through cryogenically frozen specimens it was now dropping onto the planet from the rover.

Then he made 72 more phone calls before it was 5:00 and his autodialer stopped.  No overtime this week.  He grabbed his bag and shut down his computer, put the headset onto the desk, and looked at Peter.

“What’re you doing tonight?” he asked.

It was Tuesday.

“Nothing much, I guess,” Peter said, and Buzz wondered about that expression as he stood outside the building, waving to Peter as Peter got into his old car, while Buzz waited for the 5:20 bus.  Nothing much.

Buzz got off at the library, which would be open until 9 p.m.  He took the books from his bag, dropped them into the return slot, smiled back at the college-aged girl behind the desk who smiled at him as he came in, and went to the computer area, where he was able to get on a computer right away.

He was going to read about the Mars rock but he read instead a newer article about the UFO seen on Mars, a photo from Mars that this time showed a streak of light in the air that was, officially, an unidentified object so it was a UFO even though UFO to everyone meant flying saucer, Buzz knew, if you said “UFO” you meant it was a spaceship or something, not just something in the sky that you couldn’t identify.

His phone vibrated in his pocket and he took it out. He answered it, quietly, as he got up from his computer and went over to the area where talking was allowed.  Libraries, when he’d been a kid, didn’t allow any kind of talking.  Now, you could eat in them, which seemed weird, eating in a library.

“Hey,” he said.

“Are you coming home?” Jessie asked him.

“Yeah, I wanted to look something up quick,”

“Dinner’s going to get cold.”

“Sorry. I’m at the library.”

“OK,” Jessie sighed.  “How long?”

“A few more minutes?”

“OK,” she said again, this time without the sigh, and Buzz said he loved her and put away the phone and went back to his computer.

It was more than a few minutes, it was 30 minutes, he finished up reading about the UFO and finished writing a blog post about the Mars rock and the lawsuit and the UFO and speculating on what it would be like if the Rover really was there to seed Mars with life, noting that because the Rover was so small that would be a REALLY long project if that was the goal, and then he went outside and flipped through the new books he’d checked out while he waited for the 6:45 bus.

His phone vibrated again, and he saw the text from Jessie:


He texted back:


And hoped she would know he was doing it as a joke, that they’d joked in the past about how people were too lazy to even write out whole abbreviations, abbreviating the abbreviations themselves, hoped she wouldn’t think he was being a jerk.

He texted then:


She texted back a little face sticking its tongue out at him, then followed that with


The books he had taken out of the library were two science fiction books, one an invasion-of-Earth one and one something about a flight around the sun by a spaceship, and another book that talked about the history of the nutmeg trade.  It was the latter one he flipped through.

The bus dropped him a block from their house and he walked down the street, the sun nearly setting across the lake, making the leaves all dark black against the sky and putting him already into twilight.  The air was warm, and the lake smelled good, and he liked the way the lights on the houses seemed unnaturally bright, the houses already dark inside and needing lamps on even though outside it was still almost day.

Jessie was waiting at the door as he came in, a windbreaker on.  She handed him a sandwich, said “I’ll push the stroller,” and he dropped his bag down by the piano, took a bite of the sandwich as they went right back out the door to walk to the frozen custard stand six blocks away.

The sandwich was bologna, which they hadn’t had yesterday. She must have gone to the grocery store.

They walked in silence for the first half-block, Buzz eating his sandwich and wishing he’d grabbed a Coke.  In the stroller, Donald was quiet and probably asleep; nearly 7:15, this was pushing it for him.   The sun was down, now, and the streetlights were on, the three of them walking in the warm September night from pool of light to pool of light.

“How’d the interview go?” Jessie asked him.

Buzz shrugged.  “I don’t think I got the job,” he said.

They walked a bit more, and could see the custard stand, other groups of people or individuals sitting around it, the blue-and-yellow lights of its sign making them all look a uniform color.  When the bus had gone by here 25 minutes earlier, nobody had been sitting outside.

“Something will come along,” Jessie said. 

“Something always does,” Buzz said. He started to tell her about the Mars rock, and she listened to everything he had to say about it, which was a lot.

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Andrew Leon said...

I really liked the tone of this one.

Briane P said...


Rusty Carl said...

Good job. I liked it. I almost actually wrote a post about the Mars rock that wasn't, and the lawsuit that was, but decided not to, because that would mean actually writing it, and I'm trying to mostly write other things right now.

And your story covered most of what I was going to talk about anyway - minus my commentary, which would have been like, 'Mushroom aliens are attacking the rover, run it down, run it down!'

So, in other words, yours is better for two reasons, 1) because it's actually better and 2) because your story actually exists.

Great job.

Joy Pagel said...

This actually started out as first person and less fictional, and then I changed it around. So I probably stole your idea right out of your mind.