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The End of the Road
About the Author: Manny Frishberg has been making up stories since he first stared out a window. He spent the first half of his life learning how to write them and the second half learning what to write about, He is now spending the third half of his life making up stories, just like when he was eight years old. When he is not doing that, he writes about things he hasn’t made up for several magazines, and provides freelance editing and writing coach services.

I couldn’t have been prouder of the new moon buggy when we finally rolled it out for the public to see—a near perfect replica of Jonas Maquender’s ’72 Plymouth Barracuda hot rod. Headers bristled from under the fender line, the air scoop gleamed in the sun as if it had been chromed. I had always loved that car.

Naturally, the Great Man himself had come up for the unveiling. He stood beside the oversize machine in his pristine white pressure suit, the half-Earth hanging over his right shoulder. I tweaked the white balance to ensure that his trademark silver mane and Fu Manchu mustache showed up through his visor. He beamed like a schoolboy on Christmas morning—as if he’d built it himself. Of course, in a way he had.

I checked the official photos, then took a few shots for my personal collection with the old Hasselblad Mr. MaQ had let me keep from the Apollo 12 stuff we’d salvaged. A real class act, when he wanted to be. He even located a little Japanese company that still makes the film for it. It cost me the best part of a month’s pay to have the film lifted up but what else did I have to spend it on up here?

I stayed out to make a few more pictures after he went in. After shooting the hot rod from all the angles I could think of I took a few landscapes, with and without the shadow of the car stretched across the bright surface dust. It had a desolate beauty and I knew I’d never see it again once things’d finished up here.

Recreating a replica of his youth had been Mr. Maquender’s dream but it was just one project among many which he oversaw from his New York offices. Actually accomplishing it had occupied my life day in, day out, for the past three years. But then, having built street racers back in northern Jersey was one of the things that got me my job in the first place.

I’d taken several shots of him, horizontals and verticals. Back in the Cave he could choose which one we would stream back to Earth. You don’t get to be the senior project director and grand high factotum for a man like Mr. Maquender without being able to intuit his desires before being told.

Coming up for the official unveiling and test run was only the third time he’d actually set foot on the moon. Not that I didn’t understand— you don’t get to run the world’s fifth most profitable enterprise by spending all your time pursuing your hobbies. By the time I climbed in the airlock Mr. Maquender was tucked safely away in the guest quarters until dinner. I was relieved to have a little time to myself.

The Cave was as Earthlike a surrounding as money could buy. Not that Maquender money paid for it. The International Space Agency funded it and the one-point-five kilometer test track. MaQ Industries even made a decent profit on the construction job. Once we finished the project, the Cave would be refitted as a permanent laboratory. Mr. MaQ was a shrewd operator. You had to give him that.

I put on my tuxedo for the celebratory dinner Mr. MaQ had arranged. Since I still had half a roll of film left I took pictures of the rest of the crew—all dressed to the nines, as we used to say. Some of them thought his bringing formal wear up was a ludicrous waste of cargo space, but it was his show and his money. On the other hand, we were all grateful for the real beef steaks he brought with him.

The menu included whole baked potatoes, leaf lettuce salad and spinach, all from the galley’s gardens and served on lunar ceramic plates with flatware we’d cast from scrap steel from the landers. Joel’d even made a reasonable cake made from fresh milled hydroponically grown wheat for dessert.

“You’ve really outdone yourself,” Mr. MaQ told him between bites. Joel grinned so hard it almost split his face. If he’d had a tail he’d’ve been wagging it.

Mr. Maquender had that self-satisfied smile on his face. He’d saved the best surprise for last—cognac, brought it up in his personal kit, along with a dozen plastic snifters he’d had specially made for the occasion. We had managed some reasonably palatable grain whiskey from time to time. You’d expect nothing less from a crew heavy with engineers, given an endless supply of flasks and tubing, and way too much free time. But this was the genuine article, VSOP, from France. Not more than about a swallow or two per person, but nectar of the Gods, nonetheless.

This story appears in our NOV 2016 Issue
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Reader Discussion

What a wonderful tale! Such a different kind of mystery told in a unique fashion.
By Janet Sanderson

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