THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 52

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 52

 “I do not believe we have underestimated your talents Awrah Bouchette.”…

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Crank Call by Graham Annable

“I will tell you of something your greedy leaders will not: At eleven o’clock AM Texas time, the Earth’s ultimate imperialistic endeavor, Space Colony 1 has been completely and utterly destroyed!” There is more than one stab into the belly and genuine pride in his delivery.

Francine eases herself down into her chair, gasping at the mere thought. This man does not sound like your typical crank.

“Did you hear me woman? The Taliban, Nepal and Korean governments applaud this accident. Allah and Buddha have spoken.”

“I heard you,” she whispers faintly. Everyone in southern Texas knows someone who works in the space industry or Space Colony specifically. “I am not inclined to believe you sir,” is all the journalism she can muster.

“You are the only civilian who has this information, use it to disgrace the infidels and enhance your own career and that of your station. Reuters would gladly break this story, no problem.”

“If I am the only Westerner to know this, if it is true, wouldn’t NASA want to hold a formal press conference?”

“But you do not want to share the spotlight,” he pauses, she mulls. “I do not believe we have underestimated your talents Awrah Bouchette.” He slips back into his Arabic vernacular.

“I’ll need more information before I can break this story.”

“You must have a source in the space program; I suggest you confirm it with them. But they will tell you the same things, if they are honest. They will speak of how an asteroid has destroyed your space station and stopped the useless expansion into space. They may try to rescue the project, but they will fail, Allah has prevailed. You will not discover your source…”

A dial tone abruptly replaces the bearer of horrible news.

And what is she to do with this? No one else of import is at the station.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 52


page 50

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 51

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 51

“Assalmu alaikum. Who I am, is of little importance, what I have to tell you may change your life,”…

life-changing

Yes, Francine was lying to the Senator when she told him of her doing real work. The evening cast is 4 hours away and as for the script, she would read whatever they put on the prompter, unless it makes her look stupid or cheesy. No, Francine was headed for the comfort of her personal, fully equipped dressing room.

She flashes her thumb against the print-recognition coder, to gain access to a world no one is allowed to know about… that and her age. In a world of investigative reporters and scheming assignment editors, only her cleaning lady has access to it, lest the governor declare it a disaster area. Queen Francine does not rank #1 in market neatness.

It is a sanctuary fit for the General Manager, or Senior Vice-president for that matter, who coincidently Francine has been engaged to, ever since she was up for lead anchor on the 6 & 10; not  coincidently. The poor sucker guy may be witness to the next Ice Age before she sets a date.

Once inside, she succumbs to her narcissistic ways, her image filling the large lighted mirror. She does a pirouette to verify whether that diet she started was working or not. All it takes is one chauvinistic comment about her butt to trigger that. She nods her approval, complains about why nobody has invented a better pair of pantyhose, and goes about putting herself back together.

Once seated, she leans forward for a closer inspection of her midday makeup, that when it was applied this morning, only served to polish the already perfect face of Aphrodite or Venus de Milo. Even her many enemies cannot dispute how truly pretty she is.

Her nose was a bit on the shiny side, God forbid, reflecting light like the hood of her 2029 Corvette; Nothing that a swirling mass of tinted powder won’t cure.

Satisfied once again, that perfection is achievable, Francine decides to make her routine appearance among the peons in the newsroom. She has lucked out this day, arriving just in time to schmooze a throng of Junior High speech students; Autographs gladly, pictures surely, questions, “Talk to the news director over there.” More pictures?

She was about to see if anything new had crossed her desk, when a telephone call comes through to her cell phone. The 1970s ABBA oldie anthem “The Winner Takes It All”, beckons her to answer. Nobody is allowed to call her at work, “It might be my agent,” she thinks aloud.

“Is this Francine Bouchette?” The voice on the other end of the line has a thick, unfamiliar accent.

She has half a mind to hang up, but anyone who has her number has good connections. “This is she and who may I ask is this? I am very busy, so make it brief.”

“Assalmu alaikum. Who I am, is of little importance, what I have to tell you may change your life,” the caller must be Arab or Muslim.

“I am listening, but you’ll need to get to the point.”

“We have chosen you to tell a story, on a day that will live in infamy, as will your name.”

“Please don’t play games here, whoever you are. If this story requires national attention, you have the right girl.” Francine is playing right into the man’s hand — a full house.cell-hell

“If you meet our needs woman, you will need to listen closely and ask not what your source is.”

“Okay, yes,” and what is with that “woman” reference? It isn’t hard to disrespect this particular female and this old-school moron is lucky she hasn’t dispatched him to cellular hell.


 THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 51


page 49

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 50

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 50

… Senator Broyles whispers at Larry, “That is some classy lady, she is going places.”…

“Francine my little filly, I surely think you are going to make it big in this business.”

“Unfortunately Senator Boyles, my interviewing skills and 20 bucks gets me a bus trip to Beaumont, unlike your friends in high places,” she pulls a small mirror from a handbag to check her hair, “as you well know. Your path to Washington started as an alderman back in Austin, if memory serves.”

“Well Honey, you are soooo right about know the right people and considering the innumerable favors you are doing me in this all-important election year, I would like to number you as a good friend and my good friends always come out on top.” And he means it. “In fact, if you are thinking about doing a story about my work in ol’ D.C., I would gladly throw a wing-ding party in your honor; then you can take national stardom to the bank.”

“That would be wonderful Senator Boyles,” she leans over to give him a peck on his rosy cheek. He would appreciate this kiss even more, had he known how hard it is for her to be nice to anyone. “If you will excuse me gentleman, but I have a script to edit for the 5:30 cast; bound to be a shitload of mistakes by my writer.”

She leaves the set in her typical prima donna style; no words of praise for the set-crew, head tilted back prima-donna-intersectionwith skirt swinging from side to side, as if propelled by some mysterious force.

Broyles whispers at Larry, “That is some classy lady, she is going places.”

Queen Francine. All the director/lackey can do is roll his eyes… and think about the heel marks on his backside.

Francine makes her way through the maze of hallways and stairways that snake through the modest four-story KHST building. She whizzes past offices… sales and on-air talent, engineering facilities, editing stations, and rooms storing old-school tape and video. Even the room that harbors the most activity, the reporter’s’ area is left in the dust; all those poor stiffs with eyes fixed on computer monitors, listening to police scanners and the five competing television stations in the Houston market.


 THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 50


page 48

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 49

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 49

…Francine my little filly, I surely think you are going to make it big in this business…

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First Filly by Barbara Busch

meanwhile-caption-001“That is why I think that Houston, indeed the whole state of Texas can make a successful transition from fossil fuel production to that of high-tech robotics. We have the space industry in place, we have the brightest minds East and West of the Mississippi, and we have the biggest hearts that God gave humans; we are Texas dammit….”

oil-rig-001“I am sorry Senator Broyles, but we are fresh out of time for this week. I would like to thank you for your forward glance into Texas’ future:After the Oil is Gone’.” The pleasantly attractive, every-girl type interviewer turns to face camera two, “I am Francine Bouchette and this has been another informative edition of Inside Texas, a production of KHST 13 News.”

The studio relaxes from its keyed-up-on-air mode, the harsh beaming lights going dark one by one. Ties are loosed, blouses unbuttoned, one or two, and pleasantries are exchanged between the crew and guest.

“Thank you Senator Boyles,” the director earnestly shakes the experienced legislator’s hand, “you always give us a good show.”

“Any time Larry; you folks know how to treat a country boy right.” And the extra exposure doesn’t hurt around election time. He continues with his exaggerated Southern drawl, “I live and breathe Texas!”

Senator Broyles

Senator Broyles

Francine Bouchette

Francine Bouchette

Francine waltzes through the set, past the two men. The Senator had been casually eyeing her after the program was a wrap and when she got within a rattler’s’ tail away, he reaches out and puts a lecherous hand on her lower back. She pretends not to notice.

“Francine my little filly, I surely think you are going to make it big in this business. You make those stiffs covering Capitol Hill look like hacks.”

Deep inside, she agrees and if she gets her way, her rise to the top of network television will be swift, cold, and calculated. There are footprints on the backs of any pretty-pretty that has stood in her way; the guys she merely steamrolled.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 49


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 44

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 44

…“The future of the great Space Colony depends on my speaking with Roy Crippen.”…

Mehmet Erim leads the Afridi’s into the radio station, the empty halls echoing the voices, of many anxious voices, over the over-the-air loudspeakers. His brother-in-law Abad sees Mehmet as an opportunist, always looking to make a fast Turkish Lira or having married his sister out of hunger.103.00 METEOR RADYO FM utilizes the tallest spire on a deserted building, with a sole lonesome announcer at the microphone. Image result for radio studio telephonesThere is a citywide buzz about the fracas at Sultan Ahmet Mosque; dead bodies always generate high audience participation.

“What do you want Erim? Make it quick; can’t you see that all the lines are lit up like the Sultan Mosque?” In the midst of a cluttered newsroom, he is short with Mehmet and before he gets a response, he asks, “Who are these people and why do you bring them here?”

Sometimes, when his wife’s brother talks down to him, he feels like rubbing his smug egotistical face into a dj-001wall, but this time it is he who is holding the trump card, an insider mosque story that will boost the ratings on The Mad Morning Turk Show. He cannot wait to see the look on his face when he realizes it.

“Abad, these good people were at the mosque in Galata. They are Talibanistani defectors wanting to talk with the man in charge of Space Colony 1.”

“So would I Mehmet. Many of my listeners are following Turkey’s contribution to the Mars Colony… great story.” In a ratings driven industry, it’s all about the buzz. “There is a trail of blood following these innocent looking persons. What makes you think that I can help them?”

space-colony-banner-001“This,” simply stated and effective = Abdullah Ashtaar, “and the fact that you control the world’s most powerful narrowband radio signal. Mr. Afridi here knows the frequency that the American Space Program uses.”

“If the exalted Abdullah Ashtaar gives you his blessing, who am I to doubt you, Mehmet.” He never calls him by his first name.

“The future of the great Space Colony depends on my speaking with Roy Crippen,” pleads Afridi.


THE RETURN TRIP

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Episode 44


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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 7

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 7

The prime of Roy’s career was spent languishing through the lean years of the space program. There was a dirty word used back then, “privatization”; a sorry excuse for a shortsighted, budget strapped exploration climate...

privatization-001

It is dawn on the southeast coast of Texas. The same sun the warms the planet Mars, reflects off the still, new-mayflower-001February water of the Gulf of the Americas and Roy Crippen. He stalks about the base of the deep-space shuttle named New Mayflower, expecting to be alone in his vigilance, only to find its Commander going through the same pre-mission routine. Ever since the Challenger disaster, some 5 decades past, uneasiness seems to be passed along from one mission commander to the next.

“What a surprise Rick! You can’t shake 1986 either, can you?” The
current manifestation of Roy was but a 2nd grade schoolboy back then, yet he speaks from a heavy heart, having watched the disaster unfold in a Florida classroom.

Richard Stanley, who was born in 1999, ranks as the number 3 commander behind the two-you-know-who’s presently orbiting Mars. “Yes that and the fact that I will not be strolling around (Heinlein’s) Green Hills of Earth for a couple years. It is an ominous thought, losing 2 years and all.”

“Great genre reference buddy, we all love Heinlein, but I refuse to swallow that ‘losing two years’ stuff. I would trade places with you, like that!” Roy snaps his fingers. “After 52 years I have been labelled a has-been; 52 and not allowed to fly, how fair is that? I could fly a Boeing 967 at supersonic speeds for any commercial air carrier, for 18 more years in the friendly skies and but none in a ship outside the stratosphere.”

Roy is not lying about his desire to fly missions. The prime of his career was spent languishing through the lean Obama years of the space program. There was a dirty word used back then, “privatization”, a sorry excuse for a shortsighted, budget strapped exploration climate. The only government money was spent on, “…….drones and probes, probes, rovers and drones,” he recalls with more than an ounce of disdain.

ediitors-note(Official song and video of the Challenger 7 fund. Flight and crew of the Challenger in 1986. Sung by Jerry Dycke, written by Jerry Dycke and Charlie Whitaker in 1986. The film edited for this project was provide by NASA to John Biffar who produced the video. The song was produced and arranged by Steve Rogers.)


THE RETURN TRIP

Gobbling up the Commons. Cartoon by Ahmed Abdallah

Government Waste. Cartoon by Ahmed Abdallah

Episode 7


page 8

Alpha Omega M.D. – Final Episode

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Alpha Omega M.D. – Final Episode

…Alpha O. Campbell, M.D. deserved a better fate. Gwendolyn Hoff has given it to him. Thank you for the privilege of writing this story.

A.O., God rest your soul. It has been one wild ride!…

When We Last Left

In chapters 8 and 9 we are introduced to suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, who is an admitted sidetrack. Company Town-001The company town Blountstown is the Calhoun County seat, but it is mere fodder for the overall story. Company towns can really be like Blountstown.

All the above, as in Episode #333, is a lead-up to our late involvement in WWI, where we meet Sir James KISS FOR CINDERELLA-001Matthew Barrie, the prolific playwright and cousin to John Ferrell. John Ferrell’s supply ship, the Panama City, never sailed, was not sunk by U-Boat submarines, though the elder Ferrell did indeed die in 1916; such a blue-blooded way to Pearson Eastman Journal-001die, helping your Scottish ancestors through a tough time.

Chapters 10 and 11 encompass that bloody 1st world war, along with the deadly influenza that started inPearson Eastman Journal-001 Europe and traveled back to the US. 30 million people died worldwide and that is about the time that Alpha Omega Campbell began practicing medicine.

After the doctor and Maggie wed in 1918, they both had affairs that produced Maggie Lou-001children. Maggie’s dalliance produced middle daughter, Laura. That little child was so fair-skinned, right banker Lewis? Alpha, for his part, did father a child; it’s just that whether it was with Camille Diaz is buried amongst the Careless Whispers. Camille is fictional.

Alice Paul did argue for the cause of the right for women to vote, which was a hard fought and contentious lead-up to the Roaring Twenties, but is window dressing for my purposes.

Those Roaring years of flappers and debauchery are bypassed here, as is the Great Depression. It Image result for r.i.pseems the author (me) does not deal well with hard times, which resurface in the closing chapters, a.k.a. the happy, or rather, calm ending. So From the Ashes emerges the mid-1930’s. We lose great characters Harv Pearson, Herbert Love and Phoebe. We’ve already left the Endlichoffer’s behind and the elder Ferrells.

James Ferrell LawyerJames Ferrell becomes the Dr.’s lawyer and we are (re)introduced to Carolyn Hanes (Constance Caraway – Private Eye) and her lover Sara Fenwick (Fanny Constance Caraway P.I.-001Renwick). Like the incest episode between James and Agnes, this Lesbian relationship is a glimpse into life in the South, as well as real life. This statement is not meant to offend, it’s just that things happen down there that are “different”, perhaps more frequently or just a figment of fertile fancy.

Newt Swakhammer-001       Chapters, Hospitable, Inhospitable fly us to Area 51 and an alien contact. Good ol’ Newt Swakhammer, what a guy? The government calls him a crank. But the year 1947 harbors UFO’s, as well as the brick & mortar of Laura Bell Memorial Hospital… born of Alpha O. Campbell’s spirit, the building itself is one large lightning rod; meant for good, yet attracting an LBMH-001onslaught of controversy and hardship.

We look back at Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks, along 434f7-disneylandwith the world of Cinderella. And then we are bounced ahead to Michael Rennie and Walt Disney; what an odyssey of entertainment.

 

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latobsd3-001As for the remainder of THE LIFE & TIMES, not so many pages back, your imagination isLATOBSD4-001 the king. My imagination has splattered the backdrop of history from way-back 1896, all the way up to the dawn of John Fitzgerald Kennedy… Just the dawn, mind you, then you are reeled back to 1955.

Isn’t that rude? But look at the payoff. Instead of an old man in jail, we LBMHhappen upon a Laura Bell Memorial Hospital with a future. What a shame that this was not the ending to the saga of one of the first Black doctors in gwenFlorida. In my rosy reality, we all have access to Alice’s Wonderful Looking Glass.

Alpha O. Campbell, M.D. deserved a better fate. Gwendolyn Hoff has given it to him. Thank you for the privilege of writing this story.

 A.O., God rest your soul. It has been one wild ride! 

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Copyright © 2020 by Gwendolyn K Hoff   All Rights Reserved


Alpha Omega M.D.

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– Final Episode