THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 150

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 150

…Braden King feels like he has been granted a fresh lease on that life and he needs to take full advantage of it and that means a change in lifestyle…

A NEW LEASE OF LIFE by UZO EGONU


This picture was drawn by Erika Aoyama 11/16/ 2002

Home is where the heart is; a tired old phrase with new meaning for Francine and Roy. Their days of freewheeling solitude are coming to an end; work like a dog, return to an empty apartment, check all social outlets, make sure the world hasn’t gone mad, grab a quick bite and do it all over again tomorrow. —

— And until Sampson and Celeste packed their bags for Mars, Braden King also lived to work, he would come home to help work his 2500 acres and 1000 animals, catch up on the nightly news, eat some beef, steal 5 hours sleep and do it all over again.King Ranch logo

But King Ranch now teams with the vitality of two teen-aged McKinney dynamos, never more important to him, considering the status of their parents, not to mention his own recent health scare. There isn’t anything that cannot wait, unless something can’t wait, then it is filed neatly into a simple list of priorities; family first, everything else second. Never having married has made for tiny family reunions. And you can’t choose family, we all know.

Friends on the other hand, you can choose and do, while at other times they choose you and the fun is in seeing where you stand in a year, five years, etc…

He feels like he has been granted a fresh lease on that life and he needs to take full advantage of it. That means a change in lifestyle, from the high octane excitement of daily interaction at the Galveston Launch Facility, with whoever is outside Earth’s atmosphere at the time, to working at home from the ranch, keeping track of now ten ranch hands and two McKinney children who depend on him for everything. Braden King will not be making the same mistakes.

New projects are a good way to take your mind off of your old ways, the old days when the International Space Station required attention or that shiny-new Space Colony 1 was being towed into place or you could hardly pull yourself from watching it crawl away from SpaceDock.

With Francine and Roy coming over to spend some time, he has dusted off a 3’ cylinder that has been sitting in his hall closet, taking it over to the dining room table, removing the coiled parchment inside. It is an architectural rendering of house, three bedrooms, two baths poised on a west-facing slope about 200 yards from the main house.

As he remembers, he and Roy had been in serious discussions over the project that would be Crippen’s home away from the space program.


THE RETURN TRIP

Artist Rendition of Crippen Hacienda

Episode 150


page 184

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 135

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 135

…Braden King recalls Roy’s turn-of-the-century (21st) brushes with death and matrimony…

“Hot dogs, pizza puffs, mac & cheese, and Kool-Aid, that’s pretty much it, but I managed to talk my way onto an adult menu.”

“That’s the food, now what about the drugs and do they make them strong enough to tame you down?”

“Tame me or tie me down? When the boys went missing, I guessed that pushed me over the edge,” the stricken man admits. “Don’t you have a real job to go to Francine?”

“Naw, I trashed that gig when I agreed to fly off to Jamaica with you-know-who.”

 

“Yeah? Wow! I didn’t see that coming.”

“Do you think I was expecting this? I have been a big fan of Roy for a while now, but that man has got into my head and I don’t think that there is a cure for what ails me.”

“You got the Creeping Crippen! You can’t get it out of your clothes and that stain it leaves on your heart does not wash out.”

“You are his best friend Braden, so tell me the truth: Why has he never married?”

He takes her aside, “Well there he was, got his first big break after becoming an astronaut, pegged to test-pilot out a nuclear powered shuttle prototype. He was engaged to a Florida socialite at the time and she didn’t like him leaving the atmosphere, especially when she learned the nickname for test pilots, it starts
with an “L”.”

“Lunar-tics?”

“That’s a good one, but no–Lab Rats,” he recalls Roy’s turn-of-the-century (21st) brushes with death and matrimony. “When he came back to Earth, she had gone with her parents to Europe and he never heard from her again. Six months later she made headlines by marrying a 70 yr. old Greek winemaker…wasn’t right for him anyhow, but he never got over losing.”

“Was he heartbroken?” Francine loves to guess.

No. She never gave him his diamond ring back. That’s what he hated losing!”

Image result for mean nurse“Out, out, out,” the floor supervisor whispers loudly, “it is past midnight and Master King has tests scheduled first thing.”

“Never mind “Nurse No-Fun”; that’s what the other kids call her.”

“Other kids?” She gives a one-armed hug, careful not to disturb all the tubes and machines. “We will see you tomorrow, Braden. Come on boys, this filly needs to pick out a bunk.”

It is Braden’s home but, “Roy’s room at the ranch is the last door on the left. It has its own bath and I told the cleaning gal you would be coming.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 135


page 166

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 125

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 125

…Where are Gus and Deke headed now, or are you going to tell me they are dead, which caused Braden to have a coronary

Burning the Midnight Oil by Mick Dean

After Roger Rodrigues drops him off at the Montego Bay airport, Roy is off and running across the tarmac to the hanger that houses his waiting Sikorsky, without waiting for that occasional luggage ferry. After pat-down customs check and a quick systems run-through, he is towed into open space and cleared for takeoff. At about 300 feet the fuselage turns toward a west-by-northwest direction and rising, coming to 180 MPH cruise speed posthaste.

Sikorsky S-92

After an hour of thinking that someone forgot to pay his satellite bill, his NASA device comes to life, this time with a face other than the Communication Director.

“Are you there Roy,” asks the new voice?

“I was wondering what was going on. Am I on the pay-no-mind-list or what?”

Silence… For the third time silence…”Braden King was taken to the GLC infirmary, he passed out cold.”

“I could tell he was struggling with something, but he is fit for a sixty year old.”

“He had a reason for dropping on & off…the McKinney boys were taken 65 minutes ago……….”

“Don’t tell me, by a f***ing Mi-38 Hind?”

“Oh so you knew?”

“A lucky guess. It seems to me that there is a base of those beggars, probably in one of those drug-states across the Rio Grande.” Roy thinks out loud, Where are Gus and Deke headed now, or are you going to tell me they are dead, which caused Braden to have a coronary?”

“They were flown out into the Gulf of The Americas and were apparently put on a boat or a drilling platform.”

“Which is it?”

“We aren’t sure, with all the fuss about that Samiq Gaad episode going on, we were distracted.”

“For God’s sake why can’t we defend our own territory anymore? I think we need a change in the White House... you did not hear me say that, or the fact that President Sanchez is too cozy with the country of his father & mother!”

Pedro “Pete” Sanchez is the first United States citizen {President} whose parents are not. The Hispanic majority had finally got its wish.

“I am going to buzz every oil rig from Cuba to Texas and you are going to let me know if Braden takes a turn.”

“Yes Sir.”


THE RETURN TRIP

 Episode 125


page 155

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 120

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 120

…Four days have the feel of forty and what is formerly a 2 week acquaintance has leaped the boundaries set by the fortnight; a foundation is being laid for a lifelong friendship….

Image result for friendship artwork

Friendship Digital Art by Astrid Rieger

The following days slow to a satisfying crawl, their pace of life measured by the inch not by the mile. No more fertile an environment can there be to bring people closer. The kinship of this trio {Roy, Francine, Roger} builds down every new road, at each sacred island shrine. The driver of the car has become an integral element to their experience; which is incomplete when he isn’t around to steer them right.

Flying Fish and Lazy Days Waikanae by Gillian Cronin

Four days have the feel of forty and what is formerly a 2 week acquaintance has leaped the boundaries set by the fortnight; a foundation is being laid for a lifelong friendship. So complete is the blending of Roy into Francine, or vice versa, that any thoughts of the New Mayflower or Mars and KHST or celebrity, are dispatched from the foreground of priorities.

When they aren’t being guided by Roger the Dodger, they can be found lounging by the pool or ocean, SILVER SEAS both. In the case of this lazy day, they employ their newly acquired skill in the street side marketplace. With their considerable discretionary funds irretrievably commingled, joint bargaining has become the rule, when in natural dealings with purveyors of goods and their merchandise of fluid value.

Navy F-77N’s

While ferrying one of their spending coups back to the SILVER SEAS HOTEL, from the interior of the island, the tranquil skies are buzzed by a pair of jets, certainly not of Jamaican or Cuban ownership. “F-77Ns in a big time hurry and they are peeling off to the west.” Roy determines after getting a clear look at their low-level wake. “Something big is up.”

“What are they doing down here? Do you think it has to do with Cuba?” Francine wonders aloud.

“Well that isn’t a bombing run and they are going fast enough to reach the Mainland in 2 minutes. “I think the Atlantic Carrier Strike Group Two (CSG2) is having joint maneuvers in the Gulf with the Brits, but the attitude of those pilots are taking screams urgent. Let’s get back to the hotel.”

“I’ll call Roger,” Francine thinks ahead.

In the meantime, Roy’s dormant PDA is vibrating off his waist. The text stream reads a continuous, “HOUSTON UNDER ATTACK!!!!!!”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 120


page 148

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 115

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 115

…And here I pictured you as a pale, wimpy science freak the first time I talked to you on the phone…

Image result for lawrence welk bubbles

 

Today’s Episode brought to you by Lawrence Welk

— When sleep finally comes to her and him, it is deep and long.

In the dim light of day, Roy untangles an arm that has been wrapped around Francine like a twist tie and looks for his PDA to see if he had set the alarm. His device reads 9A which opposes the noon-like high blue sky. He chooses to trust the earlier time, so no need to rush cuddling time.

Tick-tock-tick-tock and ten o’clock causes him to stir. His restless movement alerts his bed-buddy, who prevents his escape by employing the old kiss-tummy-to-neck trick. It works.

“And where do you think you’re going mister?”

The acid test for beauty is the morning wake-up. Without makeup, jewelry and clothes or shower, contacts and hair gel, is the way God intended adult men & women to see each other. Francine is a solid A Image result for grade athrough Roy’s eyes and Roy rates an A-, because he sleeps like he is weightless {all over the place}, but that is why the king-sized bed was invented.

“We are burning daylight and we don’t want people to get the wrong impression.”

“We are on vacation, the rest of the world can be damned,” she brags, playfully running her fingers through the hair on his chest, yes chest. “How is it you are so tan?”

“I have a small boat on the Gulf; go out after Red Snapper and Groper on Saturdays.”

“Two aircraft and now a boat that I suspect is not a skiff. What else don’t I know about your life?”

“I play http://www.ExpertScrabble.com with Braden and I enjoy long walks in the desert.”

“And here I pictured you as a pale, wimpy science freak the first time I talked to you on the phone.”

“I also play tennis and golf and love God.”

“I adore tennis have taken a couple of golf lessons and a 38 footer stocked with bait ‘n beer is my idea of a great weekend.”

“That is God, tennis, and beer ‘n bait in that order. I drive up to Lakewood Church in Houston when I’m in Texas.”

“I’ve been there back in the Osteen days, but with my weekend schedule I have trouble squeezing in time for God.”

“And when you’ve been up in space, it is hard to think about anything else but
God.”

The more she learns about Roy Crippen the more she is impressed. She doubts that there is a more well-rounded man in the United States of America, and she is trapped on this deserted desert island with that very man—well not so deserted or arid.

 


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Image result for deserted island artwork

Deserted Island by Jacek Yerka

Episode 115


page 142

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 114

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 114

…When in Rome… we will mix our money, share a room, and take it from there…

Image result for when in rome do as the romans do

So it’s back down to the Silver Seas desk where Roy is given a key to 202. It is not as messy, but untouched by maids as well.

Image result for lucky number 3The third room is a charm; 303, third floor with three hours of daylight left.

“Lots of stairs. At least we won’t have need of the fitness room. It is probably a park bench and an iron pipe anyway. We’ll get all the exercise we need going back and forth to our room,” she consoles Roy who has been schlepping luggage alongside the porter.

He thanks the concierge. The concierge stands firm.

“You haven’t traveled lately have you……..he’s waiting for a tip.” She hands the young man a $10.

“Thank you preety ladie!”

“I guess your money spends better than mine.”Image result for going dutch cartoon

“We’re going Dutch right?”

“No. When in Rome….we will mix our money, share a room, and take it from there.”

Once situated in the room, whose air conditioning struggles to keep up, Francine sets guidelines for cohabitation. “I don’t know about you, but I am not going to let modesty get in my way,” she unwraps her sundress, neatly folds it and places it on the bed like they were old marrieds. She slips on a nightshirt, sits next to him and says to him, “Let’s try out their room service. How about we order roast pigeon and fig leaves? That way we maybe we get lucky and get the chicken and salad instead.”

“So this is what Heaven is like, or are you just a dream?” He cannot believe how incredibly easy things are with this woman.

“I’m not a dream because dreams cannot do this,” she undoes his Windsor knot and unbuttons his shirt before he can say ‘no problem’.

… There are two less lonely people in the world tonight. —


THE RETURN TRIP

Image result for third time

Third Time’s The Charm by blackxprince deviantart.com

Episode 114


page 140

 

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 112

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 112

…“My name eez Speedy and I weel be your driva for Blue Danube Tours…

Roy grabs the arm of a scurrying native, “Does this bus stop at the Silver Seas Resort?”

“Silva Seeze you bet mon, nice place to stay… where is your luggage?” The skinny Image result for jamaican man clipartbus driver, dressed in out-of-dated polyester pants and a long sleeve shirt is eager to leave.

Francine points to an equally underfed porter standing next to a dolly stacked to overflow.

“Poot dose on the trunk-truck, we got to go and you 2 come wit me.” The trunk-truck is to trail behind.

He escorts them to a Leyland Coach, vintage 1983 and still in service. It is filled to capacity and when Francine and Roy climb the steps, those already seated glare at them like they are holding up the show. The lady gets the jump seat; the gent is astride the entry stairs, for the two hour ride.

My name eez Speedy and I weel be your driva for Blue Danube Tours. Wen I call your names, pleez say “yo mon” in your best West Indies voice We dunt want to leev no one behind and want to drop you at the rite hotel.”

The grumbling from impatient, tired and hung-over Americans ranges from “I can’t understand him” to “I thought this was supposed to be a luxury motor coach”.

In the meantime, perhaps 20 minutes before the bus gets out of first gear, the trunk-truck has gone ahead, casting doubt that the travelers will see their luggage anytime soon. But when the diesel-powered bus makes forward progress, some of the trepidation is allayed. They were finally getting somewhere.

As they wind their way out of the airport compound and out into the erratically lit streets of Montego Bay, Speedy issues his first travel alert, “You weel noteec that I drive on de left side of da rode.”

It did not seem to matter which side he was supposed to drive on, for the roads were narrow and the bus takes up well over 50% of the available pocked pavement. The horn seems to be the most used device on any Jamaican vehicle, including the brakes. A staccato honking precedes every close encounter with oncoming cars and the entrance into every blind corner awaiting the brave traveler of the winding coastline highway.

Roy is intrigued by the excursion, but only because he has the best view. Everyone else has their eyes closed, petitioning their God for a safe vacation.

Francine chooses to keep her eyes closed as well, catching a timely nap, until being jolted to full consciousness by a sudden thud-thump-squeal-screech—–the telltale sounds and maneuvers that has made instant bacon out of an unfortunate jaywalking pig, belonging to a Jamaican family who prefers their pork stirred not flattened. They charge out of their windowless hut screaming at the sound of screeching tires and squealing pig.

 


THE RETURN TRIP

Image result for jamaica

Episode 112


page 138

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