Rockets and a lot of Red Glares (part 4)

My patient Peakers, I promise the end is in sight. Episode Four is bringing us nearly to the end of Hopefully Not a Waste in Space. For those of you who are joining us for the first time, I beg you—nay I beseech you–to unite with your fellow readers in space exploration anxiety and find out what the hell I’m talking about, as only by reading Episode One, Episode Two, and Episode Three will you bask in the full-fledged experience of this tale.

Or … I can summarize:

Daughter has massive senior project (Project SkyHAB – sky high altitude balloon).

Daughter chooses to launch a balloon the size of Rhode Island into space to see if she can make science happen in something called a Cloud Chamber. Cloud Chamber actually looks like a piece of stolen Tupperware from my pantry.

Costly cameras and GPS units are accompanying THE PAYLOAD. No one at Mission Control is clear on what THE PAYLOAD contains, but it must be retrieved or the world will end as we know it.

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A well-crafted, highly skilled team is assembled on launch day for lift off on site in central Virginia and a half-assed team (including two very sane, last minute volunteers) is cobbled together at HQ.

Launch team is in charge of … launch.

Half-assed team is in charge of GPS tracking the balloon and THE PAYLOAD via the computer, the occasional bit of laundry, and creating a giant ice sculpture on the front lawn that spells out WELCOME NASA.

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Launch is a success. Balloon becomes itty bitty dot in the firmament. Tracking team is befuddled with screens across Virginia that report nothing to track.

All teams feel failure as they have never felt before. Lead scientist is catatonic with grief.

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Four hours later the balloon comes crashing down to Earth and rises from the dead on radar.

The lead scientist and HQ are unhinged with happiness.

030814unhinged (532x800)

The lead scientist and HQ then realize that the balloon has landed in a body of water made by the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries specifically to obliterate the advancement of space knowledge directed by hopeful teenage researchers.


And now … the rest of the story.

Recovery of any launch is probably just as harrowing as the launch itself, as we came to realize. And constructing a recovery team after having exhausted the list of folks we knew who could help in the building phase, the launch phase, and the expensive therapy phase, we were left with three and one half units of aid:

The chief scientist (daughter)

Mission Control team specialist (me)

Technical support (Google Earth)

And some scary redneck dude who might be a serial killer.

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Not as impressive as we’d hoped, but it was better than a sharp stick in the eye—although a sharp stick in the eye may be a pleasurable alternative to that serial killer fella. We did not tarry.

On the road in her tiny VW bug, my daughter drove and I navigated—again from my chair at HQ while consulting with technical support. SkyHAB had purportedly gone down somewhere in the middle of 740 acres of the Sandy River Reservoir. We were going to get her as close to it as possible, but it looked like that might require a team of lumberjacks and a VW that could transmogrify itself into a pontoon.

Once I had remotely piloted her vehicle to the end of all paved roadage, the rest of the journey was to be traversed on foot. We were connected via smart phones, but the transmissions were not unlike those of the United States’ first mission to the moon. We lost contact repeatedly and found binoculars to be insufficient paraphernalia for reading hand gestures from that distance.

“Alrighty, Google Earth says you need to move southwest with a heading of 238°. Don’t forget to lock your car. And take a bottle of water. And find a stick.” This was as high tech as we could get.

“Hold on, Mom. Some guy is coming toward me.” (Insert muffled voice and …) “Nope, I’m not lost … uh … (muffled voice) okay, sure.”  (Sound of tiny rover engine coming to life.) “Apparently, I can’t park here.”

“What?” I say, looking at the earth map. “It’s a dead end dirt road. What are you blocking?”

“Whatever.” (Rover rumbles to new spot. Car door slams. Sounds of footfalls through underbrush and forest.)


“He’s still watching me.”

“He’s what?”

“Oh brother—hold on.” (Sounds of cracking sticks, muffled forestry, and running footfalls. Silence.)

A minute ticks by. Two. (HQ’s clock ticks grow louder and morbid.) Is he speaking to her? Has he captured her and thrown her in the back of his pickup truck? Will I never see the chief scientist again? “Hey, kiddo? Chloe? CHLOE!!”

(Strangled, obscure sounds.) “Chill, Mom. I had to pee. How much farther do I have to go to get to the edge of the reservoir?”

(HQ breathes sigh of relief.) “About a mile and a half, and tech support reports it’s all uphill. Is the guy still around? Maybe you ought to come back with a team of friends. And all my kitchen knives.”

“Yeah, there is no way I can get through this underbrush. We may have to find someone with a boat.” The chief scientist muscles through the forest back to her car. “Crap! There he is.”

“What? Chloe, get in your car!”

“F**K! He’s running over here!”

“Hurry up! Get in your car! And watch your damn language!”

“I’m in it—I’m in it!”

(Sound of little rover rumbling to life and gravel spray.)



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Oh my godfathers. I panic and look on Google Earth to see if I can spot my daughter and this potential child abductor. And remember that Google Earth images are not in real time. Great. In about three hours I will know what tragedy befell my child.

And in about one week, so will you.


July Gotta Have a Gott winner

In January, Rob and I announced that his sketches will be available toward the end of the year in the form of a 2015 calendar! And our readers would get to be the judges and voters for which doodles they’d like to see selected for each month. We’ll reveal the winners one by one, and come November, If you’ve Gotta have a GOTT, you can place your order. Jump on over to see the cartoon winner for July!

Don’t forget to check out what we’re cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all talked about down in the pub. Plus, you can see more of Robin Gott‘s humor–all from the only pen carved from a human funny bone.

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85 thoughts on “Rockets and a lot of Red Glares (part 4)

  1. Oh my, this just turned from a good humored tale to quite the nail biter!! Who better to run into such a character than you though? 🙂

    • Lesson learned, Alex. If I can give you any advice it’s that you should try to avoid having children of your own. It’s much less worrisome to have other people’s children. Sleep comes so much easier. And you will keep your figure, and your your language skills, and all your your money. Yep, lesson learned.

  2. These cliffhangers, they’re killing me! I’m back to biting my nails into the quick again, so now neither you nor I have fingernails. Man, oh man, the rednecks pop up at the most inopportune times, don’t they? Since I have to wait an entire week to find out what happens, I’m going to create an ending in my head to console myself. I think that the redneck man is actually chasing after the car, yelling, “Wait, I have a boat and I’ll help you retrieve your UFO contraption from the Sandy River Reservoir. Because science!” I mean, the redneck must be a gentleman in disguise, because he gave Chloe enough privacy to pee in the woods, right? (I bet she’s going to be thrilled that you shared that tidbit with us. 😛 ) You’ve certainly raised the stakes with this installment, Shelley. Last week, we were all, “What happened to SkyHAB?” This week, we’re saying, “Forget SkyHAB. What happened to CHLOE?”

    • Miranda! I love your ending–and just the fact that your savvy, literary brain refuses to rest on idle. It’s a brilliant finish. And all I can say is … ugh, no, I can’t say anything.
      And pray tell, when have you ever met a redneck that was a gentleman in disguise? Although that would probably make a really interesting piece of fiction. FICTION I say! But nevertheless, another point in your column of creativity. Good heavens, I do love your comments–they really make me giggle, and God knows I need some laughter in my life right now because of … never mind. 🙄

      • Okay, right now I’m racking my brain, trying to think of a redneck gentleman in disguise. I’ve met so many rednecks, I’m sure one of them most have been a gentleman who would have been more than happy to retrieve SkyHAB from the Sandy River Reservoir….(crickets chirping)… All right, I concede your point. I’m glad I made you giggle–I owe you many, many giggles for all the ones you’ve given me, but from the tone of your comment here, I just have a sinking feeling in my stomach that all does not end well with SkyHAB. But the only thing that matters at this point is that Chloe escaped the crazy redneck. (I can’t resist sharing my own crazy redneck story now. Many years ago, when I was younger and a heck of a lot stupider, I was traveling through a county that shall remain unnamed but that you and I are both familiar with, and I saw a shop selling handmade goods. Now this shop looked rather derelict, but they had an item for sale outside that I really wanted to buy. I wandered around this nearly deserted property, looking for the owner, and finally found him and another man at work outside of a shed. The man rolled his eyes when he saw me, as if to say, “Another idiot has found her way onto my property.” I asked how much the item for sale out front was, and he said, “Oh, it’s a lot of money.” Then he looked at my purse and asked, “You got money?” I think I made some incoherent sound of fear before turning and fleeing to my car. Luckily the two men did not give chase. They were probably dumbstruck that a fat chick could run so fast.)

        • I know that store, Miranda!
          Well, truth be told, it could be any one of the four that rest one mile toward all major directions from my house. And the men were likely neighbors. Here’s what I’ve found works wonders. When sized up and asked if I’ve got money in my purse, I usually unzip it and rifle around inside of it saying, “I know I’ve got a couple a bucks in here somewhere … it’s just so hard to find them when they’re mixed in with all the spare ammunition for my 9mm Beretta.” They turn quite gentlemanly purdy durn quick. 😀

  3. Will the cat and tonic ever smile again? Will the half ass pants ever be whole once more? Is SkyHab lost at sea? Will Chloe ( Queen of the swamp?) escape her stalker? Will this tale ever end? Why corn flakes and not cheerios? For the answers to these and other questions dear readers stay tuned for the next episode of Rockets and lots of Red Glares. All I can add is Brava. A great job.

  4. Nearly finished!!?? Screw the cat and tonic, after that cliff hanger I need a gin and tonic. (I will only sleep tonight because I am assuming that your beloved progeny did survive the cereal killer and you would not use her as mere fodder for your writing…..ummm…on second thoughts…)

    • Thank you so much for joining us! And let me know if we ever reach the level of getting you to nearly rupturing something while reading the sagas, as that’s the pinnacle of success I think: getting a handful of readers to need a hernia repair. 😀

  5. And here I was thinking this was just a normal, everyday science project…now we’re apparently deep into the throes of Stephen King…….You better not make us wait weeks for the next installment! 🙂

    • Yep, it’s at moments like these when I think I should have enrolled her in some sort of weaponry training. Sadly, the tool she’s most skilled at operating is a microscope. “STAND BACK! Or I’ll scan you in high resolution!” Doesn’t really cut it, does it?

  6. Wow, Shelley! Anxiously awaiting the final installment, where I hope for Chloe and science to triumph. Love the pants on the line, Rob! I remain disappointed in the complete failure of Google Earth to bow to the whims of parents and provide a kid-tracker. Clearly this is an essential service.

    • It is! Google Earth is a spectacular time machine, but what I really needed was Harry Potter’s ability to apparate. I curse fiction for putting that possibility inside my head and curse science more for not making it a reality. UGH!

  7. What is she doing peeing in woods full of rednecks? What is she doing peeing in the woods WHILE ON THE PHONE? I just have to say, I think I would die of uric acid blood poisoning first…

    • Well, firstly, Linnet, this child has spent way too many hours in a laboratory and not enough hours watching horror films, so there’s a large gap in her “fear factor” scale, and secondly, don’t forget, this generation of kids keep nothing private. Ahem, Facebook?
      Me too–for the record. (the holding my bladder till it bursts bit, not posting it on social media)

    • shoot, l. moss ~~ out here at the edge of desert, we all do that! (many people LUVVIT when HOOever they’re talkin’ to ask WHAT IS THAT WATERY SPLASHING SOUND?! YOU NEAR THE RIVER??

    • shoot, l. moss ~~ out here at the edge of desert, we all do that! (many people LUVVIT when HOOever they’re talkin’ to ask WHAT IS THAT WATERY SPLASHING SOUND?! YOU NEAR THE RIVER??

    • ‘Distinctly worrying’ is pretty much the only notch on my parental settings when it comes to Chloe. It’s caused by billowing smoke coming out of her room, sparks shooting up from equipment she’s hovering over, or the overabundant phone messages from her that pile up if I take a break to use the bathroom. I’ve yet to find the “off” button.
      And I love that sketch too. It’s brilliant. (Go Rob!)

  8. How can you do this to me??????!!!!! I pestered Hubby to make sure I could get the internet for what I thought was going to be the final installment! The TV show Lost in Space was never this gripping! Love the cartoons, especially the cereal killer.

    • You did? Oh you poor woman–and after all you’ve been through too! My apologies a thousand fold, but also my huge thanks for caring so much. Yes, tis a menacing mini-series, but the end is right around the corner, sort of like space-time continuum. 😛

  9. I’m going to take a wild guess that Chloe is OK, on the basis that you have continued teasing us with the payload recovery mission rather than out scouring the woods for her.

    As for the plentiful cliff -hangers regarding the payload itself, I’m now expecting nothing less than a tale of recovery subs, misdirection, treachery and spies to rival The Hunt for Red October! 🙂

  10. Chloe obviously has not watched enough serial killer movies! Never run into the forest!! DUH! I am now consolong myself with the fact that you are relating this story so nothing bad could have happened (she says hopefully). But as cliffhangers go, and we have had a few during this tale, its killing me, i await with bated breath and a glass of the hard stuff!!

    • I’ve depleted all the hard stuff in the house, Janice. Now I’m attempting to distill any leftover grains I’ve got sitting around in the pantry. It’ll be a blend–some quick cooking oats, quinoa and some pearled barley. I’m sure it’ll tasted wretched, but if the proof is high enough I might get a good night sleep. o_O

    • Had I known growing children would be this taxing, this complex, this gut-wrenchingly crazy, I would have chosen to grow something easy, like orchids, or stem cells, or another kidney.
      Too late. :/
      Hang in there–won’t be long now.

      • You’ve got me laughing. 😄 My eldest just made it to the top if Mt Kilimanjaro with bad altitude sickness. Why shorten MY life span like that? But as you say, it’s too late.
        Looking forward to your next instalment!

  11. YOU CAN’T (but you just did) leave this like that. or that like this. whuddeverr. but i will (won’t i?) read the results in an upcoming edition of Ass-traw-gnaw-mee Today?

    • Once I get the phone call that announces I’ve been hired as editor, then YES, it’ll be in that prestigious journal. Any minute now.
      Until then, the results will likely just show up here.
      Just a few more days. Sorry. Really, I am. Sooper sawree.

  12. What an exciting tale of action/adventure, mayhem/tragedy narrowly averted and success/triumph (virtually) achieved. Look forward to hearing the denouement!! 🙂

    • Wow, Lee-Anne, somehow I have a this almost creepy feeling you’ve been peeking over my shoulder …
      You’ll know what I mean next week. 😛
      But many thanks for the incredibly kind compliments. You’ve made my day.

  13. Apologies for being unresponsive to comments over the past few weeks. This is not due to negligence, more to being nicely situated in a glorious house on a hill top in Sonoma, cut off from the ether, but very much in contact with the sun, good food and excellent local wine. Now I’m back. Cheers y’all 🙂

  14. Witty and very well penned…
    I have done pretty well with your summary on previous episodes but will make sure to take a peak though 🙂
    Thanks for sharing…Best wishes and happy almost weekend ahead to you.

    Aquileana 😛

    • Thank you, Aquileana for such lovely comments. I’m glad the recaps have been helpful, but mostly, that you’ve enjoyed that which you read. It’s always such a pleasure to see your name pop up here as I offer precious little in the way of fascinating mythology, but I suppose many a philosopher would spend a minute or two wondering how I agree to get myself mixed up in somebody eles’s ‘hero’s journey.’
      Cheers to you!

  15. I can’t believe you left us hanging like that!! Also – thanks for the summarizations. 🙂 Also – the background of your site looks cool (I think it changed??)! Cheers to you and chief scientist!! 🙂

    • Yes, my job is to annoy the public as much as my kids muck about with me. It’s an outlet. A ripple effect. It’s karma in a hugely vexatious manifestation.
      I will pay for this surely. But the gig’s soon up.
      And yes, a bit of a new “hair-do,” if you will. You know what I mean, Jen. 😉

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