Leaps That Might Have Been

Leap One: One Giant Leap

Chapter Two

     "Suicide?" Sam said to the hologram next to him in the hotel
room. It all seemed so unbelievable. Neil Armstrong was an American
hero, the strong type. The He-man that conquered space.
     Sam recalled pulling into the launch site an hour ago. Armstrong
had been so calm and collected, like one of those Buddhists who could
meditate for hours without moving an inch. What had he been thinking
of, Sam wondered as he neare the front entrance. He was still shaken
up over the ride he had just taken and found it hard to walk with the
weight of the suit he was wearing.
     "Gotta' show those punks who's boss here, Edwin," he'd said.
"Can't let 'em push us around."
     Inside the change room Sam found a locker with Aldrin written in
bright silver letters on a small plaque over top of the combination
lock. He grabbed the lock, turned it around, and spun the dial.
     Armstrong, who's locker was directly beside his, already had his
suit off and was slipping into his faded jeans and T-shirt, was
eyeing him with an inquisitive stare.
     "6-15-31, Sam," Al said. Sam nodded in response and opened the
locker glancing back at Armstrong who was gazing at a picture of a
woman that hung up inside his locker.
     Inside Aldrin's locker he found a pair of black, pressed dress
pants and a stylish white silk shirt. He also found Aldrin's wallet.
Sam took out the drivers license and studied the face of the young
man in the photograph. He then noticed the mirror on the locker's
door. Staring at him was a man Sam remembered seeing on many
television interviews in 1969. A clean shaven man with slicked brown
hair and chocolate brown eyes. Inside Aldrin's wallet Sam also found
a picture of the man's family. His heart ached for his own as he put
the wallet back in the pocket of the dress pants. Sam then slipped
into the clothes and joined Armstrong in the hallway along with two
of the men that had brought them here.
     The men lead them into the control area of the station where
many people in Houston uniform were working. Through the huge glass
window over the main control board, Sam saw the rocket. The first
rocket to carry a man to the moon. He mentally thought the word 'wow'
as he looked at the ship. Armstrong was talking to a man who was
wearin a long white overcoat and sported a greying beard. He waved
over at Sam.
     "That's William J. Olson," Al informed, cigar smoke forming thin
wisps around him. "He was the main engineer on the Houston Missio
back in '69. He also helped the guys in that Apollo incident a few
years later."
     "Thanks for the history lesson Al, but can you please go back
and get some more information about what i am doing here?" Sam
sounded pressured, and who wouldn't be after the ordeal he had been
through. He still felt like his stomach was somewhere in his
     "All right, all right," Al replied, pressing a few buttons on
the hand link. "Just stay calm and keep your eyes on Neil, okay?"
     "Yeah," sam said watching Al disappear through the chamber door,
and walked over to Olson.
     "Great flight today, Ed," he said.
     "One more tomorrow and then it's the big one." 
     "Buzz can't wait. Can you Buzz?" Armstrong chipped, but Sam
picked up a little uneasiness in his voice.
     "Ready and willing," Armstrong said then walked way.
     "You guys and the rest of the crew are really going to make
history next week." Olson carried on with his praises, but Sam
followed Armstrong as he headed out the door. "You can trust us here
when you are up there, Ed. We'll be with you guys every step of the
     Sam excused himself from the conversation and followed Armstrong
into the hallway. He had just lit up a cigarette and was taking a
puff. Sam noticed the photograph of a pretty blond woman in
Armstrong's other hand, recognizing the woman as the one that had
been up in the locker. Armstrong offered sam a drag off the cigarette
but he declined.
     "Since when do you not smoke Buzz?"
     "Trying to cut down, I guess."
     "Good thing. I only smoke now to calm me down."
     "Are you all right Neil...you look-"
     "Oh yeah. Couldn't be better...actually wish I could get home to
the wife for a while and I think I need some sleep before we go up
again tomorrow."
     "That her there," Sam said motioning towards the picture.
     "Her when we first met, anyway," Armstrong answered. "Took it
myself." He then placed the photo in his pocket and headed out the
     With that the men in the limo returned and took them to the
hotel five blocks from the control tower. Sam tried to coax some sort
of confession out of Armstrong along the way but the tree trunk
wasn't moving. When they got into the lobby the men made their exit
and Neil asked the front desk if any messages had come in for him.
The woman their said that they're were none today. He then shook
Sam's hand and said that he was turning in. Sam had a little trouble
finding his room but with a little help from the numbers on the
Holiday Inn key chain he found in another back pocket, he made his
way in.
     He sat quietly for awhile remembering where he was the day of
the moon landing. He was back home and it was just after his brother
left to go to Vietnam. His father was pretty stressed at the time and
his sister spent most of the day in her room or out in the fields
thinking quietly to herself. Sam felt lost without Tom by his side
and his mother seemed to notice it. She often sat with Sam and talked
about how some things were bad in the world and while others were
good. She explained that his brother was out helping the good and he
was a hero four our country.
     Two days before the moon landing a telegram came in the mail
from overseas. The message said that all was well and that the war
would be over soon and then Tom would be back home. He also wrote of
a woman he had met down there and of how he planned to bring her home
with him. Maybe even get married. He was so happy, Sam had read with
the eastern winds blowing, cooling him from the summer heat.
     His brother was dead nine months later.    
     Sam had watched the moon landing with his family that July 20th.
He smiled when Neil Armstrong touched the surface of the moon at
10:56pm and thought of his brother when the announcer called him a
hero. He wondered if his brother saw the landing in Vietnam, wondered
if he was all right, but he didn't need to wonder if his brother was
a hero like Armstrong was. This he already knew.
     "Sam." The voice coming from far off...snapping him out of his
memories. "Sam!" It was Al. Sam checked the clock on the table beside
the bed. He had been sleeping for the past two hours. He looked at Al
now who noded at Sam's remark of disbelief. 
     "Yes suicide. Ziggy says that Armstrong was having trouble in
his marriage before the launch. When he doesn't go through with it he
goes into a state of depression which eventually leads to his wife
divorcing him in 1971. A year latter he ends up overdosing on
sleeping pills."
     "But he's like a brick wall. Al. Nothing seems to get to him."
     "He's one of those types that keeps it all inside. On the
outside he's Superman but inside he's a world of kyrptonite. His wife
is distraught over his keeping his feelings from her, eventually
leading to her decision to leave him. You get Armstrong to go into
space and you save his marriage."
     "So it's not about him conquering a fear to go the moon then?"
     "No. Armstrong's not afraid of the missio, Sam, he's afraid of
leaving his wife behind. With the problems back home he feels that if
he leaves her they will just get worse."
     "What does Ziggy suggest I should do?"
     "She thinks that you should talk to him about his problems, to
somehow drive the feelings out of him."
     "And I got seven days to do it in?" He asked more to himself.
     Al hesitated and then said: "No, you only have three."
     "There's a 95 percent chance that Armstrong runs away from the
hotel on the 16th of July and is not seen until three days after the
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