THE MOON AT NOON
Š1997 by Jerry J. Davis The Freud simulation program told Mike that he had a subconscious desire to be caught. That was ludicrous, though –
being caught would mean the end of his career, which was a job he enjoyed. It would also be the end of his marriage, as his socially-conscious wife would be embarrassed out of her mind. His kids would be harassed at school, taunted with jeers about their crazy father, and for this reason alone Mike took precautions. He had to be cautious, even though being cautious was the very opposite of what he was doing. What did the Freud simulation know, anyway? It was only a program.
His rubber-walled car would do no more than 35 miles per hour down the crowded expressway – to go faster would not be safe.
Mike often wondered why 35 miles per hour was considered safe, and 36 miles per hour was not. His car puttered like a motorboat, burning natural gas, and inched its way from one lane to another as he progressed toward the next off ramp. Zeiter Park Exit, the sign read. Center City. His car made putt-putt sounds as it crept down the long, safe exit ramp.
As he came to a stop, he did so gently so as not to trigger the air-bag in his steering wheel – which had gone off several times before. For some reason it had a hair trigger, and when he’d first bought the car Mike thought it was a factory defect. No, said the factory representative, it was made that way on purpose.
Just to be safe. That, and the webbing that made up the seat belt system, was now standard in all cars by law. As was the crash helmet on his head.
Mike found a parking place on the street beside some bushes in Zeiter Park, right between two other rubber-walled cars. Rubber walls with a titanium-steel passenger compartment imbedded within, the mandatory norm and ultimate in safety and protection. Four way anti-skid disc brakes and pneumatic collapsible bumpers on front, back and sides. Titanium roll bar. Non-breakable Plexiglas windshield. It was – all of it – state of the art, and required by law.
As was the helmet on his head.
Mike got out of the car, pulled a bundled pack out of the back seat, and stepped up onto the soft, rubberized surface of the park sidewalk. He felt like a spaceman stepping out onto a hostile planet. The helmet he wore was not only a crash helmet for driving a car, it also doubled as the mandatory helmet to be worn by pedestrians, along with the mandatory knee and elbow pads, and of course the bullet proof vest to protect him from muggers. Mike, like most people in the last few years, had saved money by buying the whole outfit as a single suit, called a safety suit, which contained all the safe elements required by law for those who would go out in public. As a bonus, this suit also contained an emergency transponder that would radio for help if he should fall down and break his leg or hip, as if that were possible. This was not currently required by law, but Congress was in the process of considering it.
A few joggers ran past, each wearing a safety suit, and a few young couples lay under trees on blankets, groping each other’s suits in frustration. Mike carried his bundle far up the hill, staying on the sidewalk, and at one point crossed the street (safely, at a crosswalk), and headed away from the park.
Up a long, steep hill he hiked, up to the top where one of the bigger skyscrapers in town stood, a black and polished bank building called Haben Tower. Inside he went, face blank, eyes straight ahead as he passed the security monitors. He walked straight to the elevators and pushed a button and waited. He was alone, he’d timed it right. Most people at this time were busy in their offices, all their visitors and visitations having been taken care of earlier that morning. The elevator arrived and he alone stepped inside. He pushed the button for the top floor, and stood stoically as the doors slid shut and the elevator began to rise.
This is my civil disobedience, he told himself. I have a right to do this. I have an obligation to do this. I’ve gone too far to back down now.
Mike took deep breaths, conscious that his hands were shaking.
The ride lasted a long time. It was a slow elevator. Fast elevators were dangerous. Mike had plenty of time to open the pack and pull out the rubber Ralph Nader mask. He pulled off his helmet, put on the mask, and put the helmet back on. With the helmet on, he was sure, no one would look twice at the mask.
There was a pastel tone from the elevator’s speaker grill and the doors slid open. Several executives in black and white safety suits stepped in as he was stepping out. One gave him a startled glance but said nothing, and Mike dared not look back as he walked away from the elevator. Hopefully the man had doubted his own eyes. Mike continued down the hall and around a corner to the stair well. A security monitor was right there, electric eye focused on him as he tried the door. It was unlocked, of course – it was a fire exit – and he pushed it open and stepped through. He walked up the one remaining flight of stairs and faced the one remaining door at the top of the building. This one was locked, as it was not safe beyond. Mike, fortunately, had a pass key which he’d swiped from a janitor two weeks before. Within seconds he was out in the sunshine on the roof, with all of Center City in view.
Now he had to work fast, for there would be security guards after him within the next few minutes. He opened the pack, pulled out the aluminum and nylon contents, and then began removing his safety suit. After that was off, he removed all the rest of his clothes – everything, including the helmet. The only thing that remained was the Ralph Nader mask. He stood naked on the roof, shoving his clothing into the pack, and with that done he began pulling out the telescoping aluminum struts and unfolding the nylon wings of his hang glider. He had eight wing nuts to fasten and twelve buttons to snap. He worked quickly but with precision, as he’d practiced this over fifty times in his garage. He had done it in secret, as hang gliders were strictly forbidden, and mere possession of one was a felony – now he was doing it bare-ass naked on the top of a public building, in full view of the world.
The wings spread out and caught the faint breeze, glittering with all the colors of a butterfly. Mike finished the last few snaps and stashed his pack with his safety suit and helmet in a net at the top of the harness. He looped the padded harness around him and stood near the building’s edge, nerving himself. He thought of the words written by his hero, the great 1960’s pop philosopher Ashleigh Brilliant, “Should I abide by the rules until they’re changed, or help speed the change by breaking them?” The door behind him burst open and a half-dozen security guards rushed out onto the roof, and Mike, startled, ran for the edge of the building. “Speed the change!” he shouted out loud, his voice cracking with excitement. He took one last long step and the building was behind him.
The first few seconds were the biggest thrill, as he felt himself plummeting through the air. Then the wings caught and yanked him up, and he curved up and around to taunt the guards on the building top. They stared at him like a group of knights in black, leathery armor, some of them even smiling. Mike waved, made a steep bank and turned away.
It was a dizzy feeling, reeling through the air with it rushing across his bare skin, pulling at the little hairs on his chest, arms and legs. He was eye-level with the sea gulls and pigeons, sharing their element, scaring them off the ledges of the tower and sending them squawking away. The excitement and the caress of the air was of sexual intensity, and his sexual organ responded in kind. He flew several times around the tower, seeing shocked faces pressed up against tinted windows, before he turned on a wing and soared off across town.
The top of another tall building lay below him, down the hill from Haben Tower, and he could have landed on it had he wished.
Instead he touched the microwave relay antenna on its roof with the tips of his toes as he flew over, making it wobble, causing a momentary interruption in someone’s data-link. Somewhere in the building, someone missed a word in a conversation, or lost some bytes in a data transfer. The thought made him giggle, and he circled around and waved at the windows, each one filled with faces and open, gaping mouths. As he did so, the wind caught an edge of his mask and pulled it off.