Mother Earth Takes Off: A Midwinter's Tale

Muther Earth Takes Off

This was all a long time ago, back when we had just come down out of the trees. We had reached a point in our development when Mother Earth seriously needed to get away from us for a while; seems we were gnawing on her last frazzled nerve, as she put it. The poor girl was quite beside herself, and so she went to Father Sun and asked if he wouldn’t please mind watching over us for a bit while she took a short cruise to the Pleiades. Old Papa Sol agreed to put us up awhile on Mercury, where he could keep an eye on us, and so Earth dropped us there and took off on her vacation.
Now, Mercury way back then was all one huge rainforest, so we had us plenty to eat, but it was also terribly volcanic. That was cool, though, because we were giants in those days and took great delight in plugging up volcanoes with rocks, big rocks. Soon we had the whole darn planet so constipated that it groaned and moaned like a sludgy old boiler, until Sol couldn’t stand the racket no more and demanded to know what we’d done. So we told him.
Well, bless his heart, but he just didn’t appreciate all our hard work one little bit, and insisted that we unplug every last one of them volcanoes. In hindsight, I suppose we should probably have split up into teams and unplugged several volcanoes at once so they’d sort of be safety valves for each other, but that’s the trouble with hindsight; it never works when you need it. No, instead we set about unplugging the biggest volcano first. That maybe wasn’t the best idea we ever had.
Fact of the matter was, that volcano pretty much unplugged itself. Once we got just a few rocks off the top, everything came shooting out at once, and I do mean everything, knocking us all back on our butts and blowing molten moosh a couple hundred miles into the sky. You ever seen a planetary enema? It was pretty cool.
There was a problem, though. See, so much stuff came busting up out of there so hard and so long and so exactly in the wrong direction that it acted as a brake on Mercury’s spin, and finally stopped it altogether. That was not so cool. In fact, pretty soon it got really hot where we were, and we all had to run and hide in the shade on the other side of the planet. Then it got really cold there, and we ended up trying to squeeze everybody in along the new equator, where we burned our bellies and froze our asses off at the same time. When Sol finally found us all there doing the hokey pokey on the yin yang, boy, he flared up bigtime. I mean, who would’ve thought a rainforest could go so fast?
So, that’s how we all ended up on Venus. Now, Venus was okay, all lush and tropical and really pretty with rivers and waterfalls everywhere, but there wasn’t a whole lot to eat there. Well, no, that ain’t right. There was a lot, yeah, but it was all beans. Venus was full of beans. There were bean vines big as your Aunt Maisie’s thighs sprawled all over the ground and climbing up into these monstrous bean trees that might have been something else at one time before the beans took over. There were black beans, green beans, brown beans, red beans, yellow beans, striped and spotted beans, and one especially nasty purple bean, and let me tell you, them beans were huge. I mean, we were big, right, but even the biggest of us, old fat Svardt, could pick one of them beans in the morning and eat on it all day long, just carrying it around and munching on it when he got hungry, and still have enough left for breakfast. That’s how big them beans were. We’re talking frijoles gigantigrandes here.
Anyways, being as how we hadn’t yet figured out how to use fire for cooking and refrying beans, whatever that means, we ate those Venus beans raw right out of the pod, which ain’t too bad once you get used to it. Still, it does take some getting used to, especially the after effects. Big old raw beans tend to push a lot of wind ahead of them, if you get my drift. Methane wind, don’t you know. Got to where a body just about had to fast a day or two to be half decent company. We finally resigned ourselves to having to live with each other’s aromas and rumblings. It was about that time we invented prayer, remembering our sweetly scented home on Earth and imploring our great mother to return and rescue us from ourselves. Wasn’t no use talking to old Sol, of course; he still had a mad on over that mess on Mercury.
You know, though, after a couple hundred years all that methane wind turned into methane clouds, and then all them methane clouds churned out a mess of methane weather. Believe you me, methane weather is no fun at all. First, it’s cold and slimy, and second, it tends to fall in huge chunks you have to fight your way out of. Oh, and top of all that, it’s bad for beans. If Papa Sol hadn’t finally got a whiff of what was happening on Venus, we might’ve starved. All the same, he was pretty burned up again, seeing as how we’d done stunk up his entire solar system.
So that’s how we all ended up on Mars. Now, Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids; it’s dry and dusty and downright inhospitable. I think Father Sun really meant to punish us some by putting us there, though when you consider the other possibilities, well, there wasn’t much elsewhere we could go. There was Vulcan, I guess, but we probably would’ve got into a feud with them smartasses. They are definitely not our kind of people, though they were nice enough to fly in some food to us every so often at Sol’s request. It was mighty skimpy rations, but it was better than nothing, which was what we had otherwise. We got shrunk about halfway down to our present size from having to live on so little, but then owing to our shrinkage we started to have surpluses and took to feasting like big dogs at the end of the year, just before the new shipments arrived. You know, now that I think about it, seems it never occurred to us that the new shipments might not arrive. I reckon we were feasting on faith.
We did, however, have to ship our water down from the polar ice caps. See, the little surface water there was on Mars had little yeasty critters living in it. They were an endangered species, you understand. In fact, they were the only species on the planet, so we had to respect their little population crisis. We tried digging a network of canals down from the ice caps, but the yeast got into that water too. That started us in to thinking that maybe them little buggars wasn’t all that endangered, maybe there were jillions of them just laying dormant in the soil. But they’d done spoiled the water anyway, so what did it matter.
Then we found out the cool thing. One day a load of sugar got dumped into one of the canals by accident, and it and that yeast got together in some weird alchemical marriage. A couple months later some of us got to wondering if maybe that sugar hadn’t sweetened that water enough to make it drinkable, and that’s when the cool thing happened. The water still wasn’t all that fit to drink; imagine drinking fermented Vega-Mite and you’ll about get the idea. There was something interesting about it, though, just interesting enough to make you want to try it again. And again. And after you’d tried it a few times, you didn’t much care what it tasted like anymore.
Come the next morning, we dumped sugar in all the canals. After some trial and error, we got the mix right and figured out how to flavor the brew with fruit so it didn’t taste quite so awful. Then we dug more canals so as to have more flavors, and by summer the Martian joy juice industry was flowing down like a mighty river. That’s when the not so cool thing happened.
See, Mars has two seasons, the dry one and the drier one. We’d all been too wiped out on brew to notice that the ice caps were melting faster, and we’d dug so many canals that the water got spread really thin. By the time we realized we were in trouble, we’d pretty near pissed away all the water on Mars, and what was left was drying up into a scum of eighty proof fruitcake. So we did the only sensible thing: we all moved closer to the caps and got royally juiced, determined to stay that way until, well, things got better.
So there we all were, sloppy drunk at the poles, when Mama Earth got back from her cruise. She got the lowdown on our antics from Papa Sol, and let me tell you she wasn’t too happy to hear it, especially when she found us plastered all over the landscape and grovelling in the canals. She plucked us all up in a huff, slung us on her back, and off she went to settle down into her old orbit. Only this time, with a little prodding from Sol, she added a little twist. Now she wobbled while she spun around the sun, just enough of a wobble to share out equal periods of intense heat and cold up where we were living at the time. This is supposed to make us grateful for the temperate times between, and I guess it works pretty good.
‘cause I tell you, I’m glad we’re not on Mercury anymore, trying to squeeze ourselves in between the light and the dark. And I’m really glad not to be still living on Venus, eating nothing but raw beans and breathing everybody’s fumes all the time. I do kind of miss Mars, because now we have to work to set aside enough food to get us through the winter. I don’t miss that awful wine, though. We make it a lot better here, and there’s no finer reminder in midwinter of the spring to come than good wine, unless, of course it be good brandy or scotch. All the same, what I guess I’m saying is that we really have it pretty good, considering what jackasses we’re capable of being. So here’s to the generosity of Mother Earth and Father Sun for not leaving us to stew in our own messes, and here’s to Yule for reminding us that spring is always going to come. Hopefully.

Mother Earth Takes Off: A Midwinter's Tale


Trussvillle, United States

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