It was recently revealed that American astronauts were sometimes drunk prior to and perhaps during their missions. Strangely, this revelation scandalized some and baffled others. In the following dramatization, MDM attempts to explain why such a thing may have come to pass.
Dr. Robert R. Gilruth, head of the Mercury Project, walks into a briefing room where a solitary Alan Shepard sits. In two hours Shepard will attempt to become the first American in space.
GILRUTH: Well, Al, you ready to make history?
SHEPARD: Fuck you.
GILRUTH: What’s wrong, son? Got the pre-launch jitters?
SHEPARD: No, I just finally wised up to exactly what we’re doing here. You’re going to strap me on top of a giant stack of explosives and blast me into goddamn space!
GILRUTH: Come on, Al. We’ve sent monkeys up and—
SHEPARD: Yes, and where are they now? Can I meet these monkeys?
SHEPARD: Of course I can’t! They’re still up there, frozen stiff in their capsules. None of ‘em came home. Well, except for the one and he got thawed out real fast. Got goddamn fricasseed on reentry.
GILRUTH: Actually, he drowned in the ocean.
SHEPARD: Well, that’s a relief.
Gilruth sighs, reaches inside his suit jacket and produces a pint of whiskey.
GILRUTH: I have a present for you, Al. I was going to give it to you when you came back a great American hero, but since you’re not going, you might as well have it now.
SHEPARD: Oh, is that the game? Get me snockered then strap me to the murder missile?
GILRUTH: Just have a taste. It’ll settle your nerves.
SHEPARD: Okay, but only because it’s my brand.
Shepard takes a pull off the bottle.
GILRUTH: There, that’s better.
SHEPARD: Says you. I still ain’t going near that—
GILRUTH: Have another jolt. For good luck.
SHEPARD: It’ll help me face the reporters when I tell those cocksuckers I ain’t going.
GILRUTH: Sure. Go ahead and take the neck off that bastard.
SHEPARD: I think I know how to drink liquor, Bob.
Shepard shows the bottom of the bottle what the ceiling looks like.
SHEPARD: Did I ever tell you about the time me and John Glenn got rip-roarin’ on this stuff and stole Gordo’s Harley and jumped that fucker over —
GILRUTH: Sure, sure. That’s why we chose you for this gig, Al. You’re all balls and no—
SHEPARD: Brains? Is that it?
GILRUTH: No, no. I was going to say, “All balls and no backing down.”
SHEPARD: Goddamn right. Remember when I crashed the X-14? Rode that sonuvabitch right into the dirt and walked away without a scratch. I—
GILRUTH: Bottle’s getting lonely, Al.
SHEPARD: Not for long. (Shepard takes a long pull.) Boy, that’s the right stuff.
GILRUTH: You know, maybe you’re right. Maybe you’re not cut out for this deal. We figured you might chicken—uh, choose not to go. We have Glenn standing by.
SHEPARD: Standing by my ass—that motherfucker is camped out on his crapper, just in case he gets the call.
GILRUTH: He told me he’s rarin’ to go.
SHEPARD: Sheeeeeeeeit. And it ain’t that I ain’t going, exactly. I never said that. I just wanted you to grasp that, you know, this shit is dangerous. You understand me? What I’m doing? Fucking dangerous, man. I just wanted you to grasp that.
GILRUTH: We grasp it fine, Al.
SHEPARD: Good. It’s just that, you know, you motherfuckers need to respect what I’m doing here. I’m goddamn blasting off into fucking space!
GILRUTH: I knew you had the guts.
Shepard finishes off the bottle and wings it into a corner.
SHEPARD: Who the fuck ever doubted my guts? Tell you what—stick a case of dynamite under a milk crate and I’ll climb on top of that motherfucker and ride it to Pluto. That’s the kind of guts I got.
GILRUTH: That’s my boy!
SHEPARD: (eyes watering a little) I’m gonna go see those monkeys. Couple belts of booze and they’ll wake right up. Goddamn monkeys. You know, Bob, I wouldn’t mind having a drink with those monkeys.
GILRUTH: Wouldn’t we all, Al. Wouldn’t we all.
SHEPARD: (rising unsteadily to his feet) All right, step back, motherfuckers! Big Al’s going to space! Sputnik, my ass! Here comes the goddamn USA, you commie bastards. Keep your filthy Bolshevik hands off our space monkeys!
GILRUTH: You tell ‘em, Shep!
SHEPARD: I’m ready to go! Gimme the keys to that motherfucking rocket! I’ll drive!
—Frank Kelly Rich