“Comrade, Cosmonaut Templeton,” They all shouted, sticking microphones and cameras in my face. “Tomorrow is Mars, yes? What does it feel like? ” There musta been a hundred of ‘em – all clamoring for a scoop. I hadn’t gotten this much attention since I left Fargo for Moscow almost three years ago. My job with the Russian private space exploration firm, CCURUp had made a big splash when I signed the contract. First man to Mars, that was the deal. Since then I had been training. Training was over now. I was in great physical shape, I spoke fluent Russian, I had a post doc in Astrophysics from Moscow University and now I was looking towards tomorrow, tomorrow, is liftoff. I was in the papers and on TV again.
The flight to Siberia where my Sputnik was prepped and waiting for me was uneventful. Only a handful of reporters had been allowed on board for the trip so the clamor died down as soon as we boarded. I spent most of the flight in conference with Comrade Kastoff. Kastoff had been assigned to me when I first came to Moscow. He was my ‘minder’ for lack of a better job description. He made sure I was where I should be, when I should be. This had been especially important before I had any Russian language capabilities. He was my translator. He kept me out of trouble. But over the years Kastoff had become my friend. Since I would never come back to Earth I took the opportunity afforded by this flight time to say goodbye to him. I presented him with my grandfather’s pocket watch, that my father had presented to me. I think I spotted a tear in the corner of his eye when he held it in his hand. He was a real softy.
“What do you think you will miss the most Gerald?” Kastoff asked me.
“Honestly?” I thought about it, “I’m going to miss vodka and food that doesn’t come out of a bag. I’m going to miss the things that we all take for granted like toilets and walking to the corner for a coffee.
“I’m going to miss Russian girls and the way their cheeks turn red in the winter. I’m going to miss the way they look, faces framed by plush fur hats and big coats. I’m going to miss the music I hear when they speak and the sparkle of their smiles.
“I’m going to miss friends and the ability to pick up a phone and call someone I like, just for a chat or to meet them at a restaurant for a meal or a drink. I’m going to miss sitting in the sun and feeling the breeze on my face. In other words, not too much.” We both smiled.
“Is it worth it?” Kastoff asked.
“Only time will tell brother, only time will tell.”
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