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SPACE/Jesse Lee Kercheval July 1969 WHEN I WAS growing up, I lived next door to Cape Kennedy, in Cocoa, Florida, a town built for tired aerospace engineers to spend quiet nights with their families. In Cocoa, the race for the moon was everything. Where most papers ran the local weather, ours featured details of the next space shot. And the recipes in the food section were always for things like Astronaut Fruitcake—identical to the ones the astronauts eat in space; has energy power aplentyfor us earthlings!!! But when Apollo 11 blasted off for the moon with Neil Armstrong on board, I was 150 miles away at Turtle Lake Girl Scout Camp in the middle of the Ocala National Forest. In fact, I was practicing a water ballet to the "Theme from Love Story" blaring from a portable record player over the lake through a set of loudspeakers mainly used for ordering campers out of the water in the case of a thunderstorm. I was twelve and in Aquatics, the unit at the camp that did the most swimming and boating. Even for us, though, water ballet was a bit of a stretch. This was the brainstorm of my tent-mate Celia, who had seen water ballet on TV during the Mexico City Olympics. Celia had just moved to Florida from California and was full of ideas. Water ballet was not turning out to be one of her best ones. For one thing, the dark water of Turtle Lake, stained brown with tannin from the pine and cypress trees, made it impossible to see any fancy tricks done underwater. This limited our choreography to waving our hands and feet rhythmically in the air while we swam, but Celia had conned me and our other tent-mate Andrea, who we called Andy, into participating anyway. Celia was a born leader. We had just started the opening of our routine, the part where we swam in a circle doing the crawl while rhythmically dipping our hands in the water to the words, "How do I begin"—dip, breathe, kick— "to tell the story"—dip, breathe, kick—"of how great a love can be?"—double dip, breathe, flip onto back. Just as I was rolling over to start my backstroke, I noticed the water was full of tiny ripples, as if Turtle Lake were a glass in some nervous drinker's hand. On the shore, Happy, our counselor (named by the camp director after one of Snow White's dwarfs), lifted the tone arm from the record, and in place of the distorted music, I heard a familiar low rumble. Only a Saturn V rocket The Missouri Review · 44 sounded like that. Apollo 11 was go. There were Americans on their way to walk on the moon. Hoating on my back, I shaded my eyes and looked up, expecting to see the white trail as the rocket headed downrange, but the sky was empty. We were too far north to see the launch, even though we could hear it. I stood up in the shoulder-deep water. Andy stood, too. I could hear cheers from the softball field, where most of the campers had gone after breakfast to watch the counselors play against a team from the YWCA camp, but I couldn't tell if they were cheering the launch or some spectacular slide into home. Celia, busy counting her strokes, bumped into me. "Hey, Doc," she said, calling me by the nickname she'd given me, based, she said, on how much I knew and not on the Disney dwarf of the same name. She stood, too. "Hey," she said, taking plugs out of her ears. "What happened to the music?" I started to tell her, but at the same moment Happy dropped the tone arm on the record player, starting the music again with an awful sliding scratch that drowned me out. After we finished our practice, Celia, Andy, and I sat on the floating dock, drying off. Even at ten in the morning, the sun was fiercely hot. I spent the whole summer burning, peeling and burning again, too fair, really, to live under the Florida sun. No amount...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 44-60
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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