By David A. Owens
Harry was the happiest man in the universe. He couldn’t help being happy. He had always had an optimistic view of life. He was even happily married.
Not that it had always been so.
When he and his wife boarded the deep space freighter Toledo he knew life on the colony would be the best thing he had ever done. A new life would bring more happiness and opportunities he could not have imagined on overpopulated Earth. He managed to get reduced passage rates for the two of them on the freighter because of his engineering degree. Harry could repair almost anything.
Several months into the flight his wife began acting strange. She insisted he should take out the garbage every day even though the ship had recycling ports inside each stateroom. Harry was still happy, however.
He’d pretend to take out the garbage, even though none existed. He would carry a small bag outside their room, “I’m taking out the garbage, Honey,” he would call out loudly. Then he would leave their quarters walk a short way down the passageway and return. “I’m all done, dear.”
A half-year into the voyage, the freighter Captain asked Harry to become a member of the crew. “You are a great engineer, Harry,” the Captain had told him. “You are always such a jolly guy and your work is exemplary. You never complain about anything.”
The Captain’s thoughtful words brought more happiness into Harry’s life. Harry was the happiest man in the universe.
A meteor storm changed a lot of things. The main steering unit thrusters had been completely knocked out and Harry had to suit up to go outside and make repairs, but while he was outside in his life suit and struggling with a bolt on the side of the thruster unit another meteor storm hit. Not one meteor hit Harry. Happiness is surviving a meteor storm, Harry thought. But several large rocks had penetrated the hull. Harry discovered it was impossible to communicate with the crew.
Harry was happy, however, and completed the thruster repairs before returning to the airlock. Inside the airlock, the system control panel showed the ship’s life support systems were offline. Not to be dismayed in the least, Harry kept his suit on and opened the internal airlock hatch.
He quickly went to the engineering department and found everyone was dead. Sudden decompression had flushed all of the oxygen out of the hull and apparently killed everyone instantly. Harry was happy because he knew none of the crew had suffered. He went to his stateroom and found his wife sitting in her chair. The cold had frozen her solid.
Harry cleaned the mess up and moved his wife to the large recycling intake on a lower deck then set about moving all the crew, one-by-one, into the recyclers.
It took Harry almost a year to complete hull repairs, but he had managed early on, to seal the Captain’s cabin, restore atmospherics, and took it as his personal quarters. He even built a temporary airlock system to make it easier for him to exit the cabin to make repairs. He took charge. Harry was happy. He was now the captain of the space freighter Toledo.
Eventually, Harry managed to make most of the ship operational. He had enjoyed all of the work. It kept him busy. Unfortunately, Harry knew nothing about guiding the ship. He couldn’t find another planet without navigation skills and the ship had no instruction manuals, but there was plenty of food thanks to the recycling machines, plenty of oxygen, and the entertainment systems were fully functional. Harry loved his work.
Harry was the happiest man in the universe.
- - -
Dave Owens hides out down the hill from the Jack Daniels Distillery in Tennessee. About three years ago he snaked a long garden hose up into the aging barn and ever since has enjoyed the product. He gets far too many visits from his hillbilly neighbors who come by far too often for the wrong reasons. He has published a novel and numerous shorts stories. Happy Harry is intended to bring a chuckle or two.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
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