BEN AND CARLA
By Larry Centor
While Ben Enterman was returning from his successful mission
to Ur through Rather Warped Factor T, Starship Command suggested
he take a look-see at an execution in the same geographic area
at Stardate April 6, 28 AD.
reported concisely: “Nothing special. Three men executed
on a hill -- two of them robbers, one a religious fanatic.
In the absence of more precise data, I will assume the occasion
is of little historical significance.
be noted parenthetically that Enterman might at least have observed
that the method of execution -– crucifixion -– offered a strong
promise of fad potential in the form of religious items.
Properly marketed, it is possible the crucifix might have become
extremely popular, at least for a time.]
starship was an interstellar vehicle, capable of traversing the
infinite timelines of the galactic cosmopolis. It had a
Time Warp Factor, designated Rather Warped Factor T, used by the
commander at his discretion, and at the direction of Starship
Command, to set right what appeared to be appalling in the cosmic
timeline we refer to as Earth’s history.
made his report on his trip to 28 A.D., Enterman and his starship
returned to the present, and began routine patrol in the New York
environs. After about half an hour of uneventful cruising,
he received instructions from Starship Command to proceed to Yankee
Stadium to assist in crowd control; a riot seemed to be in the
making. While it seemed to be outside the normal mission
parameters for Enterman and his starship, an assignment was an
were playing the Texas Rangers. Enterman phased his starship
into its starhack mode and sped across the Triboro Bridge, up
the Deegan Expressway and off at the first stadium exit.
He parked his spaceship, reconfigured so that it now appeared
to be nothing more than a taxi, in a restricted zone, flipped
the visor with his Starship Command ID and hurried into the ballpark.
was briefing him along the way. “Crowd estimated at 20,000
has been monitored at noise levels far in excess of what should
reasonably be expected. Game dull and uneventful.
Best available intelligence suggests activities among fans and
or players may have precipitated circumstances which may be verging
on the hysterical.”
his Recorder Pack V with him, Enterman made his way into the grandstand.
Most of the crowd seemed to be concentrated in the lower deck
between home plate and first base. And far from sounding
like a riot, as far as Ben Enterman could tell every man, woman
and child in attendance was laughing fit to bust a gut.
that the threat of violence appeared minimal, Enterman slowly
made his way through the crowd. After a while, he neared
the center of the action. Stadium security personnel formed
a tight circle around a young lady, a girl really, maybe sixteen
years old. The security team was laughing too. Spotting
Enterman, the officer in charge nodded. “Hack outside, Ben,
or are you here as a fan?”
I think you’d better escort the lady home. We’ll square
the tab with Starship Command.”
Come on along miss.” The girl took Enterman’s hand, and
let him lead her out of the stadium. The laughter continued
unabated. Reaching his ship, Enterman opened the door, saw
that the girl was comfortable then asked, “Would you mind telling
me what happened, Miss uh...?”
* * * * *
Burton, Accidental Nurse, settled back in the starhack.
Moments ago, she had been standing in the middle of 20,000 people
in Yankee Stadium. And they were laughing at her, after
she had tried so hard during the entire game to be of assistance
to those around her.
been sitting between home plate and first base, really quite close
to the field and just behind the Yankee dugout. In the first
inning, one of the Texas Rangers ripped a line drive foul into
the first base seats. It rocketed off one seat, hit another
and landed gently on top of the head of a gentleman who was dozing
didn’t know the man had been sleeping and that he was, in fact,
under the influence of one too many beers. She thought the
ball had knocked him out. The ball had fallen to the ground
where some twenty people scrambled for it. Everyone ignored
the drunk, everyone except Carla. She immediately shouted,
“I’ll help. I know what to do.” She really didn’t
know what to do from a practical point of view, but here was an
opportunity to put all of her extensive reading about nursing
move him. Someone get a blanket. We must prevent shock.”
No one offered a blanket. Who goes to a ballgame in July
with a blanket? The drunk wasn’t moving. He didn’t
even know a ball had hit him. He was dreaming of surfing
in Tahiti, after which he intended to quaff a few more brewskis.
“Is there a doctor around?” A Ranger smashed a long fly
ball to left, and the Yankee outfielder made a leaping catch against
the barrier. Everyone ignored Carla and the drunk.
absence of a blanket, Carla started taking sweaters and light
jackets from the backs of the seats around her. No one seemed
to notice –- or care. She even used some old newspapers
to cover the drunk. When she had finished, all that was
exposed was the drunk’s mouth, wide open and exposed to the night
sky. And then it happened.
were now at bat. The hitter lofted a high, foul pop in the
direction of the rightfield stands. The ball arced gently
and hit a seat two rows in front of the dozing drunk, then bounced
high. A number of fans had followed the flight of the ball
as it drifted toward the drunk. It gently hit the seat in
which he was sprawled and sort of hopped into the drunk’s agape
mouth. He didn’t even move, not a twitch. He certainly
wasn’t dead because a sheet of newspaper covering his nose was
moving rhythmically up and down.
fans took note. They saw the drunk covered from head to
toe with sweaters, jackets and newspaper, with a baseball perched
in his open mouth. And the laughter started, becoming contagious
as other fans came to see what was happening. The laughter
built in intensity until it became convulsive. It didn’t
stop until someone shook the drunk awake. He excused himself
with what he must have felt was dignity, removed the ball from
his mouth, put it in his pocket and went off in search of another
Carla Burton was on her way home in the starhack, her dreams of
nursing dealt a temporary setback.
* * * * *
By Larry Centor
It was just after Bastille Day, the joyous celebration that marked
the singular event that symbolized the French Revolution.
Ben Enterman received the following order from Starship Command.
through Rather Warped Factor T to Paris on July 14, 1793, the
fourth anniversary of Bastille Day, and some three months after
the formation of the Committee of Public Safety; the Reign of
Terror is in its early stages. Do not interfere with any
of the principals at risk of changing the timeline.”
starship’s database, Enterman learned that Louis XVI [pronounced
Lou-ee Says] had already been executed, and his queen, Marie Antoinette
[pronounced Marie Antoinette], would follow on October 16 of that
year. Starship Command’s instructions were clear:
“Observe habits and customs of the populace. Do not interfere.”
had been cruising leisurely through the South Bronx at the time,
and was rather enjoying the celebration of life as evidenced on
the streets of the area [sometimes one is forced to question Ben
Enterman’s sanity] when the order came from Starship Command.
He muttered a choice expletive, went through the customary checklist,
and proceeded through Rather Warped Factor T to the designated
time and place.
emerged from its voyage renamed the Starsedanchaise EnToutMain
[literally “in all hand,” whatever the hell that means], and with
the assistance of three Ben Enterman clones carried aboard the
starship for just such emergencies, the starsedanchaise proceeded
through the streets of 18th century Paris.
be presumptuous to report that there was anything startling about
life in the French capital at the time. In truth, the Parisiens
existed not much differently than their contemporaries in other
parts of Europe. There were the extremely rich, and indeed
there were few of these. There were the quite poor, of which
there were a great many. And there was a growing middle
class. And, oh yes, there were the tumbrels, those seemingly
ubiquitous carts used to carry victims to Madame Guillotine.
every society, in every time, Ben Enterman observed a general
unrest among the populace. The blatant wealth of the gentry
contrasted sharply with the penury of the peasants. Caught
in the middle, by definition, was the middle class.
were more obvious than today’s richer strata. They had lavish
estates, castles, palaces, chateaus, servants. Today’s scions
and hoi-polloi may be better off materially, but most of us have
cars, computers, video systems, basic comforts. Still, unrest
is basically a contest of wills between classes.
however, was a holiday, and the people were in a joyous mood,
as they celebrated Bastille Day. Everyone seemed to be having
a great time –- singing and dancing in the streets, not to mention
quaffing an inordinate amount of wine.
at that dandy,” said one peasant as he spotted a French nobleman
being drawn in an ornate carriage through the streets. “He’s
come to mingle with the commoners.”
moment, the nobleman, in what must be assumed to be an act of
generosity tinged with disdain, casually tossed a few coins into
the street. That simple action caused one of the peasants
to reach down, pick up a rock and throw it casually at the carriage;
nothing malignant, just a casual flip of a loose paving stone.
Within seconds, a barrage of rocks and garbage was bombarded the
carriage from every direction.
the horses stumbled, went down. Suddenly, the crowd was
upon the carriage. The doors were ripped open, and the nobleman,
in all his finery, was dragged from the carriage. Within
seconds, he had been stripped quite naked, but was fortunately
otherwise unharmed, the crowd being in a generally jovial mood.
The mob stood around roaring its approval. “How does it
feel to be one of us?”
was Ben Enterman in Paris, circa 1793, along with three clones;
it takes four people to carry a sedanchaise, or two men looking
for massive hernias. And there was this nobleman standing
in the center of a crowd, stark naked, trying to retain his dignity,
but somehow failing to pull it off.
there are 100, or 103, peasants laughing fit to beat the band
[whatever that particular idiom means]. Now this poor gentile,
as anyone could plainly see, simply didn’t know which way to turn.
When you’re surrounded, and starkers, it really doesn’t make much
rate, our noble genius figures the best thing to do is cover up.
Now this guy shows he isn’t at all stupid. He covers his
face. How many people can recognize you by your religion,
particularly when your religion is in the huge majority?
the problem of getting away does present a challenge. How
to escape? He is in no immediate danger; laughers are seldom
dangerous, and his face-saving maneuver has only accelerated the
general sense of merriment.
and the clones are also enjoying the scene, and laughing in unison.
The nobleman is peeking from between his fingers, looking here,
there. The laughers are mostly looking there.
would like to help, but Starship Command has advised him not to
interfere. But that was in reference to the principals
in this time and place, Enterman reasons. How do
I Know this guy is a principal? Obviously, there is
only one way to find out. I’ll ask.
sent one of his clones to the nobleman. You can distinguish
the original from the clones because Ben the Original uses a sunlamp
while the clones stay out of the sunlight. Sort of makes
one wonder, doesn’t it?
III wends his way through the laughers until he is at the inner
edge of the circle. “Hey,” he hollers suavely, “Where do
is dumbfounded. He stares at Clone III through his hands.
The question simply does not register. It makes no sense
at all. “What?” he replies brightly.
do you teach?”
penetrates, but still makes no sense. What the devil would
a nobleman be doing teaching? He ponders the question behind
his hands. “Teach. Teach. Me, a teacher?
My dear sir, don’t be an ass.” And all the time, he’s starkers
and hiding his face from the near-hysterical crowd.
III, who of course has Enterman’s sense of humor, replies, “Ass?
Ass? Do you want yours saved?” And Clone III abruptly
leaves the inner circle surrounding the naked nobleman and returns
to Enterman, Clone I and Clone II.
not a teacher,” reports Clone III.
responds Enterman, “he is probably not a principal. Since
he is probably not a principal at this stardate, our order fr4om
Starship Command does not apply. We can, as you so succinctly
put it, ‘save his ass.’”
so put it,” retorted Clone III. “I am you.”
how come I asked you for a report?”
answered Clone III, rather abstractly, “you can be in several
places at the same time, but what you see is not necessarily what
the mood to pursue what promises to be a circular conversation,
Ben Enterman goes into a huddle with Clones I, II and III.
Since they are all Ben Enterman, the discussion is sort of one-sided,
but they do develop a strategy.
problem, as I see it,” expounded Enterman, “is getting that ass
into the ship.”
corrected Clone III.
responded Enterman. “If we can get that ass into the star...”
He paused and cast a meaningful glance at Clone III, although
he could not really distinguish one clone from another since they
chose to dress exactly alike, and tended to move about just enough
to confuse Enterman.
he amended, “then we can extricate him from this crowd.”
not really a vehicle...” started Clone II, who maybe was Clone
it,” said Enterman. Clone II, if that’s who he was, stuffed
Phwew-hoo. Get him,” said Clone I.
any friends?” asked Enterman, a bit heatedly.
my friends,” said Clone I, smiling his Enterman smile.
go @#$% yourself.”
Then what would that make me?” asked Clone I.
the semantic possibilities, probabilities, combinations and permutations
boggled Enterman’s mind. He gaped at Clone I, eyes bugging
out of his head, face a brilliant crimson, sputtering, muttering.
“Pick up the !@#$%^&...” He paused. “...sedanchaise,”
he said with quiet rage, barely in control.
and Enterman lifted the sedanchaise, with the commander in one
of the forward positions. By this time, Enterman couldn’t
even be sure if he was him, or if he was a clone, and the clones
were wondering whether they were clones or the original Enterman.
for the inner portion of the laughing circle where the naked nobleman
was still hiding his Christian identity behind his slightly splayed
show the entire Eternal City what a real royal pain in the ass
is like,” shouted Entermen above the raucous noise of the crowd.
He repeats himself several times before any of the peasants even
take notice of the small entourage.
II uses a simple playback technique of the Recorder Pack V to
throw his voice, so that it seems to be coming from somewhere
in the crowd. “Say, there’s an idea. Let’s put him
in that sedanchaise over there. We’ll parade him through
the streets of the city.”
nobleman was trembling with fear, his skin flushed red with embarrassment.
“Make way. Make way,” shouts Enterman. The crowd,
sensing the humor in the situation, takes up the cry. “Make
way. Make way for the sedanchaise.”
he knew what was happening, the naked nobleman had been hoisted
into the sedanchaise by two of the clones who, incidentally, had
remarkably cold hands. Then the clones lifted their burden
and started down the street.
parted ready to follow, and the sedanchaise started to fade. Within
a few seconds it had disappeared altogether. The crowd was
stunned. Obviously, they didn’t believe their eyes, and
the entire event was later categorized as mass hysteria induced
by an overabundance of wine.
happened, of course, was quite different. Once the naked
nobleman was safely in the sedanchaise, Ben Enterman had quickly
thrown the starship into Rather Warped Factor T, moving the starship
briefly backward in time.
fully clothed and totally oblivious to what had happened in the
moments to come, is drawn through the streets of Paris in his
carriage. And meaning well, but with just a touch of disdain,
he reaches into his purse. Wait a minute! “Where’s
my purse?” he exclaims aloud.
to prevent history from repeating, Ben Enterman had lifted the
nobleman’s purse just before letting him disembark, puzzled but
fully clothed, from the sedanchaise. Since the first event
had never happened yet, the nobleman had no recollection whatsoever
of the events in which he had participated in that other timeline
which would now never exist.
Ben Enterman reported to Starship Command, “Mission completed
* * * * *