Astrotwins -- Project Rescue
SATURDAY, MARCH 28, 1976
Mark Kelly was doing his best to save his dog’s life, but his dog—a big brown mutt named Major Nelson—did not want to be saved. Again and again, Mark fastened the clear plastic oxygen mask over his nose. Again and again, Major Nelson shook it off.
“Can I get some help here?” Mark asked his twin brother, Scott.
It was after lunch, and the two twelve-year-olds were kneeling on the carpet in the living room of their house. Sprawled between them, Major Nelson thumped his tail; dog rescue was the best game yet!
“If I help, it’ll spoil my entertainment,” Scott said. “You’re better than watching Happy Days on TV.”
The boys had a real oxygen mask, one with perforations to allow air flow. But in place of an oxygen
tank, they were using a big soda bottle, its cap replaced by a valve made out of cardboard discs. For tubing, they had taped together plastic drinking straws. The flimsy homemade setup didn’t look very realistic, but it gave the boys a way to practice for tests in their Red Cross first-aid class—or, for that matter, real emergencies.
“You are not very funny,” Mark told Scott. “Now do me a favor and keep the mask on his nose while I hook everything up.”
Scott did as his brother directed while at the same time scratching Major Nelson behind the ears. “You’re a good dog—yes, you are!”
“Woof,” Major Nelson agreed.
“Ha!” Mark pumped his fist. “He’s connected! How long did that take, do you think?”
Scott shook his head and sighed. “Too long. Our dog is dead.”
“Oh, cut it out,” Mark said. “Maybe when Mom gets home she’ll let us practice on her.”
“You know she’ll say she’s too busy,” Scott said. “And besides, we don’t have that much time. We gotta meet Barry at the library at two thirty.”
Mark made a face. “I forgot about that. Can you believe we have to go to the library? Again?”
“I know. I thought we were done with libraries forever after all the research we did last summer. But if we’re going to write that report, we need to,” Scott said.
Mark’s face brightened. “I just thought of something. Barry’s a brainiac! He can do all the hard parts, and we’ll just draw pictures or something.”
“You? Draw pictures?” Scott said.
“Yeah, okay, you draw the pictures,” Mark said. “And I’ll, uh . . . write my name on the top. How does that sound?”
“You probably can’t screw up writing your name,” said Scott, “even if you did suffocate Major Nelson.”
“Don’t blame me. The mask was made for a human, not a canine,” Mark said.
“We could practice on each other,” Scott said, “and since it’s my turn, you’re the one who has to lie down, be quiet, and pretend you’re super sick. Ready—go!”
Mark shook his head. “Like I’m gonna let you press that thing on my face! Why would I even trust you?”
“Uh . . . because I’m the only brother you’ve got? And I trusted you when I went into space last fall.”
“At least you had a clean faceplate on your helmet,” said Mark. “This mask is gross—covered with dog drool.”
“Woof,” said Major Nelson.
“Aw, look, you’ve hurt his feelings.” Scott waved the mask as if he was about to clamp it over his brother’s nose, his brother swerved out of the way, Scott hooked him by the elbow, Mark lunged, and an instant later the two boys were on the floor, wrestling . . . much to the delight of Major Nelson, who howled his encouragement.
The match, punctuated by thumps, bumps, and grunts, came to an abrupt end when Mom appeared in the doorway. “Boys?”
Mark was out of breath but still managed to say, “He started it!”
Scott, also breathless, objected: “That’s not true!”
“Oh yeah?” Mark said. “You can ask Major Nelson, Mom. He saw the whole thing.”
“Well, maybe I did start it,” Scott admitted, “but I’m not the one with a bad attitude about first-aid class.”
“At least I practice,” Mark said. “You just sit back and watch.”
“Yeah—watch you suffocate patients,” Scott said. “I just hope to heck you never have to save anybody for real, ’cause if you do, they’re done for.”
“Hold on a second.” Mom had been eyeing her sons from the doorway. Now she came into the room and sat down on the sofa. “I thought you guys liked the class.”
“We do,” Scott said quickly.
“Said the kiss-up,” said Mark.
“I am not a kiss-up,” said Scott.
“Yeah, you are,” said Mark.
Mom raised her hand. “Leaving that aside for now—what gives with the class?”
“It’s just we’re never gonna have to use this stuff,” Mark said.
Scott chimed in. “Nobody counts on kids to save lives,
Mom. They count on doctors and nurses and ambulance people. They count on cops sometimes. But we’re not old enough for those jobs.”
Mom cocked her head and smiled. “This line of reasoning’s kind of funny coming from you two.”
Mark by this time had sat up and assessed his injuries. There seemed to be a bruise on his shoulder and another on his head, but that was okay. He was pretty sure he had given as good as he got. “What do you mean?” he asked his mom.
“I think she means the whole space thing,” Scott said. “I think she means Project Blastoff was a grown-up thing to do.”
Mom nodded. “That’s exactly what I mean. Going into space is something not many kids have done.”
“Technically, it’s something no kids have done . . . except Scott,” Mark said.
“I rest my case,” said Mom.
Sometimes each twin could tell what the other was thinking. Now they looked at each other and decided without a word that Scott should ask their mom the obvious question: “Uh, what’s your point?”
“That you boys get yourselves into more than the usual number of tough situations,” Mom said, “and I know from experience what a lousy feeling it is when somebody needs help and you don’t know what to do. This class is going to give you the knowledge you need
to be helpful. And I bet one day, sooner or later, that knowledge is going to come in handy.”
Scott Kelly never mentioned it to anyone, but he had a mental filing system for grown-ups’ comments. That little speech of his mom’s he filed in the category: Stuff I Probably Should’ve Paid Attention To.
And the way things turned out, he was absolutely right.