MANNY KLEIN: First Man on the Moon
by Jacques Platt

Manny Klein was born in Scranton, but when his parent's trout farm failed due to an outbreak of Piscirickettsiosis they moved to live in a trailer park five miles from the Edwards Air Force base.

After five years they had made enough from itinerant begging and selling small plushy bears purporting to be Catholics, to actually afford to buy a trailer, albeit a small one which could only sleep one at a time, so they slept in shifts.

I suppose you could say that if Manny didn't have flying in his blood, he at least had it in his ears and was in fact a lifelong sufferer from tinnitus caused by this early exposure to jet aircraft flying recklessly ten feet over his head with their afterburners on.

After a less than distinguished education at the local high school where he was remembered only for a prank which involved pouring lighter fuel over the entire college basketball teams' collected jock-straps and setting them alight, he set up a roadside car valeting business, on a downtown parking bay owned in perpetuity by his Uncle Ishmael, who had won the deeds in a 'pin the tail on the whale' stand at the local state fair. One day one of the pilots involved in testing the X-15 rocket plane pulled up at Manny 's concession and asked to have his wheel trims buffed. His name was Neil Armstrong and he flew seven missions with the X-15, before a heart murmur caused him to pull out of the project. Eventually Neil was to move to Florida and establish himself as a successful realtor and part-time porn star.

Neil remarked upon Manny's speed with his chamois leather and also the fact that Klein was only five feet six tall, and suggested he should apply for a place on the X-15 testing project, because they were sorely in need of very short pilots, having bought in a bulk stock of cheap under-sized pressurized flight-suits from Taiwan. Manny applied and so impressed his induction committee, not only by his size, but by his ability to rotate one hand above his head in a clockwise direction which rotating the other across his chest in a counter-clockwise one, that they immediately hired him, although they cleverly only committed themselves to paying him after he had survived his first flight.

A word should be said about the X-15. This was a rocket-driven research aircraft designed to be driven to very high altitudes at very high speeds for very short duration flights. Because of the speeds at which it would be driven, and the resultant friction, even at high altitudes, where it's tail was actually known to melt. it was designed with minimal control surfaces and therefore minimal control, which made actually flying it a bit of a bummer, especially when you were pushed back into your seat by a number of acceleration g's which would normally cause any healthy man to black out, if not shit himself. The X-15 was equipped with one of the most sophisticated ejection seat systems ever designed, but when you are in a dive spin and pulling 15 vertical Gs, and 8 Horizontal Gs, you'd be unconscious and almost certainly clinically dead long before the plane actually tore itself apart under exactly the same forces. This is memorably what killed Michael Adams, one of Manny's contemporaries.

One should perhaps ask what caused men to fly under such conditions, and the answer is probably, as with us all, the need to pay off our debtors and to live in a style we have become accustomed to, with regular barbeques, even if it means ruining both our livers and our marriages.

Manny was scheduled for twelve more flights in the X-15 but all of them were pulled because of either weather or technical problems, but when the time came for the newly established NASA to consider him for a place on the astronaut team dedicated towards realizing Kennedy's promise to land a man on the moon, his record for surviving, if nothing else, proved impeccable, and he sailed through.

Of course we all now remember Apollo 11 and how Manny's habit of vocalising his tinnitus eventually caught up with him when he landed on the moon and could only say: 'This is (sssssssss) one small (sssssssssss) step (ssssssssss) for a man, but a giant (sssss) leap for Manny (sss) Klein (ssssss).'