TJ-the space wanderer

TJ-the space wanderer

By Ed Henry


The space wanderer

A rocket landed in Central Park. When it landed, it blew a tire. The pilot got out, viewed the damage, hid the rocket under a newspaper, morphed into a 12 year-old boy dressed similar to a kid he saw riding by on a bicycle and set out to find a replacement tire.

Tuning up his antennae, the pilot listened to conversations of the many people headed to work, riding in cabs and buses, listening to radios and television, learned the language and decided to take on the identity “T.J.” from an ad he had seen on the newspaper now covering his rocket. The pilot had the ability to tune in on many things from miles around, while appearing to be normally focused on his immediate surroundings.

Finding a store with a window full of rocket tires, T.J. goes inside, takes a number and waits his turn. Then a clerk calls his number and asks:

Clerk: What’ll it be, son?

T.J.: I’ll have a rocket tire, please.

Clerk: Sorry, we don’t have any rocket tires here, kid. Try the toy store down the street.

T.J.: Sure you do, you’ve got a whole window full of them. (pointing)

Clerk: Those aren’t rocket tires, they’re bagels. You eat ‘em. (takes one out of a toaster, cuts it in half, takes a bite out of it and hands the other half to T.J.) See, try it.

T.J. hesitates, but finally takes a bite—Wow! That’d taste great with lox.

The pilot grabs a box of two dozen and bolts out the door. The clerk yelling for him to stop, but no one bothers to try catching him. He moves so fast and dodges so quickly, the clerk can barely see him. He’s just a blur.

Back in the park, and before he gets to his rocket, the pilot notices an old man sitting on a bench with his elbows on his knees and his head in his hands. The old man looks really depressed, so the pilot sits down next to him and offers him a bagel.

T.J.: What’s the matter, sir?

Old Man: Oh, it’s the elections. I think I’m going nuts.

T.J.: Tell me about that.

While munching on a bagel, the old man explains everything to the pilot, who listens intently and sympathetically. It takes almost an hour and another bagel, especially since the pilot asks all the right questions at the right time.

T.J.: Gee, tell me more about that.

The old man covers everything from the founding fathers, through the Constitution, the Federalist papers and up to today’s turmoil.

T.J.: Let me see if I’ve got this straight. You’ve got a boundary you call a “nation” and politicians you elect to run it. And for this, workers pay a sizable chunk of their sweat equity through a medium of exchange called “money.” You pay it in what’s known as “taxes” so the politicians can hire workers to protect you and do things you wouldn’t otherwise order for yourselves. Is that right?

Old Man (obviously pleased he taught the kid something): That’s right.

T.J.: Then, within this nation, you’ve got other boundaries known as “states” with more politicians and taxes to be paid. They take care of more things for you, right?

Old Man (beginning to smile): You got it.

T.J.: Then, within each of these 50 states known as the “United States,” you’ve got more boundaries known as counties, right? Each of these has more politicians and requires more taxes.

Old Man (feeling much better and beginning to laugh): Absolutely correct.

T.J.: And, within every county are Cities, each with more politicians, taxes and duties to perform, right?

Old Man (stretching and standing with a big smile ): Right on.

T.J.: And finally, you’ve got a home within your city that you also pay taxes on. It’s your castle. And within districts you’ve got local aldermen, who are almost volunteers or apprentice politicians trying to work their way up the political ladder to bigger and better things. You can actually contact these lower-paid officials and complain about the neighbor’s dog, or possibly get some action on traffic control or street repair, right?

Old Man (now rolling gleefully in the grass with what’s left of his bagel): Ha! Ha! Yep.

T.J.: Within all of this are things like sales taxes that you pay on everything you buy. Some go to the city, some to the county, state and even to the top federal government. But you also pay entitlement and user taxes on airports, medical insurance, Social Security and other things. These are all on top of every other tax, right?

Old Man (pounding his fists in the grass): Hee, hee! Hee, hee! Yes.

T.J.: And to top it all off, you’ve now got the politicians at the top talking about a “New World Order” where all the nations will get together to settle things and charge you more taxes, right?

Old Man (goes off skipping down the sidewalk, jumping and clicking his heels together while alternately singing): “A-mer-i-ca, A-mer-i-ca” and “Who let the dogs out?”

The pilot gathers his bagels, runs to his rocket, repairs it and gets the hell out of there as fast as he can.


Back on his own planet, the pilot tries to explain the newly discovered planet to his friends. He tells them to just label that place “Earth—Contaminated” and tell everyone to give it a wide berth. There are only two kinds of moderately intelligent beings that inhabit the place: workers and parasites. The whole place will either implode upon itself due to something called “taxes” which you don’t even want to hear about, or the workers will destroy the place trying to earn enough to pay this fealty.

There are all sorts of things psycho-historians can try to figure out in the aftermath, try to classify from records or study from a safe distance. There’s pagan idolatry in what they call “leadership.” It means getting someone else to do for you what you wouldn’t do for yourself or decide on your own.

The most sensible thing I heard about leadership came from a woman in another country who said: “If you have to claim to be a leader, you’re not.” Right now, the nation I visited is arguing over two people who each claim to be leaders and, if the lady is right, they’re bound to end up without one either way.

What’s more, there are grown men with colored extensions of their tongues tied about their necks trying to talk over, out-shout, or drown out each other in a form of entertainment or news that’s almost impossible to separate from comedy. Then there’s all sorts of arguing and bickering over trivia before men or women in black robes. Judges whose role seems to be keeping people from all talking at the same time. These judges have a mallet to enforce order in a setting where truth seems second to something called “PR.” It’s a madhouse. A system in oscillation.

I did discover one good thing, though. It’s called a bagel, and it’s delicious. It’s also easy to make. I think we can spread them throughout the sane universe. I’ve still got quite a few of the originals, and our cooks are already putting out fresh ones.

Here, try one. But first, take a number.

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