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Fly On The Wall

NASA, break room, July 20th, 1968. Franklin and Joe are sitting drinking champagne, excitedly watching Neil Armstrong climbing down the ladder of Apollo 11.

Franklin This is it, buddy. Biggest moment of our career.

Joe I can't believe it.

Franklin He won't forget to say it, will he?

Joe Nah.

Franklin What if he does?

Joe He won't.

Franklin Yeah, but what if he does?

Joe These guys have been thoroughly briefed for months, he won't forget to say it.

Franklin You're right. It's just, we spent months coming up with it.

Joe He'll say it.

Franklin Wait, wait, sshh, ssh, he's about to get off the ladder.

Franklin goes up to the TV and turns the volume up.

Franklin Here goes.

TV (static silence, then) “That's one small step for giant leap for mankind.”

Franklin turns the volume down as Joe raises his glass.

Joe Alright!

Franklin What did he say?

Joe He said it.

Franklin Did he?

Joe Yeah.

Franklin He changed it slightly.

Joe Did he?

Franklin “One small step for man?”

Joe Yeah.

Franklin It's “One small step for a man!”

Joe OK, that doesn't matter.

Franklin Of course it matters, it completely changes the meaning!

Joe No it doesn't.

Franklin Of course it does. Without the indefinite article, without “a”, “man” refers to the concept of man, not a specific man! He may as well have said “One small step for mankind, a giant leap for mankind.”

Joe People know what he meant.

Franklin I don't give a shit, that's not what we wrote! We did not spend months coming up with the perfect sentence to punctuate one of the greatest moments in scientific history to watch this turd stumble over the grammar!

Joe He's under a lot of pressure.

Franklin Oh, now he's under pressure? I thought they were all briefed for months, there's no way they could get it wrong!

Joe You're overreacting.

Franklin Overreacting? Overreacting?!?! This is a moment people will remember forever. Forever. That's not hyperbole, we're talking literally until the end of the human race. And the sentence that will be printed in history books for the rest of time will be a meaningless non-statement with a semantic error that anyone past the third grade will be able to spot!

Joe I think it sound better, frankly.

Franklin Are you shitting me?

Joe Really. That “a” always bothered me. It threw off the symmetry of the sentence. This one rolls off the tongue more.

Franklin And makes no sense!

Joe You want to go up there and tell him?

Franklin No, of course not.

Joe Then can you just sit down so we can watch the rest of this?

Franklin But –

Joe Franklin, it's done, there's no second take. Have another glass.

Franklin sighs and pours himself another glass of champagne. He leans his head on his hand and continues watching the TV.

Joe It's still amazing isn't it? I mean, we're on the moon.

Franklin Yeah, fucking great.


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