Revelations of the Astronaut
Disclaimer: I don't own Northern Exposure or any of its characters, so no lawyers huh?
I tried to write this story as a normal running episode of NX, that is, with multiple story lines and appearances by all the principles. I also tried to do a little something different with the characters, things we haven't seen before. NX is my all-time favorite show, so I have tried to keep the "Character drift" to a minimum. You won't read about Ruth-Anne running off to Paris with Walt Kupfer and having a wild fling, unless someone requests that I write it. I hope you all like it.
Maurice Minnifield was sitting on the examining table in Dr. Joel Fleischman's office fussing and fuming and generally making Joel's life miserable. Maurice believed he was self-healing and immortal. Medical exams were an indignity to him.
"Fleischman, is this really necessary?" He grumbled.
"Maurice, you fell off of a twelve foot ladder. I'm surprised you can still remember my name," he said.
Maurice hopped off the table and began buttoning his shirt back up. "Look Joel, I been to outer-space. I took my ride, braved the rockets and the uncertainties, just like Shepard and Glenn. Nope, a precipitous little fall is not the way this fly-boy's going down, no sir. And you can take that to the bank son."
Joel sighed. "Well, there doesn't seem to be any fractural damage to your skull. 'Course, we can't tell for sure, since you refuse to go to Anchorage for a CAT scan..."
Maurice walked over and put his arm on Joel's shoulder. He had that sick, greasy, faux-fatherly grin on his face, like he was addressing a child of 10.
"Joel, I'm a throw-back, a breed of man that this country of ours doesn't produce any more. I've survived test flights, rocket shots, even a crash landing or two. Don't get your knickers in a knot, son! Before you know it, this bump on the head will heal, and I'll go on living forever. You'll see," he said, shaking Joel's shoulders roughly. Joel adjusted his glasses. He laughed nervously, hoping Maurice would laugh too. But he was serious.
"If you say so Maurice," he finally said.
The Brick, Holling Vincoeur's bar, was busy with the lunch crowd. Ruth-Anne was at table six attempting to cut her food and Shelley, as usual, went over to help her. Hayden was already half in the bag, and playing pool. Dave the cook was complaining because everyone was ordering Ratatouille, some kind of French peasant stew that had recently come into vogue here in Cicely. Chris Stevens was at the bar eating said stew, and expounding about its meaning, quoting Lord Byron or something; "It is always the latest song that the audience applauds most..."
"Beg pardon Chris?" Holling said. He had been wiping the bar down in that monotonous, circuitous way of his.
"I was just sitting here eating my stew when I suddenly started thinking about the old and new. What's old is new again. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, that kind of stuff."
"I see," said Holling. What could he say? It's only stew. But it's never "just stew" for Chris.
"We're all transplants up here, re-inventions of our former selves. We've cast off the old persona's and problems, the old skin so to speak, living up here on the Alaskan frontier..." He took a swig of his coffee, then a gulp of stew. He cocked his head slightly, lost in some primordial thought. "I think this stew has awakened some dormant feelings in Cicely, a homing beacon if you will..."
"Uh, would you like some more coffee Chris?" Holling said politely.
"Sure thing," Chris chirped.
Just then, Maggie rumbled up to the bar, tossing a package on the floor beside her. It crashed and tinkled, most likely destroying whatever was in it. She sat for a moment or two staring past Holling at the shelves with the liquor bottles on them. Then she buried her head in her arms and began alternately whining and cursing.
"Can I getch you somthin' Maggie? Cup coffee..?" Holling said warily. No response was forthcoming from Miss O'Connell.
"Hey Maggie, you oughta try the stew. Good for the soul," Chris said from over on his end of the bar. Maggie finally lifted her head; her hair was currently a very cute tom-boy cut, which ran conversely with the mean look in her eyes.
"I have had four boyfriends die on me." She said, holding up the corresponding finger count. "Now that could all just be some sort of sick, twisted coincidence, but I vowed never to let that happen again, ever. If that meant never having a man again, I could live with that. Maybe this curse would just...go away on its own, you know?" she said, bugging her eyes out at innocent looking Holling, who was drying a beer mug with his cloth. Maggie buried her head in her arms again. Marilyn Whirlwind appeared at the bar and ordered a stew and Darjeeling tea. She looked at Maggie, and then at Holling.
"She got a new boyfriend. Doesn't want him to die," she said quietly.
"Oh." said Holling.
Chris scooted over next to Maggie and Marilyn, dragging his stew bowl across the bar with him. He brandished his spoon contemplatively. "I think what's happened here is that, when Maggie shared this bad Karma with the men she loved, she unleashed a meta-physical reaction."
Maggie raised her head, her eyes narrowed into cold slits. "What's that supposed to mean?" she said. Chris cleared his throat nervously.
"Well, what I mean is that, you've taken these thoughts in your head and shared them with the men you fell in love with. You've created a physical manifestation of your inner most feelings."
"So you're saying I wanted them to die?"
"No, I just think you should give this curse less power by not mentioning it to your lovers," Chris said. "That way the karma stays kosher, you know? You'll have a clean wavelength," he said. He made funny back and forth motions with his hands to illustrate the point.
Holling shook his head, and then went back to get Marilyn's stew.
Maggie was shaking her head too, and smiling un-warmly. "That's ridiculous," she said. "I am not the cause of these "manifestations" or whatever you call them. People die everyday! Just because it's happened to me four times doesn't make it my fault. Okay??" she said. She grabbed her stuff and stormed off. The broken box lay near by, forgotten. The label had Dr. Joel Fleischman's name on it.
"Whoa," Said Ed Chigliak, who just appeared at the bar.
"Hey Chris; say, what's wrong with Maggie?" he asked, looking back and watching her stamp out of the bar.
"Just the usual trials and tribulations attributed to the human condition manifesting itself," said Chris.
"Oh," he replied. "Uh, Holling? There's a man outside, sez he's looking for you."
"A man, looking for me?' he asked. "Well what's he look like?"
"He's real big; Surly looking, too. Sez he wants to fight you," said Ed, sitting down at the bar. "Should I get Maurice? He has an extensive gun collection…plus he's mean."
"No Ed. I can take care of myself."
Shelley wandered back to the bar, sensing something amiss. "What's going on?" she asked; cute and clueless all at the same time
"Holling's gonna fight some guy," said Ed absently, eating some peanuts left on the bar.
"What? Babe, who's gonna help me run the bar if you get skunked??" she said.
"Nobody's getting skunked Shelley. I have a feeling I know who's out there. I knew this day would come..." Holling said. He threw his rag down on the bar and began rolling up his sleeves.
"Babe, you're not going out there?!" said Shelley. "What if he blows you away or something?"
"Oh, he's clean," said Ed. "He just wants a fist fight; and to kill Holling."
"Now Shelley, I have been called out. This is between me and him. What kind of man would I be if I refused a challenge?" he said. "I could never show my face around these parts again."
Shelley pouted a little and then stamped her feet in protest. "Fine, but if you get killed don't come crying to me," she said. Chris asked about the guy outside.
Everyone leaned into a tiny huddle around the bar to hear. Even Dave the cook came over.
End of act 1. LOL! Part two coming soon. Coming up: Maggie meets her match, Joel gets lonely and double dates with Chris, and Maurice experiences something very unusual. This thing with Holling just came to me as I was writing this, any thoughts on an outcome? Let me know.