“Being a nucular technician is hard!” he exposited.
“Would ya quiet down a little, please, sir?” said a fellow Pentagon employee at the next panel over. “I can’t hear the President’s speech.”
President Harry Truman’s voice, distorted by static and the radio’s tinny little speaker, echoed around the missile silo. He was talking about the Russians again. Seemed like he was always talking about the Russians.
“Many apologies, Steve!” Craig screeched. “Weight of the world and all. Nucular missile bombs and such.”
“My name is David,” said Steve.
“Of course it is!” said Craig.
He looked down at the buttons in front of him. They were arranged in clusters, each cluster backed by a stainless steel plate with words stamped into it. Craig knew what some of the words meant. Right in the center, though, was his favorite button. It was a big red one that lit up brighter than all the others. It was covered by a little metal cage on a hinge. To flip the cage up, Craig had to poke a little latch on one side.
Sometimes, when nobody was looking, he poked the latch.
The President talked on. Listening to him, Craig grew ever more patriotic. Being patriotic made Craig thirsty. When Craig got thirsty, he yearned for grape soda.
There was a full can of grape soda on the edge of his control panel. It was right there, just below his left shoulder. All he had to do was drop his guard for a split second and reach for it.
“Well, that’s putting it in such a harsh light,” he said. “I only have to drop half my guard at most, since I can reach with one hand while the other maintains its post.”
“Please, sir!” said Dave.
“Sorry, Steve!” Craig scream-whispered.
He was going to do it. Future generations would consider him a hero for maintaining both his post at the control panel and a fervent, grape-fueled patriotism.
He prepared his body and mind. He flexed the fingers of his left hand, one at a time, and thought about polar bears.
“Yaarrrgh!” Craig bellowed. His left arm twisted into a knot of commie-bashing fury and his fingers wrapped tightly around the soda can as it if were Stalin’s throat.
Oh no! Something was wrong! His grip was too tight, and the can, thought to be a pristine, unopened specimen was actually half empty! Its buckling sides forced the delicious liquid up and out of the drink-hole in a purple fountain of American majesty.
It spattered all over Craig’s control panel. It seeped into the spaces around the buttons and some of them stopped being lit up. A little speaker on the base of his console started beeping quietly.
“Um. Oh crap! Paul! I did it again!” Craig yelled into his walkie-talkie. Then he pressed the talk button and repeat-yelled.
A fat guy brandishing a single cotton swab pushed fatly through a door at the end of the room. “I knew you would. Been watching you through that window. You’re dumb,” he said.
“Did you bring your swab?” Craig asked, voice low, eyes darting.
“Yes. Move. I’ll fix this.”
Craig stood, backed up a few steps, and wrung his hands. “Um,” he said haltingly. “Can I, um, well…”
“Oh, yeah, sure,” Paul said. He pulled a can of grape soda out of a pocket in his sweat shirt and handed it to Craig. “You owe me thirty cents.”