[an error occurred while processing this directive] ZEPHYR Magazine
                              T H E
  
                           Z E P H Y R
  
                  __     M A G A Z I N E
                 {__]++++++++++++++++++++++++++[] 
                 Issue #64                5-24-89
 
            A weekly electronic magazine for users of 
                        THE ZEPHYR II BBS 
                    (Mesa, AZ - 602-894-6526)
                owned and operated by T. H. Smith
 
                    Editor - Gene B. Williams 
 
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                            (c) 1989


   I've written more short stories than I can remember. A few of 
them keep coming back. This one has been published and republished 
a number of times. 
   Oddly, I can't quite take credit for it. The story came about 
like this:
 
   I'd been doing some writing on astronomy, and particular on 
the planet Jupiter. Some relatively new (at the time) speculation 
indicated a concept of the structure of the planet - much of 
which has been shown to be true.
   Essentially - the outer fringes are very cold. But the planet 
is huge. Gravity is squeezing that atmosphere downwards to such 
an extent that the surface of the planet (such as it is) is quite 
hot. Hot enough to give off its own light.
   The theory speculated that the downward pressure would, at 
some point, be balanced by the upward push caused by the heat. 
This area of stasis would be stable, possibly with conditions 
perfect for life. (The elements needed are there.) But for such 
life to exist, it would have to be of such forms that it would 
be born and live its life without ever touching solid ground.
   Several possible forms were suggested. One of them was a 
huge creature somewhat like a massive hot air balloon. Bouyant 
so that it would float.
   All this was in my mind as I went to sleep one night. A dream 
began to play itself out in my mind. The first line of the story 
came right out of the dream - partially woke me up. It was a 
strange feeling. I was still partially asleep, enough that the 
dream kept running - but I was also enough awake that I was fully 
conscious of it, and could even control it to a certain extent. 
   It was like watching a movie. And finally, I just had to get 
up, go to the typewriter and get it down on paper. 
 
   So, here it is again.

                    BEANS, BAGS & SMILER JACK
     
     Smiler Jack cut another juicy one.
     "Dammit, Jack! Can't you control yourself? The whole ship is 
beginning to smell like a flooded waste recycler."
     Jack looked up from his plate of multicolored, multiflavored 
paste. "I'm sorry. There must be something wrong with the food 
synthesizer. I never did trust those stupid machines anyway. I 
think it's out to get me." He poked his plastic fork at the goop 
in front of him. "This stuff gives me a terrible case of gas."
     As if to confirm Jack's statement, his chair echoed with a 
long and resounding staccato. Commander Phillips jumped from his 
seat, his face turning slightly pale.
     "THAT'S IT!" he shouted. "Jack, get the hell out of here. 
From now on you eat in your cabin. ALONE! For that matter, unless 
you are desperately needed, you are confined to quarters until 
further notice. Nobody else is having that problem, and you're 
making it a definite part . . ." he sniffed the air with disgust 
 . . ."of all our lives on board this ship. I'm sorry about this, 
Jack, but you're just going to have to keep away from everyone 
until . . . well, until you're feeling better."
     Jack tried to stifle a frown at one end, and his gassy urge 
from the other - without much success at either.
     The commander squinted at the sound and screamed, "GET OUT!"
     Jack stood slowly, followed by a restrained bubbling, and 
walked to the door. Each step was accompanied by a muffled pop. 
Human muscles just aren't suitably developed to withstand the 
forces of a methane generator gone critical. At the door Jack 
turned to the small group at the table, both to apologize and to 
make one last plea, but a release of "air" came from the opposite 
end of his anatomy even as he opened his mouth.
     "OUT!" yelled the crew in unison.
     The shout caused an involuntary flexing. The resulting force 
lifted Jack a full 3 inches from the floor due to the low gravity 
of deep space. Still in mid-air, he spun and lunged through the 
doorway, propelled along by his own intimate jet stream. From 
behind he could hear the crew pushing aside full plates of food.
     "I can't help it," he muttered to himself. "What do they 
expect me to do about it anyway? It's the synthesizer's fault, 
not mine. And if that damned air system was working better the 
halls wouldn't smell so bad, either. It's not my fault!"
     Trailing clouds of the past glory of synthesized food, Jack 
finally arrived at this tiny cabin, entered and slumped into his 
cot. He glanced at the two empty cots which had once held his 
roommates - before they had evacuated the odorous disaster area, 
and Jack's equally odorous company. Still muttering to himself, 
Jack fell into a deep and vaporous sleep.
     By the next morning his anger at the commander and crew for 
confining him had been suffocated. Sometime during the night a 
clever mechanic had rigged a small air recycler to Jack's cabin, 
and had then shut that cabin off from the rest of the ship.
     It is said that an individual's body odors are not nearly as 
offensive to that person as they are to others. After 8 hours of 
slow build-up, Jack came to realize just how inaccurate this 
theory is. He also better understood the feelings and senses of 
the crew.
     After two more weeks of confinement with his problem, Jack 
began to wish that there was some way he could isolate himself 
from himself. His curses grew increasingly vehement and hot - as 
did his exiting fumes. He cursed his luck, his anatomy, the 
commander, the crew, the ship, space, air, everything. But his 
most violent and juiciest comments were reserved for that metal 
box in the galley laughing called a food synthesizer. "It's a 
monster out to get me," he growled at his now hazy image in the 
mirror.
     He devised plans for its murder. It would be slow and 
tortuous. Vicious and malevolent. Something fitting the crimes it 
had perpetrated upon his person.
     Perhaps he would sneak into the galley (once his condition 
improved enough to allow him to sneak) and program the vile thing 
to reproduce heavy oil. Or soft, melty plastic. Something similar 
enough in structure to food hydrocarbons for the machine to 
accept into its programming, but something liquid and damaging 
enough to work its way into the innards of the machine - and then 
choke it slowly, very slowly, to death.
     He dreamed up ways to cause the machine to produce large 
quantities of methanous gas, just as it had done to him, then let 
the gasses build up and up until the synthesizer exploded in a 
metal-tearing flatulence.
     The whistle of the intercom burst Jack's daydreaming.
     "This is Commander Phillips, Jack. I want to see you in my 
quarters in 10 minutes." There was a slight pause. "No, meet me 
in the rec hall. It's bigger and I want to be as far away from 
you as possible." There was another pause. "Uh, no offense, 
Jack."
     A steady breeze pushed on Jack's face as he entered the 
recreational room. At the far end of a table sat the commander, 
with a large fan spinning next to him to return any possible 
gaseous contamination that might escape from Jack.
     "I, uh, . . . hear, . . . that you still have that little. . 
 . problem, Jack."
     "Yes, sir. It seems to be better, though." Jack's hopes of 
talking the commander into letting him out of his cabin were 
destroyed as a tiny tail gunner let go a burst of warm, gaseous 
bullets. "No, I guess it's not getting better. But, commander, 
I've just GOT to get out of that room! It's . . ."
     "Never mind, Jack. You'll be getting out. We've reached our 
destination and have gone into orbit around Jupiter. In fact, two 
shuttle teams have already been down into the atmosphere. The 
reports are correct. There are creatures down there, just 
floating around in the upper atmosphere.
     "The teams reported that the creatures gather into groups, 
almost like herding. It appears that they communicate with each 
other in some manner. Since you speak several languages, you're 
the logical choice for an attempt to communicate with them."
     "But commander, just because I speak a few languages - EARTH 
languages - doesn't mean that I can talk to these things." He 
tightened.
     The commander switched the fan to a higher speed. "Now don't 
get nervous, Jack. The creatures seem peaceful enough. They 
haven't made any aggressive moves. You'll be in no danger."
     "But, I . . ."
     "Jack, you're the man for the job. The whole crew agrees."
     "But, I . . ."
     "I suppose I should be honest with you, Jack. Actually there 
are several others I considered. A few are even better qualified. 
It's just that, . . . well, the crew unanimously 'volunteered' 
you for the job. To be perfectly honest, we need some time to, . 
 . .well, we need some time to clear the air."
     Jack was still trying to talk his way out of if as the hatch 
to the shuttle was being sealed. "Isn't anyone even going to come 
with me?"
     As the air lock to open space swung aside the radio clicked. 
"Are you kidding!"
     The violent outer atmosphere of Jupiter buffeted the tiny 
shuttle. Slowly the temperature sensors began to climb. The 
twisting, tearing gales slowed, then ceased. And then, there they 
were. Great, ugly fish-like creatures suspended in the atmosphere 
by huge, fleshy bags. They looked much like monstrous whales tied 
to hot air balloons.
     As if curious, they came closer. Jack's posterior bubbled a 
distorted stereo to his greeting through the microphone - a 
mixture of human nervousness and synthesizer plague. To his 
surprise, the creatures moved in still closer and began to make 
weird guttural sounds, like a thumping Morse code.
     "I am from the planet, Earth," Jack announced.
     "GGrribbit pppptthhhhhh," answered one of the creatures.
     Jack tried Spanish, Greek, French, Latin and finally Arabic. 
All useless."
     "Pprrak prrrrrraaaaak griipth phoooooo."
     "Dididididididit didit," Jack tried.
     The creature became very excited and spun in quick circles. 
"Phophophophophophophooooooop grwagrap."
     Jack leaned back against the console chair and mumbled, "Now 
what the hell did I say?" Outside the creature approached the 
shuttle and opened what appeared to be a huge mouth, as if to 
swallow the small ship and make Jack the Jonah of Jupiter. 
     He stared at the approaching cavern and tensed. The tension 
forced a seething explosion from Jack. The sound bounced around 
inside the shuttle, was greatly amplified and then broadcast into 
the atmosphere.
     The creature stopped suddenly, slammed its mouth shut, and 
began rocking back and forth like a treeswing in the wind. "Krrrg 
krrrrrg," it muttered happily.
     Jack fell back into the seat and pondered the situation. 
Some kind of communication was taking place. Twice he had "said" 
something that had caused the creature to react. The creature 
seemed to understand. 
     He looked through the port at the creature. It was still 
rocking to and fro, back and forth, making the odd purring sound. 
Then Jack noticed that the huge bag attached to the creature 
seemed to swell and collapse slightly as the creature muttered 
its happy tune. "Krrrr," and it moved forward and up. "Krrrrg," 
and it moved back and down.
     Jack knew that he was communicating somehow. As the creature 
rocked like a baby in a tree - and a happy baby at that - he 
tried once again with his armory of languages. All seemed to be 
ineffectual.
     The building pressure in Jack's gut suddenly released itself 
and echoed through the cockpit. The sound was picked up by the 
microphones and broadcast outward. The creature ceased its 
movements and watched the shuttle with great interest.
     "Methane!" Jack cried. He thought back at the time he was in 
summer camp, when several boys were getting their midnight kicks 
by lighting matches to see if the gaseous exits of the bean 
filled campers would light. (They did.) "Methane!" He flicked the 
recording switch. "The creatures keep afloat by filling their 
bags with methane. Warm methane. The release from the sac 
produces a vibration across a membrane. This appears to be how 
they carry on communication.
     He flipped the mike switch again and squeezed out a bubble 
of the synthesized gas. The creature outside spun a quick circle 
and answered the sound with one remarkably similar in both tone 
and duration. Jack tried again, with the same response from the 
creature.
     The baggous creature rubbed against the shuttle, making its 
version of flirtation obvious, and attempting to get its new-
found friend to speak again. After an hour of such attempts, Jack 
found that he could flex his sphincter muscles just so, like the 
flexible opening of a balloon, and that he could thus duplicate 
the sounds of the creature. It wasn't very comfortable sitting on 
the microphone, but both he and the creature were learning.
     The creature would turn left with a tonal, "kkrrrriipp," and 
Jack would answer with a nearly identical release and finger the 
shuttle controls to turn is ship to the same degree. The creature 
rose 20 meters with a "phhhhtttoggrrrrr," and Jack drove the 
shuttle upwards and squeezed out a similar "phhhhtttoggrrrrr."
     Finally the creature farted out a hearty "Ggggrrepppithhh" 
and returned to the group of creatures waiting in the distance. 
Jack returned the salutation (wondering what the outside 
atmosphere would do to the olfactory nerves of a human - with a 
ready answer growing inside the capsule) and shot upwards through 
the atmosphere and into space where the mother ship was waiting 
for his report.
     His skin tingled with excitement. (His nose also tingled, 
but for a different reason.) The first contact with extra-
terrestrial beings, and he, ol' Smiler Jack, had been the one to 
make it! Without the divine help of that malfunctioning - that 
very dear, wonderful - food synthesizer, it wouldn't have been 
possible.
     How he loved that machine. Every glorious confused circuit 
was a delight. The thing deserved a good polishing. Perhaps he'd 
give it a name. Charlie! Yes, Charlie. He's carve a name plate 
for it, and write home about it, and tell it bedtime stories, and 
take it to the movies, and . . . and . . . and. . . After all, 
there isn't anything two best friends won't do for each other.
     As the little shuttle glided through the opening, Jack was 
planning the evening's festivities - all in Charlie's honor. 
First he'd set the buttons to serve everyone a heaping plate of 
refried beers and bubbly beer. Then when things were popping all 
over the ship, and when the rest of the crew joined Jack in his 
"problem," he'd set all the available fans to concentrate the 
smelly fumes in the commander's cabin.


UNTIL NEXT TIME

   I hope you enjoyed it. (How words can YOU think of for "fart" 
without using that actual word?)
   In the chance that I'm not yet done with my present deadlines 
by the time the next issue should go up, I'll pull another of the 
older issues (that one was Issue 2, put up 3 years ago) just to 
keep the flow going.
 
   See ya soon.

Zephyr Magazine is © Gene Williams. All rights reserved.