A bright shiny new 1970 stepped into the Green Room ready for his moment. It was still 11pm on December 31st 1969, and he saw 1969 across the room practising his goodbye speech.
In a year which has seen the US’s Space Race’s success with Apollos 9, 10, 11 and 12, he has to ask why 1969 looks so glum. And so he does: “hey, what’s up with you? You’re going out on a high with such a rich handful of Apollo success . I’m the one with the problem, having to follow on from you …” “Listen fella, it’s about more than just the Space Race. Other stuff happened too you know. Not so good stuff …” and with that 1969 turned his back on 1970 and focused on his cue cards once more.
1970 strolled over to the bar and ordered a non-alcoholic cocktail “an oxymoron if ever there was one” he muttered under his breath although, after one sip, he had to admit that his mock-mojito was pretty darn tasty and very refreshing to boot. Pondering on 1969’s comment, he thought back: “Hmmm … well, there was that oil platform blowout in Santa Barbara and the oil-spill that followed it. But that Senator with the great name – Gaylord something-or-the-other – is proposing an Earth Day. That could be a highlight for me …” Taking another slurp of that mock-mojito he added: “The Beatles look to have have broken up, what with John Lennon marrying that weird Japanese lady and having a public sleep-in for peace. But maybe someone will make a film of their final year – their performance on the roof of the Apple building was filmed wasn’t it? That could be another highlight for me …”
1969 came over and it was almost as if he could read 1970’s mind. “So, found anything that you’ve not been able to turn into a highlight for you yet? And yes, I can … you’ll be able to do the same thing with 1971 when he comes round.” 1970 recoiled with shock: “Seriously?” “Uh huh. And you know that not so good stuff? Well, there’s the Manson Family murders. I’d like to see you put a positive spin on that little horror story.” 1970 paled slightly. “And what about that Russian submarine which collided with the USS Gato? Yeah, OK, so World War 3 didn’t start. But we now have proof that those darn Russkies are flexing their muscles and doing it too darn close to our shores.” “No, I got that last one covered” blurted out 1970: “The Salt Negotiations in Helsinki! Sure, it’s likely they’ll continue next year – and maybe beyond – but it started in 1969 … and that’s gotta be good news for you. Hasn’t it?” “You really think we can trust those Russkies?” 1969 shook his head sorrowfully.
1970 wandered back to the bar and ordered another mock-mojito. He realised this was going to be tougher than he thought. Perhaps it was time to lighten things up. ”Hey, but you got ‘Scoobie-Doo’ and ‘The Brady Bunch’ and ‘Sesame Street’ all started this year. And those Brits done that ‘Monty Python’ thing, plus they got colour TV too now.” 1969 just grunted, so 1970 decided to try sports, after all who doesn’t love sports he thought to himself: “that guy sailed round the world solo this year, and er Willie Mays joined Babe Ruth on breaking 600 runs. And that Brazilian soccer guy – whassisname Pele – he’s scored 1,000 goals. In your year!” “Don’t you talk to me about soccer!” 1969 almost shouted. “Honduras and El Salvador’s game caused riots, just because one team lost. Damn soccer fans take the whole thing way too seriously.”
1970 could see that 1969 truly was a tough nut to crack. Time for the bigs guns then … “But science is going great guns and not just in the Space Race. There’s that Doctor guy who’s given someone the first artificial heart. And Boeing have a new huge aeroplane – the 747. Even the French and the Brits have tested that Concorde – first supersonic aeroplane – amazing huh? You’ve had one hell of a year in science. Cheer up man, they’re gonna love you out there.”
1969 sighed. He remembered being this shiny and new, before life has a chance to sully him. “Prepare yourself 1970, because for every Woodstock Festival there is a death – be that Brian Jones or Judy Garland. For the long-overdue withdrawal of troops from Vietnam, there’s a My Lai and the covert bombing of Cambodia. For the start of every Led Zepplin, we get the ending of The Beatles.”
1970 looked aghast. “What’re you saying?” “I’m telling you to enjoy the highlights sure, but steel yourself for the low. When it comes to your end-of-year reckoning, remember … you didn’t do the bad stuff, but neither did you do the good. Them out there – they’ll blame you for the bad, but don’t expect them to praise you for the good either.”
And with that 1969 held out his hand to the bartender holding a large tumbler of Bushmills. Draining it in one, he stepped out to face them …
© 2017 Debra Carey
To welcome in the new year in 2017, David wrote a piece. I didn’t. So this is my first piece of #tortoiseflashfiction … and I’m only six-ish months late!