John Strausbaugh, Stories




Bullet to the Moon





Chapter Twenty-One








 "We got company, Mr. Spitz," I said.

Smith waved Adolfo and the wops to their knees while Clarence ran to the door. The count was already on his knees, staring around with his baby blues wide and his girly mouth open. Some strands of golden hairs come loose and dangled in his soft, pale face.

"He's right," Clarence said from the door. "Creepin through the grass."

"How long?" Seymour Spits asked.

"Couple a minutes."

"How many?"

Clarence looked at the count.

"Dump got a back door?"

Fritzy frowned.


Clarence spat some wop at him. Altobello shook his big golden head.

"Then it's too many," Clarence told Seymour Spitz.

"On your pins," Seymour Spitz told the count.


"Uppin zie, Fritz."

"Madonna," the count moaned. He hauled himself to his feet. No one even touched him yet but he was a shambles. His clothes was all rumpled on his big soft body and wet under the arms. His custard of a mug was shiny with sweat. His blue peepers skittered around at us.

"Give yourselfs up now?" he pleaded. "You will not be harm. I give my word."

"Cork your bunghole," Clarence sneered at him.

"Mannaggia," the count groaned. "Yam hole. Bunghole. This is Cagney picture talk, yes?"

"Mr. Spitz we gotta make a run for it," Clarence said. "Shoot our way to the trees. Use the wops for cover. Might make it we go right now."

Seymour Spitz was eyeing the big rocket plane standing in the middle of the room like a giant kid's toy.

"What is that thing?" he asked Fritz. "Moon bullet?"

"Moon?" Altobello frowned. "Ah, Mondkugel. Ja. Nein. Is one quarter size Mondkugel model. Is for test only. For why?"

"Liquid or solid?" Smith asked.

The count's big white pie face went more slack with surprise.

"Who are you peoples?" he asked again.

"Boss," Clarence said.

"Answer her," Seymour Spitz told the count.

"Solid," the count said. "Experimental compound. Ammonium perchlorate oxidizer mix with my own formula of."

"Juiced up?" Seymour Spitz asked.

"In English please?"

"Ready to fly?"

"Boss," Clarence said again.

The count blinked his big blue eyes.

"Fly? You pazzo? Who fly?"

Seymour Spitz looked at Smith.

"You wanna try her?"

"I'll say," she grinned.

The count's eyes shot from one of them to the other.

"Nein nein nein. You not fly. Is not fly."

"How many it hold?" Seymour Spitz asked him.

"Is no matter," the count said. "Is not fly."

Smith grabbed him by the braces and pulled his shiny face close. They were the same height, I noticed.

"Is yes fly." she said. "Is it fueled?"

The count flapped his lips.

"Si. A little. I think. Is for test."

"How many seats?"

"Zwei. Due. Two."

"Take him," Seymour Spitz said. "We'll crash out the front. Meet up back at Creepo's. If we don't show, get him to the boat."

"Jeepers comes with me," Smith said. "They can share a seat."

"You pazzo?" I said. "I ain't riding that skyrocket and you neither. Let's just go out the way we came."

"Yes yes yes," the count said. "You go now please."

"Now or never," Clarence said, peeking out. "We got a whole heap a natsies on our doorstep."

"Cmon Barney," Smith said. "Time for that spin."

Seymour Spitz handed me the Luger he took off Adolfo.

"Go. Fritz give you any guff, take a toe off."

He put his bony mitt on my arm and squeezed. It felt like a skellington's fingers. He looked at me real serious with his icy gray eyes.

"We don't meet up, tell Creepo I didn't welsh. I tried. Tell him he don't keep up his side of the deal I will reach out to him from hell."

"Be good if I know what the deal is," I said, hefting the hand cannon.

"What you care?" he snapped.

Smith dragged Altobello over to the miniature choo choo and stuck her pistol in his ear again. He threw a switch on the choo choo and a electric motor hummed. The choo choo jerked forward on its little track. The rocket plane and the wagon it stood on jumped a inch and then started to crawl toward the door. The rocket plane wobbled a bit and the count groaned. Smith pushed him toward it.

Clarence and Seymour Spitz hefted the wops' squirt guns. They herded Adolfo and his stooges to the door.

The rocket plane was rolling inch by inch toward the hangar door. Smith put her gun at the base of Altobello's skull and told him to climb the ladder. He moaned and groaned but he started to climb. She went up behind him. I started up after her.

The hatch up at the top was a circle Smith and the count could barely squeeze through. I looked down from the top of the ladder. Seymour Spitz was by the side of the hangar door where the switch to open it was. Clarence was over by the people door with the rest. I remembered Seymour Spitz telling Adolfo he be dead soon anyways. At the time I just thought he meant he was a old man. Now I wondered. This was looking like a suicide ride for all of us.

"Get in, Barney," Smith called through the hatch.

I poked my head in. The cockpit looked like the interior of a race car. Two small bucket seats Smith and Altobello was spilled all over. A steering wheel. A dashboard loaded with dials. Pedals on the floor under it. No windshield, just two round windows about as big as dinner plates.

"Get in where?" I said.

"In his lap," Smith said. "Hurry. Shut the hatch."

I climbed down into Fritzy's lap. It was a big lap and I'm a little guy. He squirmed around some under me.

"Ixnay ixnay," I said.

I yanked the hatch shut and spun the wheel to lock it.

Smith was flipping switches and tapping gauges.

"What's that one?"

Altobello looked around my elbow.

"Gears for landing."

"This one?"

"Bomb doors. No touch please."

Out the little window I watched the ceiling slide by. Smith thumbed a button and the ship began to hum. I could feel it vibrate through the count's lap. She flipped more switches and twiddled the steering wheel.

"Say Snuffy, where we gonna land?" I asked.

"Don't worry, Barney. I'll get you down safe."

Altobello muttered some unhappy guinea.

And then the ceiling finished sliding by and we rolled clear of the hangar door and was looking up through them little round windows at all them stars.

And then we could hear machine guns going brrrap pap pap pap pap. And then machine gun rounds spattering the ship somewhere.

The count screamed in my ear.

"Grab sumpin," Smith said.

I didn't see anything safe to touch so I put my elbow around the count's neck and give him a headlock. He wrapped one of his big soft arms around my chest. It was downright romantical.

Outside they was shooting off squirt guns and hand guns like it was a Mexican wedding. A line of shiny tracer rounds went up past the windows. More punched the ship somewhere below us. A row of lights on the dashboard went red.

Smith punched a button and yanked all the way back on a handle. Nothing happened. Her and Altobello eyed each other.

Then the engines lit up with a bang that shook my eyeteeth and rattled the seats. The whole ship shook like a bone in a big hound's teeth and  jumped up off its tail and started to claw up toward the stars. A weight like O'Grady's mitt pushed my chest and I sank into the count's lap. Smith's head snapped back so hard I thought it would break off. She grabbed the wheel in both mitts and hung on. The engines was roaring so loud it felt like my eardrums was ripping. The weight on my chest squeezed the air out of my lungs. My eyes felt like my brains was reeling them into my skull. The count jammed his eyes shut and opened his yap wide. He must of been screaming but I couldn't hear him for the engines. Everything in the cockpit shook. Smith could barely hold on to the wheel. Stars was sliding like lit-up raindrops down the little windows.

Smith kept us roaring straight up toward the stars for a minute, then she began wrassling with the wheel and the floor pedals. The ship rolled left and then right. My stomach crawled up into my mouth and I held on tight to Fritzy's sweaty neck. Then Smith pushed the wheel forward and let up some on the gas and the nose slid down. For a instant we was flying level and I could breathe again. Then the whole dingus started tilting her way and banked into a screaming curve. Smith yanked us back level, and then we flopped over to my side. I banged my shoulder on the hatch wheel. That went on a while, tilting this side and that. My heart climbed up to join my stomach on my tongue.

Then the nose jerked down like a fat lady sat on the needle and we was shooting toward the dark ground. It looked way down there through the little windows but it was coming up fast. The city was off in the distance all blacked out. The two black humps of Vesuvius was past that. Off to the right I could make out the long curve of the bay.

Smith leaned back with the wheel and hauled the nose up again and then we was flying straight and calm, squirting across the night sky toward the city. She looked over at me and give me a relieved grin. The count muttered something sounded like a wop prayer.

"Say, she ain't so bad once you get used to her," Smith said, playing a little with the wheel. Then she got a thoughtful look. "This thing got any armament?"

"Che?" the count moaned in my ear. "No no no. Is test flyer."

"Figured," Smith said.

I knew she was picturing us looping back over that hangar and strafing them natsies.

"We can't go back and help um, Snuff. They're tough cookies. They'll make it."

I had to hand it to her for even thinking of it. She was a good egg all right. But Mr. Spitz give us the play. He have our heads on a golden platter if we went back and tried to help him and Clarence.

Smith eased up on the throttle and pointed us toward Vesuvius and for a few seconds there it was smooth sailing. I breathed again. I felt the count relax under me and shift his lap around a bit.

"Cut it out," I told him.


"You know," I growled. I probably wasn't much bigger than some of the boys he fancied and I didn't even want to think about what he might be thinking about.

Smith relaxed behind the wheel. Now that she had the feel of the dingus she was having fun. She turned her big mug to me and grinned.

Then ten, twelve, twenty searchlights suddenly stabbed the sky between us and the city. They scissored around in the sky looking for us. Smith snapped to and sat forward, peering out her little round window. Flying through them lights was gonna be like flying through a field a giant chopsticks.

Then the anti-aircraft fire started up ahead. Little blinding white flashes here, there and everywhere. They didn't know where we was and they was just throwing ordnance up into the sky hoping to put it up so thick we had to run into something.

"Oh darn," Smith said. She glanced at Altobello. "Any clear space in the city I can set this thing down?"

"Are you mad?" he cried.

I squeezed his neck. "Spill."

"Spill? Is no Americans speaking English?"

"Ain't American," I said. "I'm Brooklyn. Answer the lady."

He chewed his blubbery lip.

"Is big parco. But no. Is top mountain."

"They got any flat ones?" I said. "Think fast."

"I think. I think." He chewed on his lip some more. We was racing toward them bright flashes filling the sky. "Is sport palace for the calcio. Footsball. Soccer. Very big. Four, five field. Mussolini gift to Napoli peoples."

"That sounds good," Smith said. "Where?"

"South. Between city and Vesuvio."

"Okay. You aim me."

He mumbled some unhappy kraut.

"Barney, you remember watching me fly down the river?" Smith said.


"Here goes nuttin."

She shifted her hands on the wheel and squared her big shoulders and set her jaw.

A second later we was screaming into the area where the ack ack was bursting open all around like dandelions. They exploded open with loud bangs and blinding flashes that filled the cabin and rocked the ship this way and that. Smith fought the wheel. She bobbed us and weaved us as them explosions went off over and under and in front of our nose. A piece of something punched through the ship's side somewhere behind us and the whole contraption shivered. I was bouncing around like a rubber toy in the count's lap. His eyes was closed tight and he was muttering prayers again. I wished I remembered one.

"Suffering cats, this is murder," Smith yelled with gritted teeth as we jerked and rose and sank with them bangs and flashes all around us. "Hang on."

She yanked the wheel and the ship turned its nose up sharp and leaned into a rising curve that threw me against that hatch lock again.

The count opened his baby blues wide.

"Dove vai? Where goes you?" he cried.

"Out over the water," Smith yelled. "We can't get through this. We'll approach from there."

The bangs and flashes was falling below us as we climbed and turned. Spotlights wheeled all around us, trying to catch us again. Smith got her up to a altitude where things got quiet and leveled her out. We flew straight out to sea a minute. Then she started a long, looping curve that turned us around until we was facing land again.

"Hold on," she said. "Gonna take her down to the deck and skate us in under the ack ack."

And then the engine died. It just flicked off like somebody threw a switch. We lost speed like Smith was standing on the brakes. It threw me up against the dashboard. The Luger fell out of my pocket to the floor. We was lucky it didn't go off. The noise died and there was just the whoosh of air.

"Mama mia," the count moaned.

"And how," Smith said.

"I telled you. Little fuel," the count whined.

"Hang on," Smith said. "This could get messy."

The grim look on her puss said it could get a lot more than that. For the first time since we commandeered the dingus she looked scared. My heart started to bang again. If Snuffy was scared, I was petrified.

The nose dipped. Smith hauled back on the wheel so hard I thought she'd break it off. Through the little windows I could see that we was still way out over water. The harbor was still a good ways up ahead. Who knew how much farther them ballfields was.

Smith was looking too. "Never make it," she said. She turned the wheel and we started to bank away from the land. "Gotta ditch in the water."

"Ach mein Gott," the count whimpered.

"Chutes?" Smith asked him.

He shook his head.


He pulled a indignant face.

"I? Naturlich. Who not swim?"

She looked at me. He looked at me. I shrugged.

"Don't sweat, Barney," Smith said. "You already my hero twice. My turn."



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All material on this website is copyrighted and may not be republished in any form without written permission. Copyright © 2009-2010 John Strausbaugh

All material on this website is copyrighted and may not be republished in any form without written permission. Copyright © 2009 John Strausbaugh