Chapter Twelve

This place is a serious loony bin. They put me in a room with a feller called Fred that has been here for almost a year. He begun to tell me right off what kind of nuts I got to contend with. They is one guy that poisoned six people, somebody else that used a meat cleaver on his mama. They is people who have done all sorts of shit - from murder an rape to sayin they is the King of Spain or Napoleon. Finally I axed Fred why he is in here an he say because he is a axe murderer, but they is lettin him out in another week or so.


The secont day I am there, I is tole to report to the office of my psychiatrist, Doctor Walton. Doctor Walton, it turn out, is a woman. First, she say, she is gonna give me a little test, then I is gonna have a physical examination. She set me down at a table an start showin me cards with ink blots on them, axin me what I thought they were. I kep sayin "ink blot" till she finally get mad an tell me I got to say somethin else, an so I started makin things up. Then I am handed a long test an tole to take it. When I am done, she say, "Take off your clothes."

Well, with one or two exceptions, ever time I take off my clothes, somethin bad happen to me, so I says I would rather not, an she make a note of this an then tell me either I do it mysef, or she will get the attendants to hep me. It was that kind of deal.

I go on an do it, an when I is butt neckid, she come into the room an look at me, up an down, an say, "My, my - you is a fine specimen of a man!"

Anyhow, she start bongin me on the knee with a little rubber hammer like they done back at the University, an polkin me in all sorts of places. But she ain't never said for me to "bend over," an for this I am grateful. Afterward, she say I can get dressed an go back to my room. On the way there, I past by a room with a glass door an inside it they is a bunch of little guys, settin an lyin aroun, droolin an spasmoin an beatin on the floor with they fists. I jus stood there for a wile, lookin in, an I'm feelin real sorry for them - kinda remind me of my days back at the nut school.

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A couple of days later, I am tole to report to Doctor Walton's office again. When I get there, she is with two other guys dressed up as doctors, an she say they is Doctor Duke and Doctor Earl - both with the National Institute of Mental Health. An they is very interested in my case, she say.

Doctor Duke an Doctor Earl set me down an start axin me questions - all kinds of questions - an both of them took turns bongin me on the knees with the hammer. Then Doctor Duke say, "Look here, Forrest, we has got your test scores, an it is remarkable how well you is done on the math part. So we would like to give you some other tests." They produce the tests, an make me take them, an they is a lot more complicated than the first one, but I figger I done okay. Had I knowed what was gonna happen nex, I would of fucked them up.

"Forrest," Doctor Earl say, "this is phenomenal. You is got a brain jus like a computer. I do not know how well you can reason with it - which is probly why you is in here in the first place - but I have never seen anything quite like this before."

"You know, George," Doctor Duke say, "this man is truly remarkable. I have done some work for NASA a wile back, an I think we ought to send him down to Houston to the Aeronautics and Space Center an have them check him out. They has been lookin for just this sort of feller."

All the doctors be starin at me, an noddin they heads, an then they bonged me on the knees with a hammer one more time an it look like here I go again.

They flown me down to Houston, Texas, in a big ole plane with nobody on it but me an Doctor Duke, but it is a pleasant sort of trip cept they got me chained to my seat han an foot.

"Look here, Forrest," Doctor Duke say, "the deal is this. Right now you is in a shitpot of trouble for thowin that medal at the Clerk of the U.S. Senate. You can go to jail for ten years for that. But if you cooperates with these people at NASA, I will personally see to it that you is released - okay?"

I nod my head. I knowed I got to get outta jail an find Jenny again. I am missin her somethin terrible.

I am at the NASA place at Houston for about a month. They has examined me an tested me an questioned me so much I feel like I am goin on the Johnny Carson show.

I ain't.

One day they haul me into a big room an tell me what they has in mind.

"Gump," they say, "we wants to use you on a flight to outer space. As Doctor Duke has pointed out, your mind is jus like a computer - only better. If we can program it with the right stuff, you will be extremely useful to America's space program. What do you say?"

I thought for a minute, an then I says I had better axe my mama first, but they make an even stronger argument - like spendin the next ten years of my life in the slammer.

An so I says yes, which is usually what gets me in trouble ever time.

The idea they has thought up is to put me in a spaceship an shoot me up aroun the earth bout a million miles. They has already shot people up to the moon, but they didn't find nothin there worth a shit, so what they is plannin nex is a visit to Mars. Fortunately for me, Mars is not what they got in mind at the moment - instead, this is to be a sort of trainin mission in which they gonna try to figger out what kind of folks would be suited best for the Mars trip.

Besides me, they has picked a woman an a ape to go along.

The woman is a crabby-lookin lady called Major Janet Fritch, who is sposed to be America's first woman astronaut, only nobody knows bout her cause all this be pretty top secret. She is a sort of short lady with hair look like it been cut by puttin a bowl over her head, an she don't seem to have much use for either me or the ape.

The ape ain't so bad, actually. It is a big ole female orangutang called Sue, what has been captured in the jungles of Sumatra or someplace. Actually they has got a whole bunch of them apes down here, an have been shootin them up into space for a long wile, but they says Sue will be best on this trip on account of she is a female an will be friendlier than a male ape, an also, this will be her third space flight. When I find this out, I am wonderin how come they gonna send us way up there with the only experienced crew member bein a ape. Kind of makes you think, don't it?

Anyhow, we got to go thru all kinds of trainin before the flight. They puttin us in cyclotrons an spinnin us aroun, an in little rooms with no gravity an such as that. An all day long they be crammin my mind with shit they want me to remember, such as equations to figger the distance between wherever we is, an wherever they want us to go, an how to get back again; all kinds of crap like coaxiel coordinates, co sine computations, spheriod trigonometry, Boolean algebra, antilogarithms, Fourier analysis, quadrats an matrix math. They say I is to be the "backup" for the backup computer.

I have writ a bunch of letters to Jenny Curran but all of them done come back "Addressee not Known." Also I done wrote to my mama, an she send me back a long letter the gist of which is "How can you do this to your po ole mama when she is in the po house an you is all she got lef in the world?"

I dared not tell her that I am facin a jail sentence if I don't, so I jus write her back an say not to worry, on account of we has an experienced crew.

Well, the big day finally come, an let me say this: I am not jus a little bit nervous - I am scant haf to death! Even tho it was top secret, the story done leaked to the press and now we gonna be on tv an all.

That mornin, somebody brung us the newspapers to show us how famous we was. Here is some of the headlines:

"Woman, Ape and Idiot in Next U.S. Space Effort."

"America Launching Odd Messengers Toward Alien Planets."

"Girl, Goon, and Gorilla to Lift Off Today."

There was even one in the New Yawk Post that say, "Up They Go - But Who's in Charge?"

The only one that sounded halfway nice was the headline in the New Yawk Times, which say, "New Space Probe Has Varied Crew."

Well, as usual, everthing is all confusion from the minute we get up. We go to get our breakfast an somebody say, "They ain't sposed to eat no breakfast the day of the flight." Then somebody else say, "Yes we is," an then somebody else say, "No they ain't," an it go on like that for a wile till ain't nobody hungry anymore.

They get us into our space suits an take us out there to the launchin pad in a little bus with ole Sue ridin in back in a cage. The spaceship is about a hundrit stories tall an is all foamin an hissin an steamin an look like it bout to eat us alive! A elevator take us to the capsule we is to be in, an they strap us in an load ole Sue in her place in back. Then we wait.

An we wait some more.

An we wait some more.

An we wait some more.

All along, the spaceship be boilin an hissin an growlin an steamin. Somebody say a hundrit million people out there watchin us on television. I reckon they be waitin too.

Anyhow, bout noon, somebody come up an knock on the spaceship door an say, we is temporarily cancelin this mission till they get the spaceship fixed.

So we all get to go back down in the elevator again, me, Sue, an Major Fritch. She be the only one moanin an bitchin, cause Sue an me is very relieved.

Our relief was not to last long, however. Bout a hour later somebody run into the room where we is jus about to set down to lunch an say, "Get in your space suits again right now! They is fixin to shoot you up in space!"

Everbody be hollerin an shoutin again an rushin aroun. I reckon maybe a bunch of the tv viewers have called in to complain or somethin, an so they decided to lite that fire under our asses no matter what. Whatever it is, it don't matter now.

Anyhow, we is put back on the bus an taken to the spaceship an we is halfway up the elevator when somebody suddenly say, "Jesus, we forgot the goddamn ape!" an he start hollerin down to the fellers on the groun to go back an get ole Sue.

We is strapped in again an somebody is countin backwards from one hundrit when they come thru the door with Sue. We is all leaned back in our seats an the count is down to about "ten," when I be hearin some strange growlin noises from behin us where Sue is. I sort of turned aroun, an low an behole, it ain't Sue settin there at all, it is a big ole male ape, what got his teeth bared an is grappin holt of his seatbelt straps like he is about to bust loose any secont!

I tell Major Fritch an she look aroun an say, "Oh my God!" an get on the radio to whoever it is in the groun control tower. "Listen," she say, "you has made a mistake an put one of them male apes in here with us, so we better call this thing off till it is straightened out." But all of a sudden the spaceship start to rumblin an quakin an the guy in the control tower says over the radio, "That's your problem now, sister, we got a schedule to meet."

An away we go.


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