I. Juan Diego
Juan Diego, with mechanical clippers,
Trimmed the already neat bushes and grass
At the base of the main building.
He had always been a perfectionist,
And he loved the smells of his work.
Stepping back to check,
He wiped his brow
And glanced at the hillside to his right.
There was the Hollywood sign, crisp in the clean air.
Juan Diego returned his gaze to the lawn
And looked for missed areas.
He liked these afternoons best,
Before the crowds came.
A week earlier, the ceremony had altered his routine somewhat.
He didn't mind, but wished he could read the plaque better.
He was still new,
And his English still wasn't so good.
"Sir," he said to an old Mexican fellow who stood admiring the
The man was dressed neatly and was very old.
"Pardon me, sir. Can you tell me what the new plaque here says?"
The man looked at Juan and smiled strangely.
"It says," the man read, "the Griffith Observatory
Celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Nimoy renovation
By re-dedicating this July 20th, 2155, the main theater
To Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Nimoy."
"Who were they?" Juan asked the old man.
"Donors who helped renovate the building," the old man replied.
"They gave, I believe, a million of their own dollars.
Even now that is quite a sum, but you can imagine what it was then."
A million dollars, Juan thought. "Why did they do this?"
The old man looked thoughtfully at Juan.
"Have you ever been inside?"
"No," Juan answered.
The old man smiled.
"Why did they do this?" he said, repeating Juan's question.
"To answer that, you must go inside and SEE!
Do it, my friend. Do it soon."
For the first time,
Juan Diego brought his family
To see their very first planetarium show.
II. Dr. José Enrique Garcia III
It rained steadily for nearly a week in the spring of '53,
The kind of California rain that came with the El Niño.
It was a soft, drizzling, but persistent rain.
Occasionally, the sky would darken to a near-black
And strong winds would howl through the newly-green foothills.
Dr. José Enrique Garcia III loved the weather.
He opened his office windows to welcome it.
The smell of the rain on the neatly mowed lawn.
He eased his aging body into the soft chair,
Switched off the lights,
And breathed in deeply.
How he loved the rain!
Fresh-minted PhD and so wet behind the ears!
His mother and father had been so proud.
The years at CalTech had been hard.
The project accepted!
The funds allocated!
The design so tangible!
He and his colleagues - so unused to drink! - had woken all with raging headaches and cotton tongues.
The celebration had been good!
The trips back and forth, to and from the moon.
It was hard again, hard now too for his wife.
Harder on him than he could have imagined.
But the vision of Barnard's Star still burned brightly,
And the work proceeded well.
Her new little eyes shown up at him,
And he longed to stay home.
He did this for her, too, though.
The fear as the new administration took office.
The fear as the project funding came up for renewal.
The spacecraft themselves were nearly finished.
The accelerator needed only time!
The speech before Congress. What dread!
But he was the natural one, and his colleagues trusted him.
The nanobots away!
Accelerated at an unheard of 80% light speed,
Whirled the circumference of the moon before
Being fired by the millions on their way.
They'd be arriving now.
Would it work?
The waiting, the waiting, the waiting...
Swirl. 2153. March 10, 2:57am PST.
First telemetry received.
III. José Enrique Garcia, Jr.
The sun beat down hard and hot,
But the excitement was palpable.
José sat with his friends on folding chairs on the fresh cut lawn.
Occasionally he turned and craned his neck to see if he could spot his family.
The speakers spoke on and on.
The sound system was poor, so they couldn't be understood.
José fidgeted and adjusted his sunglasses and looked at the program.
Finally - finally! - it was time.
Professor Carlson, the Department Chair, was now at the podium.
One by one, he read their names.
One by one, José's friends stood and walked to the stage.
And then it was his turn, too.
He was the family's first.
He shook Dr. Carlson's hand and said "Thank you, sir,"
But more, he said thanks in his heart to his mom and dad.
He held his degree high over his head before leaving the stage
And couldn't help from crying.
IV. José Enrique Garcia
The Garcia family loved their time together,
Barbequing in the park with the radio playing loudly after Sunday Mass.
Little José, the baby of the family,
Ran and tumbled with his friend Eduardo in the fragrant, fresh-cut grass.
His mother talked and cooked with the other mothers,
While his father watched.
The day came when José and Eduardo were old enough for bikes.
One day, exploring, they headed deep into the park, up the back road past the landfill.
Neither had gone this way before, neither knew what to expect.
The pungent smell of the eucalyptus filled their lungs as they pedaled harder and harder,
Higher and higher,
To the top of the mountain.
"José, what's that?" Eduardo had cried, he being the stronger of the
two and having reached the top first.
José joined his friend, panting hard and wishing he'd brought water.
He looked in the direction Eduardo pointed.
A domed building sat on the edge of the mountain, Los Angeles spread away behind it.
"It's the Observatory," José replied.
"What's that?" Eduardo asked. He'd never seen such a building.
"I don't know."
Weeks later, José's Uncle Juan had come to visit from San Diego.
"The Observatory," Uncle Juan explained, "isn't really an observatory at all. It is a planetarium."
"A what?" José asked.
"The dome you saw is a screen, and inside a machine projects points of light to make it look like the stars at night. José, do you know what astronomy is?"
"Astronomy, José, is the study of the stars and planets. This is important, José. Many years ago, a wise man, Father Girán in Mexico, told me that the men and women who study the stars and planets are 'the chosen.' That is what he said, José, and I believe it is true."
"Well, José, the best way for me to answer is to show you."
The next day,
José, Eduardo, José's father and Uncle Juan
Piled into the dirty old Ford and drove the windy street past the rich people's homes
To the top of the hill that looked out over Los Angeles,
To see the stars,
To learn about astronomy,
To learn about "the chosen,"
To go to the Griffith Observatory...
"Uncle Juan" and "Father Girán" in "The Nimoy Legacy" are based on real people. Juan Carrasco is (or, at least, was -- I don't know if he still is) the senior night assistant at the Palomar Observatory near San Diego, CA, and Father Salvador Girán was the Carrasco family's parish priest. Richard Preston wrote about the Palomar Observatory in his book First Light. There, Mr. Preston tells the story of how Father Girán teaches the Carrasco kids about astronomy when they are young. Much later, just before he died, he learns of Juan Carrasco's new position at Palomar. (Mr. Carrasco had previously been a barber. Now he was working with such luminaries as James Gunn, Gene and Caroline Shoemaker, Maarten Schmidt and Don Schneider.) This is what Father Girán has to say:
"My mind," Father Girán said, "doesn't remember things anymore. I would like to discuss astronomy with you, Juanito, but I find I have forgotten it. Yet I remember those nights...those nights when I told you about the stars. All those nights...You sit there with those astronomers. You listen to what they say. Now, you know, astronomers never get rich. But if you stay with them, you will learn, Juanito. Because astronomers are the chosen. They are the chosen." (First Light, 1st revised ed, p. 231)
Copyright © 2002 by William W. and Bewildering Stories.