Then, over lunch, Dyspepsia got a call from her friend Lacey Lee, the President of the United States.
President Lacey Lee didn’t phone up in the middle of the night any more. She had appointed a White House special adviser whose job it was to tell her when it was a good time to phone England.
Dyspepsia answered the phone with her mouth full. The President said, “I hope I haven’t caught you at an awkward time?”
Dyspepsia did a big swallow and said “No, not at all.” Even if you’re the best of friends, you don’t tell the President of the United States to phone back in an hour.
First of all, there was some good news. As you know, every four years the Americans elect a new President. As they hadn’t been able to find a better one, they’d elected her again. She was only allowed two terms, so in four years’ time they really would have to find someone new. Dyspepsia was glad for her sake, and for her own. Having to learn how to handle a new President would have been a strain, on top of all the other things she had to bother about.
She’d last heard President Lacy Lee’s news a month ago, but now there was more to tell. As you’ll remember, the USA got its own Monstosaurus skeleton, just like China and Dyspepsia did. And just like Dyspepsia in Newcastle, America had installed its Monstosaurus underground in New York City, mostly under Yonkers and Queens. The long long tail went down under Manhattan Island all the way to Grand Central Station where there were escalators down to it, plus some fine restaurants.
Recently there’d been a hurricane, which had caused a lot of flooding. It had flooded everyone’s basement in New York City, and it had flooded the Subway, which is what the New Yorkers call their Metro system.
It had also flooded the Monstosaurus.
Now you’ll remember that each of the three sets of Monstosaurus bones were one-third real and two-thirds plastic, but so cleverly made that you couldn’t tell the difference. But you could start to tell once they’d got wet! The plastic bones just needed a wipe down and they were all right again. But the real bones started to smell and needed throwing away.
President Lacey Lee was beside herself with anxiety. It wouldn’t do to have two-thirds of a Monstosaurus on permanent display, so she’d phoned Dyspepsia to ask what she could do about it.
Dyspepsia had a lot of homework on, and couldn’t get involved. But she did give the President the phone number of her Chinese contacts. The President read the numbers written on the smelly bones down the phone to the Chinese, who made plastic replicas, cast from their own copy of the skeleton.
The Americans were very pleased, and they’ve been saying nice things about the Chinese ever since. And the Chinese were very pleased, because they made a lot of money on the deal, and they’ve been saying nice things about the Americans too. Much nicer than the things they’ve been saying about the Japanese. But we shouldn’t judge: it’s not always easy to know what’s gone on in the past between people.
This time President Lee had another favour to ask. She’d been very good to Dyspepsia in the past, giving her three billion dollars to help dig up the Monstosaurus, so Dyspepsia wasn’t in a position to refuse—even if she’d wanted to.
NASA had got to hear of Dyspepsia and Spookie’s Mission To Mars. They wondered if there was room in the spaceship for an American astronaut. Since it was a bit cheeky to ask outright, they’d talked President Lee into asking Dyspepsia and Spookie on their behalf, since the President knew them both well.
Americans don’t like blagging seats on other people’s spaceships. They’d rather have it the other way round. But it had been forty years since those lovely pictures from the Moon showing men prancing around in the moon dust. Congress thought NASA ought to have done more in the meantime to put men on Mars, to do the same there. Why had they wasted all that time? Surely forty years was long enough to do anything, if you put your mind to it?
It was certainly long enough for the space shuttle to go past its fly-by date. It had flown its last mission, and got sent to a museum, and the Americans no longer had a rocket of their own big enough to lift a man up the invisible hill into space. They’d even had to buy some from Russia, of all people!
Congress got cross with NASA and said they’d simply been messing around for all these years.
NASA pointed out that Mars, at its closest, was 500 times further away than the Moon, but it was no use. Congress didn’t like doing sums. They’d been forced to become mere politicians instead of rocket scientists because they weren’t good at sums at school, and so they thought NASA was just blinding them with figures, as usual.
They were so miffed they cancelled the money they’d voted for sending a man to Mars. That’s why the President was phoning: to see if Dyspepsia could take one of NASA’s astronauts with her to Mars.
Dyspepsia asked his name. “Chuck,” said the President. So Dyspepsia said “Yes, fine, send him along.”
…to be continued.