Not many people know this but…when Neil Armstrong came down that ladder in July, 1969 and took “One small step for man”, he then paused for a split second before poetically declaring “One giant step for mankind”. He felt something was askew. The recently revealed truth is, Armstrong’s hesitation was because he saw something on the lunar surface below him. Something odd. And now, the world will finally know what that was. An original McDonald’s Big Mac cardboard container. But how?
According to recently unredacted top secret documents, in 1967, rumors began to surface about a space race between McDonald’s prime mover Ray Kroc and Pillsbury, the company that had just acquired Burger King. Each was desperate to plant their flag on the moon with the goal of opening the first extra-terrestrial fast-food franchise. Pillsbury dropped out when the Doughboy tested positive for Celiac disease, a condition caused by an immune reaction to gluten. But there were other fast-food players also looking to make a mark.
Dave Thomas, who launched Wendy’s in 1969 had his eye on Mars. But he gave it up after his establishment’s namesake, daughter Wendy decided that instead of an astronaut, she’d rather be a Dallas Cowboy cheerleader.
Glen Bell was not gazing heavenward, but south. His target: to open the first underwater Taco Bell. But during a dry run it was discovered that taco shells became too salty, especially in the Pacific Ocean. Bell tried sodium-free shells, but they caused low blood pressure among the aquatic life, especially flounder. The Atlantic posed other problems when the mafia started dumping bodies into the ocean after the Hudson River became too overcrowded.
But Ray Kroc was clearly the shining star in the world of fast-food. And a great American story. As a fifteen year old during World War 1, he lied about his age and became a Red Cross ambulance driver alongside an even younger Walt Disney, who until his testicles dropped, spoke in a very squeaky voice. Ray teasingly told Walt that he sounded like a mouse. And another great American story was born.
During and after the Great Depression, Kroc worked a variety of jobs including chimney sweep, medicinal leech hunter, human pin at a local bowling alley, and assistant cow-milker. And then, lightning struck. Fortunately it missed Ray and hit the cow he was milking.
In 1955 Ray met the McDonald brothers and his life changed forever. From the day he finalized a franchise agreement with the McD boys, it was no looking back. Mainly because a childhood cervical spine injury made it impossible for him to swivel his neck. With his gaze facing forward, Ray transformed McDonald’s into a mega-giant.
In 1963 after being rebuffed from converting the Gateway Arch in St. Louis into the world’s tallest McDonald’s, some good news. The coining of the most commonly used expression in fast food history. After a hard day inspecting his franchise kitchens, Kroc staggered through the front door of his home wreaking of burger grease, upon which his daughter commented “Dad, you have flies on your hat?”
All the weary Kroc heard was “Did you want fries with that?” When Ray took sole credit for the quote, his daughter was so incensed that she mooned him. Which brings us back to the subject of the story.
Kroc had learned of a Russian plan to open a Stolichnaya factory on the dark side of the moon. So he inquired about the possibility of one of his Big Mac Boxes hitching a ride onboard Luna 9. Unfortunately, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was a huge Arby’s fan. So much so that he was double-fisting Arby’s when he died of a heart attack in 1971. His replacement Leonid Brezhnev was a vegetarian.
But Ray remained undeterred. He tried bribing a NASA tech with Filet-O-Fish for life if he would place a Mac on Surveyor 7. Once again, his hopes were dashed when the tech told Kroc that the entire side of his mother’s family died from choking on fish bones.
Sadly, Ray Kroc decided to forever abandon his dream of a McMoonald’s. And then, a twist. Ray and his wife Joan always enjoyed dancing the night away to Chubby Checker. But by 1969 both the twist and Chubby had gone the way of the hula hoop. Life was really dealing Ray a matzo ball. And then…the phone rang. It was a wrong number. Damn, he just couldn’t catch a break. But it rang again. To Ray’s surprise, it was Buzz Aldrin, the pilot of NASA’s soon-to-be-launched Apollo 11 manned moon mission.
Turns out Buzz was pissed-off about his nickname. He felt Buzz’s are always the sidekick and never get girl. So it extrapolated to him also unhappy about being stuck inside the spacecraft while Armstrong set foot on the moon and garnered all the fame and glory. And, of course, women. Aldrin heard about Kroc’s quest. He wanted to help. And to upstage Neil Armstrong.
And so, the unconfirmed confirmed rumor was that Buzz Aldrin covertly dropped the Big Mac box from the spacecraft just as the unaware Armstrong descended the ladder. The box floated by and touched down on the lunar surface before the first man. The problem was, the moon’s gravity caused the Big Mac container to bounce up, at which point, Armstrong quickly snagged it and stuffed it into his spacesuit before it could be captured by Apollo 11’s cameras.
Good news for Aldrin, though. Out of gratitude for a job almost well done, Ray Kroc gifted Buzz with a McDonald’s franchise in the town of his residence, Satellite Beach, Florida. And those lucky enough to have a Big Mac jones on a day that he’s behind the counter, may hear Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin, ask, “Did you want fries with that?”
George Beckerman makes word sausage that he hopes is tasty. His short fiction piece “Cat In The Hat Tin Roof” was published in the May issue of The Punch Magazine. Another, “Foster Has An Earworm” will appear in Down In The Dirt Magazine’s April 2022 issue. “The Not-So-Fab Four” is being published by The Evening Street Review in 2022. Photo by Frédéric BISSON (Flickr).