25

I'm certain this story was no later than 1980, and written in the 1950s-60s is probably much more like it. I'm pretty sure I read it in a collection rather than a magazine, but of course that could have been a reprint. English language.

Our protagonist and two or so friends are touring some sort of off-Earth habitat -- I seem to recall something on the order of domes + connecting tubes on the moon, although it could have been Mars. Crucially, the habitat is pressurized, with vacuum outside, and our heroes don't have pressure suits. The tube they are in is isolated by pressure doors in response to, maybe, a moonquake? No problem, they plan to just wait an hour or two until the repair crew gets to them. (They also have no communications for some reason.) But then the corridor wall is punctured by a micrometeorite. (I recall that the isolation and the vacuum leak were separate events, although I could be wrong.) So now they are in a small, leaking, tube -- OMG! -- until one character, notably portly, volunteers to drop trou and seal the small leak with his buttocks. Rescue eventually arrives, everyone is happy, the "hero" escapes with only some frostbite.

I'd thought it was by Asimov, and maybe it is, but I can't find it. It's certainly similar to many of his minor stories in that there's no characterization, no worldbuilding, just Idea: problem. Idea: solution. I may have read it at the same time as, or same collection as, some of his Wendell Urth stories?

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    Heinlein is the name I recall for the author, but I don't immediately have a title. Might have been multiple stories, though; I vaguely recall an Asimov-style pun at the end. – Zeiss Ikon Dec 12 '19 at 18:45
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    It reminds me of something much older - That's why a man takes his coat tails in hand, And stands with his back to the fire. – Separatrix Dec 13 '19 at 14:23
  • I think he was the Little Dutch Boy! – Hot Licks Dec 13 '19 at 22:03
  • Is this scientifically plausible? Or is that a question for worldbuiilding.stackexchange.com ? – Criggie Dec 14 '19 at 0:44
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    @Criggie: I think a question of scientific plausibility would require physics expertise, so Physics.SE might be better - but I know nothing about whether it would be on-topic/acceptable there. – V2Blast Dec 14 '19 at 3:26
44

This is Robert A. Heinlein's "Gentlemen, Be Seated". It's a point for point match to the description. (So far, I haven't found an online version to point to, though Wikipedia does confirm.)

ISFDB provides a number of places it appears. It first appeared in Argosy Magazine, May 1948.

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  • Interesting, I remember them freezing to death, but not the happy ending. – DavidW Dec 12 '19 at 19:36
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    I remember reading the story in two different versions, one with freezing to death as the ending, the other having a happy ending. I think the one where they freeze to death was a one-off in a collection of short stories from various authors, I believe, while the happy ending one comes from a collection of ONLY Heinlein's short stories (Which were presented as lore from his "universe"). It seems Heinlein changed the darker ending because he wanted to tie it into his universe... but I can't prove that or anything, but I do remember this story having two versions. – khaoliang Dec 13 '19 at 9:56
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    Thanks so much for your answer! @DavidW, thanks to you, now I can re-familiarize myself with that guy's cold butt. – eac2222 Dec 13 '19 at 14:01
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    @DavidW He also had two endings, one happy and one dark, for Podkayne--so there's precedent there, at least. – user3067860 Dec 13 '19 at 14:41

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