Issue 77 Oct 2019
Jezenel Wilson pulled a hair tie from the chest pocket of her loose-fitting mining suit and gathered up the delicate strands of her long, red hair. Her pale, freckled face broke into a smile as she angled the spaceship toward the rough cave mouth that marked the entrance to her Grandfather's asteroid mine.
She landed the little ship and got dressed to go outside. After a quick whoosh of air, she exited the airlock and hopped to the asteroid's craggy surface.
Inside the cave, there was a circular port door that marked the entrance to what Grandpa called his hobbit hole. She had asked him when she was little what a hobbit was and he had told her it was from a book he had read as a boy.
"Lost my copy of that book way back in 2185, when I had that mine fire that nearly killed me," he had said. "Let me find another print copy and you can read it just like I did when I was a boy back on Earth."
He never had given her that book.
"Grandpa, I'm home," she called once she was inside. She eyed the dark path leading into the heart of the asteroid before turning toward their living quarters. The mine down there was deep and curvy and still full of ore, even after nearly forty years of extraction.
"Grandpa?" she called.
He wasn't in his room and his bed was made. A red light blinked on the com. She picked it up and punched in the message code, fearing the worst.
Drifting back home, moving absently through the burbling chatter and snapping flip flops that flow along the promenade, Daisy hovers at their patio, the scene of last night’s barbeque. She and Dad had celebrated with swordfish kabobs after her first terrifying lesson in his beloved Millennium Falcon. Milly, for short, the ’66 Mustang Dad had fabricated from 6 cylinders to a hybrid, was her father’s baby. Graduating from the Toyota she drove in driver’s ed, to ever gaining the confidence to fly solo in his legendary machine was a fantasy.
To mark the occasion, Dad offered Daisy, her first sanctioned beer. “You’re learning to drive; you should learn to drink beer and then conclude why you should never do both at the same time.”
“Way to message, Dad.” Daisy smiled, grabbed the beer and toasted him.
The hibachi, TV trays and beach chairs arranged exactly as they left them. Now a still life, for a party of ghosts.
Someone tugs her inside to settle on the vinyl couch. Inert, she is submerged by a running stream of neighbors, friends, pies, and casseroles that pool in the kitchen. She has no sensation when they hug her, her eyes unprepared to meet theirs, she can only hear their murmurings: “He was so young. Who will look after Daisy? An aunt, she’s coming. She’s in shock. Sixteen, or on the cusp.”
Yesterday, the surf was blown out so she and Dad messed around with a vintage longboard he picked up for $10, bright orange and ridiculous. Daisy pranced up and down all eleven feet of it while riding the sloppy foam. Naming the board Sidewalk, they laughed hysterically, capturing the attention of three teenage boys. Embarrassed, Daisy dove into the next small wavelet, bashfully hiding in her mother’s skirts. Dad assured her, once she came up for air, “Those guys just saw an amazing girl who didn’t care what they thought. That’s killer, Daze. U-B-U.”