Wednesday, May 26, 2010

One Last Earthset

He sat in the dome in the control room, monitoring the mining bots, pondering his future.

There wasn't much future to ponder. He'd been on the moon for seven months. Three months left on his contract. Williams and Deming were dead, killed while in a rover by the same meteorite storm that had taken out the oxygen-producing facility and the CO2 scrubbers.

Houston Control had been a contract facility for several years, owned by a corporation focused on the bottom line. He'd been surprised how long it took them to abandon rescue efforts after the aborted shuttle rescue. They held on to hope for quite a while longer than the bottom line would suggest was sensible.

They held on to hope, while at the same time, he gradually gained a purchase on reality. He wasn't going home.

He cycled through the outside monitors, watching the precise movements of the bots. He checked on the CO2 levels in the dome. Getting high. Soon, it would be time to suit up. With the oxygen available in the suits, he could hold out for another day or so, but not long enough for rescue.

He cued up the transmission from his son, watched it for the fiftieth time, and cried.

He decided to suit up early. He downloaded his son's video to his suit. He went through the airlocks, and outside.

He thought about taking one of the rovers to Mazatlan, the golf course, but he'd left his clubs inside. Instead, he walked south for several minutes to the first hole, and sat down, leaning back against a nearby boulder.

He thought about his divorce. He thought about that old line: "But it didn't MEAN anything!" It was true, really. That woman in Pensacola had meant nothing to him; she was nothing more than a way to scratch an itch. But she'd meant a lot to Cathy, oh yeah. Enough to end a marriage.

Tommy had been but seven years old when he moved out. For the first year, Tommy was brave, trying to act as if everything were normal, as if Daddy had just gone away temporarily. But by the time he was nine, he began distancing himself, and by twelve, he hated his father and wanted nothing to do with him.

He left for the moon on Tommy's twenty-third birthday.

He leaned more fully against the boulder, and watched the half-earth settling toward the horizon. He could see North America.

With a start, he realized he'd donned the wrong suit. He'd chosen the one with little oxygen left. He began to get up, intending to trudge back to the dome to get a suit with a full supply. But he stopped, and settled back against the boulder.

It just felt like the right time.

As earth touched the horizon, he brought Tommy's video up on his visor.

He saw Tommy's face, with his longish light brown hair and that silly little smile, the one he'd hardly seen through his teen years.

"Hi, Dad," he began. But tears filled his eyes, and he hung his head for a half-minute.

"I heard the news." He paused again to compose himself.

"I don't know if I can get through this, Dad, but I'm gonna try. I've been mad at you for a long time. When you hurt mom, I tried to deny it. But then I got to the stage where I was mad at you. Then I hated you. Then I tried to forget you."

Tears from Tommy again. Another pause.

"But when I heard the news, I found myself remembering what a wonderful dad you were during our time together. You always had time to play with me, you always had time to talk to me, and you always made me feel important. I wish I could have told you this before . . . the news, but I was still wrapped in anger."

"Dad, I know now that you left me with more than you took away. You screwed up. You hurt Mom, more than you know. But Dad . . ."

More tears.

"But Dad, you made me who I am. I'll always have you with me. Dad, I love you, and I'm sorry I ever quit telling you that."

He replayed the last part several times, until his breathing grew labored. He looked at the gauge. Zero.

He looked back toward the earthset. He reached to replay the video, but he couldn't move his arm. Soon, he realized he could no longer see.

But, he could still feel. He could feel himself smiling.

Prompted by Thom G's Three Word Wednesday.


  1. Oh my -- such a sad, heart-tugging tale. You did a lovely job.

  2. Hal, always a pleasure when you show up with a contribution. This had a lot going for it, science fiction, loss, grief, sex, and a really good pacing. I like when you write, man.

  3. Yeah, I'm with Thom, there's a lot going on here. Nicely done!!

  4. That was a great piece. Heart wrenching for the Dad’s out there. Well done.


  5. beautiful and moving. brought back memories of watching Armageddon. i cried like a baby then. this is far superior. thank you.

  6. Tugs at the heart, Moves well and like the pace.

    Thanks for your comments on my blog. I don't know from where my poetry comes. All I know when it does, I have to write it down.

    undefined paths

  7. This was well done: the scene, the emotions, the flow... the whole package was well delivered. Way to go!