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Iron of the Sky - Prologue


 It was common in those days to believe that the sky, like everything else, was controlled by the gods. That anything seen that could not be explained by their version of modern science, must be a sign from the heavens. Some of these signs were taken to be omens, warnings that man was in big trouble with its celestial parents. Death from above. A comet brought pestilence in the whip of its tail. An eclipse was god turning blind eye to a flood. Meteor showers turned king against king. Brother against brother. These people worshipped Ra, among others, for the same reasons anyone worships; fear and desperation.

On a night as any other the newly appointed king sat idly in his throne with nothing to do. His age was of little consequence to those who feared him as were his noticeable defects, necrosis, scoliosis, and so on. A yawn past his overbite nearly turned whistle through cleft palate. As he readied himself to retire for the evening, a subject armed with the painfully boring task of standing guard on the balcony adjacent to the throne room came running in to inform the young king of what his tired eyes beheld. 

He gazed upon Khonsu, god of the night sky. Glowing full and bright, Khonsu, who had come to prominence in this particular dynasty, was armed with the all too important task of slaying the king’s enemies. In His travels He kept careful time for a people who would rule for centuries. And at some point or another He may or may not have created the universe.

So entranced by his protector the king could barely hear what his foolish subject was prattling on about. It seems one of the stars had fallen from the sky and fearing it may be portent, the young king felt it warranted immediate tending. The spotter was sent of course, along with several other well-suited footmen. Patriots to a nation who charted the stars for millennia and built a map to them here on earth, their mission was simple and duty clear. Return the star to heaven.

Late in winter, the stars had already been sticking around for dawn. The hours of the night were fixed, the land riddled with landmarks and the star that ditched the constellation party early was easily found in less than a week. Their horses would get little rest as their find was a great gift that would certainly please the king. The Egyptians were experts at moving huge rocks and the horse would serve as good a slave as any.

His majesty was in the middle of a game of senet when they reached the gates. His opponent was letting him win when they entered the court to tell the king the good news. Their journey had taken less than a full day’s time and while several were wary that the find was a bad omen, the rest were simply pleased because he was pleased.

Kings have no use for a dusty old space rock sitting around so his subjects set to breaking it up further (unbeknownst to the king most of it still lay where they found it) to mine the interstellar ore. With the Bronze Age coming to a close and a new age dawning, they had become pretty handy with metals, precious or otherwise. They were to each craft something special. Something unique. Which of course meant the king was going to get a succession of useless trinkets, bowls and goblets that made food and beverage taste funny, and scepters a fraction of the size of the one he already wielded. The pharaoh was gracious enough to yawn his way through the parade of disappointments. Brushing the last of the insults aside, the young man up and left for the great dining hall for dinner.

In the food preparation area, the cook was feverishly finishing his particular craft. He probably should have been more nervous than he was, it was a dish he’d never prepared prior. The fish was an unfamiliar species. Most were for people who rarely ate fish living on the world’s second largest river. People who worshipped half the animals on the land. And a people who farmed in a land arid on its best day and prone to drought, famine, flooding, and locust. Still they maintained a primarily vegetarian diet and a strange and decadent fish would not suffice alone, no matter how well smoked and seasoned.

Accompanying the fish that would go relatively untouched was a vegetable barley soup, the chef’s specialty, and honey bread cakes, the king’s personal favorite. And there was the usual assortment of nuts, dates and figs, olives, a fragrant mélange, exotic candies, and a myriad of rare delicacies no peasant would ever taste.

Much like most kids his age, he could really pack it in. He sat completely stuffed on the terrace following his lavish banquet. Two harpists and a double oboist comprised the band set to be entertaining him as he let out exhaust into the chill of the night air. Shifting in his seat, he contemplated all possible reasons why his breath was now visible, figuring it was merely demons being exhumed thanks to divine intervention. A man appeared in the doorway and begged the guards to allow him audience. The king looked up wistfully and waved his fingers casually to let him pass. The guards were substantially more nonplussed and nearly tackled the man when he removed his offering. Desperate not to be impaled, he assured them he meant His Majesty no earthly harm, but had taken a tad longer to finish than the evening’s earlier presenters. 

Convinced in his sincerity and aware of his history of loyal servitude, the king allowed him to step forward and received the gift. Darkness would not hide it once unsheathed as it caught the light of the moon and recast it on the spectators. Quite taken, the king did more than nod him aside. Special favor was taken upon the gift and the metal worker graciously thanked and rewarded. He would treasure it always.

Always would last nine more years. Less than a decade later and the boy who would be king became the slightly older boy who would be dead. While out in battle, clutching his favored gift which now lay on a nearby nightstand, his horse got tripped up, toppling his chariot, and fracturing the pharaoh’s leg. A fractured leg was entirely too complex a condition for their version of modern medicine. Within a few hours he would be riding Ra’s chariot to be united with Osiris and Thoth in A’aru, the Field Of Reeds. At the age of 19, he had lived more than halfway to his life expectancy. Not bad for an Egyptian. Once mummified, he would be buried in one of the few tombs in all the land not to be completely consumed by the sands of the Sahara, alongside his most prized possessions and beloved living servants.

Now at the mercy of the elements, their race to be discovered would be up against more than just sun, wind, and rain. What binds all things is not death. But decay. All things fall apart and deteriorate. Rot away, rust up, get eaten, break down, or erode. Recycling down to nothing. Lead is the final stage. Then of course there is the long-standing tradition of the natural enemy.

It wouldn’t be long before his successors, discontented with changes implemented during his dynasty and throughout his reign would do their damnedest to eradicate all evidence that he and his family had ever existed. His influence reversed and name fell silent. But critics be cursed and archeologists be praised, damnatio memoriae would be no match for the innate quest for knowledge and the unending search for truth in a seemingly infinite universe.

Iron of the Sky - Part I


 Knocking Up

The woman upstairs didn’t stir. The knock at the door didn’t wake her. Neither did the doorbell. He was wide-awake in his recliner. The recliner no one else could sit in. The one directly in front of the television, obscuring some of the other views in the room. The knock only confused him. The neighbors would occasionally let him know when the TV got too loud. It was Saturday Night At The Movies and Channel 6 was playing Raiders, which meant the volume was cranked. Every crack of the whip was so sharp, it felt like old Indy was using it to swat flies off his ear lobes.

Thumb pressed firmly on the down arrow, the volume returned to a level that made each thwack of punch landed on Nazi face far less exhilarating as he anxiously awaited further indignant raps. When none came he began the slow crawl to what, at least he would deem, reasonable level. Until the ding-dong. Clear now that he had a visitor he glanced up the stairs to spy any signs of life and finding none ran to descend the staircase leading to the front door as to avoid another awakening ring. He held his breath all the way down.

First door open, visitor revealed, sigh of relief exhaled. He hadn’t seen her in several weeks. Maybe closer to a month or two. Far too long regardless, a good hug and kiss of cheek would bring them back. As she began to ask him how he was doing, blaring cop sirens resounded. She made a scared face that always made him laugh. “They finally found you?” she implored and he laughed even harder. “Don’t worry, I have a disguise,” he assured and put a finger mustache to his upper lip. Her laugh was drowned out by the ever-growing intensity, then thanks to the Doppler Effect, they had to wait even longer after it passed. The cops caused the woman upstairs, Gillian, 26, hot, no last name given or warranted, to stir, but sleep maintained. He had by now forgotten all about her. The small talk didn’t last for even if she hadn’t showed up to his house in the middle of the night, he would be able to quickly discern that she had something to tell him.

“Alright, out with it,” he commanded. “What say you who arouses me from my slumber at this ungodly hour?” Her distraction by lightning bug, Phontinus Pyralis, broke. “You weren’t sleeping, shut up.” He was defeated. “Well,” she began collecting her thoughts. “I think I finally realized what bothers me so much about people who believe in astrology.” Smiling, the struggle to not say anything began for him. “Oh?” He could allow himself one little word. “It isn’t that it’s completely arbitrary. Which it is.” That modifier lit his eyes. Big as a weather balloon, if his pride continued swelling exponentially, he would bust. Always so reluctant to follow his lead, even when she knew he was… onto something. The iconoclast had trashed the pseudo-religion so many years ago and she had only ever half agreed with him.

“It’s not how horoscopes are vague and interchangeable.” He had heard people quote him, to him, many times over the years without the quoter quite knowing it was he they were reciting. But never so satisfyingly. “Or how the stars in the Zodiacs are nowhere near one another thus making the very idea moronic.” 

A laugh escaped. Surely she had practiced in the mirror before leaving the house. Which reminded him. “Say, where is uh-.“ “Oh, I wasn’t going to wake him for this.” He hadn’t seen her without him in some time. Then, with no beat missed, “It’s that it clearly illustrates how painfully un-self-aware people are. They’re so oblivious. Most people already believe themselves to be generally good people. Which they’re not.” He could cry. “The hypocrisy compounds when on top of that they add exaggerated qualities of traits that they either possess minimally or not at all.”

And there it was. His mouth agape. She gave him the answer he’d always looked for but never reached. The joy and pride almost distracted him from the fact that he knew that wasn’t it. “Very good,” he said in a calm hesitant voice. Then he waited until her face fell a bit. “And.”

“And I’m getting married.” “There it is,” he exclaimed putting her into a bear hug. The elongation of embrace served purpose twofold. Time was needed to suppress tears fighting for freedom. And, like him, she didn’t seem to want to let go. She had no tears to hide. Hers escaped on the walk over.

The release brought a mutual gaze that said all there was to be said between them. Both fluent in unspoken conversation.

A few cars drove by, one of the drivers honking thinking he was funny. A couple walking their dog, a golden retriever, forced him to take a step forward and while normally he would jump at the chance to make a furry friend, he let Gaia pass by unpetted. Before offering sincere congratulations, his gaze turned if ever briefly, to the sky. Searching for a recognizable cluster of stars, something tangible and familiar. Finding none, he turned back to her so as not to let the moment grow awkward. He had missed his chance and found himself lost in the city lights with nothing to hold onto, but a few sweet memories and the heart of a love lost so very long ago.

Familiar Landscapes

They were heavy, those glasses, and the bounce in her step would often jostle them loose, prompting a quick finger push to reset. The warm spring air felt good on her sensitive skin and she did her best to not let the rebirth of flora upset her allergies.

The elderly gentleman who ran the local liquor store welcomed her as always with an inviting smile. In the neighborhood forever, he was one of those guys who knew everyone. “What do you say, Miss? His glasses rested firmly on his nose as he checked inventory and as she fixed hers. “Having company tonight, Charlie,” she beckoned from the aisle of whites. “The Chesters?” He even knew their friends. “No, they’re out of town. Early vacation. The Ripleys.” “Ah,” he nodded and went back to his checklist. She huffed as she lifted a large bottle of Sauvignon Blanc by means of scrawny arm before heading to the aisle of reds. Then, upon choosing a Cab that hailed from the same vineyard, made her way to the counter.

“Will that be all, sweetheart?” he asked ringing her up quickly. “Yes, Charlie,” she said with a smile. She was very fond of his nickname for her. He put the bottles in her bag from home and she paid cash, of course.

Her walk home was narrated by cicadas making their return. She thought of sweet, old Charlie and how she wasn’t even sure if that was his first name. She didn’t know his full name and whenever he introduced himself he’d always add “like the horse,” then make a silly face. An introduction that incited an immediate liking to him.

Terror struck and thoughts of Charlie vanished. In an instant she found herself running on the street where she lived. She was cleverly illusive though, heading down side streets, she knew to head in the general direction rather than lead them straight there. “Look who bought us booze,” was the last thing she heard before her feet were taking her faster than she thought she could go. The bottles kept clanking against one another and a second fear arose thinking they may break. Pulling them up and wrapping them tight, she pressed them firm against her undeveloped chest and for once was glad she didn’t have boobs. Managing to get a hand free, she took her glasses off. For the most part she knew the layout of the terrain and even though she was blind as a bat without them, she was dead in the water if they fell off and got lost again. The lucky rabbit was gaining ground as obnoxious taunts like “stupid bitch” were becoming progressively distant. An odd insult as she was neither. 

Cutting through Mrs. Hobbs backyard, she burst through a gate, ripping her shirt, but taking her straight to a gravel road that ran between houses. Fast as she could, she spun, ducking behind the O’Reillys’ garden shed and buried herself behind a wheel barrow. There she stayed until the stampede of trampling hooves faded and she caught her breath. “Shit.” Those jerkoffs cost her one of her favorite shirts. The one with pink butterflies she had bought herself at the mall with babysitting money. With her glasses back on, she followed the gravel road to the main street and made her way home. 

Going through the back door to the kitchen she placed the bottles on the table and put the bag back on top of the fridge. She reexamined the damage done to butterflies and deliberated if it was salvageable. Removing the wine key from the drawer next to the sink she opened both red and white. It had been offered to her many times, but she had always declined. She poured halfway to the top of a red solo cup and cheersed herself. To a most daring escape. As the Sauvé Blanc calmed her nerves and settled her mind, she could once again hear that mower. That rusted collection of clunky bolts and blades. Mind settled, she pondered what it was exactly that made that lawn one yard up and three yards over grow faster than all others.

Irish Goodbye

She found him. Not the other way around. It was customary practice for high school boys to chase baby bunnies like hound dogs on a track. And while he had pursued a great many already in his few years, on this day a surprise happened by.

He didn’t have much money. Most teenagers don’t. Landscaping is not going to make anyone rich, unless they own the company. And even then. But he spent summers making relatively decent wage working for a business owner whose company would go under before the young landscaper would graduate college. His anal, obsessive-compulsive leanings made him a valuable asset to his employer and a total pain in the ass to everyone else. Order of the day was a daunting one. Three properties in the same development and to fit them in meant a 6:00 AM call time. Hours of meticulous hedging and scrupulous clipping. The last thing a teenager wants to do once he makes it to Friday night is to be in bed in time to get up at cockcrow on Saturday. And like a good teenager, he wasn’t. The woods weren’t going to drink in themselves.

Alcoholics who had yet to tap their full potential, they hadn’t finished all the hooch. There was still the majority of a case and collectively three full bottles under leaves and twigs by a marked tree. The house party wasn’t until later and he was done work by late afternoon. The boys were waiting for him and just as rum fueled pirates to uncover buried treasure, state law led minors to buried rum.

The bottles were almost gone when he arrived. Just as well. He hadn’t developed taste for it. A small fire blazed as he cracked his first beer. Between sips he would indulge in a swig or two of the hard stuff, but two nights in a row and a hard day’s in between was more than enough incentive to pace himself.

Beer gone and bottles condensed to one, Dankar, an exchange student eager to fit in despite the school year being long over, shoved the bottle in his pants. They peed out the fire and these knuckleheads were on their way to an even grander ritual. The journey across town was arduous, given the sudden lack of consumption and waning buzz. They feared not.

Sted Burman was Master Of The House Party, Keeper Of The Inebriated, and tonight was Vulcanalia. The lush overgrowth diminished any clear visibility of the festivities taking place, but upon approach one could make out the glow of bonfire. The Crandalls were out of town and Sted was tending to responsibilities of being a good host with such fervor as to ensure it may be of no trouble to Martin Crandall whatsoever. So efficient was he, in fact, that Martin Crandall didn’t even realize there was going to be a party until the keg was rolling up his driveway earlier that afternoon. Sted considered it no problem at all and was all too happy to oblige.

They entered the front door without knocking and Dankar cut straight for the kitchen to add the stash from his pants to the potluck of swag ravaged from older siblings, parents’ liquor cabinets, and church tabernacle. He followed Dankar at a casual distance and grabbed a light beer from the fridge.

A Beirut tournament raged on in the dining room, he figured he could get in on it later. He soon found himself wandering, exploring the labyrinth of hall and den. A large TV in the basement was running Animal House on loop until the ever-prudish Susie Nguyan complained of how debaucherous it was and demanded it be changed. Tim Hutch jumped up and grabbed a copy of Caddyshack, which she had never seen either, and convinced her a lighthearted comedy about golf was far tamer.

There was a game he didn’t recognize in the corner, much like pong, but with the entire table filled with cups. They were jokingly calling it ‘Bubba Gump’ because the creator claimed it would make anyone who played “retarded.” Desiring to neither watch Caddyshack again nor to ‘get retarded,’ he ascended the back cement stairs that led through the Bilco double latch metal doors to the back patio and emerged in Crandall’s backyard like a football player returning from the locker room.

The pit was not the only fire going out back, there were several throughout the immense acreage. Some were smoking up, some were burning whatever they could get their hands on; some were burning their hands as they were burning anything. Heathens blowing out the end of summer with spectacular antediluvian style and all taking part. All except he.

Left alone by so-called friends, ostracized by social cliques, in a backyard not his own, he felt the slightly overgrown grass beneath his shoes bouncing like a sponge. Adam O’Leary and Cole Myer were smoking on the patio. He didn’t smoke himself, but secondhand never bothered him. Others sat around the nearby fire pit, source of their lit cigs. After imbibing gifted nicotine and tar for a moment he started walking towards the pines that ran along the property line with no discernable destination other than to leave.

King Of The Irish Goodbye, he cut between two Leyland Cypresses without a single word, one beer in hand and two in pocket. Having no baby, they were both for the road.

Crossing to the cattycorner block, he noticed a figure lingering near the intersection. Long hair made him guess the shadowy figure female; she appeared to be heading to the party, but at a gradual pace. Almost as if she had no intention of getting there. Paying her no mind, he turned back to his route and spotted a pair of headlights way up at the top of the street as he heard someone yell “wait” directly behind him. She had crossed the street and was scurrying to catch up with him. Her hair flapped this way and that. Before he could figure it out, she was standing directly in front of him. “Oh hey,” he recognized her immediately. Can’t forget a pair of glasses like those. “You were in my Bio and Pre-Calc, right?” She had been in a few of his classes over the years and she was, as he and everyone else remembered, the one kind enough to remind forgetful teachers if homework went unassigned. He minded far less than some, barely to the point past an eye roll, but it certainly granted no favor for her with their fellow peers. “On your way to Crandall’s?” he asked. “Uh-huh,” she lied leaving out the part where she wasn’t invited and was only passing for a quick spy. “Ah. I got bored and decided to head out,” he responded. As he conveniently left out the part where he was there primarily by association. The first set of headlights grew close enough to decipher make and model, with a second just like it coming up the rear. Paddy wagons barreled past them and whipped around the corner. “Time to go,” he grabbed her hand and took off running down the block, not waiting to see the commotion that followed and not realizing she was perfectly capable of running without his help.

A considerable distance away, several blocks up and a few blocks over, they stood at the base of a bridge that carried car over creek. They came around to the side of the bridge to lurk in shadow in case any catchers sped by, nets grasped, looking for strays. Finishing the beer in hand, he broke out the other two and was gentleman enough to give her the now shaken back up. Lifting the tab as gently as they could and without losing hardly any through hissing foam, the familiar crack pierced the night’s silence. Frogs hidden somewhere in the creek bed were the only to respond.

He raised a light beer most wouldn’t use to wash crud off their tires and searched for an acceptable toast. “Here’s to a… uh…” “A daring escape,” she jumped in. He nodded in approval and their cans clinked. A siren kicked up and they instinctively ducked under the bridge. They couldn’t tell how close it was and it didn’t matter. She hadn’t experienced this much excitement in at least a week and he certainly wasn’t bored anymore. He looked up and around the base of the bridge to see if he could make anything out. She looked down. Her hand was being held again. Once more she resisted the urge to point out she needed no help hiding under a bridge. When he turned back, her face told him all he needed to know and not wanting to let the moment slip, without a single word, he kissed her.

“You sure know how to party, Sweetheart,” he said once his tongue was freed. Cheek blushed and smile spread. “I have a friend who calls me that.” “That right?” he responded, turning once more to make sure the coast was clear. “Hope he doesn’t mind if I borrow it.” She did nothing to hide her ebullience; couldn’t have even if she so desired. He did nothing to loosen his grip. “He won’t mind.” “Good,” he said assuredly. “Now let’s get the hell out of here.” And he walked her home at a very considerable pace.


The unofficial end of summer was three weeks past and it was feeling more apparent by the day. But she refused to close her window. To save energy, the heat wasn’t on yet and the chimney had yet to be cleaned. She had heard the ruptured evening air with that all too familiar struggle. Several rips of the cord and the little gas powered Black and Decker that could sputtered a healthy cloud of exhaust as the partially rusted blades began to spin. Less than a week left in the month, one yard back and three over, she never could quite see the cord ripper. She had always assumed, perhaps unfairly, that it was a young male. Maybe he was cute. Now she knew. He was. And he was hers. And the future was in their hands.

Imagination ran uncharacteristically wild as she desperately tried to avoid getting back to her Calculus. For the most part she had been raised conservatively and would think and dress as such. But hormones coursing though a developing body and the attention span of the average American teenager are two forces of nature that suffer no reckoning. With nurture effectively vanquished, her mind was free to carry out fantasy.

When she was finished, her problem remained before she could go downstairs for an early supper. Distance between two points should be easy enough.

2∏R/2Re = 38880/107 = 363.36…

The numbers all seemed to run together.

3.844 02 x 108

Whatever. It was quarter past 4. She was distracted. And hungry. So it would just have to wait.

64 1/6 R

Numerical nonsense. She would never get into AU at this rate. Not the best way to start the semester.

And yet, it was.

The lawn was suffering as homework, more so as the homework would eventually be finished that day. Patches spotted revealing a curved pattern. Each line bent as he strained to spy her bedroom window, which if he looked at the right spot at the right time, he could glimpse through tree and over shed.

The air was crisp with autumn leave and his mind was on her fireplace. The one whose smell always marked the beginning of the new season for him. The one that burned for years without him knowing who dwelled near its hearth.

Going back to retrace step and smooth patch was growing tiresome. Steam ran out like a deadbeat dad and smoke bellowed within. All he could think of was that fireplace. He stopped and stared at the hole between red, yellow, and orange and all he wanted was to be alone. His bedroom was the best place for that. Yard half done, the mower was left where it stood. October would come before the chore was finished for the final mow of the season.

The Zoo

The cotton head tamarins were shrieking something awful. Something had riled them up. Ms. Brennan’s class trip making its way through provided an unwelcome din in the primate house and the sensory assault was more than certain simians could handle. With teacher’s back turned, one rambunctious 10-year-old, David Nelson, a human, did his best to invoke the wrath of a razorback by pressing ham against the inch and a half of double paned laminated glass separating them. But the full moon stirred no emotion in the giant alpha male enjoying his afternoon snack of leaves and stems. Amidst the rustling of all these evolutionary branches, two clasped hands refused to break rank. Not in a showy way, they weren’t the type. Rare was the occasion one of their impassioned kisses saw the light of day. A social courtesy as if disarray would follow as couple after couple would be forced to question whether they had ever actually been in love.

The passing shower that had chased them inside had begun its trek to the big blue and they were met with a cool humidity. He had purchased a green T-Rex snapper and, child that he was, kept using it to bite her ass. Then in true form would look up, wide-eyed and clearhanded, back and forth to buoyantly play it off. Always the sporting type she would follow suit by searching the area unassumingly for the culprit. Until she finally ‘caught him’ and gave chase. A procession of strollers prevented him from reaching maximum speed and he was easily caught. She took the toy and used it to bite his ears. A sizeable snack for such a small reptile.

Their very perceptible attachment to one another was the healthiest he had ever known. Several months had passed since he began telling her he loved her for sentimental reasons and would do so until days’ end. Balance was achieved in keeping one another in check while extracting the best in the respective other. When he neglected to recycle his Coke can, she exhumed it from its trashy grave in lieu of the nearby recycling bin, staring him down every step of the way. When she began chewing her Big Red too loudly, his mock chewing shut her up quick. Even if she stared him down for that too. When he made a comment off color and surprisingly somewhat misogynistic, she smacked him in the mouth. Then upon his begging her pardon, she accepted with a kiss on the cheek. While standing in front of the rhinos, she began to freak out about college. He made her dance. At once her heart was light and her mind was at ease. The song on nearby speaker probably should have been Young At Heart, but Swingin’ On A Star would certainly suffice.

The tigers were her favorite. She would never admit it. She claimed to love all animals equally. And for the most part she did. While some patrons saw them as lazy, she saw them as patient. While some handlers found them to be finicky, she knew they were just particular. And while some took their lofty prowling as arrogance; she was keen to their subtle intellect.

The Siberian Snow variety, they were among the farthest from home. But with two square meals a day and all the admirers they could handle, no complaints would be heard. She was their biggest fan and as a result they would spend the longest time in their presence. A slight attack of boredom hit him about halfway through. Though he dared not utter a word. Instead he wrapped her tighter in his arms and rested his face in her hair. Ocean Breeze? No. Rainforest something or another. Or Forest Rain. Whatever. All of her shampoos and products had those kinds of names. Tropical Escape. That’s it. Whatever its name, it was hers. He would have gladly breathed it all day. But hunger struck and now she was on the clock to see the giraffes before they would grab a late lunch at the café downtown.

The reticulated giraffes carelessly swatted flies from their hind side with their tails. They turned a dull gaze towards the crowd forming and were not visibly impressed. She watched them doing nothing and even she grew bored. The way they clumsily chewed acacia leaves made her instantly aware of the rumble in her stomach and her desire to continue pointing out how cute everything was was overcome by the rumble in her stomach. To his relief, it was time to go.

A Small Café

Slight gusts were kicking up. Spring breeze had yet to turn to summer wind. The hair blowing into her face didn’t seem to bother her nearly as much as it would have him. Rare were the instances where he would let go and get a buzz cut. Summer fast approaching, he had at least one more season cutting lawns. A handsome leonine mane may have made ladies swoon, or so he chose to believe, but it accelerated sweat production to unbearable proportions.

The table saddled the corner of the restaurant. Sitting on different streets made no dent in their afternoon. The metal chairs weren’t the most comfortable, small price to pay to dine al fresco. Their habit of ordering too many appetizers had once again gotten the better of them and their entrees sat unfinished. Decisions weren’t their strength. Which meant at that age they were right on point with their peers. After what was surely more deliberation than that which went into the Manhattan Project, they decided to go for everything they wanted.

Lunch needed to be complimented. Not that it wasn’t transcendent. Hard shell beef tacos for him, spicy chicken quesadillas for her. Ceviche with shrimp, baby scallops, pico and fresh lime, wild boar empanadas, homemade tortilla chips, homemade guac to start. It was BYOB and she had by means unspoken provided them with a bottle of tequila. The staff provided the lime juice, triple sec, glasses and salt.

Unlike the atom, her attention could not be split. Flies passing by had to reroute because nothing could break her stare. All bugs pull up.

Then something crashed into her cheek. Nearby milkweeds must have lost contact with the control tower and a small white craft had to make an emergency landing. Before he could see what it was, it rest in the palm of her hand. Jaw dropped, she turned to look down her street.

“Can you see anything?” he asked in a voice he had only ever used for her, still puzzled, but ever accommodating. She nodded excitedly. He leaned forward, imploring her to elaborate just a little. “Things.” He sat back. “Things?” he encouraged. “Yes, wonderful things.”

True to form, she jumped up and disappeared around the wall. The seeds, known colloquially as ‘wishies,’ flurried a wonderland in the oldest district of the metropolis. He rounded the corner to find her spinning methodically. Evenly. As if she were locked into a track. Her arms outstretched, they tailspun any milkweed seed in vicinity.

Their waiter, Carter, a nice young man under the impression that he was simply working his way through college and not going to get stuck in restaurants forever, had a minor heart attack when he saw the deserted table. He caught himself from bussing the table, and cursing, when he noticed her windbreaker still resting on the back of her chair.

Eyes closed, wishy landed dead center of her face, fingers spread, this star-nosed mole was in her glory. Happiness she never knew. With the man she loved. Not a soul on the planet with whom she would rather share this sanguine moment.

Though he couldn’t be certain, and it seemed like pretty long odds, he could have sworn he heard Marion’s Theme playing softly nearby. He was the first thing she saw when she finally opened her eyes. Adding the proverbial cake icing, she ran over to him and threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. What a handsome sight. What a sharp couple. Surrounded by wishes unmade.