This short story was published in Issue 5 of Spoonful magazine.
by Christine Laennec
There never was such a two for star-gazing. When all the other grannies and granddads were inside watching t.v. in their La-Z-Boy recliners, feeling their arthritis, Bert and Emma were outside on their lawn chairs looking up at the deep dark heavens. If their arthritis was bothering them, they didn’t say so. They would trace the constellations, keep track of the planets, and look for satellites passing purposefully in straight lines over the earth.
“Now you see there? That’s got to be a satellite,” Bert would say, and Emma would agree: “Mm-hmm.”
As they lay looking up, they didn’t just talk about what they saw above them. No, their conversation ranged over every kind of topic: what to do about the leaky flat roof, whether to save up for a new washing machine or a trip, how their children and grandchildren were doing. If ever Emma had a worry about friends, or family matters, she would hope it could be a star-gazing evening after supper. Of course it was fine to talk to Bert in the living room. He would lower the newspaper and give her his full attention. But on a star-gazing night, even though they were both looking at the sky instead of each other, somehow their thoughts met more closely up there in the vast depths of the universe.
This particular evening there was no pressing difficulty bothering either of them – except of course for Lou, their eldest, who had hardly ever, in the course of his 43 years, not been a cause for worry. They talked about the upcoming elections and how the church social had gone. The stars twinkled above them and a hush seemed to fall.
“What’s the date today, love?” Bert asked.
“18th of September,” Emma replied after a moment.
“More than a month now,” Bert said.
“Mm-hmm,” Emma murmured. “Not long until we see Orion again.” But she knew very well that Bert was not counting the days until Orion’s reappearance. The month that had elapsed was the time since they’d last heard from Lou. He’d found some work at a rodeo out West, but that job would be finished now.
“He might have found something for the winter out there,” she said, reaching her hand over to Bert, who clasped it in his.
“He hasn’t asked for money in a while,” Bert said. They had had this same conversation, with variations, for years. The stars looked down upon them benignly, comfortingly.
Just then, a brilliant streak of light fell, curving down across the backdrop of the night. They both gasped. And in that moment, their hearts lifted up a familiar plea to the heavens.
The trace of the shooting star stayed in their eyes for a moment longer, until, blinking, they could see only the depth of the heavens behind its falling path.
“That was a beauty!” Bert said, squeezing Emma’s hand. “Did you make a wish?”
“Mm-hmm.” Bert couldn’t see Emma’s face, but he could tell she was smiling.
Published in Spoonful magazine, Issue 5. © Christine Laennec, 2011.