Space Boy We Miss You
dam’s mother said he was born under a bad sign. She’d always thought it, feared it, from the moment he came so calm, so quiet into the world. He sat silent as a monk the first four years of life, utterly disconnected from the pacifiers and mobiles, stuffed rabbits and Duck, Duck, Goose! until one day when the words flowed out of him in such spectacular combinations the woman next to Adam’s mother in the grocery store dropped a box of cornmeal to the floor and it exploded in a yellow cloud and she exclaimed, He’s a little professor man!
The first time Adam was overwhelmed his first grade teacher brought to class a model torso with removable organs. The students handed around the plastic kidneys and lungs with fat fingers—some kids twisted faces or shook heads, insisting the small intestines pass them by. When Adam got the heart it might as well have been gold, crisscrossed with blue and red vessels from Christ himself.
It was in art class later that day when Adam attempted his first experiment. With a pair of safety scissors he stabbed and snipped at a boy’s chest, trying for a heart of his own. Adam’s mother came and apologized and again blamed the devil’s meddling with the moon and stars and slapped Adam and he wailed and imagined his voice blasting like waves into space, capsizing all the celestial bodies in its wake. He realized then, everything was so much bigger than him, his heart, his mother’s hand. For the second time in a day, Adam was overwhelmed.
By year’s end Adam knew more about space than any science teacher in the district, all the way up through high school. He hadn’t noticed the school moved him to a brightly colored room with children augmented by titanium and rubber, until two months later when he came up from Introduction to Modern Astrophysics and commented as such. His teacher said, Very good, Adam, and put a star beside his name.
Adam was searching for something. On the walls of his room he sketched the universe from his backyard’s perspective. First, the Milky Way and its spiraling arms, like a spinning octopus with a pulsing black hole heart at its center—then Sagittarius, the other satellites, Andromeda, and out into the expanding plane of space. That year when his classmates used bathroom passes to meet in stairwells and beneath bleachers he proved it mathematically—there was no center, no heart to the universe. He painted his room’s walls black and bruised himself for weeks.
Adam’s mother signed the release forms for shop class. Jesus was a carpenter, as was Noah. There was hope in God’s plan, yet.While other students with crew cuts and steel toed boots walked in wide arcs around him, Adam learned to light acetylene and make a seam hold true.
Adam took his driver’s test and passed with the assessor’s sympathy. His mother couldn’t be there because she spent more time in bed those days with aches and fatigue. Every day Adam delivered her prayer card after a trip to the junkyard where he told the burly men jokes: How many astronauts does it take to screw in a lightbulb? None, astronauts aren’t afraid of the dark. When do astronauts eat? At launch time. How does the man on the moon cut his hair? Eclipse it. They elbowed each other and helped him latch whatever he needed to the roof of his mother’s car.
The neighbors called about bright lights and sounds of sheering metal keeping them awake, but Adam’s mother was too sick to answer with any more than a whisper and groan as she watched it grow from the crabgrass and shine in the sun, the light reflecting through her window in a wide beam like a path.
Adam was 18 when his mother died. With fresh bruises he padded through his house slowly and spent days etching her name over and over into a car door. Bills went unpaid and he healed and resolved and ran extension cords from the power terminal in the corner. The police came and Adam assured them everything’s okay, he was done. They left because of how little he seemed to know rather than how much. That night, Adam etched Mary Lou one last time into a polished sheet of metal.
The next day, the neighborhood rumbled. Swings rocked without children, flags trembled on poles, rotting porches crumbled. People came from their houses as if summoned by the creator himself. They stood in the oak-lined streets, bracing themselves on parked cars and streetlamps as they watched a roaring column of steam rise and three red tailfins disappear into the clouds like the last goodbye ever said.
All rights reserved to Logan Adams.