When Ben got back from the moon he was a total jerk about it.
“Being an astronaut is never like you think,” he’d say. Or, “The moon is a mysterious place.”
At first everyone was kind of into it, asking questions here and there, wondering what he did all day, how he went to the bathroom. “Did you see that flag?” someone asked, but Ben just laughed.
He brought back loads of Tang. We drank it all the time, smiling, pretending it tasted better than it did, the little kernels of powder that hadn’t dissolved like bits of sand in our mouths.
“Good stuff, huh?” Ben would say, raising his glass. “Tastes like the moon.”
There was a ticker tape parade, and Ben rode in the back of a convertible with a beauty queen. They both smiled and waved as we stood and watched. The beauty queen leaned over a few times and whispered in his ear; he laughed and smiled and nodded wisely. A moon question, no doubt.
Eventually, people settled down. A few months later it seemed like Ben was the only one talking about it anymore. “On the moon, you can jump really far,” he’d say, apropos of nothing. “We ate dehydrated ice cream.”
No one cared. Well, we cared, but we just didn’t want to hear about it all the time. Plus, everyone knows about the dehydrated ice cream. They sell it at museums. And it doesn’t taste like ice cream at all. You’d think they could fit a freezer on a spaceship.
One night Ben was telling one of his boring moon stories and realized no one was listening. “Hey,” he said, loudly, “I’m talking about the moon here!”
We looked up from our crossword puzzles and newspapers.
“The moon? You know, that big bright thing in the sky?”
We stared, faces blank. Ben got up and went to the sliding-glass door, pulled the shade aside. “Come on,” he said, and went into the backyard.
“There.” He pointed at the moon, a thin crescent just above the trees. “The moon. I went to the moon, people. It’s…it’s the moon, for Christ’s sake!” He looked like he might cry.
“We know,” we told him. “We were all right here.”
All rights reserved to Mac McCormick.
Illustration by Jarad Jensen.