"A Shooting or Fallen Star"
It really didn’t matter where you stood. What did matter was that, for the split-second that the radiant beam pirouetted across the blackness of the sky, you gazed up.
* * *
“Make a wish.”
Leila’s voice was filled with a giddy hopefulness. The tone suited her still-youthful smile better than the drab cynicism she’d grown accustomed to hiding behind since her divorce two years prior. At twenty-nine years old, her wide grin was a momentary picture of innocence and positive energy. Her eyes—brown buttons glimmering with remnants of the fallen star – glowed upon Odie, who inhaled peacefully, like every boy should when with the girl he fancies.
“But you can’t tell me. Or it won’t come true.”
“I know, I know.”
Odie, too, could not explain the aura of the moment, the sanctity of Leila’s gaze, the serendipitous circumstances that had led the two of them together after his previous girlfriend left him with nothing but a mattress and $1500 rent. Odie’s lips curled mischievously upward in a fluid movement from the right side of his mouth to the left—like they always did when he was smiling but not laughing.
“Gimme a minute.”
Leila shifted her weight back slightly so that she was no longer leaning over the center console of Odie’s Camry. She tenderly rubbed his right bicep—adorned with a script tattoo reading This too shall pass…—as he closed his eyes pensively.
* * *
“Tonight’s meteor shower isn’t worth the energy I’d expend flexing my neck to look up,” said Dr. Miles Rockwall, Professor of Astronomy at the University of Arizona, as he dismissed his First-Year Seminar section.
“It’ll still be cool to see,” said Reina from her second-row seat. She was taking the class merely to fulfill a GE requirement.
“You might as well stare toward streetlights at dusk, waiting for them to illuminate. It would certainly be a rarer sight.”
* * *
Tommy Cooper’s 8th grade science teacher told him to be outside at 8:30 tonight if he wanted to see a shooting star. He opted to leave his iPhone inside, knowing it could only distract him. Eagerly, he sat on a blanket in his front yard, refusing to avert his eyes from the stretch of sky before him. He hesitated to even breathe.
An itch on his scalp ignored for fear of blocking an inch of sky for even a millisecond.
Two consecutive blinks. He cursed at himself inwardly. Did he miss it? He looked harder, fingers tapping on thighs.
Don’t. You. Sneeze. No. The twitch of a nose. Fighting the urge. Betrayed by his body. Eyes close. Aaaaaaa-CHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
Nothing still. If it didn’t happen yet, he must’ve been too late. He goes back inside to text Joel, too see if he missed it too, blanket around his shoulders, frustrated and cold.
(An empty lawn reflects the flash. The lawn would enjoy it, if given the capacity.)
* * *
“It’s fucking dead,” said Wally Rasmussen to his eight year-old son whose eyes beamed out the kitchen window at what, until a moment ago, was the greatest miracle he had ever witnessed. Wally took another gulp of cran-apple juice, straight from the plastic container. He had just been fired from his job as a groundskeeper at the local Catholic parish. It was discovered that he had broken into the Monsignor’s office after hours and masturbated to streaming pornographic videos on Assparade.com. You would hope a man with such a questionable moral compass would at least delete the browser history. He didn’t even wash his hands.
“Dead?” said his horrified son.
“Dead,” repeated Wally. “Everything dies.”
* * *
“I think I just saw a shooting star,” said nine year-old Ricky to his older sister, Alicia, from the backseat of his mother’s Mazda MPV mini-van. “It was right up there.”
“Whatever, I’ve seen so many.”
“But did you see that one?”
She turned her nose upward, away from Ricky. “Nobody cares. I see them all the time.”
Ricky eyed his mother. “Mom, did you see it?”
“Shut up, Ricky. You are so annoying.”
“Stop it, you two,” said Mom.
* * *
Roger Treadwell rationalized to his girlfriend of four weeks that the shooting star was a “sign” that “this is just right.” “I love you,” he had said. Then he feigned lovemaking while fucking her.
How romantic, she thought.
* * *
“Ooh,” said Myrnette Raille, looking out her kitchen window while drying the final plate from that evening’s family dinner. “A falling star.”
“I didn’t see it,” said her eldest daughter, thirteen year-old Bernice.
It was Bernice’s birthday. Her mother turned and, after drying her hands, handed Bernice a small box, wrapped in metallic red paper, finished with a shiny gold bow. Bernice shook it with two hands.
“It feels like there is nothing in here,” said Bernice. Myrnette held back the urge to wince. She gave a wooden smile instead.
Bernice proceeded to tear off the shiny gold bow, ravaging the metallic red paper, destroying the cardboard box, and practically disintegrating the thin tissue paper filling. Myrnette continued looking into the night sky wondrously from her kitchen sink.
“There’s nothing in here.”
Myrnette turned to her daughter confusedly. “What do you mean?” she asked. Bernice sifted deeper into the package. She ripped at the corners of the box before forcing a hole in the bottom.
“Mom, there’s nothing.”
“Oh, dear,” said her mother, looking despondently at the scraps of paper strewn about the floor. “I drew you a picture.”
Bernice’s eyebrows went up in a matter-of-fact fashion.
Myrnette looked away.
“I really wish you would have seen that shooting star.”
* * *
“Okay, I got it,” said Odie, opening his eyes.
“Don’t tell me!” pressed Leila, her weight shifting forward again, her hands clutching his shirt. “Just think it.”
His smile spread from right to left again as he turned his head toward Leila. He took in another peaceful inhale as Leila’s head fell softly onto his shoulder. She breathed in his scent, closing her eyes while doing so. He kissed her on the top of the head, his lips tickled by her dirty blonde curls. Their hands molded into one another’s tightly, renewed hands, excitement building like it was the first touch either had ever felt.
“Do you think your wish will come true?”
“It’d be pretty cool if it did.”