On the morning of March 27, 2019, there was a peculiar cloud arrangement over South Florida that made the Sun look like a full Moon. This was perhaps the only time I could safely look at the Sun without eye protection. I have never seen this phenomenon before.
I have two cats
One I can see
When my eyes are open
And the other
When my eyes are closed
(Man #1 is sitting at his desk. A knock is heard offstage.)
Man #1: 3.14.
(Man #2 nervously enters)
Man #2: (tentatively) 1592653?
Man #1: 589793. (motions to seat. Man #2 sits down) 23846?
Man #2: 26433832795.
Man #1: (angrily) 0!
Man #2: (defensively) 2!
Man #1: (stands up, very angry) 8!
Man #2: (stands up, also angry) 8!
Man #1: (shouting) 4197169?
Man #2: 3!
Man #1: 9937510582!
Man #2: 0974944!
(The two men stare at each other in silence)
Man #1: 59?
Man #2: 23.
(The two men shake hands before Man #2 exits. Man #1 sits back down behind his desk and resumes working.)
Ian looked out the window and could see the swirling clouds hovering above his former home planet. As his ship left the last layers of Earth’s atmosphere and began drifting into space, he began to think if there was anything of value left behind on the ground far below.
Let’s see, I’ve been disavowed by my family, dumped by my friends and disregarded by everyone else. There really is nothing left for me. Time to move on.
Ian glanced at the flashing red button on the dashboard in front of him.
My ticket out of this sorry galaxy.
Bracing himself, he pressed the button and immediately the engines roared to life and began to propel his ship faster and faster. Soon Ian was flying so fast that the stars around him turned into long lines of light.
I’m flying at the speed of light.
The planets literally zipped by, starting with the Moon, then Mars and Jupiter. As the ship passed the remaining planets in the solar system, Ian finally began to feel he was no longer within sight of the Earth, the home of his troubles he had managed to escape.
Then he switched on the camera mounted on the stern of his ship to catch one last glimpse of Earth before it disappeared from view behind him.
He could see Earth, up close as if he had just left it just moments ago.
But I just passed Jupiter. Something’s not right here.
He switched off the camera and instructed the onboard computer to increase his speed to double the speed of light. The computer complied and seconds later stars turned into a single tunnel of light as his ship left the solar system behind. Nervously, Ian switched the rear view camera back on and gasped.
Earth is still behind me.
What’s more, it’s closing in on me.
Confused and frightened, Ian was set to accelerate his ship even further when he suddenly felt a jolt. Switching on the rear view camera one more time, Ian could not believe what he saw.
It’s drawing me in.
Earth was now so close to Ian’s ship that the ship fell victim to the gravity’s grasp and began drifting backwards towards the atmosphere. Ian worked himself into a frenzy trying to escape but it was no use. His ship had re-entered Earth and was now in a free fall back towards the ground far below. Suddenly Ian lost consciousness and passed out before he could see what happened next.
One instant later, in the delivery room of a hospital, the doctor carefully wrapped the newborn baby in blankets and gently placed it in the mother’s arms.
“Congratulations,” the doctor said, “it’s a boy.”
“Welcome to our memorial service for Ian!” Ron greeted the small group of people who had gathered in the living room. At the front of the room stood a table with Ian’s photo positioned between two candles.
Steve sneered at Ron from his seat. In a good mood, aren’t we, he thought. The nerve of the way you acted at Ian’s funeral. You wouldn’t let me spend a few minutes with his ashes. And yes, Ian WAS my brother. Our friendship was that close. And how DARE you throw Ian’s ashes away like garbage. Now I know how much he meant to you.
Ron continued, “We’re here to celebrate Ian’s life, so if anyone has any pleasant memories to share…”
I beg to differ on your choice of the word “pleasant”, thought Ian’s brother-in-law Harry. Ian treated me like GARBAGE the whole time he knew me. He wouldn’t even be in my wedding! I tried many times to offer him the olive branch but he only burned it with his wrath. He never even told me what I did to get him so upset. I’m glad he’s gone.
Next to Harry sat his wife Sue, who was also Ian’s younger sister. I think I left the iron plugged in, she thought. I hope it has the automatic shutoff feature.
Next to Sue and Harry sat their 4-year-old daughter Diana, who couldn’t understand what was going on. Why did mommy make me leave my tablet in the car? I wanna play Five Nights at Freddy’s.
Behind them sat Ian’s older brother Jeff who was staring at the photo of Ian resting on the table. No potential, no ambition, no drive, and no purpose. No one’s life should ever be this empty.
“…any funny memories…”
Actually, I do have such a memory, thought Mr. Smith, who was their elderly next door neighbor, that sight of Ian sitting in a wheelbarrow in the side yard while completely wrapped in aluminum foil, but I doubt that even remotely qualifies as funny. I think I better keep quiet.
“…and perhaps any life-affirming lessons he may have taught you…”
I’ll get back to you on that, everyone thought simultaneously.
“…you may share them with us now.”
Steve had enough memories and stories of Ian to fill an entire evening, but he remained silent in protest of the way Ron had so crudely treated his dearly departed friend.
Ron looked around the room. “Anybody?”
Everyone else began looking around the room to see if there was anyone getting ready to speak, but there was nothing but silence.
“Short memorial service!” Ron laughed. “Thanks for coming.”
As everyone rose from their seats to leave, Ron and his wife Karen quickly extinguished the candles, put Ian’s photo away in the closet and dragged the table back to the family room, where they both sat down to watch TV for the rest of the evening.
Outside in the driveway, Steve glanced at his watch and shook his head.
Ian’s memorial service ran for all of three minutes.
Several months after being thrown out of his parents’ house, Ian was not seen again until his skeleton was found in the woods. His parents had it cremated and gathered at the entrance to the woods along with his best friend Steve.
”You want to do the honors?” Ian’s father Ron asked as he handed the urn to Steve.
”Yeah,” Steve whispered.
Steve faced the woods, closed his eyes and began reciting a silent prayer.
Dearest Ian, I owe you an apology. In the 40 years we’ve been friends, we’ve each had our share of ups and downs, but we always found a way to level the playing field. I really should have helped you when you needed me most. Had I done that, I wouldn’t be…
“What are you waiting for?”
Steve cringed at Ron’s rude interruption. He cast an angry glare behind him.
”Fine,” Steve groaned as he removed the lid from the urn. Holding it up high, he paused while searching for the right words.
”Free at last,” Steve whispered, “Free at last. Thank God almighty you are free at last. Fly free, my brother.”
Steve was about to scatter the ashes when Ron spoke up.
”Um, Ian was not your brother.”
Steve felt a tinge of shock and anger.
Did he just say that?
Steve promptly put the lid back on the urn, placed it on the ground and abruptly began walking out of the woods, storming past Ian’s parents.
”Hey, hey, hey!” Ron shouted. “You didn’t scatter the ashes!”
Steve turned to angrily face Ron when he saw Ron pick up the urn and then pitch it into some nearby bushes. Steve felt an even stronger tinge of shock and anger surge from within.
Did he just do that?