Saturday 11 February 2023

Saturday Sample: To Be ....To Become, multiple authors, summer wine,



Katie Granger

I was an April baby. April Showers, my mother used to call me. At least, that’s what Dad says. Born in April means I was conceived in July, summer loving for my parents turned into unexpected red lines on a stick weeks after they went what they thought was their separate ways.

She didn’t stick around. My mother, the pilot. Did you know pregnant pilots can fly up to two weeks before their due date, and away again two weeks after? The letter she left me said the month she was grounded was just too much to bear. When I was a kid I used to tell my friends that my mother was a bird, that’s why she was never around. She just had to fly away. It was in her nature.

He was like that, but he was a Spaceman.

I used to sit in the fields that were our backyard at night, watching the sky for stars that moved and blinked red across the night. I’d sit there with the long wheat wet against my back and Dad would come out and place a blanket on my shoulders but he wouldn’t say anything not a word. Never tried to make me come inside. Not till I was ready. He understood.

I’d watch the moving stars, the planes full of people on some grand adventure. Crying babies and travelsick mothers, tired pilots. I thought maybe, one day, maybe she’d be there.

And she’d look down and see, me. Wrapped in a duvet watching the stars. Waiting for her. And she’d understand.  She’d fly down to me. To be with me.

Eventually I realised watching for planes was no good. Their destination was never our backyard. I started looking beyond, up into the limitless ink of the night sky and the stars. My God, the stars. The only things that never change, or leave.

When I got older I realised that wasn’t true. Stars are constantly in a state of leaving. Burning up burning out saying goodbye. But for a time, they stayed with me. And that was enough. So, I followed them. As far as I could. Harvard. lecture halls. MIT. Podiums. Kavli.

Laboratories. Kennedy. Boardrooms. Working my way closer to the sky.

And this was it. From a girl looking for stars from a haystack to this, assigned head of the most important space exploration mankind had ever conceived. Ares. Mission to Mars. For the first time, we were going to put men on Mars, and I would be the one at the head of the table. Unbelievable. Un-be-lievable!

And I was talking with Tom, good old Mission Control. He handed me the shortlist of candidates, a knowing and almost pitying look in his eye. Why–  Oh. Top of the list. First picked for the football team. Daniel.

Makes sense. Daniel was top of his class, top pilot, top astronaut, top bloke (always brought wine to parties).  Dan, who shares my second name and my bed and his macadamia nut ice cream with me. My Dan. Spaceman.

Of course I was going to let him go. It’s not so bad he said, it’s only two years. (two years and three months.) I could have three children in that time, if I tried really hard. Spend my time wondering why I’ve started measuring time in increments of nine months. Slots of new life.

Nine months there, nine back. Nine spent carrying out research, setting up and stripping down and taking samples and hoping the whole thing doesn’t just blow up in our faces. I’m not paranoid ­– I’m an astrophysicist. I know everything that can go wrong. Could go wrong. It’s my job.

A solar flare. Radiation. Suffocation. Crash landing. Toxins. Bone atrophy. Muscle atrophy. Perchlorates. Boiling blood. Starvation. Explosion. Hell, the rocket could blow up before it even leaves the ground. And Ares. She’s the biggest. The best. The most dangerous.

As it turns out, I didn’t need to worry about any of that. He didn’t even make it off the ground. And it wasn’t the rocket’s fault. Something much more simple. Mundane. A car spinning on black ice. Out of control.

My zygomatic cracked like the lens of a telescope. Like the ice on the pond we threw stones into on our first date. Making holes in the layer that covered the world below. And laughing. I think, I remember him laughing.

I don’t remember much else these days. The world was a haze for a long time after that. Even after my sight returned. Even after the feelings returned. Even after I returned to work. They were all wide arms and wide eyes and sympathies that rushed over me like the widow’s veil I refused to wear.

Yeah. I didn’t go to the funeral. And I know what you’re thinking but, why bother? What was left to bury was not him. It was not, smiles and curls and laughter, and love. His parents don’t speak to me anymore. They couldn’t understand. The cold box filled with grit was not my husband. He had transcended. Moved on. Into starlight and radio signals. His spirit rising with the shuttle. The night it left Earth.

I didn't go to the launch. They understood. Instead I sat in my father's backyard, watching the rocket blaze a red trail to the sky above. His trail. Following my mother into the vast cosmos. The sky itself seemed to be on fire with the expectation. The night I finally understood why storms, and not stars, are named after people.

After a while, long after the red path had burned out, my father came out. He didn't say anything not a word. Just placed a blanket on my shoulders and left me to my world.

The dew wet grains of wheat. An ache directed towards the sky. And I stood there a while longer. Just watching the stars.


About the author

Katie Granger is a script writer currently pursuing her MFA at the RCSSD, which she will complete in 2018. She had several short plays staged in London;’ Seven Wonders’ at the Southwark Playhouse, ‘Ares’ at the Arcola Theatre, and ‘How Fast This Thing Can Go’ at the RCSSD. She is currently working on two full length projects, sci-fi film ‘Girl In Amber’ and radio play ‘Soothmoother’.

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