Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Cycle of Constellations: Cygnus the Swan (Summer)

(The Third in a Four Part Series of Vignettes)

       Evan stretched on a lawn chair and twined his hands behind his head. Framing the sky, the trees winked with hundreds of spectral lights. The fireflies had swarmed at dusk from the grass to the tree tops.
       A triangle of light opened across the grass, then the backdoor quietly closed. Soft footsteps approached, nearly drowned by the night insects pulsing in the heat.
       "What're you doing, big guy?"
       "Nothing, Dad."
       The man crouched and followed his son's eyes upward. "It's getting late."
       "I know," Evan said.
       "You've been out here a while."
       "I know."
       The man smiled in the dark. He ruffled Evan's hair. For once the boy didn't protest. "Beautiful night. Very clear."
       "Mmm hmm," Evan agreed.
       "Which ones are you looking at?"
       Evan pointed. "Cygnus the Swan. You see those stars that make a big cross?"
       "I think so," the man said, even though he knew the sky better than Evan's teachers.
       "Lyra the Lyre is right next to it. Vega is the brightest star," Evan observed. "It must be huge."
       "Or close."
       "Do you see all that light in Cygnus?" Evan asked. "That's the Milky Way."
       The man nodded. "You know what's amazing?" he asked.
       Evan turned his head towards his father.
       "All these stars," he said, sweeping his hand across the heavens, "all these stars you see are right here in our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Millions and millions. Almost more than you can imagine. And yet, we're just one galaxy in a whole universe of galaxies."
       "But I thought that was the Milky Way," Evan said, pointing again.
       "Well, you know how galaxies are big spirals, like frisbees? When you look at Cygnus, you're looking along the disk, through the disk, rather than out into deep space."
       Evan didn't notice his father take control of the conversation.
       "Can you see other galaxies?" Evan asked.
       "Sure. Except you need a telescope for most of them."
       Evan stared back upward, captivated by the infinity of his thoughts. "Can I get a telescope?"
       The man chuckled. "If you really want one, ask Santa."
       "What? You got a problem with Santa? Maybe for your birthday, then."
       Evan groaned, but it was a good groan.
       "You should be getting to bed. In a few minutes come in, okay?"
       "Alright Dad, I'll be in."
       The man stood. "Couple minutes," he repeated, but had no intention of truly rushing him.
       He returned to the house, careful not to wash the boy with light. Telescopes, he thought to himself, more than a little excited. He always wanted a telescope. A big one. A really big one.
       Couldn't let on though. Didn't want to spoil it. No matter old how they get, after a certain age, that stuff is all uphill. They don't understand how rare and meaningful it is to learn together.
       Evan would sure dig it, though. And just the right story might even convince his wife.



anne said...

I'll have to read them all together when you're done, but I really like the way you let us know your characters, and the little "twists" at the end.

kyknoord said...

Lump in the throat time again.

Shesawriter said...

Is this from a short story, or a novel? I like it. Brings back some of the quiet moments I spent with my Dad.


Anonymous said...

Anne, I know this series is kind of weird, but the only thing tying them together is the character and the night sky. There will be no overall plot.

Kyknoord, my wife made an interesting comment (she's always my first critique). It struck her that so many stories are about dysfunctional families. Not many about great families.

Tanya, everything I do on here (except the pictures sometimes) is fresh. This series is not part of anything larger. They're just four vignettes in a person's life all occurring under a night sky.

Linda said...

I need a tissue. That was amazing. The father/son moment under the night sky.

Unknown said...

Well done, my friend! I like how you twist things up!

Mindy Tarquini said...

It struck her that so many stories are about dysfunctional families. Not many about great families.

Who wants to read about great families? Got enough of that with Donna Reed.

Nice last line.

Anonymous said...

BeadinggalinMS, those parent/child moments really are memorable.

Robin, thanks! I do like those twists.

M.G. Tarquini, maybe some us do because today we're more like the Osbournes than Donna Reed.

Kelly (Lynn) Parra said...

Nice and good feeling from this one. You can really sense the father/son bond. =D

Mindy Tarquini said...

I couldn't handle Donna Reed. She vacuumed in pearls. I want to see families that holler at each other. Sisters who steal each other's wardrobe, brothers who...what do brothers do? But you get the gist.

Anyway, the more dysfunctional the family I'm rading about the more I figure 'there's hope for me yet!'

Sandra Ruttan said...

"the more dysfunctional the family I'm rading about the more I figure 'there's hope for me yet!'" LOL MG - I hear you on that one! Which I'm sure you don't doubt, given the clear difference in tone between this parent-child story and my recent one.

But this was a really nice story. kryknoord's right - real 'lump in the throat' time. Kudos.

Anonymous said...

Kelly, thanks! It's amazing how much you can still get across without beating the reader over the head with it. I think I'm really only beginning to understand that.

M.G., I hear what you're saying. Next time I have to fix the furnace, I'm going to do it in pearls. Just to see how it goes.

Sandra, welcome welcome! New commenters rock. Hope to see you back.

Terri said...

Jason, what a lovely moment you've captured here. You're really good at pulling readers right into the moment from the start.

Kara Alison said...

When the father describes the size of the universe, it's a little bit overwhelming for the reader too. I'm sitting there with Evan, completely amazed. I wonder if I'm too old to ask for a telescope too...

Sandra Ruttan said...

And you know, the reverse psychology thing is pretty key with kids. My problem is that I'm always so enthusiastic, positively gushing. I'd be a great salesperson if I could only sell books I love or movies I love or huskies because I'm really passionate about what I love. When I meet favourite authors I have to try not to gush.

Which makes me so uncool. Well, soon. My niece is just 11, so she actually still wants to spend time with me. In a couple years I'll really have to act indifferent. Or I'll be the crazy auntie she doesn't want to have come over.

Jeff said...

jason- I may not leave a comment on each part, but I'm reading along!
Merry Christmas :)

Anonymous said...

Terri, thanks! I've been working on cutting out the unnecessary and hooking the reading quickly.

Kara, you're never too old! Thanks for the sentiment.

Sandra, you're right. Reverse psychology and leading by example are important with the teenagers. Don't worry. Aunts get far more leeway than moms.

Jeff, always glad to know you're visiting. Have a Merry Christmas!

mermaid said...

I wanted to say a few things about this one.

We view the galaxy in the sky, even though we are a part of it. Reminds me of watching a play about our lives, and seeing the things we miss while we are too busy acting.

"Evan didn't notice his father take control of the conversation."

You do a nice job in describing the way a parent guides their child without overtly being "in charge". It is about "learning together", isn't it?

Autumn Storm said...

Read almost all, really enjoy the way you use language, esp. liked many of the poems.
Oh, no, another blog to check each day...I'll have to give up 'the day-job' soon ;)

Anonymous said...

Mermaid, as always, thank you for your thoughts. That's a great point about being within something you are also seeing objectively.

Autumn, thank you for the compliment! I know what you mean about keeping up with blogs. I'm adding yours, though. I think I can handle it. :)