(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?"
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."
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."
"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.