The tail of the meteors disappeared on the third day. I asked my father what it meant. What possible sign could be divined from the change.
I still recall how long it took him to answer. And how his adam's apple bobbed in his throat. Slow, like a rusted piston relearning its purpose.
His hand felt heavy on my shoulder. It reminded me of being sick, how he'd bring me a glass of milk warmed entirely by his large hands encompassing the glass.
"Let's visit your mother."
Mom had died three summers ago. The ensuing fight between us and her family had torn at my father more than he let on. That he kept the bitterness out of his voice whenever he mentioned mom's family bewildered me for years. At the mere mention of their names I could feel my shoulders raise, my back hunch. An atavistic transformation priming me for fight or flight.
I had never been a violent kid. Or particularly angry. But death has a way of spoiling you.
Had dad been pettier, more resentful, I have no doubts the path I would have walked. Kids had school seemed to hop on that downhill slope with glee. Kicking their feet up as they dove into the muck of humanity. Dad never did. Lord knows I tried to pull him down it once or twice.
Mom was buried on the farm. Living like we do, out in "the middle of nowhere" like my grandma so often remarked, my father decided it was better to keep her close. We had never been religious. Mom had a passing interest in it, not so much out of faith but of curiosity. She found a beauty in it that so often seemed to be missing from the Truth Believers.
Dad was similar. Though less vocal about it. One time, as we were planting the tree where she would be buried, I asked him why this was so important to him. Why he was willing to lose so much in order to get hit way. As if often the case, I resented my father as much as I admired him in those days.
He didn't look up from his shovel as he spoke. Even when he stopped to rest and wipe his face with the torn up old t-shirt he kept in his back-pocket as a sweat rag, he kept his eyes down on that hole.
"There's something in it," he started to say, though something--it almost seemed like shame--kept him from going forward.
I badgered him something terrible over it. I don't think I had exhibited that kind of petulance since I was young, young child. 3 or 4.
Finally, as dad asked me to place the tree in the hole, he started talking. "Here, I'll hold it while you fill in the space." He took one hand off the tree--I marveled at how he could hold the entire thing with one hand--and brushed the freshly dug dirt back into the hole. "There you go. Pack it down, but not too tight."
I took special care to follow his instructions. Even going so far as to stick my entire child arm down into the hole to ensure it was evenly packed throughout. I don't remember how long it took, but in my child memory it felt like years.
"This is nice, isn't it?" Dad asked.
"Yeah," I muttered, my hands wrist deep in the earth, still evening out the land.
"Now whenever you look at this spot, you'll everything about it. What it took to make it, to care for it. And when it grows, you'll know you had a hand in that."
The news reported that the sudden shift in the meteors trajectory was a result of gravitational pull. Eons of travel, being tugged this way and that by various planets through various solar systems, setting it on a path with us. Another couple of miles, they hypothesized, and it would have passed by unmolested. A startling ball of light in all that darkness, screaming past us.
But fate had erased those miles and sent it hurtling toward us.
I avoided my phone after that. Every time I opened it up it seemed to be a bigger, darker hole than it had the previous day. I'm thankful, in a way, that I had grown up the way I did. Having unfettered access to the world in the palm of my hand. It taught me that some holes are impossible to fill. So it was best to leave them be.
I spent the next couple of months sitting under mom's dogwood. We never spoke. I didn't inherit my mom's desire to believe in spirits and mediums and communing with the dead. Like dad, I was always too rooted to reality.
He joined me sometimes. Usually with a glass of milk and some cookies. He wasn't as good a baker as mom had been, but that he had learned at all spoke volumes.
We were out there the night the meteor's tail made its reappearance.
I gasped. If I said out loud what I though that meant, I was terrified it wouldn't come true. My dad must have felt that little ball of hope building in me because he put his arm around me and told me.
"It's going to flicker like that, on and off, for the next two days. Then it'll get too close and..."
We sat there for hours after. When the temperature dropped he went inside and grabbed us a thick blanket, mom's favorite, and wrapped us in it.
The next few days passed without much talk. We had felt everything we had needed to feel under that tree. Talking would just spoil it.
When the day came we huddled into the storm basement like most everyone else we knew. Reports of what would happen varied wildly to the point where different stations had different doomsday clocks counting down to the moment of impact. Some didn't have one at all.
"Is mom going to be alright outside?" It was a silly question. Something a small child asked. But in that moment of fear and uncertainty it slipped out.
My dad looked down at me, an odd little smile on his lips. "You remember the day we planted that tree?" I nodded, looking up at him. "How'd that feel?" I thought back to it, the sweat pouring down my back, the feel of the earth on my knees as I knelt down to smooth the earth, how I felt when the tree started to lean and we dug it up a bit to straighten it. How it felt to finish the project, take a step back, and look at it all together.
The following challenges were completed during the writing exercise:
Begin Start typing to begin
Words Reach 50 words
Event A meteor approaches Earth
Location A farm
Words Reach 100 words
Letter Use the letter C
Words Reach 200 words
Words Reach 300 words
Words Reach 400 words
Words Reach 500 words
Words Reach 600 words
Words Reach 700 words
Words Reach 800 words
Words Reach 900 words
Words Reach 1000 words
An account lets you keep track of your saved stories.Login with Google Login with Twitter View saved stories Log out