The Stars In The Sky

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Stars In The Sky

Submitted: January 11, 2013

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Submitted: January 11, 2013

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When the world started to end, you were ashamed of yourself for weeping bitterly in your bedroom for an entire day. You saw the president crying and begging on TV and it sent you into a panic. You lay in bed with the blankets pulled up to your nose, crying, refusing to answer the door when the maid, your manager, your assistant, and finally your parents begged you to come out.

 

After twenty-four hours, your father took the door off its hinges and dragged you down the stairs into your sunken living room with the white carpet and leather couches. You kicked and screamed until he had to pick you up and carry you over his shoulder. You called him a motherfucker and threatened to take back the Mercedes you'd purchased for him last Christmas. Your mother sat solemnly on the couch, her hands clenched into fists on top of the newspaper in her lap. She said it was all over. You glowered and glared; you asked what the hell is happening, and will you still be on the talk show circuit next month?

 

The television stations are all color bars and static. Your father says that the talk shows are all gone, and not to worry. He tells you that there are far more important things happening right now. How can you not worry? You were supposed to debut your new fragrance next month to coincide with the release of your latest album.

 

Your mother tells you that the album isn't going to happen, and she clenches her fists even tighter than before. You can't believe what she's saying. How can she say that? There will always be an album, and there will always be television. You tell your parents they're idiots, and that this will all blow over in a few days, as soon as they replace that pussy of a president.Your mother says that the world is ending. They dropped bombs, she says darkly. There are diseases and radiation poisoning spreading all over the country, your father says.Not in LA you shout defiantly.

 

Your mother holds up the newspapers one at a time. WAR is on the cover of each one, along with speculations on the doomed fate of the country, including LA. You feel sick, you're dizzy. You want to know what you did to deserve this, and how anyone could possibly do such a thing before you had a chance to accomplish the things that mean so much to you.

 

 

 

Two days later, your mother and father are discussing survival, and filling jugs with water from the tap just in case. Your father is worried about the electricity holding out. You sit in the living room wondering why all the servants quit the day before, and if your assistant is ever going to call you back. The only connection to the outside world is the radio, and it's hard to get real information between the crying and praying on almost every channel. On the pop station, the dj says over and over that it's only a matter of time. Your father tells you to switch to the AM band because they have more sense on AM, goddammit.

 

You hear reports of death and destruction all over the country, and all you can think is that you hope LA is okay. Even after reports of people dead in their cars, you imagine Rodeo Drive the same as it ever was, untouched by nasty things like war, sickness and death. How could a place a beautiful as Hollywood ever be destroyed? No one messes with LA, you say, and your father won't look you in the eye.

 

When the electricity goes out that night, your eyes fill with frustrated tears, and you light the scented candles you'd been saving for a special occasion. The radio runs on batteries, but they won't last long. Your father tells you to conserve them, and stop leaving the radio on so much. You tell him to shut up, and that you can afford thousands of batteries. The man on the radio says that much of the east coast is destroyed, along with Detroit and Chicago. He says that the radiation is coming west at an alarming rate, and you wish you had a map so you'd know what that meant. Instead of worrying, you get out that limited edition pink nail polish and give yourself a pedicure. It isn't until you spill the bottle, and nail polish gets all over the carpet that you realize you can't stop crying.

 

 

In the morning, your dad tells you that your mother is very sick, and he doesn't feel so well himself. You roll your eyes and tell them to take some pepto, but on the inside, you can't deal with the possibility of them dying and leaving you alone, so you go back to your room and sit in front of the window. Your yard looks the same. There is no death and destruction on your property, but you wonder what's changed outside of your front gates.

 

In the afternoon, you bring your four gold records and three Grammy awards up to your room so you can look at them. Your finger traces your name on the awards over and over, and you can't comprehend how someone who has accomplished so much in such a short time should be allowed to go through something as horrible as this. You're a star, for God's sake, you deserve better than this.

 

 

  Your father is calling your name in the hall. He sounds sick. His voice breaks repeatedly, and he's gagging between words. You don't want him to throw up on the carpet in the hall, but you keep your mouth shut. If he does, the cleaning woman will take care of it tomorrow. You pull the blankets and close your eyes. Your father's voice sounds farther and farther away now as you clutch the Grammy close to your chest and squeeze your eyes shut.

 

Tomorrow you'll wake up and things will be better. Tomorrow you'll be on the Tonight Show, and be as charming as ever. Tomorrow your agent will apologize for not calling. Tomorrow you'll still be a star.

 

 

 

The Return By Kent Bechthold

 

In 1965, I was twenty-three years old and was studying to become a high school language and literature teacher. An early, September spring was in the air, and very, very early one morning, I was studying in my room. My house was the only apartment building in that block, and we lived on the sixth floor.

 

I was feeling sort of lazy, and every now and then I'd let my gaze wander out the window. From there I could see the street and, just beyond the sidewalk across the street, the manicured garden of old Don Cesareo whose house occupied the corner lot, the one which was cut off diagonally at the corner; hence, his house had the shape of an irregular pentagon.

 

Next to Don Cesareo's stood the beautiful home of the Bernasconi family, lovely people who used to do nice, kind things. They had three daughters, and I was in love with the eldest, Adriana. So, every once in a while I cast a glance toward the sidewalk across the way, more out of a habit of the heart than because I expected to see her at such an early hour.

 

As was his custom, old Don Cesareo was watering and caring for his beloved garden which was separated from the street level by a low iron fence and three stone steps.

 

The street was deserted, so my attention was unavoidably drawn to a man who appeared in the next block and was advancing toward ours along the same sidewalk that ran in front of the homes of Don Cesareo and the Bernasconis. Why wouldn't my attention be attracted by that man, since he was a beggar or a tramp, a veritable rainbow of dark-colored rags?

 

Bearded and skinny, his head was covered by a yellowish, misshapen straw hat. Despite the heat, he was enveloped in a tattered, grayish overcoat. In addition, he was carrying a huge, dirty sack, and I assumed he kept in it the alms and remains of food he collected.

 

I continued to observe. The tramp stopped in front of Don Cesareo's house and asked him for something through the iron bars of the fence. Don Cesareo was a mean old man with an unpleasant personality; without acknowledging anything, he simply made a gesture with his hand as if to send the fellow on his way. But the beggar seemed to be insisting in a low voice, and then I did hear the old man shout clearly:

 

 

"Go on, you, get out of here, and don't bother me!"

 

Nevertheless, the tramp again persisted, and now he even went up the three stone steps and struggled a bit with the iron gate. Then, losing his meager patience completely, Don Cesareo pushed him away with a fierce shove. The beggar slipped on the wet stone, tried unsuccessfully to grab hold of a bar, and fell violently to the ground. In the same, lightning-flash instant, I saw his legs splayed upward toward the sky, and I heard the sharp crack of his skull as it struck the first step.

 

Don Cesareo ran down to the street, bent over him, and felt his chest. Frightened, the old man immediately grabbed him by the feet and dragged him out to the curb. He then went into his house and shut the door, in the certainty that there had been no witnesses to his unintentional crime.

 

The only witness was me. Soon a man passed by and he stopped next to the dead beggar. Then came others and still others, and the police came too. The panhandler was put in an ambulance and taken away.

 

That's all there was to it, and the matter was never spoken of again.

 

For my part, I was very careful not to open my mouth. I probably behaved badly, but what was I to gain from accusing that old man who had never done me any harm? On the other hand, it hadn't been his intention to kill the panhandler, and it didn't seem right to me that a legal proceeding should embitter the final years of his life for him. I thought the best thing would be to leave him alone with his conscience.

 

Little by little, I gradually forgot the episode, but every time I saw Don Cesareo, I experienced a strange sensation on thinking that he didn't know I was the only person in the world aware of his terrible secret. From then on, I don't know why, I avoided him, and I never dared speak to him again.


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