Flash Fiction Friday: Screaming Into the Void

Hello Readers, Writers, and Friends,

I broke my toe.

The breaking of a toe functions as a physiological insult. My gait, my balance, my activity level: all these things and more are in total disarray because of a bone less than an inch long and its unfortunate contact with a large glass jar of green chilies. The jar was unharmed. And this whole affair is the more to be lamented because there is so little one can do for a broken toe besides ice it, stay off it, tape it to a neighboring toe for stability, and hope for the best as the weeks needed for healing go by.

The whole situation is excessively stupid.

That is not why I didn’t post last week. That had to do with school ending and child related craziness. Similar amounts of craziness have ensued this week due to the toe situation. But despite the ever present throbbing, I am here with you to write a little something.

This week’s prompts are: astronaut, bounced check

We hiked into the desert to watch the lunar eclipse on the 15th. My camera wasn’t quite up tot he task, but it was glorious to witness.

It takes a real sense of calm and discipline to become an astronaut. It takes all kinds of other things too, but if you are going to resent out into the black void, then ensuring you maintain the machinery of your mind and body are crucial. They screen way more vigorously for the right mental attributes than for physical strength or academic prowess.

So when a micro comet knocked out the outbound communications equipment, and the backup was patchy at best, we didn’t panic. We knew we were due to switch out with the next team in the coming month. They would bring new equipment with them when mission control realized they weren’t getting good responses from us beyond acknowledging we had gotten their messages. No big deal.

We went about our daily tasks: training in the zero gravity to keep our muscle density up, checking the various experiments and recording the relevant data, we even got our normal messages from home.

Three days in, that’s when it happened.

I opened the blinking light of my notifications to find a message from the bank. And a message from the company that owned my mortgage.

My check had bounced.

“What?!”

My exclamation was so loud in the relative confines of the station that it drew half the crew.

They all just stared at me, waiting.

“The check bounced,” was all I could say.

It didn’t make sense. It was set to automatic withdrawal. My wife would have been sure to put enough money in the right account. This had to be a mistake.

“You fix when you land,” assured my hefty Russian colleague. “They won’t take astronaut’s house.”

My Russian friend was clearly unaware that in America the banks didn’t care who you were if you didn’t pay your mortgage.

But more than the stupid check and the status of my loan I couldn’t stop thinking about Patty. What had happened to my wife that our affairs were in such a state of disarray? Here I was eating food that had to be slurped out of a pouch, doing hours of physical labor just to maintain enough muscle mass not to be crushed by earth’s gravity on return to earth, doing important science that might change the future of humanity and what was she doing?

Not keeping track of the bills, that was for dang sure.

I could almost imagine that I saw our house imploding through the window as I stared down on entirely the wrong continent.

“I have to talk to her!” I said.

Everyone just shook their heads. The broadcast time was too unpredictable, too unstable. It had to be used only for necessary comms with mission control.

“So your wife ran away, big deal.” My Russian friend was trying to console me again. “I have lost three wives already. It is what you do when you are in space all the time.”

But he didn’t know Patty and me. We were in love. We were true partners. How could she do this? Was she ok? Maybe she was in the hospital. Maybe she was in an accident of some kind. Maybe she was in tahiti with that personal trainer from down the block that she was always talking to on Facebook.

“I have to talk to Patty!” I made a lunge for the hallway that led to the comm capsule. But it was four against one. They velcroed me into a sleeping bag and then to the wall.

I’m told I screamed for the better part of two days before I lost my voice, but I don’t really remember.

They transferred me into the return shuttle like that, all trussed up.

It turns out Patty fine and it was a bank error. And as it turns out I have a real sense of calm and discipline as long as I can talk to my wife. That’s why I work from home now.

A quick confession. As I was italicizing the text I added a line. I know that’s kind of a no-no, but I couldn’t resist. Which is why you don’t go back and reread things that are meant to be one-off pieces. No review, no corrections, so no point in rereading it. But I thought I should tell you that fell prey to the temptation and cheated, a tiny bit. I hope I am forgiven, and I’m wondering if you can tell which line came after the fact.

~Anika

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