Never in a Million Light Years
“I do respect something,” I said. “I respect the moon.”
Dad flinched and, in that moment, although he didn’t quite understand me, because we were two different people, so total understanding would be impossible, he fathomed my problems at school. You’re not like me, his flinch told me, but we’re the same: unlike them. They’re sentient, even smart (some smarter than you), and a lot are damn nice, but people like us? We throw a Monkey Wrench into their whole system because, see, the authority figures want you to think, but …. it messes up their lesson plans.
Dad gazed through the window at the moon and shrugged. “Hell, I respect it too, Charlie. And I respect the guys at NASA, but I bet they had trouble in school!” He laughed. “Was a time, not too long ago, discussing black holes could get you sent to the principal’s or at least sidelined at the sock-hop.” Under his polo shirt with the company logo, the pooch in Dad’s stomach tightened like when best friends laugh and laugh until they can hardly breathe because something is not just funny, but so true and unsayable that tears stream out their eyes with the saying-it-ness. Even though he’d told me bedtime stories about his boyhood since before I knew any words, it dawned on me that light years ago Dad had been young. Maybe he’d never looked at the moon the way I did, but he looked at other things and saw them unfiltered.
“You gotta learn the dance,” he said. “I never could—I have bad rhythm, my own drummer, two left feet—and if you’re a super-genius, like the guys at NASA, you don’t have to learn it, but there is a dance and,” he sucked in a long breath then let it out as mindfully as a meditator, “people like us, who might be,” he pinched his fingers together, “one dot removed from Super-Genius would be advised to learn it.” Then he laughed again, but his laugh tasted sad. “Maybe more than a dot.” He looked at the moon, and then back at me and collected himself like he was quoting a price to a difficult customer, “I never could dance that dance, Charlie, but if you can learn it, it will let a lot of nice people into your life. That’s how neurotypicals connect. And if you don’t learn it, you’ll be dependent on people who did.” That’s when I first understood that my Dad wasn’t happy.
I looked at the moon and wondered what mystery he had seen too clearly. He laughed. “Woodgrain. I never told you about the cabinet I built?” and then, quietly to himself but looking at the moon as if it had asked him, “No.” He shook his head in agreement with something the moon whispered, “I would never tell that story.” Turning back to me, he said, “But I still have the screwdriver! Solid steel with an ebony handle painted green, lacquered to a finish that rivaled all the Malachite in the Winter Palace.” And he segued into a story about Catherine the Great’s handsome handyman. I snuggled under covers, listening as two waves washed over me, one wave gratefully lost in the story, and the other knowing that although Dad would try his best, he would never, in a million light years, solve my problems at school.
About the Author
MFC Feeley wrote a series of ten stories inspired by the Bill of Rights for Ghost Parachute and has published in Best Micro-Fictions, SmokeLong, Jellyfish Review, Brevity Blog, Liar’s League, and others. She has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, The Pushcart Prize, and has judged for Mash Stories and Scholastic. More at MFC Feeley/Facebook and on Twitter MFC Feeley @FeeleyMfc.