Archive | February, 2014

Ugh.

28 Feb

After a ridiculous amount of searching, fiddling, praying and sorcery, I finally found the little check box that puts a home page button in the menu bar.

And I’m like:

Victory Baby

Also,  hopefully that will make the blog a lot easier to navigate. Sorry ’bout that!

Welcome Back Prompt

28 Feb

So here is my response to the “Welcome Back” prompt. I actually finished it a week or two after the prompt was given, and I was holding off posting it so I could give it the once-over for grammar and stuff. But then I went to look at it, and realized I really didn’t want to read it. So here you go. It’s unedited, rife with typos, crappy melodramatic dialogue, and  possibly some undertones of the Fantastic Four. Enjoy.

Welcome Back: Create a short scene in which a character who has been gone for an extended period of time returns. Who does your character encounter? What has changed, and what hasn’t? What kept him or her away for so long?

Clap! Clap! Clap! Would he ever get used to that sound? Eric wondered as his cane struck the museum’s linoleum floor. It sounded so much louder here, resounding around the atrium. The rocket ships and kites hung from the ceiling were supposed to inspire wonder and joy in the children who ran these halls every day from nine to seven. The tinker-toy computer and soaring meteorite placed like a finely wrought sculpture in the garden were supposed to amaze parents and chaperones. This place used to inspire wonder and joy and awe and inspiration in him. All of it. Every exhibit, every show, from the most cutting edge scientific displays to the children’s’ play area. The wonders of science, he used to smile and think as he strolled these halls, cane free. Oh the possibilities. Possibilities indeed.

Eric let his eyes take one more swept around the soaring white walls and brilliant windows, twinkling with shadows as the moon glittered on the river outside. And the stars. Enough shapeless gray clouds hung in the sky that the stars weren’t poking through. Even if the night had been clear, the city’s ceaseless light pollution would have taken care of them. Good, Eric though as he drew his vision back inside the darkened museum. His gaze flitted immediately to the space shuttle hanging on its cables before the entrance to the museum’s air and space wing, and threatening to dwarf every other item in the entryway. His grip tightened around the top of the cane. Old habit, he shrugged, clamping down hard on his teeth. How many times had he paused on his way to and from the museum’s adjacent research facility? Every day. His credentials would no longer get him through security there, but the lab wasn’t his destination. But perhaps . . . he let himself wonder before he could draw his eyes away. The sleek curves of the shuttle guided the eye along its back. Every rivet, every panel held him there on that square of well-warn linoleum. Maybe. . . Eric took a small step toward it. Maybe . . . Clap!

That horrible, horrible sound ricocheted off on every item on display, and every open inch of the three story atrium, breaking Eric from his trance. “Damn it,” he muttered aloud. Everything about this place made it worse, the sound, the cane, the memories, all of it. “What am I even doing here?” He turned toward the door, ready to storm out as best he could., but something stopped him. Maybe it was the lull of the moonlight on the river, or the stillness of the shadows overlapping each other as they stretched across the floor, growing deeper each time they met. Maybe it was the silent call of the shuttle and the exhibits beyond that door and all they had once promised that made Eric shut his eyes and release the stale, angry breath pent up in his chest. Ah well, he was already here. Besides, he dared to wonder for the briefest of moments, how much longer could he stand dwelling on this moment?

With another deep and purposeful breath, Eric set off in the opposite direction of the shuttle. Books and plush animals sat propped in the gift shop’s seamless glass window wall. Across the hall, the rickety old metal grating was pulled down to block off the cafeteria. As he made his way down the wide, dark hallway, the Clap! Clap! Clap! of the cane slowly faded into the distance as its rhythmic strikes merged with the thump of Eric’s heartbeat pounding in his ears. The closer he got, the faster both beats tapped away. Past the restrooms, past the musical staircase, past the dinosaur skeleton and the flight simulator. There. Where the hallway widened back up into a multistory room, this one dotted with benches and tables. Where up two rounded, carpet-covered steps, the doorways to three separate theaters awaited their guests. On the left, the five story omnitheater, with a curved panoramic screen for showing IMAX films. On the right, the smaller stadium theater for 3D films, or with the screen removed to reveal the stage, for lectures and presentations. But in the middle . . .

The dark carpet felt warm and familiar under Eric’s feet as he mounted the two little steps. With an exaggerated breath he relished the smells of old carpet and must and feet. Welcome back. The brass sculptures of the solar system spread through the room lit the way, bathed in low blue security lighting. Plexiglass displays boards lined the walls, entertaining waiting guests with facts Eric knew by heart.

He wove through the room and around the rope gates arranged to hold the daily lines in a neat folded pattern. He ducked under the final rope and clasped his hand on the long brass doorknob. The cool metal tingled under his palm. This was it. With a slight heave he hauled open the heavy door and stepped through. Orange track lights ran quietly along the edges of the isle, leading down and around each section of reclining seats. The rubber foot of the cane came down on the carpet almost silently, and paused there as Eric craned his neck up to the white domed ceiling of the planetarium. Before he could stop it, his lips curled into a smile. Eric almost had to laugh. Of all the places that had made him happy, all the things that used to make him dream, this was his favorite. That blank, spherical ceiling promised to take him anywhere. The cracks in the plaster, the must of the large but windowless room. If anything could bring back a hint of that old light . . . No wonder he had been dreaming about coming back here for so long. No wonder he couldn’t quite let go.

Eric slipped his old key into the projection booth’s lock and held his breath as the metal grated against the tumblers inside. With a final jerk, the key spun sideways and the door unlocked with a bright click. With a glance back toward the door, he slipped silently inside.

His fingers fell lightly on the control panel. He felt around for certain levers, but he didn’t have to go far; his instincts took over and his hands moved instinctively over the dark surface. He almost laughed again. Of all the flights simulators and air craft controls, this is the set his hands remembered. The cane, resting against the angled counter, slid down and caught in the crook of the corner as Eric turned the master key. The lights riming the bottom of the dome went dark and the barbell shaped projector came to life, rotating slowly on its black metal tripod set into the middle of the floor. The night sky appeared before him. He pushed the slider beneath is ring finger as high as it would go, cutting out all simulated light pollution and pushing the stars into brilliant focus. Millions of stars glistened across the sky. Eric’s eyes flicked back and forth across the ceiling, darting from star to star and connecting the dots between constellations like a child doing a puzzle from memory.

When he’d had his fun across the Earth’s night sky, he slid the plastic bars and twisted the knobs, changing the projector mode to the digital simulation. The stars faded away and the planet Earth took their place on the ceiling, a blue and green globe dotted with a patchwork of white clouds, an Earth seen from orbit. With his finger on the Date/Time slider, Eric rotated the brightly lit Earth into a nighttime darkness that fell over the planet as if someone had pulled down a shade. Points of yellow incandescence marked cities and towns of the darkened planet. But Planet Earth wasn’t why he had come. Eric slid his fingers two keys over, to one that controlled distance. He took an guilty, excited breath, feeling his heart flutter.

Every so slowly, Eric pushed the slider forward. Earth retreated, shrinking into the distance as the “camera” pulled away. The rocky craters of the moon loomed into view in the edge of his vision. Not far enough. He pushed the slider more and more. The view on the ceiling sped farther and farther away, to Mars, to Jupiter, past Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, through the Kuiper belt, then out of the Oort Cloud and away from the Solar System. His finger pressed harder, and the graphics sped on, pulling out to display the Orion Arm, and then the entire Milky Way. As the slider moved up, even that familiar spiral disappeared, melting away into just a point among a sea of galaxies. Eric released the slide, letting the projection continue on, sailing freely through the know universe.

“Things don’t look as bad from way out there, do they?”

Eric jumped. His weight shifted awkwardly to his bad leg, and it buckled under him. He grabbed quickly and fiercely to the edges of the control panel to keep himself from falling. Slender hands caught his biceps and helped him straighten up.

“I’ve got it Jenna.”

“Right,” she coughed and tucked her hands quickly into the pockets of her lab coat. Eric turned slowly back toward the projection room’s open window, favoring his leg with every step. He clung to the control panel, but refused to reach for his cane. Jenna shifted her weight, hesitant to break the silence again.

“How did you know I was here?”

“Mac let me know. He came and told me he had let you in.”

“I was glad to see he’s still working the night shift.

“He’s always been a nice guy, especially to the lab personnel.”

“Plus, I didn’t really have a Plan B.”

Eric fiddled with the projector settings, still not taking his eyes away from the stars.

“I wondered if you’d ever come back,” Jenna said. “We all did.”

“And . . ?”

“And?”

“Here I am.”

Jenna fidgeted with the ID badge clipped to her coat.

“It’s good to see you Eric. It . . . it really is,” she said. “We were all watching, you know. Johnny and Liz patched us into the NASA feed. We were all so proud of you.”

“We were . . .”

“We are. You know how much everyone here was rooting for you. How excited we all were when you got accepted into the space program, even if it meant losing one of our best researchers.”

“So you watched the shuttle go up?”

“Yeah. And we watched it come down. Eric, we didn’t know . . . It was days before we found out you had survived.”

“Days. Lucky you. Well for me it was months. It was surgeries and wheelchairs and doubts whether or not I would walk again! It was life support and physical therapy and pain! But I’m glad you watched it on TV.”

Jenna pursed her lips in a contemptuous frown. “This was a mistake. Have a nice life Eric.”

Something screamed inside Eric’s mind. Was an old steal projector really the only thing he’d come here to make peace with? As Jenna turned to go, he reached out and caught her forearm, causing her to spin back around. “Jenna please. I’m sorry. This is all . . .” he drew in a long breath. “This is bringing a lot of stuff up to the surface.”

She bit her lip. “I know. I’m sorry.” Another silence ensued, but a less anxious one. “The whole lab came to visit you.”

“I know. And I’m sorry I wouldn’t see you all but it was . . . a little too much.”

“Yeah, no, that was stupid of us.” Jenna brushed away a  blonde lock that had strayed from her ponytail and tucked it behind her ear. “Well believe me, we were thinking of you every step of the way.”

“Every step?” said Eric, leaning out a little on his bad leg.

“God damnnit!” said Jenna, throwing her hand up and digging her fingers through her bangs.

Eric chuckled. “It’s alright,” he said, placing a hand on her shoulder. The way they had shifted, the light from the stars still swirling out in the planetarium screen lit up Jenna’s soft face, her straight blonde bangs, her bright blue eyes glinting from under the square glasses frames balanced on her small nose. “God you haven’t changed a bit.”

“Really?” she laughed.

“Really. What’s so funny about that?”

“Five years is a long time.”

“Well, what have I missed?”

Jenna sighed. “Wow. Umm . . . Let’s see. I published a few articles. I got nominated for the Goodwin Award. Didn’t win. My dog died —“

“Not Hubble!”

“Yeah. So sad. I finally got a new dog not long ago, a black lab mix. I named him Kuiper.”

“Cute.”

“Thanks. Let’s see what am I missing?”

“A boyfriend?”

“Phew. Had a few boyfriends. Had another. Got engaged.” She rubbed her clearly empty ring finger with her thumb. “Got . . . disengaged.”

“Ouch.”

“You know it’s funny. Times like that are when I love my job the most. Staring at the rest of the universe all day, it kind of reminds you how little of all this matters.”

Eric smiled. “That’s what I came here expecting to feel. But as the shuttle was turning over there was a split second, before we knew just how much trouble we were in, when I caught a glimpse of the Earth, looking like it does on this projection. I could see Florida and Greenland and Spain and Chile with one sweep of my head. I spent my whole life dreaming about everything beyond Earth, but in that moment, I guess I realized just how much there is down here.”

Eric looked out at the planetarium dome, and watched the camera push past the moon. He must have hit the reverse button somewhere along the way and told the projector system to autopilot its way back. The image grew larger and larger, bathing the room in blues and greens and finally zooming in on the American Northeast.

Eric reached for his cane. Jenna placed a hand gently on his back. “Welcome home.”