“I still say, ‘Shoot for the moon; you might get there.'”
— Buzz Aldrin
It was a beautiful spring day, and Jeffrey was happy to be spending it with his daughter at the fair. There were rides, arcade booths, food stalls, and an overall air of sunny joy.
But even though Jeffrey smiled and laughed as little Gina pulled him toward the ticket kiosk, his heart was heavy. He worked for NASA, and he and his team would be going to space soon — more than that, they were going to the moon. It was an exciting trip, but long, and though his wife had nothing but support to give . . . he hadn’t yet told Gina. He didn’t know what to say nor how to say it. What words would a eight-year-old understand? How could he make his daughter see that he wasn’t abandoning her? Time was running out; this adventure would be their last together. It was now or never.
. . . Or perhaps not now now. Gina kept up a running commentary of things happening at school, what was on TV, etc. while they waited in line for tickets. When they went inside, the conversation turned to everything that she could see and smell and hear, and Jeffrey simply couldn’t get a word in edgewise. He forced himself to relax — there was still time — and just listened.
They went on the pirate ship ride, the one that swung slowly back and forth, then went faster and higher until the “ship” was practically upside down. Gina shrieked with delight the entire time. Then it was the mini rollercoaster that Jeffrey could barely squeeze into, and it was his turn to scream because he was sure he was just going to tumble out at any moment.
It was Gina’s idea to do the corn maze (to be fair, all the activities so far had been her idea), and Jeffrey was hesitant about splitting up but she insisted, and it was remarkably difficult to argue with a stubborn eight-year-old, so she went left and he went right — then after a few minutes, he double-backed down her path. But, being a maze, it hardly did any good, and he was likely as far from his daughter as he had been before. He kept along the winding paths, occasionally noticing her little footprint in the dirt. Then he heard a tiny sob and a plaintive, “Daddy?”
Heart in mouth, he barrelled through the wall of stiff corn stalks, ignoring the other maze-goers’ noises of disapproval. And there was Gina, looking all around. When she saw her father, her face crumpled and she rushed into his arms, crying softly.
“I tried to be brave, Daddy,” she said into his shirt. “But everything looks all the same, and I couldn’t find you . . . I want to stay with you always now, okay?”
And Jeffrey held her and held back his own tears. Relief at her being safe was slowly surpassed by dread: she would never understand him leaving for his job.
After that, he bought them ice cream, and the whole incident was forgotten when Gina broke apart her cone and fed the bits to inquisitive sparrows and then they had to extract themselves from a whole army of birds so they could go on more rides.
Gina wanted to save the Ferris wheel for last, so it was nightfall by the time they got in line. “I want to go to the tip top!” she insisted. And so, Jeffrey went and had a word with the operator, and they had to wait a while longer, but in the end, they got on the ride and the wheel turned and they stopped at the very top, their seat swinging slightly as Gina wriggled in happiness at being up so high.
“And look!” she pointed, “there’s the moon! It’s so close! That’s where you’re gonna be, right, Daddy?”
Jeffrey stared at her. “How did you know that?”
“I heard you and Mommy talking about it,” Gina said, looking pleased.
“And you’re . . . okay with it? I’m going to be gone for a long time. But I’ll come back, I promise,” he added quickly.
“I know that.” She waved an airy hand. “It’s okay. You’re going to be exploring, and that’s cool. Can you bring me back a rock from the moon?”
Jeffrey let out a burst of relieved laughter. “I’ll see what I can do.” He paused, the smile slipping from his face. “But what about in the maze? You were so scared without me.”
Gina tilted her head to the side. “That’s because I didn’t know where you were. But I can always see the moon . . . and I’ll know you’re there.”
“Oh,” was all Jeffrey could say, his throat tight.
She patted his hand. “Silly Daddy.”
Both father and daughter gazed up at the moon as the Ferris wheel began to turn again.
Yo, writer’s block got me in its clutches again; this week’s writing took forever to think of, and I just banged this thing out in an hour. I DON’T LIKE YOU, WRITER’S BLOCK.
This story was inspired by a prompt found in this book: Write the Story