88. Under the Milky Way

Dim stars burned like distant pinpricks through a blacked out window. “If I had to put a label on it I’d guess… it’s yet another anti-establishment song about divorced parents fucking up your life.”

Bart drank some Yoo Hoo and looked at me. “I suppose that’s one way of looking at it.” He was still looking at me when he said “Do you think you’ll ever see your parents again?”

I didn’t answer him right away. Bart knew more about me than anyone else I knew. Well, except Remo, who was there for most of it. I answered him as honestly as I could. “I don’t know. Part of me wishes that some day down the road I’ll, you know, meet my mother again and … and we’ll have an understanding of each other, like they always do at the ends of movies. But it’ll never happen. I’ve got no idea where she is now or anything. And Digger…” I had to pause to breathe, like I’d sucked too much air in. “I kind of hope he’ll keep to himself.”


“Because…” Thin clouds reflected the city glow around the eastern horizon and I turned my head to the west. “You know, I’m kind of afraid of him.”

“Why?” Bart said again, this time more incredulous than curious.

“You tell me,” I said, shaking my head. “What’s your Grand Bart Theory about that?”

That got him brainstorming a little. “Because you’re afraid he’ll take over your life, or that he won’t approve of you, or that he’ll fuck things up for you, or that you’ll find out you hate him. Or you’ll find out you don’t hate him as much as you think. How’m I doing so far?”

I tried to laugh but it just came out a choke. Bart was the master of pop psych but I wasn’t sure how often he knew he hit home. “Better just say all of the above to be on the safe side,” I said. “Someday he’ll turn up, and I’m sure he’ll want something. You know, he called on the phone…. ugh.” I cracked my knuckles. “Creepy. I wonder if he knows where I live.”

Bart opened his mouth like he wanted to say something, then changed his mind and knocked me on the shoulder. “Yeah,” he said instead of whatever it was. “He’ll want a piece of your publishing rights. Every song about parental angst he’ll want royalties for.”

Ziggy’s the one writing parental angst songs, I almost said, but I couldn’t deny that I had a couple in the hopper myself. “You know, every song we do can’t be about fucked up people and fucked up relationships.”

“Candlelight isn’t about fucked up people or relationships.”

“No, it’s about death.”

“It isn’t really.”

“Yes it is, it’s about being in church and thinking about your own funeral.”

“Only that one verse. I think the overall theme is about finding joy and beauty in unexpected places.” He gestured with the bottle toward the sky glow. The far off hush of cars rushing down the Mass Pike and Soldier’s Field Road ran in the background. “Don’t you think?”

What I thought was that I couldn’t remember now which lyrics Ziggy had written and which ones I had written, and that there was a pretty fine line between optimism and pessimism. It was a sad fucking song no matter what. “Whatever.” I hunched down inside that leather coat Belle had given me in New York. “I’m getting cold.”

“Me too.”

We went inside and Bart took off soon after. I sat down in the living room and watched part of a movie with Christian–some western where some guy was getting whipped to death. Lovely. I decided I had seen enough and went to my room.

When I couldn’t sleep I got out my classical guitar and played until my brain stopped working and the tips of my fingers burned.


    • ctan says:

      Thank you!

      And how’s this for an odd serendipity? I’m in Wyoming this week at a writers conference, specifically a science fiction writers conference where they’re teaching us a crash course in astronomy. So I’ve spent the past three nights looking at the Milky Way (which can be seen quite clearly here).


  • Kate B says:

    I know! I’ve been reading and enjoying your posts about it. I miss living in Samoa, where the power would go off over the whole island at once (and once that’s gone there’s no lights for hundreds and hundreds of miles of ocean), and you could lie on your back and look up and see *everything*. It’s amazing.

  • Love this story. So glad I found it.

  • ctan says:

    @Carrie — so glad you’re enjoying it!

    @Kate — Laramie actually has a bit more light pollution than is ideal, but at 7500 ft elevation, the air is nice and thin and easy to see through. 🙂

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