“Ship’s leaving,” I announce. “Hand me my helmet?” We face each other, eyes narrow, our fingers tangled up. His top hat is eleven inches tall and I’m surprised it doesn’t blow off.

“Will you come back?” he shouts over the engines, his beard whipping back and forth.

I nod and smile. It’s a lie we both need. Roger kisses me through my face shield, leaving exhalation fog on the glass.

I clank and clang down the metal ramp. A man with giant ear muffs meets me and he spins a heavy wheel which opened a heavier door. I step inside and buckle up.

Though a window I can see Roger down on the ground, waving good-bye with the rest of Proxima B. Everyone’s perched in the same red convertible. Tears in all of their eyes. I’m crying too. Roger’s top hat gets smaller and smaller along with everything.

Once the main booster falls off I calm down a bit. Everything stops shaking. We’re through the Oort clouds now. I float out of my seat and slip it in my back pocket on my way to cryosleep.

When I wake up, Earth is blue as ever and Roger has been dead for eighty-thousand years. I wonder if he ever found the letter I left him in his sock drawer. Tucked under his favorite pair. The letter said, I love you. Be happy.

I let my water float up out of its bottle and slurp the globs as they float by. Orbit takes a few days. I’m aiming for a Sunday landing.

Dust is mucking up my sensors so descent is a bit touch and go. But I score a nice spot at Quik Park. It smells like trash. Must be all the trash.

I make my way to 9th and west 46th. A hostile waitress seats me in a corner booth. I’ve been training for this my entire career. I wave my hand, no menu.

“I’ll have the eight ounce country beef burger deluxe. LTOP. With fries please. And a mint chocolate shake.”

She scribbles on her pad and walks away. The Galaxy Diner is buzzing with chatter and silverware on heavy white porcelain. The striped awning out the window is flapping in the summer breeze.

6 Comments

  1. Lisa Moore

    Hi Anna,

    This is a trip. What is love when there are interstellar burgers to be had?

    I loved the tone, how it sets us up initially to expect some scientifically-significant mission. I laughed when we find out the narrator has been training for years to order a burger (no menu. lol.) I smiled as I read this. I didn’t know what was going to come next and if it hadn’t been for the title I would never have guessed this was where were heading.

    (Also, Roger’s top hat and beard and red convertibles. What perfect, weird details.) I don’t think I’d change anything.

    Great work.

  2. Bud Smith

    Hello Anna,
    You killed this one. haha.
    What an absurd and poignant story. What is the meaning of life? It’s to live and order a hamburger that’s what it is. If you want a hamburger you go out and get it. This part of the story made me sit up straight, damn, “When I wake up, Earth is blue as ever and Roger has been dead for eighty-thousand years. I wonder if he ever found the letter I left him in his sock drawer. Tucked under his favorite pair. The letter said, I love you. Be happy.” That’s some incredible writing right there. She’s been training her whole career for this moment <3 !!! "I make my way to 9th and west 46th. A hostile waitress seats me in a corner booth. I’ve been training for this my entire career. I wave my hand, no menu.
    “I’ll have the eight ounce country beef burger deluxe. LTOP. With fries please. And a mint chocolate shake.”
    She scribbles on her pad and walks away. The Galaxy Diner is buzzing with chatter and silverware on heavy white porcelain. The striped awning out the window is flapping in the summer breeze."

  3. Martha Jackson Kaplan

    Anna, A love story with time and travel complications. Love the details, especially this paragraph––”I clank and clang down the metal ramp. A man with giant ear muffs meets me and he spins a heavy wheel which opened a heavier door. I step inside and buckle up.” And isn’t love all relative?

    Love the nod to the lower west side, NY, and the faith that it is still there, garbage or no. The letter left to Roger, pure poignancy.

    One depiction feels a little bumpy. This: “It smells like trash. Must be all the trash.” Something smoother like: “I can smell the trash before I see it. Or you could: “The whole place is covered with trash. Stinks!”

    Nice work on this love-sci-fi story.

  4. Amy Barnes

    Great title! Love the play on getting food/Logan’s Run reference (if you intended that 🙂 The 11 inch tall top hat instantly intrigues me — for the focus on the height and the fact the character is wearing a top hat. But then you follow that up with of all things — a man with giant ear muffs (!) Feels very steam punky just from those descriptions and without saying the words.

    From that backdrop, you drop us further into a romp through Oort clouds, cryosleep, boosters, orbiting — all such great ways of doing SF without being overtly SF. The love letter in the sock drawer might be my favorite part in the time traveling — so poignant. And then the kind of blase ordering of a hamburger and shake. Such a great grounding moment. A wonderful surprise to get sci-fi in such a wonderful weekend of reading!

  5. Neil Clark

    I loved this!

    A couple of really aching depictions of departure ad separtaion that I loved –

    ““Will you come back?” he shouts over the engines, his beard whipping back and forth. I nod and smile. It’s a lie we both need.”

    and

    “Roger’s top hat gets smaller and smaller along with everything.”

    Then the contrast of “Roger has been dead for eighty-thousand years.” with “I wonder if he ever found the letter I left him in his sock drawer.” wow.

    The concept of space and way you condense time at the end with the cryosleep and the protagonist waking up having to deal with everything in their life being gone while others are just getting on with their lives – right up my street and you delivered it perfectly. Great piece, Anna.

  6. David O'Connor

    So glad I got to read this, viva Galaxy Diner! A lot of layers and fantastic details! Thanks for sharing and the weekend!!

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