We were told the average background color of the universe was turquoise. She said “that’s because a coyote ripped it from the mountains outside Cerrillos. But now they say it’s actually a shade of dark beige, drying mud colored.” It was a glitch in the software, the astronomers said. The coyote was unmoved.
She sits on the floor sorting coupons and roughly clipped articles on herbs and natural remedies. Occasionally she looks down at the hollow of her chest, at the still reddened slash left by the scalpel. “I’ve got no veins left. I hate those damn needles. If they want to poison me, I’ll drink it gladly. Socrates had nothing on me.”
I rub her feet as she slides into the MRI tube, and pull on her toes. “I can pull you out at any time.” I look at my wrist but there is no time in this room, checked at the door. Just the metronomic magnet. As she emerges she grabs my hand, presses it against my chest. I cradle her head and trace the scar across her scalp, trying to touch the missing brain matter, the tumor it nestled, pushing aside the brittle hair. “Lightly toasted,” she whispers with a weak smile. She hates white coats and stethoscopes. “They’re the new morticians.” They take her in small sections. She is a slide collection in the back of my closet, on the pathologists shelf. I want to gather them all and reassemble her. I want her to be a young girl of fifteen again.
Coyotes wander down from the Sandia hills. They gather outside the Santo Domingo Pueblo, sensing the slow seepage of heat from the sun baked adobe. There is no moon. They know each star. They stare into the darkened sky. They see only turquoise.
The great minds in Transportation have decided that the answer to all traffic problems is simple, you replace troublesome intersections with traffic circles, but you call them roundabouts. They know that the young and wish they were in their muscle cars will avoid them like the plague, for even they cannot defeat centrifugal force, and inertia is one thing they never lack. And for the old, the plodding, either they won’t enter the circle, or will revolve around its center like a small planet bound tightly to its star marking the center, and then only after they have paused for an indeterminite period, trying to figure out how to get in, where to get out and wishing they had called Uber to begin with. And I, behind them know, I can take this time to get in a day’s meditation counting my breath.
One of these days soon the sun will again get angry, will blow off steam and all manner of signals will get the message loud if not clearly. The sun can get away with it and we accept it, if not willingly but begrudgingly. When we blow off such steam cities melt, and the angry one is condemned for crimes against humanity or avoiding greater loss. In the final analysis, however, it is probably better to simply be a star where fits of pique are expected and tolerated.
Pluto is now undecided though that does not seem to trouble many. It was one thing to be a god, albeit always thought of as lesser, for that is what happens when you rule a place no one wants to visit, like being the greeter at the door of the largest Wal-Mart in Hell. It was nice being a planet, even if no one ever visited, but that was taken away by those who now deem themselves gods, replacing all of his peers and consigning them to orbit a star that has no real name. But now they say, just perhaps, Pluto is a planet, and that has given rise to a debate, while no one asks Pluto’s opinion, and he just wants to be left alone in his dark corner of the solar system.
Tonight, if the sky remains mostly cloudless I will go out into the yard and select a star. The selection is easy, dragging it into the garage unseen is a far more difficult task. It will have to be a rather small star, a neutron would do but with my bad back the weight might be too difficult to bear. If I cannot find the right star, I will try again the next night, and the next until I succeed and prove mother right, that I can do anything I set my mind on doing.
His brother said that if you left the windows open at night, the ghosts would come in and might steal your soul. He didn’t care, he wanted to hear the song the stars sang every night, to see them come down and move in pairs across the mesa, for stars, he knew turned orange when they left their celestial perch, and would certainly keep the ghosts away, for ghosts were like rabbits and hid when the stars came near, and once in a while, if a ghost moved too slowly he would hear its cry as it was captured by a star. And, he was certain, ghosts preferred doors, and they kept theirs tightly locked, for you never knew what you’d find out on the mesa.
Each night I stare up at the sky, scanning for the one star that is there solely to answer whatever entreaties I choose to make. It is said that we each have a lucky star, but perhaps, given the ever-expanding population of the world, mine is just too dim to see from the city in which I live, or perhaps, I simply haven’t found it, and addressing someone else’s star brings you nothing, not even thanks from the lucky soul who won the big lottery last week all at my urging, I mean how could I know it was their star I addressed with my request, it isn’t like they wear name tags after all. Still, I don’t give up trying, though I often swear that Orion and Cassiopeia spend a portion of every evening together just laughing their celestial asses off at me.