“Outer Life”

While coming back to his home, the man had stopped off at a store and picked up a place mat of the solar system. It had all the moons, the asteroid belt, and nine planets, including the now demoted Pluto, his favorite. He liked to imagine himself on the icy surface shooting flares out into space. The flares were for any aliens coming into the Milky Way. He wanted to warn them about this one planet that was quite unhappy about being happy. He wanted to make sure that no one else got the disease. The man also figured that he would show the alien race her rubber band ball, and tell them that it was the greatest invention Earth could offer.

He slapped the place mat on the armoire and hovered over it. The man was intrigued by his ninety-six cent purchase. The place mat even had how many miles it took to get from Earth to any of the other planets. He brought his face real close, eyeing Pluto's mileage:

Two trillion, six hundred and sixty six billion miles…

The large number caused him to imagine an even bigger number, and even that was not enough to measure the distance between them. He opened the window and admired the quiet night. Clear sky–great for rubber band shooting. The man opened the bottom drawer and grabbed a couple of the loose ones, flinging them out the third-story window as a cool breeze glided across his face. They were for her hair.

He started taking off his clothes, stripping in front of the window so his skin could feel a bit of the breeze. The man, now only in black-striped boxers, put the rubber band ball on top of the place mat and smiled: The start of an empire, he thought.

He got into a sleeping bag next to the bed, leaving behind Pluto and all that space up there.

After settling into a spot, the man reached inside his pillowcase and grabbed a picture of her from a couple of years ago. He could barely see the picture, but the moonlight was strong enough to let him see the outline of her face. And at times, when the clouds got out of the way, he could see her whole face, clear and easy. As he did often, he would look at her until the moon rose too high for light to pass through his window. Slowly his eyes would shut, finding rest in the darkness, where she was sitting…somewhere.

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Patrick Parr

About Patrick Parr

Currently I live with my wife in Bellevue, Washington, where I teach English at the University of Washington. In 2014 I was awarded an Artist Trust Fellowship for my literary work. Previous work has appeared in The Humanist and The Kyoto Journal, among others.