“You can’t wait to be rid of me, can you?”

“Dad, that’s not true.”

Arthur Prince looked away and mumbled, “Bullshit.”

“Not in front of the girls, Art,” Ilene chided. Arthur peered across the table at his giggling granddaughters and with grave precision, pronounced, “Bullshit.”

His son, Ted Prince, sighed.

“Can’t say I blame you,” Arthur continued. “I’d want to be rid of me, too. I look half a corpse and smell like the other half.”


“Don’t! I hate being patronized almost as much as I hate this wheelchair.” Arthur tried to rotate his seat and failed. “You could have at least sprung for a hov-chair.”

Ted tried to keep his voice pleasant. “I’ve been doing a lot of research on Luna Springs and it’s top notch. The effect of lessened gravity and the increased solar exposure are supposed to—”

“Spare me the science lesson, son. It’s one thing to cart Grandpa off to a home, it’s another altogether to launch me to the fucking moon.”

Both granddaughters gasped.

“Okay,” said Ilene in her too-sweet voice, her eyes cold, “I think it’s time for Grandpa’s medicine.”

Arthur grew pale.

“I don’t want any,” he whispered.

“Why ever not?” Ted asked.

“I don’t like it.”

“It makes you happy,” they insisted.

“It makes me forget,” Arthur mumbled between spoonfuls of Dolvertid. Soon, his eyes grew glassy and a dull smile creased his face. The girls giggled at the thin line of drool dripping from his chin.

“There, that’s better,” Ilene pronounced as Arthur drifted off into nothingness. “Really, dear, I can’t wait until we get that man on the moon.”

Families crowded the launch platform, each with an elderly passenger in tow.

“See, they’ve got hov-chairs,” Arthur grumbled, as Ted wheeled his father toward the registration center. The doors were opened for them by gentlemen wearing sky-blue uniforms, the sigil of a smiling silver moon gleaming on their chests. Inside, an old woman’s voice could be heard screeching like a crow, “You’re launching us into the sun! Admit it! You’re shooting us straight into hell!”

Her family pretended not to hear her, smiling sheepishly at everyone else in line.

Some of the elderly stared silently at the shuttle with tears in their eyes. Some stared with anticipation. Most were on Dolvertid, and stared contentedly at nothing.

At Arthur’s insistence, the family had not given him any of the wonder drug. Ted acceded to the request, in part because they’d run out and refills were expensive, but also because he thought his daughters’ last memory of his father should be a lucid one.

When they reached the front of the line, Ted presented his ticket and signed the release forms. An instant later, two sky-blue orderlies appeared on either side of Arthur’s chair, and began wheeling him away. Arthur looked back toward his family.

“Please, let me stay.” Tears were running down his cheeks. They’d never heard him speak so humbly, so pleadingly before.

“I’ll try and be more pleasant,” Arthur continued, his voice trembling. “I’ll even take the damned happy drugs.” Ilene huffed.

The orderlies folded their arms. Ted paused. For so long he’d dreamt of a free schedule, an extra room, and a cease to unwanted querulous advice. Then he looked over to his wife.

“Bye, Dad,” he said, kissing his father’s forehead, “I know you’ll like it up there.”

Arthur’s eyes widened in pain.

“Girls, hug your grandpa.” They approached hesitantly, one and then the other. Arthur clutched them fiercely, until they started to shift uneasily and Ilene pulled them away. The family waved as Arthur was wheeled toward the rocket ship. With a face as still as stone, eyes red, Arthur stared blankly ahead.

The Princes went and stood with the other families on the observation deck as the shuttle began its countdown. As it reached ten seconds, everyone began chanting along.


They all cheered, some louder than others.

As the Princes drove home, Ted’s daughter Lisa asked, “Will Grandpa be okay?”

“Of course, he’ll be okay,” Ted snapped irritably. Ilene placed her hand on his arm.

“When can we visit him?”

Ted pretended not to hear the question and they did not repeat it.

“Yes, I’m here to see Arthur Prince.”

The receptionist looked up from her magazine.

“And you are…?”

“His son, Theodore Prince.” Who else would it be? “I made an appointment a month ago.”

“Let me see.” The receptionist tapped her holoscreen. “Well, we received your request but it says here our resident declined.”

“Yes, but there must have been a mistake.” Ted tried to peek around at the screen.

“Not according to our files,” the receptionist said in a serious voice, then tapped the screen dark.

“Listen, you don’t know my father. He’s stubborn, probably declined because he was upset or high on Dolvertid. He hasn’t seen any family in a year. I’m sure he’d enjoy the visit. Look,” Ted smiled, “I’m sure you can circumvent this, right?”

“I’m sorry sir, but we don’t go against lucid residents’ wishes here. It clearly states that he specifically does not want to see you.”

“Lucid? My father’s on a constant Dolvertid regimen! How does he know what he wants?!”

The receptionist’s eyes narrowed. She’d seen the type before. The guy spends a month’s salary to get up here only to be snubbed by a father he was probably desperate to get rid of. He was the fifth one she’d dealt with this month.

“According to my chart here,” she said sweetly, “your father is progressing along nicely and hasn’t received any Dolvertid in the last eight months.”

Ted paused.


She nodded.

“There’s no way, then, for me to see him?”

The receptionist consulted her holoscreen once more.

“Tell you what. I’ll give you a two-hour visiting pass to the commons. If you don’t mind visiting with the other residents, maybe you’ll run into him.”

Ted didn’t relish the idea of being foisted upon a herd of insensate geriatrics, but this trip had cost too much to leave without trying.

Luna Spring’s common room was not what he expected.

Rock music blared loudly over the speakers. There were no wheel- or hov-chairs. The residents walked around upright, laughing and flirting with each other like teenagers. They were…happy. Not the zonked out haze of Dolvertid, but the real thing.

And the smell! From visiting his grandparents as a child, Ted had memories of nursing homes smelling vaguely of piss and sour milk, but the aroma here was wonderful. Fresh flowers, perfume and cologne.

Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say?” came on over the speakers as Ted watched an old man dance between three cooing grandmothers, alternately pinching and kissing each of them on the cheek. There was something familiar about him…


The matrons unhitched themselves from Arthur. Ted’s father whispered something to them, and they departed, laughing softly. For a moment, Arthur looked so angry that Ted felt like a kid about to scolded. But then Arthur broke into a smile.

“So, you came anyway, eh?” Arthur clapped Ted hard on the shoulder. They shook hands. Ted was amazed at his father’s grip. For a moment, all he could do was stare.

“You’re walking! You can walk!”

“Nothing gets by you, son.”

“But how?”

“The orderlies gave me some mumbo jumbo about Daniel Stewart, this billionaire genius who wanted to live in the heavens before he died. I guess he did his research. They say the gravity’s lessened here, air’s purified, filtered with vitamins and proteins. Even the light’s better. Luna Springs is on a mobile foundation timed to keep optimum reflected sunlight at all hours.

“But, you know what I think? Earth was holding on too tightly. Once it let go, we got something back. It’s like being young again. The ladies here feel it, too.” Arthur gave his son a wink.

“You can’t mean—what about Mom?”

“What about her? I loved your mother. Always will. Everyone up here has lost at least one person they loved. Some were even forced up here by families that didn’t want us anymore.”

Ted looked away.

“I’m happy on the moon. Here, I get to have some fun before I die. Here, my mind is crystal clear. My memories come alive in the moonlight. Here, I have a new life…”

Arthur’s face became cold.

“And I would rather not be reminded of the old one.”

Ted flinched. Arthur smiled as if nothing had happened. “Don’t feel bad, son. Think of me as I will think of you, as a memory.”

“You won’t visit?” Ted was surprised to hear himself ask.

“Return to that heavy, clinging bitch of a planet?” Arthur sighed. “No, I won’t Ted. And I suggest you don’t, either.”

Arthur hugged his stunned son, then nodded. The two orderlies standing behind Ted came forward and escorted him back to the returning rocket.

Upon returning to Earth, Ted Prince refused to discuss his trip to Luna Springs. Ilene assumed the visit went poorly. It was too bad. All Ted had ever wanted, she believed, was for his father to be happy.

# # #

Luna Springs by Patrick Hurley
originally published in the Fall 2011 print edition



Patrick Hurley lives in Chicago and works as Project Coordinator for the Great Books Foundation. His work can be found several anthologies, including the e-zines Allegory and Niteblade, the podcasts Well Told Tales and Drabblecast, Ghostlight magazine, and the humor/fantasy anthology Strange Worlds of Lunacy by CyberWizards Press. In between running marathons, he is at work on his first novel.

For more of Patrick's work,
visit his Big Pulp author page


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On the Road from Galilee

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