“You can’t wait
to be rid of me, can you?”
“Dad, that’s not
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,
His son, Ted Prince,
“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
“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
“I don’t like
“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.
better,” Ilene pronounced as Arthur drifted off into nothingness. “Really,
dear, I can’t wait until we get that man on the moon.”
the launch platform, each with an elderly passenger in tow.
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
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.
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.”
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
“When can we visit
not to hear the question and they did not repeat it.
“Yes, I’m here
to see Arthur Prince.”
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
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
“Lucid? My father’s
on a constant Dolvertid regimen! How does he know what he
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.
my chart here,” she said sweetly, “your father is progressing
along nicely and hasn’t received any Dolvertid in the last
“There’s no way,
then, for me to see him?”
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.
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
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 can walk!”
by you, son.”
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
“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…”
“And I would rather
not be reminded of the old one.”
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.”
his stunned son, then nodded. The two orderlies standing
behind Ted came forward and escorted him back to the 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.