It's a hellish nightmare outside father's oak doors. He set them up on the foundation of the house he built with his own two hands. It stood erect for ages and welcomed the family he reluctantly produced with mother. Bronco, Silvia, and Smartt seemed to be appropriate names at the time.
We grew up in wondrous environments perfected by father - the elite scientist of the twenty-first century. We found hobbies and searched for tasteful activities, and father chiseled away and gave us the means to pursue them. Bronco loved football and all sports alike, so father produced what he called a "pig casket." Bronco heaved it up and down the street all by himself (father was too busy to catch).
Silvia was a runway model enthusiast and marched down the red carpet father set out in the backyard; she walked it all day and all night.
I was into skateboarding, so father made me a makeshift skateboard out of a plank of wood and some lawn mower wheels. It left no room for spectacular eye-candy flips, but left me gliding down the street in a straight line, waving at all the gawking jerks of the neighborhood. I waved and waved until I ran into a ditch and broke my leg. My father - elite scientist - blamed the accident on my short legs and not on the fact that the board was incapable of turning. I called him a liar and spent Christmas in my room alone. It gave me time to realize father was never wrong and I was probably the liar.
Bronco, Silvia, and I all grew up on our respective sides of the house and turned into decent adults. Bronco stumbled his way past school subjects and copied tests until he was able to get himself a football scholarship. Miss Silvia graduated the school of stupid, blonde models and went on to get 8th place in the Miss Texas pageant. And I (my father named me Smartt cause he thought I looked the most like him) went on to the University of Really Smart Kids and excelled as one of the top students in my class.
Sadly though, life's prospective happiness melted and turned into a gross kind of paste. The kids came scampering back home after only a few years on our own like little bastard cubs clinging to their mother's raw nipples. Bronco shattered his knee while being crumbled under two Samoan players during the first play of the season starter. Miss Silvia walked down her last runway at the 2006 Miss Texas pageant and tripped off the stage. She became the laughingstock of the pageant world and came crawling back to the house that raised her. After hearing all the horrible news, I had no choice but to drop out of college; I felt obligated to stop trying in life and reunite the family again.
And I did. And we were a family again. Bronco burned his pig casket in the backyard along with Silvia's red carpet of shame, and Father was still the elite scientist of the twenty-first century.
Father's house turned into a storage room of inventions and tools and machines since we had left. His laboratory was in the attic and consumed the entire house in sparks and mad laughter; it was childhood all over again. I sat on the couch in the living room and watched ceiling crust drop to my lap when father stomped the attic floors in genius bursts of revelation. Bronco hobbled through the room on crutches and choked down eggs in a glass like he still trained for something important. Following closely behind was Silvia, who had retired her high heels and downgraded back to her sneakers. She wouldn't strut her stuff anymore, just kept it hidden in a lackluster walk and layers of stupid clothes. She was slowly becoming a Buddha look-alike from all the junk food she ate religiously.
Now mother (we didn't speak of her much), she wouldn't even come home till late in the night. So late in the night it's early. She stumbled inside in a drunken stupor and told me how much she blew on craps and slots and how she used my college money to buy another man a drink (obviously too drunk to realize I already used the money to go to college). Then she passed out on the floor or wherever she happened to fall and snored like before she ever had kids - I guess.
It was the same routine and the same family I hated and loved all these years.
It was our first night home. I sat on one side of the kitchen table, sipping orange juice. Bronco sat on the other side, eating a bowl of eggs. Silvia broke the chair in front of us and plummeted to the floor like a comet. On the table, we inspected father's blueprints; the ones he carelessly left out in the open. There were rough sketches and measurements of poorly drawn aircrafts; they looked like mother came in and drew them in a drunken rage. In large letters at the top it read, "Space Ship." I got goosebumps from it. I always did when father was on to something.
It felt like I had never grown up. I was still the naïve kid who thought his father could stop bullets with his teeth. I thought of him as a god and others thought of him as a burden - like a stray cat that fucks up your garage with fireworks (which father did one time while testing his firework/enclosed space theory).
Bronco was too busy training for the invisible Olympics and Silvia was eating herself into a crater in her bed. Mother was getting herself molested and burnt with cigarette butts in alley bars. But I, like I always have, stuck around the house and kept myself updated on my father's concentrated madness.
It was like childhood. It was like watching my father in his laboratory all over again. I'd sit on top of his desk Indian style between books on evolution and vials and tubes filled with green fluids. I'd sit and watch him enveloped in a beautiful array of blue, green, and red. Father was multi-colored as he chiseled away at his new project. I would watch in awe as my face was painted alongside his. The room would be so loud and booming with noises, I'd plug my ears as explosions of sounds resonated throughout my tiny brain. But I'd sit and watch for hours at a time until he called it quits for the night. He'd come over to me as I slobbered on my fist and he'd look at me through his giant welder's mask. I'd see nothing but my own wide-eyed expression staring back at me through the dark glass. Then he'd say in his deep, muffled voice, a voice resembling a space man trying to communicate to the poor life form he found on the moon, "Stop slobbering." And that would be that. He'd lift me off the table and carry me down to bed, never removing the shield that blocked him from reality. I'd fall asleep, sucking on the first two fingers I happened to fit in my mouth.
We all ate dinner together for the first time in forever. Father sat in the front chair and we all sat in our respective chairs we had assigned to us at birth. We all ate in silence and only the clinking of silverware disturbed.
My father was a man of few words, if any at all. It was during dinner that my father decided to talk - the first time I heard his voice since I moved back in.
"Kids," he said in his newscaster-type voice. "I have something important I need to tell you all." We slid to the edges of our chairs. "I'm building a space ship."
"A space shit?" Mother burped out, still slightly drunk from the night before.
"No. A space ship. I'm building a space ship and I want to take us all to the moon."
"The moon? You mean - the planet?" Bronco said, still wishing he wasn't so damn stupid.
"The moon is a much better place. I know it. We'll be away from politics and money and religion and poverty and sadness and war. We can start a new civilization there. One that doesn't dwell on stupidity like Bronco and the rest of the world. We can repopulate and start a new one. Bronco and Smartt can plow their sister and I'm sure mother is willing to do anyone and anything." Bronco and I peered over at our fat sister in disgust. "It'll be perfect, I just know it."
That night I fell asleep and sucked on the first two fingers I could fit in my mouth. I dreamed of living on the moon and father being happy. It was nice.
Father started immediately on the space ship. Mother left that night and blew my college money on slots and Bronco ate eggs and Silvia ate Bronco, I'm sure. I wanted to watch my father build the space ship; to sit Indian style on his desk and slobber next to books that had words I never even knew existed. I wanted to recreate my favorite night and see myself with the greatest grin god had ever bestowed upon me in father's huge dark glass of a face. But I couldn't. Father destroyed the attic and everything inside of it. He crushed the top of the house into a fine point and demolished his laboratory for the sake of space travel.
"Billy," he said to me one morning, forgetting my actual name. "The house is the space ship. Don't tell Mom."
And I never did tell Mother. Even if I wanted to, I never had the opportunity.
Only a few days later, father crushed the house into a cylinder shape and added fins to it. Bronco's and Silvia's rooms suffered most. But Silvia was bed-stricken and Bronco only needed his crutches and his daily dozen of raw eggs. Mother was perpetually passed out on the couch and didn't care for anything anymore. And I - I only needed to watch father dangle from ropes around the house as he chiseled away at his biggest project.
I only started to doubt my father while watching our house burn. He was too full of himself. Bronco was too stupid. Mother was too passed out and Silvia was too fat. We never did make it to the moon; I was the only one who knew. I saw the flames roar up the side of the house during take off. We collapsed sideways and poured from the roof. Father shouted, "We made it!" and I tumbled to the earth knowing we didn't.
I watched Father pretend to be light. He acted in slow motion. Silvia tried her hardest to stand up because she knew she had to be lighter now. Mother slept under the tree and Bronco tried to make his eggs float.
Ignorance is bliss. I never told anyone it wasn't the moon, that we were just running around the front yard. Dad studied moon politics. He told me it was oddly familiar. I laid my head down in chiggers and watched the moon fade in daylight. Father never looked up.
M C R
This work is copyrighted by the author, Christopher Miller. All rights reserved.