I can’t recall the feeling of being hurled hundreds of feet into the air, but I can remember the smell of the field. Stretches of young, coarse wheat surrounded me and I drew my hand through the cool stalks.
Each time I landed, I hit the ground butt first and each time, I woke up further from the house. Father had taken to the new device, the Astrobee-3. The Astrobee was a precarious little knob that worked roughly half the time. He had worked his way up on the dial to 500 feet. It was a distance far enough from the house that the march back would be a contemplative one. According to the manual, “anything greater than 500 feet could result in the unpredictable displacement effect or even death.”
I can’t recall the feeling of being mid-air, but I remember always wanting him to leave. My father was an orphan from the slums of Birchdale and by the time I had become a teenager, he was a widower from Moose Jaw. He had a shrewd, fat face, and was devoid of spirit except when it came to swinging his wrists. By the time Astrobee arrived, he was practically giddy as he removed the contraption from its box. ASTROBEE was printed in black bold letters on a silver round button. He couldn’t read, yet fingered the black raised letters sweetly as if hoping he could. He kicked the Styrofoam peanuts all around the floor and tinkered with all of Astrobee’s mechanical parts. “This knob ‘il set you straight you mark my words” and kept the button deep in the pockets of the trousers he wore every day.
Father used Astrobee every chance he could. If I shifted in my chair a certain way, if my shirts were too tight, if I cooked a bad meal, hell if the sky was pink. Each time I made the walk back to the house, I came back bruised and blood-crusted with wet grass stuck to my legs. But each time, my body adjusted a little more. He thwacked the ejector knob so often and with such excitement, the “A” “S” and “R” had worn off the button leaving the word “T OBEE” in pale black ink.
Our house was a squat log cottage, with two bedrooms and three beds. The house came with a high stone fireplace and a good country dog, one rich in leisure. The last night I saw father, he had about two pints of curl (homemade alcohol that’ll curl your toes) and passed out with his head resting on the hearth near the fire box. Father had tripped so hard that the button slipped out of his khaki’s. My body felt like an electric wire and I shot straight up. I could see the tick marks so clearly and the DO NOT EXCEED label near the orange range. In that moment, I saw everything.
I took the button and turned it over with the dial side facing me and cradled it in both hands like a precious animal. I looked at my drunken father on the floor, looked back at the device, and smiled as the dial’s face stared back at me.
Veronica Vela hails from South Texas and has been passionate about stories since she studied with Mrs. Burboise, her third grade teacher. She is particularly interested in crafting stories that combine both fantastic and poignant elements. She has been published in The Brown Literary Review, Issues Magazine, Our Stories, and Essays and Fictions. She would also like to note that attending the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference was one of the highlights of her life.