November is National Novel Writers Month. Writers are tasked with writing 50k words in 30 days. I've got a week and about 12k to go. Below is a chunk from "Space madness" (working title). Enjoy.
Steve thought about his parents. His father had passed away about ten years ago, and Steve had never made his peace with the old man. They hadn't been able to see eye to eye since Steve was a teenager. Time and miles just made it worse. Steve was in Connecticut, holed up in a cheap hotel, trying to finish his first novel when the old man passed. He made it to the wake, but he was a little drunk and his mother knew it. That didn't sit too well with her. he didn't really speak to her much, these days. Molly would call and then make him talk to her now, but if not for her...
Molly. Another tear formed in his eye, pushing the first one down his cheek. She had taken a lot of crap from him. Mostly, it was just arrogance and small ball nonsense. But, that stuff had a way of building up. Steve thought about every mean or thoughtless thing he could remember saying, and how she would look at him with that smile that she had. It was like he was a puppy that a child had to have, only to leave the real work of keeping it with the mom of the family. It was a smile of resignation. A smile in spite of all of his bullshit. A smile of "I love you, anyway".
Steve didn't know why or how he had become lucky enough to find Molly, but he was glad for it. Maybe he needed to learn how to be a better guy, and she was his teacher. He chuckled over the fact that the more likely scenario was that she needed to learn some lesson, and he was her penance for something she had done in a former life.
The tears flowed more freely now. Both eyes.
He realized that he loved her. He was sorry for all of the times he had pushed her away, or made her sad, or angry. He felt terrible as he watched, in his mind's eye, all the times he had said something that he thought had been funny, but, it had just come out mean. Or spiteful. Or just plain rude. She would look at him in that indulgent way and shrug it off. And, love him anyway. He didn't deserve her. She deserved better.
He knew that he was sorry for all the missed moments and pride that kept him and his parents apart. His mom was alone now. Probably bored. Most likely scared, facing the looming end of her life alone. Her husband gone. One son gone. Another a sarcastic button-pusher with an axe to grind against any and all comers. If not for Molly, she could disconnect from life and it would be days, or weeks before anyone knew.
Steve's brother Michael had died in Lebanon with the Marines twenty years ago. The American public didn't even know he was there. His death hit the family hard, and became one of the wedges between them. Steve wanted to burn down the government in his rage. His parents just wanted to grieve. Steve saw their acceptance as weakness. They watched his rage in sadness. His father had tried to tell him to let it go. "It'll tear you apart." he had said. Steve didn't care. He thought the old man was just weak, and scared and tired of living.
He knew now that that had all been true. But, his father was trying to save him from becoming a cynical, critical, petulant mess that no one could love. And, Steve had pushed him away.
He knew he was scared about getting into that rocket. He was going to leave the planet tomorrow morning. It was a fairly reasonable assumption that he wouldn't be coming back.
Sure, he had been training. Hard. They all had. He was as ready as he could be after four months of intense, break your brain knowledge acquisition. He was a different person. More understanding of the many sides of a situation. More focused on solutions than problems, but still...
He really wasn't a different person. He was thinking differently, but how long could that last if he went back to his old life, his old ways? Maybe those news anchors and reporters were right. Maybe this was a pipe dream. Maybe this was just a way for the government to get their column inches and glory posts from their internet shills. Maybe they didn't really care about the folks they put in harm's way, as long as they could secure public acceptance in the long run. Maybe, maybe...
Maybe he was going to die up there. He had no business going up into space. He was a danger to his crew and all they had worked for.
Steve looked at the door. That's all it would take. He could just get up. Go through that door and not look back. He could manage this. Tell the press that there was no way that he was ready. He would have to throw a few trainers under the bus, but they would recover. None of them would care what he thought anyway. In a year or two, he could write another book. This time it could be a scathing expose on the waste that NASA had spent on training a nobody like him, trying to get him ready for a real job with real responsibilities. What were they thinking?
He imagined walking through the front door. He imagined telling Molly that he had quit, just before he had made a fatal mistake. He imagined the look on her face. The sadness of knowing that her worst fears were true all along. That he really wasn't worth the trouble. That he was a loser, just like her friends had told her.
The muscles behind his eyes squeezed like a fist. He could feel his sinuses closing up. Big, fat drops were rolling down his cheeks now.
No, he told himself. No. I signed up for this and I will do my level best. I will not quit. I will not fail.