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art by Jeffrey Redmond

Watching Rockets

Previous work from John Philip Johnson has appeared or is forthcoming in such places as Southern Poetry Review, Rattle, Dreams & Nightmares, Astropoetica, Mythic Delirium and Star*Line, He can be reached through his website johnphilipjohnson.com.

Standing in the orchard for the longest time. Watching the rockets take off, one every seven minutes. He lifts his head upwards as each one climbs in the sky, following it with his eyes until it vanishes. Then his head drops and he keeps his eyes trained on the horizon until the next eruption of rumbling and blue light.
"I could have been a space pilot," he says.
"Yes, dear, I know," I say, and pat his long arms.
"But they changed my engineering at the last moment," he says.
"Yes, dear, that's true." He always says the same things, it is a ritual between us. Now he will cheer himself up a little, he always does. It comes with the fragrance of cherry blossoms in the air, this being spring.
"They needed more fruit workers, less pilots," he says, "and I do like being a fruit worker." I murmur agreement. He sighs. "I only wish they had taken the wanderlust out of my genes."
I put my arm around his middle, and I can feel him shift towards me. "They made you so you liked staying in one place."
"I do," he says. His roots go deep here, I know; I've been with him since he was placed here next to me, ten years ago. I look at the way the late afternoon light casts over him. He is beautiful, a blaze of light pink blossoms, luminous in the sun. And the perfume we give off is rich and heady. Another shaft of blue light appears rumbling from the distant horizon.
"But to my dying day," he says, his eyes tracking the distant object, "I'll always wish I could have gone into the sky." The wind shifts his limbs, and in the shuddering some pink blossoms fall.
The End
This story was first published on Thursday, August 23rd, 2012


Author Comments

I suppose on one level the pink tree guy in this story is all of us in sci fi, who would dearly love to explore the universe, to boldly go. But sadly itís not really going to happen for us. Or perhaps Iím being a little harsh there. When I was a boy I wanted nothing more than to be an astronaut, but for whatever reason I lost interest in that dream. Clayton Anderson, a guy about my age, never did give up on it, and he actually ended up in space shuttles and on board the international space station, where he spent 152 days looking down at our big blue marble. Was it worth all those decades of training? I donít know, but wouldnít it be great for those 152 days! On a personal note, I publish a lot of poetry, both sci fi and literary, but this is my first short story publication. One of my dreams now, at this point in my life, is to be a sci fi writer, and I am grateful to Daily Science Fiction for their selection of my story. Thanks for reading!

- John Philip Johnson
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