Story # 18 by Matthew Sharpe

photo: Matt Gunther

photo: Matt Gunther

Against his oncologist’s advice, Randall started walking one day and kept on going. He slept at night, exhausted, under thick hedges or in sheds. Once a day he went into a fast food joint and choked down a burger and fries, though he had little appetite. He had a credit card and a YMCA membership so every few days he bought a new set of clothes, showered, put them on, and threw away the old ones. Time went by but he had succeeded in losing track of it. At some point he arrived on the moon—rocky hills and craters, no trees or grass, the feeling of walking and floating through corn syrup. Hedges, sheds, fast food joints, and YMCAs did not exist here and credit was worthless. “Looking for work?” A man was standing by a large pickup truck that several other men had already climbed into the back of. Randall climbed in too, though he had to be helped up by one of the other men. They drove for a while and stopped near an enormous pipe whose length stretched to the horizon. The other men jumped out of the truck and joined still other men who were lifting segments of pipe out of a cargo container, carrying them to the end of the enormous pipe, and fitting them onto it. The segments were so heavy and big around that four men had to carry each one. Randall tried to help three other men lift a segment but he couldn’t hold his part and the thing almost crushed them. The man who had spoken to him earlier came over and said, “You’re no good for this work. Sit over on that rock and tonight we’ll take you back to where we found you. You bring lunch?” “No.” “Water?” “No.” “Well it’s going to be a long day for you out here.” Labor was not much different on the moon than on the earth. Randall first sat and then lay on the rock. He was parched, hungry, and in pain. His wife, Sybil, walked up, holding their six-month-old daughter, Clara, and handed him a bottle of water, which he drank. “How did you find me here?” “You weren’t moving very fast.” “I’m so sorry I left you.” “I guess you did what you had to do. Please stay with us from now on. We need you.” Clara started to cry. “How do we get back home from the moon?” Randall asked. “My love,” she said, “I don’t think we do.”

Very short stories r us:

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