BRIDGE • by T.D. Walker

The guitar would cost extra. Liam tallied up the baggage costs in his head. His son usually forgot something important like underwear or Ted Bear. Liam didn’t remember seeing Ted last night when he tucked his son into bed, though. Maybe nine was the age when kids gave up on this? His daughter had announced she was too old for toys shortly after her eighth birthday, for which his wife had that handcrafted cat couriered to the Moon from Ontario. Emma ceded him the task of finding gifts for their children after that.

Gravity — or the Moon’s seeming lack thereof — unsettled him still. Cal’s bag felt light; Simone’s bulged. Liam had asked Emma if he should go through Simone’s bag. Emma just sighed. They’d had the autonomy talk twice already this month. She’s eleven, Liam replied to the kitchen, where he was suddenly alone. Then there was his bag with a few basics for their yearly trip back to Earth. He’d left room for seashells and dried leaves the kids would pick up during their three weeks at his folks’ place and one week at hers. The kids were fascinated by the way things fell there. Magic.

Simone fidgeted. Beside her, Cal bounced on his heels. Liam would remind him to pee before they left home, where it would be easier to stuff his oddly tall children back into their jumpsuits.

Liam floated the idea of taking his guitar this time. Use your brother’s, Emma said. You’ve done it before. Liam didn’t push. Liam didn’t ever push. They’d all said goodbye to Emma before she left for work. Work, her usual excuse for staying. Which was their whole reason for coming here twelve years ago. Which kept them in on-base housing with room for children. The children were another project, another experiment, weren’t they? Long ago, he’d made a space for himself and tried not to think about it: his nook with a worn stool, a stained coffee mug, and the guitar.

The guitar. He’d bought it two weeks after deciding to take a year off from college, the afternoon he’d failed to show up for his accounting final. Which was also three days before meeting Emma.

Emma, who was old enough to be his mother, his brother said. So what? Emma was full of hope for the world; Liam was already tired of it. Getting married at the end of the summer had been his idea. They hadn’t known about Simone yet. He’d come along with Emma, who’d just gotten the job on the lunar base, and finish his studies online. But they found out about Simone.

So. He’d learned about babies. He’d learned about guitar chords. He’d known more or less the same amount about both. Would any of it be useful in reduced gravity, he’d wondered. He knew that you should always keep socks on a baby. He remembered that from a daytime TV show he’d watched during finals week. After Simone discovered her toes, Emma pulled the baby’s socks off before she left. Liam put them back on after she was out the door. So he knew about socks. And he knew music was good for babies. Another show tip. During Emma’s first pregnancy, he’d practiced instead of studying. By the time Simone arrived, he’d quit school again. She cooed at the gentle strumming in time with her swing. And when Cal came along, Simone seemingly floated at Liam’s feet and sang to the baby while he played.

His brother had a guitar. He’d had a crisis during college too. He’d bought a guitar, met a woman, dumped her, then went back to school. Now he had a nice house on a warm lake, an accounting career, and a family. The guitar stayed at their parents’ house.

Simone gave Liam Emma’s sigh. “Can we go now, Dad?”

“One more thing.”

He went to her room. The stuffed cat wasn’t in its usual place on her bookshelf. He grabbed her necklace, the one Emma had made for her from a stone from outside where the kids never went. Then Cal’s room. The lump under the covers was Ted. Liam grabbed him and a handful of underwear. The rest Emma could have shipped. And things were cheaper on Earth, anyway. Then his nook. The guitar waited for him, the way it always waited during his trips to Earth. He asked himself what he’d always asked: is this the year? So few kids up here. Simone texting his brother’s snotty girls instead of studying. Cal putting on plays with Ted.

Is this the year? He was glad they’d go to Emma’s parents’ first. Get that out of the way. Then the long stretch of sunny afternoons on his folks’ porch. Lemonade. The neighborhood pool. The dogs in the backyard. And the weight of it all, falling, rising, falling again.

And if they said no?

Maybe it was better to wait. After all, there was Emma, who’d never lost that hopefulness. Whom he’d wanted more than anything, even as she bumbled around in that over-padded space suit. Anything? It’d be her question, not his. Her eyes folding into those lovely crow’s feet, scrutinizing him. Pushing him. Adoring him. And the kids. The kids, who fell all over her — or tumbled into, really — after she’d return from her months-long missions. Which meant it would be okay if they spent a month each year here and the rest on Earth.

Liam shifted Ted to the crook of his elbow. He reached down to the guitar case, packed and ready. Not his work. Emma’s. The moon-rock pendant slipped and swung past it. He gripped its chain tighter, the underwear, the worn toy. They’d need to go soon. Emma knew it. Now, he did too. He reached for the case’s handle. He felt its pull, grabbed it tightly. He knew that wherever they ended up, he’d always feel something pulling at him, shifting him, lighting his way to all the things he could never quite reach.

T.D. Walker’s poems and flash fiction have appeared in Abyss & Apex, Star*Line, Cold Mountain Review, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review and elsewhere. She blogs occasionally at her website,

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Rate this story:
 average 3 stars • 19 reader(s) rated this

Every Day Fiction

  • I liked the writing a lot. Wanted to like it more due to a couple of overly-complicated sentences and the extended time it took me to figure out what was contemplated in the last 5 paragraphs.

    The ending was thoughtful – the things he never could reach. BUT, this character really didn’t try reaching very hard did he? Dropping out of school on a critical day. Not knowing much about life. His little nook with his guitar and coffee cup. He came across as an unmotivated underachiever.


  • Caught my interest and held it, good detail.

    One thing I am always looking for in flash is an ending; some conflict resolved, or characters changed. I didn’t see him as much changed, and kind of just a person who lets life happen to him and mourns it.

    One major issue with the plot I thought of was that if they lived most of their entire life under lunar gravity and were oddly tall as a result, this would indicate bonel loss from low G, and a trip to earth would be torture. Like drowning in molasses. In reality they would likely never want to go back, and wouldn’t enjoy it if they did.

    They addressed this in The Expanse and the Mars colony members, when forced to dock on earth for various reasons, would need to be submerged in a tank of salt water with scuba gear on in order to get some relief from the effects of insanely greater gravity (the moon has 83%less).

    3 stars

    • I figure if technology allows earth to moon and back travel and some type of living environment with oxygen and food, then such problems would likely be solved. In a novel-length story I think your comments are valid. But, is a short short story like this, where the emotions of relationships is the story, then I don’t let such details detract from the story.

      Just my opinion 🙂

      • The writer made the gravity part of the story by bringing up the bone loss/oddly tall… Since they make it part of the story it needs to be addressed. Without mentioning it I’d likely have not either.

        Aaaaannnnnd, If the undiscussed technology to solve this problem did exist, then the height of the children would be normal, and again not worth a remark.

        • I think you might be right!

    • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

      I found that accidental pregnancy a little unbelievable too. I’d think discovering that would be part of pre-departure physicals.

  • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

    These elegiac circles of the indecisive made me want to give Liam a sharp restorative slap. The off-Earth setting seemed awfully tangential to the story, and, like Michael Dirk Thalman did, I thought the writer hadn’t dealt with the issue of gravity.

    Nice writing that goes nowhere is one of my biggest peeves when reading stories. When leaving the guitar and leaving the wife seem to have equal emotional weight or lack thereof, I see something missing. A little less self-absorption and this writer might start to go somewhere. Two stars.

    • S Conroy

      Perhaps you understood the guitar thing better than I did. First I thought his wife told him to leave the guitar, but then she actually packed it for him, so it seems he is taking it, though I’m not sure. Is this his wife’s way of saying he should spend more time on earth?

      • Sarah Crysl Akhtar

        Honestly I found nothing about this story understandable. I’d think it would be cheaper to buy anything needed for a vacation on Earth on Earth. I thought Emma still having patience for this guy after 11 years, much less “adoring” him, was pushing it. I was baffled by the wasted wordcount devoted to Cal’s underwear.

        I think Emma behaves as though she has three children, basically, and Liam is holding on to that wasted youth by being her perpetual adolescent.

        • S Conroy

          I’m still sitting on the fence, trying to work it out… If I had a guitar I could strum blowing in the wind.

  • Paul A. Freeman

    There didn’t seem to be much more here than a failed musician/ drop out ruing a wasted life. We didn’t need to go to the moon to hear this story.

  • S Conroy

    I enjoyed some of the writing and really liked the very last line. As far as the story goes, I don’t think I got it fully. I wondered if he was actually leaving his wife for good. And maybe if it was all symbolic. Wife on a completely different planet; he follows her out of love, but keeps a little niche for his own world symbolized by guitar, which he then takes with him when he decides he can’t thrive in her atmosphere.

  • Teacher

    Nice writing, but there was just too much going on in this for me. I would have liked if you zoned in on the storyline so that the ending packed the intended punch.

    It seemed like the character had a one track mind since the start regardless of anyone else’s feelings. Two stars but a close three.

  • I see Emma as the sacrificial lamb, the means to Liam’s end, and that this is the year Liam and the kids stay on earth. Not sure how that would play out, dropping the adhesion that kept them in an advantaged lifestyle. This guy really is a selfish dud.
    The writing was good enough to have pushed the sense of the characters closer to the reader’s lamp. It didn’t. Instead we get this strange brew.