WASTE OF SPACE • by Sarah Hilary

In the beginning, there was the worm and the worm was Rod.

It wasn’t as if Rose didn’t know better, but Rod was supposed to be different. For starters, he was into astronomy. His favourite star was Betelgeuse and he knew all about the Hourglass Nebula. On their first date, he pointed to the brightest light in the night sky: “Antares, she’s a red supergiant.” Despite herself, Rose was sucked in.

She was soon brought back down to earth.

“In space you’d be weightless,” Rod smirked, when she struggled with her skinny jeans.

He told his mates, “I fell for her. That’s gravity for you!”

Gravity sucked. The well-documented enemy of womankind, it defeated Rose’s jawline and breasts, even her hair. She resented the lure of face-lifting firming masks, volume-pumping sprays. No one expected men to battle physical laws, unless you bought the sales pitch for Viagra. Women, on the other hand, were encouraged to attempt the defiance of gravity on a daily basis.

“Move your feet,” she said, busy with the vacuum.

“In the Mir Space Station,” said Rod, “there is no up or down, but to make the crew feel at home some of the floors are carpeted and the ceilings have lights.”

A wormhole, that’s what she needed, some shortcut to a parallel universe where she didn’t dream of taking an axe to his middle. She was a vicar’s daughter, not cut out for these feelings.

When she looked at the night sky, Rose saw star ghosts and slowly winking eyes. Rod saw debris: “Nothing in the Universe is new. Space looks crowded but the stars are miles apart. Our nearest neighbour, the moon, was dragged into our orbit by accident. Squint, and like astrologers of old, you think you see patterns, but it’s all chaos.”

Rose was developing a squint.

In Arabic, Betelgeuse meant the hand, or shoulder, of the giant. In French, it was Orion’s armpit.

“Betelgeuse is 427 light years from Earth.”

Closer than Rose felt to Rod, on a good day.

So one night, standing under the brightest star in the heavens, she told him, “When Antares runs out of energy, her core will turn to iron and without energy to sustain her shape, she’ll collapse under her own gravity in seconds. Had she been a smaller single star, she’d have lived longer and died quietly.”

Rod blinked. “What?”

“You’re dumped,” she elaborated.


Sarah Hilary is thrilled to be part of the 2008 Crime Writers’ Association anthology, MO: Crimes of Practice, which features her story, “One Last Pick Up”. She won the Fish Historical-Crime Contest with Fall River, August 1892. Her story, The Eyam Stones, was runner-up in the Historical Contest. Both stories will be published in the Fish anthology 2008. Her work has appeared in The Beat, Neon, Shred of Evidence, Every Day Fiction, Literary Mama and the Boston Literary Magazine. Sarah lives in the Cotswolds with her husband and daughter, where she is writing a series of crime novels set in London and L.A.


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Every Day Fiction

  • K.C. Ball

    Sarah:

    Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse!

    Oh, heck, I’ll throw in a couple more. Betelgeuse! Betelgeuse!

    That’s five stars. Good story.

    K.C. 🙂

  • This reminds me of a story I once heard, about two antiques dealers who lived and worked opposite each other. One, Solomon Austerlitz, specialised in brass ware and similar metal objets d’art. The other, Rick, specialised in glass ware, mirrors, chandeliers, and the like. It grated on Solly Austerlitz that no matter how hard he worked, no matter how much research he did and no matter how many buying trips he made, the public always seemed to prefer Rick’s glitter to his solid substance. So, one day when Sol came back with a new bell only to see a huge mirror leaning up against Rick’s shop, he saw red and threw the bell right into the mirror. Sol Castor Bellatrix Mira. (Heard from Colin Fine.)

    • Gerard Demayne

      Hear that whooshing sound? That’s that joke going right over my head.

    • Thanks, PM, but I’m with Gerard and the whooshing sound. Sorry!

      🙂

    • Rick’s Glitter would make a great title for a flash, PM!

  • Oonah V Joslin

    P M L, that’s an awful joke!

    Sarah, great story! 🙂

  • I love this story, fabulous, succinct, original, cutting, brave. Thank you!

    • Thanks, Tania, what terrific feedback – you made my morning!

  • I figured I knew where this was going, but the ending still made me laugh.
    Bonnie!

    • Thanks, Bonnie, I’m glad it worked for you.

  • Greta

    Love this, Sarah! You capture something so many women seem to go through, but the space metaphor made it fresh and funny. Great job!

    • Thank you, Greta, “fresh and funny” is perfect!

  • John Allen

    Great story, Sarah 🙂

  • Sarah,
    As usual, a stellar piece. I have been struggling with a similar piece (man-physicist, woman-humanities librarian)and what you did in such a short space is soo much stronger than anything I’ve even come close to with mine. I love it! Good tight clean writing with a point!

    • Gay, you’re so good for my ego! Thank you for this generous feedback, but I want to read your fic. I’ve read enough of your writing now to know you can add depths I missed here.

  • Great story, Sarah, especially for a Monday. Gave me a chuckle. 🙂

  • jennifer walmsley

    Another classic, Sarah. Well done.

    Jennifer

  • Stephen Book

    Good work, Sarah. The title was spot-on, the characters well defined.

    • I’m so glad someone mentioned the title! Thanks, Stephen, you’re very kind.

  • The poor geek!!

    Great story, Sarah. I liked being in the space of her mind.

    • Thanks, Kevin, I’m glad you liked it. And a vote for the hapless geek – good!

  • Mark Dalligan

    Great sarah,

    a practical guide to de-geeking.

    Cheers

    Mark

    • Thanks, Mark. I love the way you put it “Practical Guide to De-Geeking” should be the alternative title, I think.

  • Oh, I saw the end coming, all right, but you got me there with strong wit and charm. Love it!!

    –dj

  • Apologies to everyone who saw that crazy ad at the top of this story. Steven’s out of town and it took me forever to figure out how to disable it through project wonderful.

    • Okay. The advertiser just rebid on the banner, but I figured out how to ban him, so hopefully we won’t see any more of those ads.

    • I missed the ad, Jordan, being offline all day yesterday. Now I’m dying to know what it was for! Thanks for getting shot of it, anyway, as it sounds like it wasn’t right for the site.

  • Haha, this was nice. The science geek in me loved all the astronomy metaphors. Great way to dump the guy, I say. Who needs binary star systems anyway?

    • Thanks, Firestorm, lovely of you to drop by and read!

  • Frances G

    Another excellent story, Sarah – thank you!

  • Anne-Elisabeth Moutet

    That’s the way to get rid of extraneous matter. Deserves its own little space shuttle!

    Maximum ripple effect for minimum space. Great story!

    • Thank you, AE, I take it you’ll be there at the launch?!

  • Great story – very strong!

    A
    xxx

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