Mars 1/5


Mars, Circling the Wagons

I can remember water, sluicing down ochre rock. It was light trembling under a blanket, words slipping out between lips. It evaporated long before the Sun began to dote on the Earth, where the oceans teem with second and third chances.

Some called my water a cosmic joke, like a child vying for attention. Who would have thought that vacant mud could be so strident under a veil of frost?

I could only watch my atmosphere sell out to the highest bidder. But I adapted to frost, even after my microbes gave up without a fight.

he who fights and runs away will live to fight another day

They hitched a ride on some asteroids and took sanctuary among you. Some call them aliens. But weren’t we all born from the same angry star?

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Sometimes, the only thing afamily has left is its anger.

For a while, Frieda blamed herself. She’d slept with a man for the fun of it and was punished with a stillborn child. She kept un-strict kosher as penance, but still her luck got no better. The best she could find was a man with a bum heart, someone who knew nothing more than to dream of three moonlit bedrooms on a vacant lot. Just as quickly, the channel changed, and she was alone with me. And angry.

You couldn’t blame Al for thinking that, if he knew how to steer on a rain-slicked curve, he could dodge meteors if they came. His heart saved him from fighting in the War, and he took up stargazing to test his breath. He only got angry once – when Frieda packed her bags and mine in the middle of the night. I was her trump card to make him heel, so he had to beg, turning away so she wouldn’t see the lava pools behind his eyes.

I was Eileen’s unpardonable sin, and she dedicated her life to punishing herself for me. Her husband Ben took her at her word and beat the pulp out of her, but once too often. See him now, fifty years later, blue eyes turning milky grey, sitting on the edge of her guest room couch, taking twenty minutes to coax his feet into slippers. He’s the walking war dead – and you can’t help but warm to him for his sacrifice.

Elaine will not admit to any imperfection in Lennie. She still spends an hour each day, ten years on, dusting his Royal Doultons. And nurturing offspring of jade plants in his memory. If she could feel anger, it would be toward Eileen for the nerve of thinking Lennie had loved her to the grave. Mostly she’s impatient at how life drags on, while Lennie soars above, doing what?

After Michelle died, Barcode Ben did his best to shift the blame. He’d tried to drink their way out of post-natal depression, then upped the ante. He would have been happy to cut out the sex, but 1e gave in to her urge for kids. When she went frigid, he did his best to keep his affairs dis10reet. How she guessed he never knew, and they were stale from that day on. It was life that had done this to him!

Michael, who has the least reason, probably feels hate the most. Toward his father, for not respecting his mother. Both of them, for abandoning microcephalic Teddy to the pause button of strangers, and giving Barcode Ben the benefit of the doubt.

His wife Karen, for never quite meeting his expectations. And me, for not leaving well enough alone by staying in the mist of the unverified.