Matthew Di Paoli
In the future, everyone lives on the moon, but we have the same problems. Lactose intolerance seems to have gotten worse. It's disappointing. You go out and buy a pouch of cookies and realize you can't enjoy it. That's what it's like being on the moon.
Also, sometimes people forget to fasten their boots and they fly off into infinite space and explode. There's a lot of stories on the news like that:
"Johnny was walking his spacedog (we can only own spacedogs now) and he flew off into the sky and was never heard from again." And then some neighbor comes on and says, "that's how little Johnny would've wanted to go." And everyone feels better.
If I could choose a way to go it wouldn't be by combustion. That's me.
I guess it's not so bad on the moon though. Sometimes it's cold here, but when the earth comes out at night and you've got your spacedog by your side in your crater with a green picket fence, you have to believe we made a good decision.
We don't use spacesuits anymore being that this is the future. When we're outside, we have weighted boots and these little nostril guards and they've gotten very stylish. It's considered embarrassing to have the old-fashioned ones, but I still do because who's going to care? My spacedog? He only cares about spacecats and sleeping.
I guess it's kind of lonely here, but the pornography is amazing. It's all three dimensional virtual reality and the worst part really is taking off the helmet. That moment when you realize you're in the Peary crater and the girl in the blue cotton doesn't care about you or how good you are at building miniature models of deodorant sticks. "It takes tremendous dexterity," I say to blue cotton girl and she just licks my shoulder. They haven't worked all the bugs out yet, but it's really the undivided attention I enjoy the most.
When I go to buy groceries, everything's in those little packets, freeze-dried. It's all shipped from Earth. They're still producing things, but it's more of a factory district now. You don't really want to live there. Lots of vagabonds and Mormons.
I remember the consistency of things. It's all wrong now. Nothing tastes like chicken anymore. Now it's more like tapioca and raisins.
There's a checkout girl I like to see, so I buy about twice as many Salisbury steaks as I need to prolong the interaction.
"I love your torso," I say to her.
She looks up at me. I think she recognizes me. She's got this bushy red hair that sort of runs in different directions and a little silver stud in her nose that makes me think she's out of my league. Sexually, I mean.
"That's weird. Thanks, I guess," she says as she bags my food packets.
I often forget that old conversational standbys don't work here on the moon. The moon has taken so much from me. Not that they worked all that well before. "You are welcome," I say.
"That'll be fifty-four moon dollars," she says.
We just round up on the moon. Change ends up flying away. But she rounds down. I'm cracking her shell, I think. In a few weeks I'll ask her out. It's tough to talk when she's working. I know the feeling.
During the day I sell fake potted plants. You can't grow real shrubbery here on the moon because of the oxygen and whatnot, but people still like the idea of having something living in their apartment besides themselves. Or at least giving the appearance of life. The things they do with wax these days. I could go on.
There's this older woman who comes in every Thursday and asks to look at the marble petunias. She asks for me by name.
"Where's Marvin? I want to speak to Marvin," she says.
The other employees call her my ex-wife, which I don't much care for; but I try to keep my head down at work. They point her in my direction. She's in her mid-fifties, very busty. But there's something off-putting about her face, as if she's seen too much.
"Marvin," she starts, "I'd like to see the marble petunias again."
I'm already holding them because I know what she wants to see. They're not cheap but it's not such an extravagant purchase that she'd have to think it over for a month. "Here, miss. Would you like to buy them?"
"What do you think of them?"
She'd never asked my opinion before. "Well, if you want realism go with wax, if you want art go with marble." That's not my line; they tell me to say that.
"Yes, but do you like them?"
I study the budding purple and white marble. I try to remember what real petunias looked like, but I can't. I think of those last few days on Earth. "I think if I had someone to give them to I'd get them myself."
She takes a step back, as if appraising the petunias and then me; surprised I'd been so candid. "I'll have to come back."
The next week, even with ten Salisbury steaks left, I go grocery shopping. I buy little pouches of chicken Marsala. I figure I'll talk about how symmetrical the checkout girl's nostril guard is. Girls like that.
When I get to the register, she's not there. It's some man I've never seen before. We stare at each other for a bit; I place the food pouches at his feet and leave. A girl like her didn't belong. I convince myself she's better off and that I'm happy for her.
Later that day, I finally sell the marble petunias. It's some businessman who's late for something and he buys them because they're the first thing he sees. He doesn't deserve them.
Every night before I sleep, I imagine the cashier next to me so that I'll dream about her, but I never do. I wonder sometimes if people still dream on the moon. The earth is out in full flush. I can nearly touch it from my window. In it, I see a reflection of myself all those years ago, gazing meekly back. And it feels distinctly like someone else's future I've crawled into.
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