There was no way Josh was hearing right. He could see his moms mouth moving, and
he knew the sound waves of her words were going into his ears. But he was sure something
was getting crossed between his ears and his brain. Because there was no way what his
brain was hearing could be true.
"Were going to move next
week. I want to be out of here before the first so we wont have to pay another
months rent. I know this is sudden. Im really sorry about that."
Josh stared. Not really at his mom;
just kind of past her. He felt his teeth grind against each other as his jaw grew tight.
His mom waited for him to say something; but how could he respond if he wasnt
"I know youre upset,
Josh," she continued. "We all are. But your father has left me no choice. I just
cant trust him. We were behind in our bills when he lived with us. Theres no
way hell be able to pay rent on his place as well as ours."
He turned slowly and stared into his
moms eyes. All at once he realized that there wasnt anything wrong with his
brain. He was hearing exactly what his mom said. They were moving to Seattle. They were
leaving LA. The place hed lived all 13 years of his life. They were leaving his
Josh didnt like that. He found
"But Dad promised,"
he pleaded. "He said hed pay our rent."
"Yeah, sure," said his
mom. "He also promised to stay married to me. You can see how well he kept that
one." His moms voice cracked a little. Both with pain and anger, Josh thought.
"But we cant move, Mom. I
cant leave LA. My astronomy club is here. All my friends are here..."
"Josh, were moving. You
have to understand that. Its expensive to live here. I need to find a job. Times are
hard in California and the economy is better in Seattle. Besides, your Aunt Katrina is
there..." She paused, then added quietly, "And I need her."
Josh knew he couldnt say
anything that would change his moms mind. He looked across the kitchen table to
where she sat. She was staring down at the tabletop, leaning on her elbows, her head
resting on her fingertips.
Josh couldnt believe how sad
she looked. He didnt know what he could do to make his mom feel better. He
didnt know what he could say to make things right. He didnt know how he was
going to survive leaving his home and his friends.
But he did know one thing. This was
all his dads fault.
Joshs mom sighed and stood up.
"Youll have to pack up
your own room, Josh. Ill need to help your sisters. Can you do that for me?"
Josh nodded slowly.
"Thanks, Moonman." She
leaned over and kissed the top of his head. Then she left the kitchen to go tell
Joshs little sisters the news.
Josh got up slowly and walked to his
room. He shut his door and leaned back against it. He wanted so bad to shake his head and
feel like this news and all these feelings would just go away. If only his
head were one of those little clear plastic games with the BBs inside. The ones that
if you tilted them just right, the BBs would fall in the slots and youd win
the game. If he could shake his head just right, then the BBs would fall out his
ears and leave him alone. But the BBs inside his head werent little metal
balls. They were feelings, and thoughts, and they didnt belong in him. They were
like no other feelings or thoughts hed ever had. He was scared. And angry. And sad.
Josh looked around his room. It was
such a cool room. His telescope stood next to the window; star charts and logs on the
table next to it. His ceiling was covered by a map of the solar system that his parents
had helped him paint. In the far corner hung his kite collection. Seven kites he had made
himself. Not from kits, but each one from scratch. And next to those, his books on
UFOs and aliens. Hanging above them was a fuzzy black and white photograph his
grandfather had given to him five years ago. It showed an old barn with something that
looked like a radioactive hot-dog floating above it. A cow stood next to the barn and
seemed to be mooing into the sky towards the glowing thing. His granddad had said it was
proof that UFOs existed. He gave the photo to Josh shortly before he died. He said
that Josh was the only one in the family who could be trusted with it. That had made Josh
proud. And he resolved to see a UFO for himself someday.
On his desk, next to the UFO books,
sat Joshs Compaq. It was good computer. The best as far as he was concerned. It was
a precision piece of equipment like his telescope. Thats why he had saved his
allowance and birthday money and mowed all those lawns. He could have got a faster
computer if hed chosen a cheaper brand, but Josh liked quality so he worked extra
hard to earn the money. His computer was important. It was his link to the astronomy BBS.
And to his favorite MUDs. And, of course, to the Kids.
Josh opened the door to his closet.
Junk was piled on the floor and the shelves. With his foot he pulled his skateboard out
from the back corner. The stickers on the top were still glossy. There wasnt a mark
on the board even though it was two years old. It had lived in the closet all this time.
Josh wasnt so fond of skateboards. He stepped onto the board and reached up. He
could just barely touch the bottom of the box he wanted. With his fingertips he slowly
worked it out until it tipped over and down. He caught it and stepped backwards off the
He set the box down in the middle of
the room and took the styrofoam packing out. Then he walked to his desk.
He got down on his knees, crawled
half-way under the desk and grabbed the computers power cord.
"Well," he thought,
"if were going to move, I better start packing."
It was the first time his computer
would be unplugged since he bought it.
He gave the cord a jerk. It pulled
free from the socket. Josh felt like someone had unplugged the cord that held him to the
earth. His face felt hot and he felt the tears waiting to escape from behind his eyeballs.
He clenched his teeth and backed out
from under the desk, the cord still in his hand. Then he lay down on his back and stared
at the solar system above him.
Little bean pillows shaped like
stars and moons, gifts his little sisters had made for him, lay scattered around the
floor. He grabbed one and threw it at the light switch. He wasnt surprised that he
missed. But he finally hit it on the fourth try. The light went out. He looked back up at
the ceiling. The fluorescent paints glowed in the darkness. He squinted his eyes so he
only saw the fuzzy shapes of the planets and nothing else. He stared for a long time at
the blur that he knew was the earth.
He wasnt part of it any more,
he thought. He wasnt even part of the solar system. He was like a space probe
heading beyond the planets. Out into deep space. All by itself. No home. No life support.
Nothing. Just space. No friends. Just space. Just emptiness.
He was sure Seattle was going to be
just like that. Just emptiness. No home.