My Uncle From the Sky

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Porches were made for nights like this: The clatter of kids inside putting dishes in the dishwasher, followed by whatever short-lived game they had invented to stave off bedtime. How wonderful and even temporarily perfect, to be able to half-stand, leaning on a wood banister with something to drink in one hand, looking out over the horizon while the crickets chirp their evening concert. The sounds floated over a warm summer breeze. Could your hear the wind running its fingers through the tall grass or perhaps did you just just feel it, there in the starry darkness?

The weathered white garage, fading to a misty grey in the absence of sunlight, looked almost stoic against a backdrop that could probably only be captured in dark shades of oil paint by an old master. As the soothing chorus of humanity from behind and nature from ahead continued, a star sparkled and moved with a trail behind it: A falling star; a meteor. They were easy to see this far away from the city, and even plentiful on some nights. It had been a while since one had graced this particular slice of sky-theater; an unexpected delight to add to a beautiful evening.

As the star fell, though, its dazzling show didn't begin fizzling away like usual. It seemed to only increase in brilliance. Still leaning on the porch rail, his eyes narrowed and his lips parted slightly as he tracked its trail with keen interest. Then, his gaze slowly began to open wide as the streak grew wider still. He began to ask himself if a slight audible sound was connected to the star.

By the time his brain registered that the exponentially increasing volume of what started as a whistle and dropped in pitch to a rushing torrent of liquid wind was indeed paired with the scintillating display, albeit on a slight delay, it was too late to have any reaction other than to shudder backwards with a start. The star-turned-fireball ended with a thud that could be felt there on the porch, followed directly after by the sound of twelve dozen shovels-full of dirt cascading over the shed and surrounding field.

He stood in silence. The insects had stopped. Inside, a child sounded as if they were calling out to their parent, in question. Then, there was a very different sound. It was a sound that didn't come along with shooting stars or meteors: a sound that didn't come after an airplane crash or a cannon ball, or anything in the world as a matter of fact. Not this world. Yes, it was a sound that he hadn't heard in over 30 years: a sound that he halfway didn't want to believe and yet one he had longed for every day since. It was a sound that could mean everything was ok or that everything was about to be turned upside down.

He didn't feel his drink slowly slipping from his hand as his fingers relaxed, powered down by his brain. All mental energy was devoted to a flood of memories reaching back to a childhood that had been shaped by the experiences that followed that unmistakable sound. As the imagery, feelings, smells, and bitter taste of adrenaline filled his senses, the falling drink took minutes as time slowed for him, its liquid trail following. Finally, the drink made impact on the porch floor, shattering. It was of no consequence to him as he stared on, mouth agape.

"Honey, you alright?" she called from inside. Children continued playing uninterrupted, oblivious to anything outside the immediate confines of their own imaginary world, as it should be. Beside the garage, a cloud of dust reflected the light of star and moon. His heart pounded and his body recoiled as the seconds for the smoke to dissipate again seemed to take forever. And from that cloud, a familiar silhouette. One that caused his cheeks to begin to draw up in a smile. The sweet night air finally rushed back into his lungs.

"Honeeey?!?"

"Uh, yeah babe, everything's alright - something...something fell out in the shed that I was working on I, I need to go put it back."

He bounded off the porch as if he were a young boy, running to meet his playmate in the yard. His joints reminded him that he was no longer that boy, and yet still he jogged on, undeterred by the prominence of a figure that towered higher and higher above him as he drew closer. The disparity between its size and his seemed to have no regard for the many inches and pounds that time had added to his stature as a grown man.

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