By Mary Brunini McArdle
Stan Winchester knew even before he opened his eyes that
the March morning would turn out to be unusual.
For some reason he was certain this awareness was
his minimal psychic ability, something his wife Millie refused to
“The less said about that the better,”
she had declared
early in their relationship. “It’s just too spooky.”
“Millie, it’s completely
“It’s spooky to me.”
Stan refrained from ever bringing it up.
the half-light, Millie stirred and mumbled in her sleep. Stan slipped out of their
bed and made his
way soundlessly to the window.
The view from their ninth floor apartment was foggy. A typical Tennessee March
morning. Or was it?
Stan wasn’t able to see much, but something
didn’t look right. Could
a matter of color, of tint?
Millie hated living on the ninth floor and had been
begging to move. “Stan,
I really would
like to have a
garden—some connection with the outdoors.
I feel so closed in.”
couple had spent several weekends looking, but hadn’t found
liked. They had
begun thinking of
building a house.
worked as a paramedic; Millie a nurse.
Their schedules were irregular, to say the least. As often as not, one side
of the bed or the
other was empty when husband or wife worked a night shift. This morning both had a
night and a day off.
make some coffee,” Stan said.
. . . . . .
was foggy in North Alabama too. Rosalie
Beaumont liked to rise early to work in her yard.
Saddened that the pansy season was nearly over, she
herself with the thought that sometimes her favorite flowers lasted
May. The pear trees
finished and soon the forsythia and cherry would blossom—the
buds were already
I’ll look for some of those miniature petunias—for
the summer, she
thought. My, that
sky is an odd
see the sun, but the
clouds look pinkish. Maybe
are getting worse. Maybe
I should call
the eye doctor later this afternoon.
Only I thought maturing cataracts made everything look
bothering to find out if any of the neighbors were up, Rosalie went in
garage to get her trowel. Digging
so much easier early in the morning when the soil was dampish. Rosalie was getting a
little arthritis in
her hands, but she didn’t intend to let that stop her. Rosalie was a determined
. . . . . .
too was Jean Callendar. She
inherited an old historic monster of a house in Central Mississippi
was nineteen. Lacking
to go to college, Jean didn’t command high salaries. She longed to go to school
part-time, but her two jobs made that
virtually impossible. All
went into repairs on her house. She
knew it was unusual for a black woman to own a house like that, and her
goal in life was to hang on to the place and to keep it in good
goal took precedence over anything
was a pretty woman in her mid thirties, with chiseled features, a
head, and closely cropped hair. Some
would have dubbed her beautiful. She
liked to give herself an extra hour before work and walk through the
house. It was not
yet in shape to put
on tour—someday it would be, Jean hoped.
She had thought about renting out rooms but most on the
upper floor were
not livable and to make them so would take money too.
takes money,” she
glanced over the balcony
rail to a sunken living room with marble floors, completely restored
furnished lovingly with antiques, some left by the same aunt who had
Jean walked down a
curved stairway with a mahogany banister and down a hall to the kitchen
back. It had also
been restored. Jean
kept a spare bedroom downstairs to use
during tornado weather, but her real bedroom was on the second floor. These were the only
updated bedrooms, along
with their accompanying baths.
looked out the window in her back door and saw a foggy morning. Soft pink light streamed
across the white
kitchen floor. “Oh,
lovely. What a
lovely day. I wish
I could stay home, but after breakfast I need to get
would then walk the two
blocks to the
where she worked
her first job waiting tables. Several
nights a week she drove her ten-year-old car to a better restaurant
was one of the main hostesses. Jean
preferred the latter job because she could wear glamorous long black
enjoyed the feel of silk
against her skin. No
one knew she found
the gowns at consignment shops in Jackson.
the staircase once more, she donned her pink cotton uniform and grabbed
white apron from her bureau drawer.
smooth skin required no makeup; her hair was already done. She went back downstairs
and out the front
door, locking it behind her. She
shivered in the chilly air, noticing the fog still had not lifted.
. . . . . .
and Millie favored percolated coffee.
In ten minutes the coffee was ready, its fragrance filling
came out of the
bedroom barefoot and sleepy-eyed.
put her arms around Stan’s neck and whispered, “I
have an idea, Stan.”
couple had discontinued their subscription to the newspaper, preferring
spend mornings they had off together talking.
They drank coffee and chatted a while before making
Millie continued. “We
don’t have many
days off at the same time like this.
Let’s down a couple of cups of coffee and then
go out for a big
breakfast. A buffet
idea,” Stan replied.
A half hour later Stan and Millie returned to the bedroom
to begin dressing. “Cute,”
referring to Millie’s
jeans and Saints T-shirt. Her
hair and blue eyes glowed against the black and gold shades of the
shirt. Full breasts
strained against the fleur-de-lis
on the front.
“I’m tempted to go back to
bed,” Stan said.
“Buffet first, then home and we dive under the
“With you on that.”
No one else shared the elevator down.
Stan and Millie went out into a foggy
morning, opened their private garage, and climbed into Stan’s
“Still foggy,” Millie said. “Still
Stan frowned. The
character of the sky made him uneasy, but he didn’t voice his
They stopped at a favorite pancake house.
The parking lot was empty.
“It’s not that early,”
Millie said. “Almost
surprised it’s not crowded.”
She jumped out of the passenger’s side. “Come on,
He opened the restaurant door for her and they stepped
interior was cool and
Millie looked around, puzzled.
No customers were seated in the booths, no waitresses scurried around.
Stan spoke first.
“I’m going to look in the
was empty too, but much warmer—as if it had been used
stared out the front windows. “Stan,
there’s no traffic! I
attention on the way here, but—“
uneasiness gnawed at his insides.
“Millie, let’s grab some of those
muffins and get out of here.”
we won’t. I’ll
leave some cash. Then
we’re driving to the police station.”
tell them—what? That
there’s a closed
pancake house where somebody forgot to lock the doors?”
have a feeling we’ll have more to tell them by the time we
. . . . . .
lived alone in a small cottage. She
didn’t mind; she enjoyed solitude.
had her garden and her knitting and television in the evenings. She didn’t read
much, but she liked fixing
her own meals. She
rarely went out,
just for necessary things like groceries and doctor appointments. Her only relative was a
niece who worked at
a dry goods store nearby and who checked on Rosalie once a week.
was happy in her small world. And
because she didn’t go anywhere that day until afternoon, she
discovering how small that world really was.
Her favorite drugstore was well lit, but completely empty. “That’s
strange,” Rosalie murmured.
“The doors are open, but the pharmacist
isn’t here. Guess
I’ll come back
later. I would have
liked to buy some
toothpaste and Band Aids. I
couple of cuts on my hands from this morning.”
supper, the television cable wasn’t working.
Rosalie shrugged and took out her knitting. Then she put it down and
picked up her phone to call the
was no dial tone.
I ought to go next door, she thought.
Philip and Margery are probably home.
Philip was a retired insurance salesman—the
couple were quiet and
when no one answered the door, Rosalie assumed they had gone out. She knew there was no real
reason, but she
began to feel a bit nervous. Hush, she told herself.
was a short-haired, white dog with one black ear at her front door. “What’s
the matter, puppy?”
little dog wagged his tail and whined.
“Are you lost?
I think so. Want
to come in?”
hesitation, the dog followed Rosalie into the living room.
bet you belong to somebody, but I suppose you can spend the night. I
dog was housebroken. After
he accompanied Rosalie to bed and Rosalie’s nervousness faded
. . . . . .
was used to working two jobs and being around even more people than was
necessary. She was
always grateful for
her stolen hours of solitude.
blonde co-worker in her forties named Carol met Jean up front. “Hey, there. Something peculiar this
We’re the only ones here.”
was the owner and fry
cook. He normally
had at least one
helper in the kitchen and three waitresses on in the mornings.
don’t know. He’s
always here first.”
raised her eyebrows. “Thank
God for the
small blessings. No
customers are here
yet. I don’t know
what we’d serve them without
Joe—we could made some coffee and we have sweet rolls and
stuff. In case
somebody comes in.”
going to check the thermostat.”
March; of course it’s cold.
turned the heat on today.”
women stayed around until noon. “Let’s
go,” Jean said. “Why
don’t you come
home with me? Spend
me go get some stuff and I will. I’ll
be over in a half hour. Can
I love Atlas. But
bring his stuff. I
don’t have any cat food.”
. . . . . .
and Millie drove up to a deserted police station.
don’t want to go in,
let’s wander around a while,” Stan suggested.
They went past their bank, their pharmacy,
beauty salon, her favorite grocery.
They did not see another human being anywhere, and only a
lone cat in
the alley behind the grocery. Millie
started to cry. “What’s
“I don’t know, but we’ll
figure it out. Cheer
up, Millie, at least we’re together.”
The elevator still worked; they rode to the ninth floor
and unlocked their door. “Did
it, or was it
getting darker outside?”
“You didn’t imagine it.”
Stan pulled back the living room drapes.
“Come on, we’re going to watch the
Millie got a couple of beers from the kitchen and joined
Stan. They sat and
a long time. The
sky gradually turned to a dusky rose,
then a deep magenta. “That’s not our
sun,” Stan said.
“Oh, Stan, please.
Now you’re scaring me more.
course it’s our sun.”
Stan raised his eyebrows.
“Just because it’s pulling the fog
down with it and it
looks so big doesn’t mean it’s not the same old sun. Sunsets often make optical
illusions. And if
you dare say you feel it’s not our sun,
to hit you. I’m
making us some dinner.”
Stan waited until she turned her back, then mouthed, I know
it’s not our sun.
. . . . .
When Carol arrived she made Atlas at home
lived up to his name;
he was a black twenty-five pounder with a sad face and droopy eyes. Jean got in her
friend’s car and they drove
around their neighborhood too. Just
like their counterparts to the north, the women saw no other people. Carol took a notebook and
pen from her purse
and started writing.
“I went by the pet store.
To get food for Atlas.
Since nobody was there, I just took some.
I had no cash except for a twenty, so I’m
writing down what I
owe. If things get
back to normal I’m
going to pay back every penny.”
“I hope to God things get back to
normal,” Jean said.
“Me too, but if it’s still weird
tomorrow, I’m going
three cats in cages, not
to mention fish, gerbils, and parakeets.
I’m going to feed them.”
“You’re so kind, Carol.
To think of those animals at a time like this. But later
I think we might
drive up the Interstate—toward Memphis.
To see what we can see.”
goes with us.” Carol
waved the notebook
. . . . .
“Millie, that was a good dinner.
I’m going downstairs for a minute.”
“Just want a breath of air.”
Stan rode the elevator to the first floor and opened the
door to the street. The
guard was not present. There
lights from passing cars.
“All the better,” Stan muttered. “I want a clear
view of the night sky.”
He craned his neck upward.
The fog had dissipated.
The sky was velvet black, filled with brilliant stars. There was one enormous
azure star—as big as
Earth’s moon--nothing like any heavenly body Stan had ever
seen with the naked
eye. In fact the
star patterns were
totally unfamiliar—no recognizable constellations.
“I knew it!
knew that wasn’t our sun!
hardly see it for the fog, but it was enormous.
Obviously not too hot or we’d be burned up. We’re misplaced. How in the world could the
surroundings seem so normal (except
for the lack of other people) when we’re misplaced in the
breathing. This is
so weird. I hope I
have some astronomy textbooks
left. I need to
find some star maps.”
Being in the medical profession, both Stan and Millie
were science majors. Stan
astronomy and had taken a couple of electives in the subject.
Stan and Millie were in their late thirties and had no
children. Had there
been a child,
one with unusual
abilities, Stan’s psychic nature might have been forefront in
his mind. As it
was, largely because of his wife’s
insistence, Stan had tucked the whole business back into the recesses
Even Stan himself had
no idea his powers exceeded those of anyone born thus far to human
an adolescent and a young adult, Stan had tried to deny inwardly that
he had never
learned control, how to use or to harness his
were rusty, unpracticed.
paranormal ability came through unbidden only occasionally, as it had a
before when he knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that they were
Which indicates that we are in another solar system or
even another galaxy, Stan thought.
need to bring that up with Millie just now, though.
after she had fallen asleep, Stan rifled through old textbooks. The huge azure star had
rung a bell; it
wasn’t long before he located it.
breathed a sigh of relief. I
sure it was Rigel, he thought. We’re
still in the Milky Way Galaxy. Thank
God we’re not on the other side of the known universe. I couldn’t deal
what makes me think I can deal with this? he asked
himself. Because I
can. And because I
suspect I caused it.
There’s been too much power imprisoned in me
for too long. Like
a beast waiting to
break loose. I
think that beast might
be what misplaced us in the first place.
to have some kind of release.
had never gone by a rigid schedule.
didn’t notice the clocks in her house were off, only that the
didn’t realize that it really
was about an hour longer than normal.
let the little dog out; he happily rejoined her in a few minutes. She was afraid he belonged
to somebody, but
she was already fond of him. She
him Flopsy because of the one black ear, which always seemed to hang
had an Associate’s Degree in Business.
She had worked most of her life as a bookkeeper in her
fabric shop. Later
she took in
alterations in her home. Now
truly retired. At
dressed smartly in slacks and matching sweaters, usually wearing the
earrings her mother had left her.
was robustly healthy and quite impatient with her cataracts.
believe—yes, the Post Office, she thought.
“Flopsy, let’s go.
We’ll stop at
the vet’s and buy you a leash—and some dog
Post Office was open. Mr.
behind the counter.
known each other thirty years. Isn’t
about time you started calling me Kenneth?”
suppose. How are
except the driver hasn’t shown up.
Guess I’ll have to deliver the mail myself. Who’s your
is Flopsy. I think
he’s lost. He’s
a good dog; I’d like to keep him.”
don’t you ride along with me on the route?
It won’t take more than a couple of hours. Then we could have
be nice. Could we
stop by Dr. Vick’s on
the way and let me put up a ‘Lost Dog’ sign?
And get some food and a leash for Flopsy?”
have to lock up here
door at Dr. Vick’s swung open with a sigh.
No one was at the register.
one answered. “That’s
there was no one at
the drugstore, either.”
was off yesterday. Didn’t
you think I could leave a note with some cash?
Flopsy really needs dog food.”
out the food and a leash and I’ll make your sign for
settled for a bright red leash and hooked it to Flopsy’s
solid black collar,
which sported a red rabies tag.
“Smart,” she said.
a small male dog.”
was no traffic, but that was sometimes normal for such a small town. Every house looked quiet. Kenneth inserted the mail
in the boxes and
headed for a sandwich shop.
it too was empty.
is everybody?” Rosalie said, puzzled.
“My TV is out and so is my phone.
Has something happened we don’t know
phone is out too. I
don’t even own a
television set. I
like to read. But
of it, no one threw my
don’t we go to my house and I’ll fix our
lunch myself. Fresh
vegetables from the garden and
homemade bread and iced tea. Sugar
. . . . . .
take your car, Carol,” Jean said.
“Mine’s so much older.
turned out to be most efficient at the pet store, feeding and watering
animals quietly and quickly. She
finished in an hour.
ought to adopt one of those kitties.
That yellow tabby female is so pretty—and only
ten months old. Think
what a time she would have in your
house! So much
space—and stairs to play
just don’t know, Carol.
I have to watch
seem to enjoy Atlas. Besides,
don’t cost much and that tabby seems very healthy. You could use some
right about that. Look—there’s
stopped at a service station. Jean
her card, then filled the car. “I
believe it—the card worked and the pump activated.”
“Well, I’d call this a bizarre
day and a bizarre car trip, Carol.”
sky was as foggy as the previous morning.
But the trip north was pleasant and uneventful--if the
fact that theirs
was the only car on the Interstate could be called uneventful.
Jean,” Carol said, pointing.
arrived at a large suburb south of Memphis.
“There are lights on high up in that building. Somebody must be
then!” Jean exclaimed. They
lobby minus a security guard. “There’s
the elevator. What
or Ninth, I think.”
hope this is right. Why
don’t we start
took six attempts. Then
a youngish man
with sandy hair opened the door. “Ladies! Where are you two
drove up here hoping—“
you’d find a living person,” the man finished.
Come in and meet my
smiled an attractive blonde woman.
I’m Jean and this is Carol.
guys any idea what’s going on?”
don’t,” Millie replied, “but Stan thinks
he does. Why
don’t we all sit down?”
Carol,” Stan began, “I don’t know how
much to say at this point. It’s so
complicated and mind-boggling you probably won’t believe me. Even Millie is
you want to give it a try?” Carol asked.
me give you a little information now.
believe the Earth has been ‘misplaced,’
lack of a better
pretty sure I know how it
happened and I think there’ll be a solution of some kind. Why don’t we all
meet in Grenada in
say—three days? I
need some time. . .”
“How about the service station where we
asked Carol, who nodded.
“Yeah—nobody’s at the fast
They described the location; Millie wrote down the
parted, the four of them looking forward to seeing each other again.
. . . . .
“Millie, have you noticed yet the day is an hour
than it should be?”
“No, I have not.”
“Well, it is.
it’s getting dark now. Come
with me; I want to show you something.”
“Aw, Millie—I went out last night. And
look—I’m just fine.
She held Stan’s hand on the way down. It was crisp and cold
outside—no fog. They
could see the stars.
“Ohhhh. . .”
“It’s quite beautiful, isn’t
“Oh, Stan—that blue
“Star,” he corrected.
been reading about it. It
companion that’s a multiple, but you can’t see it
because Rigel is so
bright. We are not
in the solar
system, Millie. Or
we couldn’t see
Rigel like this.”
“Mind if I stay out a little longer?”
shower and wash my hair.”
Stan sat down on the porch and tried to concentrate. Don’t want to
mention the part about my
causing all this to Millie. Not
yet. But we need to
talk more. Get this
out in the open. So
I can use my gifts, direct them. First
thing, though is to find a way to
protect us. We got
physical harm, but I don’t know how.
Now I have to figure it out.
Some kind of shield.
He closed his eyes and pictured a barrier reaching all
around the Earth. In
his mind he could
actually see it forming, rosy pink sort of like the daytime fog. He continued until one in
the morning, at
last assured the barrier was holding.
Yawning, he decided to go to bed.
He would start again the next night.
. . . . .
Rosalie and Kenneth had lunch, Kenneth remarking it was
spent the entire
“Rosalie, have you ever been married?”
been in love once, but he turned out to be engaged.
He married the other girl and I never met anybody
“What a coincidence!” Kenneth
same thing happened to me! Her
name was Anne. I
met her too late; she was already engaged.
And like you, I never found another special
“Amazing,” Rosalie said.
“Kenneth, there’s one thing that
really scares me. We
are so alone—I thank God for you.
But there’s nobody to fix my cataracts and I
don’t want to go blind.”
“Of course you don’t.
But I have a strong feeling—we’re
going to get back.”
“I don’t know, but this sure
isn’t the world we
know. Even the sky
is different. Like
we got put somewhere by mistake.”
“Kenneth, do you think I’ll ever see
“The ‘Cathy’ who works at
the dry goods store. The
girl with the short brown hair and blue
my niece, the only relative
I have. She
checks—checked on me every
“”Well, like I said, Rosalie. I think we’re
going to get back.
And everything will be all right.
have a spare bedroom, Kenneth. Spend
“If it’ll make you feel
“Yes, and I’ll fix us a good supper. I love to cook.”
can tell, Rosalie. Your
absolutely wonderful.” He
her hand. “For
now, it’s you, me, and Flopsy.
A sort of family. Cozy
“Maybe later—a real
And the dog. And
“Why not indeed?”
. . . . .
Jean and Carol had a smooth trip back to Canton. They saw the night sky for
the first time.
What is that?”
“That big blue, shiny ball?”
“I don’t know, Jean.
I’ve never seen anything like it.”
“That is some sky, Carol.”
“You’d better believe it. Say, the pet store is
probably still unlocked.”
“Don’t we need to feed those animals
again? For the
“It’d be a good idea.”
“Do you know how much they charge for
“Only about fifty dollars.
Just to cover the shots.
That yellow tabby is old enough to have been spayed, but
we can’t tell
for sure, unless she hasn’t grown her fur back. There’s a vet
that does a lot of stuff like that for free.”
lights were on and the door was open.
Carol started on the litter boxes, Jean on the
parakeets. That was quick; all she
had to do was to
throw them some seeds, half of which were promptly thrown on the floor. The fish and gerbils were
a breeze. Then
Carol beckoned Jean over to the cages
to inspect the yellow tabby, which went right up to her.
“She knows she belongs to you, Jean. They do that sometimes. And
look—she’s been spayed.
She’s still shaven on one side.
That’ll save you money.”
“Carol, let’s take her home with
“She’ll probably share
Atlas’ litter box. Maybe
they’ll be friends.”
Both Atlas and the tabby acted mildly uninterested and
easier than growling
The women put the litter box at the top of the staircase
since Atlas was more familiar with Jean’s house than the
tabby. Carol took
the big black cat to her room at
bedtime and Jean curled up with “Summer.”
felt more contented than she had for a long time.
“I guess it will cost a little money and maybe
delay work on the
rooms, but I don’t care.
young. I can get it
Stan spent more time studying his maps; Millie cleaned
the kitchen and played solitaire.
that afternoon, she glanced up.
what are we going to do?”
“I’m going to get us back.”
“I’ve already started.
I’m glad you and I are together, darling, but
we’ll want to find the
people again. I
have a lot of work to do. At
night, outside. Is
that all right with you?”
“I guess. If
think it will help. No
point in going
to work. I’ll
bring you dinner out and
eat with you. And
beer and snacks every now and then.
Maybe I’ll start making a new summer dress with
all this time on
“Okay, see you in a while—with some
swiss steak and
At dusk he brought out a couple of small chairs and put
them on the front sidewalk. He
mind a tunnel, trying to project it forward to his own solar system. Such a narrow point in
space; he hoped he
was facing the right direction. He
thought he was, from studying all those star maps.
An hour passed; he broke out in a sweat.
Then he began to see.
Millie away. “I
can’t stop now,
Millie—would you put mine in the oven for me?”
The solar system came into view as his mind bore through
the barrier he had erected. Earth’s
had been deflected to an orbit around Venus.
Mercury had disappeared—perhaps into the sun?
Mars was closer in; Saturn
tilted on its axis.
What a god-awful mess, Stan thought.
We can’t go back until the system’s
rearranged somehow. There’s
orbit for the Earth.
I don’t even know if I’m seeing the
present. Rigel is
775 light years away from the
Earth. Is that the
past or the future?
I can’t be sure but for some reason, I feel
seeing the solar system as it is right now.
got to move all those
planets around. Maybe
I’d better sleep
. . . . .
Jean was leaning over the banister.
“Are you up?”
“I am now.”
“Am I going to catch rabies?”
“Of course not, Jean.
They don’t put those cats out in cages for the
public to view if they
haven’t had rabies shots.”
Jean tripped lightly down the stairs, Summer in her
got bacon and eggs in the kitchen.”
Carol joined Jean from the downstairs bedroom.
“I think you should stay here
“But I’m using your special downstairs
“It has twin beds.
I’ll come down if we have bad weather.
Of course, we’ll have to watch it for ourselves. The phones and
TV’s aren’t working.
Neither is my radio.”
“We both know what that kind of weather feels
like. It builds up
with a south wind and gets too
hot right before. I
need to get some
more clothes from my apartment. Come
not leaving your side, Carol.”
It was a treat to wear clothes that weren’t work
uniforms. Carol had
on a dark green
sweater and slacks, Jean a rose sweater dress.
They took Carol’s car to her garage apartment
and packed a large
they started down the
outdoor staircase, Jean glanced up.
“Oh,” Carol said.
“The sky looks different.
still foggy and pinkish, but now there’re distinctive
layers—each shade deeper
the higher up they go. Like—like
that means? Listen,
let’s go back to
the pet store. I’m
going to owe them a
fortune, but I want to get a collar with a bell for Summer. Atlas has one.”
he has two. A red
one and a purple
“Summer should have—green and maybe blue.
And a litter box for upstairs.
can put the other
one thing we
have—plenty of room. Can’t
picture this place when it’s all redone?”
if things keep on like this, there won’t be anyone but us to
do the work.”
not going to think about that. I’m
thinking about this as an episode—like an ice
took her notebook and pen into the store.
“We’d better feed everybody while
we’re here. And
come back again tonight.”
left with their merchandise a bit later and went back to
Jean’s for lunch. “We’re
to have to get
groceries soon.” Carol
going to be in debt up
both of them were giggling. They
stop, look at each other, and start all over again.
have an idea, Jean,” Carol said, catching her breath.
eat supper or lunch every day at the diner.
We wait on
ourselves and clean up afterwards.
Joe’ll be grateful to see the place so shiny
on, girl friend.”
. . . . .
Like Carol, Kenneth needed to pack a suitcase. He and Rosalie rose early;
he drove to his
little house on the outskirts of town.
Flopsy sat agreeably on the back seat.
Although adequate, the house did not have the charm
Rosalie’s did, but
then there was no woman’s touch inside and no garden except a
couple of trees
and shrubs. He had
an owl on top of his
mailbox, the only decoration Rosalie saw the whole time they were there.
When they pulled up at Rosalie’s Kenneth got out
whistled, “Well, if that doesn’t beat all.
Rosalie, would you look?”
“Look at what?”
Rosalie’s eyes followed where Kenneth was
she got out of the passenger’s
it my cataracts? Are
they worse? I see
“No, it’s not your eyes,
seeing the same thing I’m
from pale pink
to deep rose the higher up they go.
Rosalie started to tremble.
Kenneth took her hand.
“It might not be a bad thing, you know.
Maybe something good is happening.
Maybe something is ending.”
“Oh. . .”
“Let’s go in.
hungry. And I have
a surprise for
you. Make a special
lunch and you’ll
get a present.”
“Not until after we eat.”
Made-from-scratch buttermilk cornbread, liver and gravy
topped with onions, mashed potatoes, and green beans from the previous
grown by Rosalie herself. “This
feast,” Kenneth said.
“When do I get my present?”
like a girl.”
hardly a girl.”
me, you’re a beautiful girl.
put something small in her hand.
was my mother’s. You
don’t have to
promise me anything right now, Rosalie, but I
consider it an honor
if you would wear it.”
“It’s so beautiful.
And, Kenneth, it fits!”
held out her hand and admired the
Burmese ruby surrounded
by diamonds. “I’ve
never had anything
that I will treasure like
some of that apple cobbler?”
“Sure do. I
a man with an appetite”
“Don’t think I’ll ever
disappoint you that way, my sweet
patted his tummy and
licked his lips, making her laugh.
“I’m glad I didn’t retire. The postal work keeps me
Just like your gardening and cooking.
I’ll have to start helping you in the garden and
washing the dishes if I
keep eating like this.”
. . . . .
The bedclothes were in a rumpled mess when Millie woke
up. She got one
ankle tangled and
almost fell on her nose trying to get out of bed.
“Shit,” she said under her breath, not
wanted to disturb
Stan. He had tossed
and turned all night.
She pranced back in their room thirty minutes later
modeling her new dress for him. He
grumbled and rubbed his eyes. “Look,
Stan, the result of my labors. Isn’t
dress was medium blue with a square neckline, the hem trimmed with
blue eyes and blonde
hair were downright angelic. It
shame Stan wasn’t in a mood
appreciate his wife’s good looks.
huh,” he mumbled.
what’s the matter?”
get you some Tylenol.”
“Please. Then, Millie, we need to
talk. We need to
have a serious talk. First,
I want you
go downstairs and outside
and look up. Come
back and tell me what
to change first. It’s
too cold for this
I’ll be right here.”
was pale when she returned. “Stan—the
pink fog has rings. All
shades. They start
out light and get
darker as they get higher.”
do you mean—‘good’?”
did that, Millie. To
the sky. That’s
what we need to talk about.”
“It’s a protective shield. To keep us safe on our way
But, Millie, I’m really scared.
What if I can’t do it?
we end up inside a star? Or
at the end
of the universe? Or
in a black hole?”
how in the hell are you going to put us in—in—a
“This is what I’ve been trying to tell you all
won’t let me talk about my
powers and they’ve
been straining at the—uh—leash.
broke free and misplaced the Earth.
some of the people got left—somewhere.”
“Oh, Stan. . . .”
You’ve got to listen.
lie about something this important.
a sane person. You’ve
seen the pink sky and now the rings
and the absence of people. You’re
in some kind of dream, for shit’s sake.
And I think--I hope
I can put it right. But
I need your support. I
need you, Millie.
And this afternoon we have to meet Jean and
Carol in Grenada. I’d
like to have a
final report for them, but I need to work at least one more
Millie put her arms around him.
I’ll help you
anyway I can.”
“Do we need gas?”
“Then let’s get ready to go to
. . . . .
“I’ve been mulling all this
over,” Stan continued as he
and Millie nosed onto the Interstate.
“I’ve considered—well, why
not just leave things alone? We’re
not suffering at the moment. Jean
and Carol found us; surely there are
others out there. Only
practical to search the entire United States in a car to talk to people
don’t have any real
“Stan, why do you think the electricity and
working but the television and phones aren’t?”
“I don’t know—unless
it’s that the power and water are
localized—grounded on the Earth and the communication relays
are more global
and even out in space.”
“We can freeze food and treat water for
how long will the power
grids last? Freezers
would be useless
have to burn things for
heat. How long
before we start running
out of stuff?”
“A long time, but it will happen.”
“Then I think you have to try, Stan. To get us back.”
Jean and Carol were waiting inside the service station,
eating candy bars and drinking soda.
“Hello,” Millie said.
“We’re really glad to see
“Let’s help ourselves to some snacks
too, Millie,” Stan
He and Millie joined the others in their booth. “I wish I had
something conclusive to tell
you,” Stan began. “I
“How?” Carol asked.
“I imagine you’ve noticed the
“Sure did,” Jean replied. “What do they
“Well, since the Earth has been
misplaced—about 775 light
years from its orbit in the Solar System, it’s got to be
Moved back? On
a truck or
This is nothing to joke about.”
“It got misplaced by psychic power. Extraordinary psychic
going back the same way. None
of us were harmed. Those
rings are a barrier, to protect us
physically while we—uh—travel.
first I need one more night—to repair the orbits in the Solar
accommodate the Earth again.”
“No, with the same power that got us here, Carol. Please don’t ask
any more questions.
too hard to
in one piece. Just
pray that we stay that way. You’re
going to have to trust me.”
“He knows what he’s talking
about,” Millie put in. “Stan
knows. The proof is
all around us.
Missing people, a different sky. . . but we’re
going back where we
“Should we pack?”
“Carol,” Jean said,
If you don’t stop making wisecracks
going to leave you here to walk back to Canton.”
“Go back to Canton and wait, you two,”
Stan advised. I’m
hoping by tomorrow things will start to
“I don’t see anything else we can
do,” Millie added. “We
can meet here again—next Saturday if we
need to. In fact
let’s do so
“All right,” Jean agreed. “Take care. Let’s go,
. . . . .
Rosalie and Kenneth rose much earlier than Stan and
Millie but for different reasons.
four in the morning Flopsy insisted he had to go out.
Kenneth emerged from the guest room in his red, white, and
bathrobe with the American flag on the pocket.
“Don’t get up, Rosalie, I’ll
A few minutes later they burst back into the hall. “Rosalie!
You’ve got to see this!”
She had on her bathrobe with the lavender azaleas. “What,
“It’s so beautiful, Rosalie.” He started humming an old
Then singing, “I saw you standing alone. .
They held hands and went outside, Flopsy following
behind. Above was a
starlit sky with a
gigantic blue moon set like a sapphire in a field of diamonds.
“Well, I wanted to see you in the moonlight,
Rose, but I
wasn’t expecting this!”
“It doesn’t look like any moon
I’ve ever seen.”
“Me neither, but I think it deserves a
“I think you’re right,
“Guess we might as well stay up.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever
see anything like this again,
“But we saw it once, dear.
We saw it once.”
. . . . .
“Stan, I’m starved.
I don’t feel like cooking.”
“There’s that deli on Calhoun Street. They have all kinds of
frozen casseroles and
“Think they’ll be fresh
“They have dates on them, Millie. I’ll leave some
cash like we did at the
After the couple feasted on corn pudding and chicken and
dumplings and cherry pie, Stan noticed dusk was rapidly approaching. “This is it,
Millie. Outside for
me—for as long as it takes.”
“Coffee in an hour or so?”
put his head in his hands and said a brief prayer.
He had armed himself with intricate maps and mathematical
on the Solar System. First,
straighten Saturn. See
what effect that
has. It was the
easiest step of all;
his mind pulled on the gas giant until it was correctly set on its axis. Jupiter was drawn further
out as a result;
Stan concluded that was its normal orbit.
He breathed a sigh of relief—Mars had also been
tugged out again. Stan
left the moon where it was for now,
since the Earth was not yet in place to anchor its satellite. Then the hard
part—where was Mercury?
He concentrated and felt intense heat coming from a hard
nodule near the periphery of the sun.
Gradually he called out a flaming round object which
cooled as it
traveled the distance to Mercury’s former orbit. He wondered if it were
changed forever or if its previous
proximity to the sun had done enough damage, crushing the mountains to
burning out smoldering craters of rock.
“Looks good,” he whispered. Millie came out and handed
him a mug of coffee. “Almost
finished, darling. Cross
your fingers—we’re going on a long
“Should I pack?” she quipped,
mimicking Carol, and
doubled over laughing.
He grinned up at her.
I think we’re going to make it.
What time is it?”
“Two in the morning.”
“Let’s hope tomorrow we’re
back. Is it still
our day off, I wonder?”
“Good question,” Millie replied.
“I’ll be up in about thirty
When Stan opened his front door Millie was sitting on the
“I don’t think I’ll be able
to sleep the rest of the
“There’re other purposes for a bedroom. Do you think
“We didn’t on the way here. I don’t even
“Let’s watch the sunrise
. . . . .
Rosalie and Kenneth slept like innocent children. Rosalie and Flopsy curled
up in her bed;
Kenneth repaired to the guest room.
tonight neither closed their doors; the elderly couple wanted some kind
dropped off dreaming
of a small wedding in the future.
. . . . .
Jean and Carol ate supper at the diner.
Carol finished off her meal with four
chocolate doughnuts. “I’m
going to have
“I have Tums at the house.”
Both women took leisurely showers and retired to their
I can’t wait until Saturday, Jean thought,
enthusiastically rubbing her head on her owner’s chin. “Sweet
kitty,” Jean murmured. “What
did I ever do without you?”
Stan and Millie came together more than once that
night. They lay
together a long time
whispering to each other. Around
in the morning Millie got up and padded to the kitchen to make coffee. When she finished she came
back and pulled
open the bedroom drapes. She
watched eagerly as the
sky brightened to the cerulean that preceded the sunrise. The advent of a normal
yellow sphere minus
the pink fog brought forth applause.
They clapped and cheered and hugged each other. At seven the phone rang
with a request for
Millie to come in to work. She
mind at all, even without sleep. She
felt almost gleeful.
“There’s a world out there, Stan! There’s traffic
on the street!”
. . . . .
Dr. Vick greeted Kenneth and Rosalie when they arrived at
his clinic to ask about Flopsy. “Does
he belong to somebody?” Rosalie asked.
“Let me look up his tag number.” Dr. Vick grinned.
“I thought so. This
the little dog my neighbor was trying to find a home for. She’s moving in
with her daughter in
“Then I want him,” Rosalie said.
“He’s caught up on his shots. I’ll give you
some heartworm pills and a copy of his
records. Give him a
day. Congratulations. He’s only one
Rosalie bent down and hugged the dog, while Kenneth
looked on, beaming. Then
they went out
to a beautiful day. “Look,
Kenneth! No more
. . . . .
Jean indulged in her morning prowl through her house,
careful not to disturb Carol. It
twenty minutes before the phone rang.
“Was that the phone?” Carol peeped out the
looked out the window and gasped when she saw the bright blue sky. Carol picked up the phone
in the downstairs
it’s Carol. I
with Jean. We’ll
be right there, Joe. Give
us a few minutes.”
“Carol, we’re going to have to call
Stan and Millie. Joe
will never let us both off work
“I’m sure they’ll
understand, Jean. They
must be back to normal too.”
that as soon as their phone rings.”
. . . . .
Millie went off to work and Stan, which was unusual for
him, became exceedingly bored. He
missed his coffee companion more than he could say.
So he went first for a long walk and took some photographs
cardinals and squirrels in a nearby woody area.
Photography was a favorite hobby that he hadn’t
had much time to
enjoy, and it was such a beautiful early spring day—white
puffy clouds and an
azure sky. After
showering, he decided
to surprise Millie and cook dinner for her.
He went to a favorite deli to get ingredients for
French bread, and red wine. At
minute he picked up an early edition of the evening paper.
The newspaper was already slipping out from under his arm
on the elevator and by the time he entered the apartment the sections
to the floor. The
front page lay
exposed—a huge banner headline on top:
“What has happened to the moon?”
The packages from the deli followed the newspaper, and
the bottle of wine shattered, spilling on the olives and cheeses. Stan picked up the paper,
his hands shaking.
The article ran down one side of the front page and
continued on the third. The
scientific world was speculating as to what had caused the relocation
Earth’s moon to an orbit around Venus.
There was sufficient technology to locate the satellite
detail of its position
on its axis, the orbit, the orbit’s length, and the speed of
were six rotations per orbit rather than one.
The calculated distance from Venus was twice as far as
from the Earth in
the past. This made
it possible to view
the moon with the naked eye at certain times and from certain locations. And imagine how different
the Evening Star’s
position and appearance!
But no one
could come up with an explanation of how the relocation had occurred. Only
when—sometime during the night of March
I forgot, Stan moaned inwardly.
I forgot to put back the moon.
How could I have been so stupid?
Rosalie and Kenneth were so absorbed with each other and
Flopsy they paid little attention; the “pink fog”
interlude was viewed as the
time that brought them together. They
would remember fondly the night “under the blue
and Carol discussed the strange events at length but only with each
not telling anyone what we
experienced those days in March,” Carol declared. “I’m
not ending up in the nuthouse.”
“And I’m not telling anyone what they
told me at the pet
shop either,” Jean replied.
gone there on her lunch hour to inquire about Summer’s
records, only to
overhear one salesclerk beefing at another about nobody cleaning up all
birdseed on the floor from the night before.
The first clerk turned to help Jean.
“A yellow tabby, dear?
gave it to you and said they got it here?
We only had two cats for adoption—that gray and
white male and that
Jean asked the woman for the name of a good vet and left.
“Stan, can you do anything?
Can you fix it?”
worried Millie asked her husband when
got home from work.
“God, Millie, I’m afraid to. Things are pretty
stable—I’m terrified at the idea of messing
else up. Just about
everything’s changed to some
degree—ocean currents, wind patterns, weather, animal
are stable. I’m
leaving well enough
I sure can’t talk
to anybody. No,
best leave well enough
Stan and Millie kept their mouths shut and continued with
their lives, still talking in the mornings over coffee.
Kenneth and Rosalie were in their eighties
and cared more about staying out of nursing homes than astronomical
continued to improve
her house and Carol rented a room and bath there.
Atlas and Summer became quite attached.
Schools and universities rewrote textbooks, people with
doctorates published papers and gave talks, and a new branch of science
If you asked any ten-year-old kid what he or she wanted
to be upon reaching adulthood, the answer was invariably a
Eventually shuttles were launched to explore
the view of Venus from the moon of years past.
A lovely view—drifting clouds of gold mist, a
night and day for Earth’s
old satellite. . .but not a hint of pink anywhere.
Which only six people alive would attach any significance
© 2007; Mary Brunini McArdle
Mary Brunini McArdle earned her degree from the University of Dallas and has taken Continuing Ed or Graduate Courses in Art, English, History, Marine Science, and Military Strategy. She has been writing seriously for about twenty years. After publishing in small journals across the country, she now submits mainly online and has had pieces in APHELION, BEWILDERING STORIES, COMBAT, THE TRUTH MAGAZINE, and others.
McArdle has won numerous prizes in poetry, fiction, essays, and short plays. She lives near Huntsville, Alabama where she works on writing, art, and original doll clothes. She has three children and three grandchildren and is a cat lover. Her first novel, ALICE REFLECTED, a paranormal thriller, will be released by Rain Publishing in April.
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