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My Dad is an Astronaut -- flash by Elizabeth Ahn


June 16, 2010

Pa! Guess what today is. My fifth birthday. Hyung saved his allowance to buy me a toy astronaut, and it even glows in the dark. Ma told me you were on a space mission and couldn’t make it back from Saturn in time. She says she misses you. I told her I want to be just like Pa, an astronaut, when I grow up.

I miss you.

For now, Ma gave me a stack of envelopes. I’m supposed to write letters ‘til you come back.


 

September 25, 2010

Pa! I’ve already made a friend at school, Charlie. He wears his hair in these really neat braids. If only the other kids didn’t point and laugh, they’d see how awesome he really is. The teacher likes him because he keeps his hands to himself. Today, I told everyone my dad was on a mission to Saturn, but only Charlie believed me.

“Jung ain’t lying. He ain’t.” He spoke in a quiet Southern accent.

The teacher’s expression looked as if she was going to scold me for my nonsense, but quickly turned soft. Maybe she believed me too?

We took our first vocabulary assessment yesterday, and I got only one wrong, the third highest score in the class. Forgot “u” in the word “trust.”


 

February 16, 2011

Pa! Ever since I told my class about you, the teacher has been acting strange. She doesn’t glare at me anymore when I whisper to Charlie, and even lets me sleep during read-aloud. Sometimes I catch her staring at me, the same way she would look at a stray cat with its ribs bulging out.

But she’s not the only weird one. Lately, I see Ma at the dinner table, clutching a glass bottle she told me not to touch. It’s past my bedtime. Through the bars of the stair railing, I watch her run a finger along the creases between her eyebrows, Hyung across the table. They always whisper without me, using words I don’t understand. Confidential. Innocence. Overdose.

“Hyung, what does ‘overdose’ mean?” No answer.

Maybe Charlie knows.


 

February 17, 2011

Pa, I never got a chance to ask Charlie what the words mean. The whole day, his nose was pressed into the desk, while kids walking by would yank one of his braids. Each time, I would flinch in frustration, wanting to speak up. Yet by the time I opened my mouth, my throat filled with cement, and everyone else was too busy giggling to listen. Charlie never yelled or yanked anyone back, so the teacher never knew. Why didn’t he? I tried running to carpool with him, like always, but this time he ran faster. So fast, he was already in his car by the time I caught up. The gray Kia drove away.


 

February 19, 2011

Pa, what are you supposed to do when you lose a friend, your only friend?


 

February 26, 2011

Charlie was even quieter today. He doesn’t raise his hand anymore. Once, I looked over at his desk and saw that he had gotten half the questions wrong on the vocabulary assessment. What do you think, Pa, is it my fault?


 

April 22, 2011

Pa, I lost my first tooth. I can stick my tongue through the gap in my smile, as if I have a pink tooth! I laugh to myself.


 

June 4, 2011

Pa, I flunked my math test.


 

August 15, 2011

Pa, I broke my pinky on the playground today.


 

January 9, 2012

Pa, I made the soccer team.


 

March 30, 2013

Pa, Hyung has been stealing Ma’s glass bottle and drinking from it. Why isn’t Ma doing anything?

They miss you, but I miss you more.


 

March 31, 2013

Pa? You’re supposed to say everything will be okay. You’re supposed to say you’ll be back soon – just a little longer.


 

June 16, 2013

Pa, it’s my birthday again, and this year Hyung gave me a baseball magazine. I’ve never played baseball. The corners are already bent, and the back cover is half-ripped, but I don’t mind.


 

October 5, 2015

Charlie still ignores me. The kids still yank his hair. He still does nothing.


 

October 7, 2017

Pa, I’m scared of starting middle school. What if the eighth graders make fun of me, like everyone does to Charlie?


 

May 21, 2018

Pa, I scored a goal in my soccer game today.


 

May 18, 2018

Pa, how do you tie a bowtie?


 

March 17, 2011

Pa? You’re supposed to help me.


 

March 30, 2011

Pa?

 

January 1st, 2022

Pa, this is my last envelope, and I’ve been saving it. Yesterday, Charlie arrived at school without his braids and spoke to me, smiling for the first time in years. But not the happy kind of smile – this one was resigned. After hunching over and hiding in bathroom stalls his whole life, Charlie stood on one of the cafeteria tables and yelled, “Congratulations, you all win.” His numb gaze slowly met mine as he shoved a note in my hand.

There I stood, motionless because I already knew what the note said. Today, Charlie didn’t come to school; he was on Saturn, just like you, Pa.




 

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1 Comment


unreal
unreal
3 days ago

this hit hard damn

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