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Star Mother   By: (1915-1986)

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A touching story of the most enduring love in all eternity.

That night her son was the first star.

She stood motionless in the garden, one hand pressed against her heart, watching him rise above the fields where he had played as a boy, where he had worked as a young man; and she wondered whether he was thinking of those fields now, whether he was thinking of her standing alone in the April night with her memories; whether he was thinking of the verandahed house behind her, with its empty rooms and silent halls, that once upon a time had been his birthplace.

Higher still and higher he rose in the southern sky, and then, when he had reached his zenith, he dropped swiftly down past the dark edge of the Earth and disappeared from sight. A boy grown up too soon, riding round and round the world on a celestial carousel, encased in an airtight metal capsule in an airtight metal chariot ...

Why don't they leave the stars alone? she thought. Why don't they leave the stars to God?

The general's second telegram came early the next morning: Explorer XII doing splendidly. Expect to bring your son down sometime tomorrow .

She went about her work as usual, collecting the eggs and allocating them in their cardboard boxes, then setting off in the station wagon on her Tuesday morning run. She had expected a deluge of questions from her customers. She was not disappointed. "Is Terry really way up there all alone, Martha?" "Aren't you scared , Martha?" "I do hope they can get him back down all right, Martha." She supposed it must have given them quite a turn to have their egg woman change into a star mother overnight.

She hadn't expected the TV interview, though, and she would have avoided it if it had been politely possible. But what could she do when the line of cars and trucks pulled into the drive and the technicians got out and started setting up their equipment in the backyard? What could she say when the suave young man came up to her and said, "We want you to know that we're all very proud of your boy up there, ma'am, and we hope you'll do us the honor of answering a few questions."

Most of the questions concerned Terry, as was fitting. From the way the suave young man asked them, though, she got the impression that he was trying to prove that her son was just like any other average American boy, and such just didn't happen to be the case. But whenever she opened her mouth to mention, say, how he used to study till all hours of the night, or how difficult it had been for him to make friends because of his shyness, or the fact that he had never gone out for football whenever she started to mention any of these things, the suave young man was in great haste to interrupt her and to twist her words, by requestioning, into a different meaning altogether, till Terry's behavior pattern seemed to coincide with the behavior pattern which the suave young man apparently considered the norm, but which, if followed, Martha was sure, would produce not young men bent on exploring space but young men bent on exploring trivia.

A few of the questions concerned herself: Was Terry her only child? ("Yes.") What had happened to her husband? ("He was killed in the Korean War.") What did she think of the new law granting star mothers top priority on any and all information relating to their sons? ("I think it's a fine law ... It's too bad they couldn't have shown similar humanity toward the war mothers of World War II.")

It was late in the afternoon by the time the TV crew got everything repacked into their cars and trucks and made their departure. Martha fixed herself a light supper, then donned an old suede jacket of Terry's and went out into the garden to wait for the sun to go down. According to the time table the general had outlined in his first telegram, Terry's first Tuesday night passage wasn't due to occur till 9:05... Continue reading book >>

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