son has been approved," said the holographic version of the
priest, and Billy and Sabrina thanked the balding and cloaked man
as he stood on top of their coffee table, his portly frame in a
shaft of orange and vibrating light.
been approved," the priest said, his gaze directed at Billy.
sighed the heaviest and saddest of sighs and Billy nodded in grim
satisfaction and they both said "thank you" in that reverent
tone reserved for men of religion and men of the law.
the priest continued "and how much can you give?"
deferred to Billy as she wiped the rainbow-colored tears that flowed
from her eyes.
a million, give or take," Billy said.
a million should see little Thor there comfortably enough
Your ceremony is scheduled for the thirteenth of the month, with
a potluck to follow, so bring a dish. Goodbye for now, and again,
congratulations." And the image of the priest disappeared.
sat in electric silence and studied their three-year-old son Thor,
the reason for all of their anguish. Thor sat on the floor playing
with his set of hovering blocks, building castles in the air.
broke the silence first. "That's nice, fork over a million
bucks, but be sure and bring a damn casserole
make it something simple," Billy said. "You know
that bean salad with extra
garbanzos that everyone likes so much."
rainbow tears flowed from Sabrina's eyes, and Billy scooted over
on the couch to comfort her. He turned on the holovision to watch
a replay of last weekend's service. The same priest stood in suspension
above the coffee table, but this time, a circle of congregants surrounded
him, all reciting a poem of worship.
Billy said, "he's better off this way. We're better off this
way. You don't think they appreciate our suffering," he said,
pointed towards heaven.
it gets you out of a serious fucking jam with them, too," Sabrina
interrupted, and the white and shiny front of her dress was splashed
with purple and yellow and pink and orange and red and blue. It
took a lot of money to get tears as lovely as that. The church had
criticized Billy for not offering enough-- enough of anything. Thor
and a million dollars would wash away a lot of sins.
sighed and stared at his son, his not-quite-right-son, a son whose
emotional deformities would haunt them forever.
been through all this before," Billy said with gentle anger.
"He's better off; we're better off. Besides, what would happen
to him after we've grown old? Who would take care of him? I know
you think I don't love him, but you're wrong."
enough. Billy saw a lot of himself in his son, he saw all his weaknesses--
gentleness and sympathy and compassion, the kind of things that
would get one slaughtered in this adult world.
rose from the couch and left the house, leaving little Thor behind
with his blocks and castles and dreams. They turned the force field
on the house so little Thor couldn't accidentally run away. It was
time for service, service at their huge and sprawling church that
was on the highway leading out of town. The church was visible for
miles around, its circle of stones rising above all the buildings
in their suburban city.
thirteenth came rather quickly, and Billy and Sabrina dragged Thor
to their church, The First Druidic Church of Huntington Hills. A
cluster of six rockets sat in a circle in the parking lot, and the
fat and robed priest stood in the center of the cluster.
church scientist led Billy and Sabrina to the rocket that Thor would
share with five other children. He would have it easier than the
other children would. After all, Billy was donating a million dollars
to the church.
shell is insulated to withstand 20,000 degrees Fahrenheit, and he
will be fed intravenously for the nine months of the journey."
he be awake?" asked Sabrina.
until he's past Mercury," the scientist explained. "It's
very important that he's awake for the last leg of the trip
I'm sure you know why."
nodded an anguished nod and tears of magenta and yellow and black
and green rolled down Sabrina's cheeks.
was placed in the rocket, strapped into the seat, and he cried and
cried and Sabrina hugged him and told him she would see him soon,
when his trip was over.
stood outside the rocket, too ashamed to say good-bye to his son.
He blamed himself for his son's shortcomings. If only his son had
shown some signs of aggressive behavior in his short life, some
sort of moxy, some sort of will, then they wouldn't have to do what
they felt compelled to do. But no, Thor was perpetually happy, gentle
that wouldn't do. Not at all.
stayed inside the rocket long enough to watch the church scientist
inject Thor in his little and white arm, the injection quieting
the boy instantly. His eyelids fluttered shut. Sabrina kissed him
on the cheek and exited the rocket. She found Billy in the crowd
gathered around the priest, but she didn't look at him or the priest.
stared fretfully at the sun.
priest started the ceremony, his eyes to the sky and his arms outstretched.
Belenus!" the priest called the sun by its name. He started
chanting in a pidgin sort of Gaelic, the congregants responding
at the appropriate intervals.
priest finished his chant and bowed his head just as the rockets
fired and launched simultaneously. Sabrina followed Thor's rocket
until she could see it no more.
stared at the sun, the hungry sun, the same sun that Thor was flying
towards, the same sun that would awaken him, just as the nine months
of the journey ended, just as the outer shell of the rocket was
sacrificial potluck immediately followed the launch. Sabrina picked
all the garbanzos out of her bean salad and threw them towards the