Fifteen and twenty-one equaled thirty-six, the same age my mother is now. My Mom would be fifty-seven in twenty-one years, old but not ancient. But I guess I wouldn’t know what she even looked like in twenty-one years if I wasn’t going to be there. And I wouldn’t know anything about anybody; my grandparents, my Dad, Slinky, Frank, Dean, Fran, Annie and all my other friends. Or how ninth grade would be, let alone the next twenty-one years of my life on Earth.
“Would Sarree be a good mother?” Better than me? I wondered.
“She wants only what is best for Yugo, even if it means giving him up to you. She would do that out of love for him, and I think that defines a good parent.”
I thought about my Mom…and my Dad. I knew my Mom cared about my best interests, but to tell the truth, I had some doubts about my Dad.
“Would you be a good father?” The nagging uncertainty that had been hovering over my thoughts was out of my mouth, but I couldn’t forget that Mr. D had rejected Yugo when he first met us at the gate.
Mr. D’s face crinkled and he bowed his head. I don’t think I hurt his feelings, exactly. More like he admitted there was some truth to what I’d said.
“I would try my very best,” he replied, like he was pledging his word of honor. “I know that I would. For his sake, for Sarree, for my own. And, for you. I have come to understand a great deal about love, because of you.”
I felt my face flush. I wondered if Mr. D could see the color red, or if he only sensed emotions. “Why did the Perfect Council go all weird about the pennies?” I dug them out of my pocket and put them in front of us on the table.
Mr. D stiffened, a rather odd reaction to a measly five cents. “That is a great deal of wealth to us here, Dusty.”
“Five pennies?” I quipped, arranging them in row. “What’s so valuable about these?”
“They contain the most precious resources on our planet. Resources that are regenerated every five hundred years.” Mr. D’s hand fluttered, then tapped lightly on the tabletop. “Just the minute amount of copper and zinc found in one penny allows us to build and maintain our city for a hundred years.”
“You mean, I’m rich here?” What a neat thought!
“You are indeed,” he answered with a chuckle, then, sounding just like an adult, added, “but you must realize you offended everyone by trying to buy Yugo.”
Like I was some kind of slave trader! “I did not!” I shouted, totally mad. “They acted like he was worthless and all I wanted to prove was that I’d give everything I had to save him!”
Mr. D drew back. “Yes, of course, I know that. But there will be those who say you did not save Yugo out of love, but for gain. There will always be someone who will find fault with the why and wherefore of what you do.”
“And I thought this was a perfect society,” I groused. “No more perfect than my own.” I wasn’t real sure that I wanted to be left out of my rightful place back home, anymore.
“Dusty,” Mr. D whispered, though Yugo slept on unaware of us and no one else could have overheard us, “look out the window!”
The colorless sky was no more! Streaks of reds, purples and pinks fanned across the horizon, like a brilliant Seattle sunset, though there hadn’t been any sun to set. Lots of dust maybe, but no sun that I ever saw.
“What happened?” I whispered back.
“Once in a million years!” Mr. D’s eyes sparkled and his face lit up with a smile. “This is a most rare occurrence!” He reached over and grabbed my hands pulling me onto my feet, adding with a little laugh, “You might say you’ve brought color to our world!”
He motioned to me and I swept Yugo into my arms as I followed Mr. D outside. A great crowd had gathered all along the sidewalks and in the street. A hushed murmur followed us as we walked down the middle of the street through a path left open for us. I felt x-rayed. Mr. D came to a halt in front of the mass and stood transfixed before the silent fireworks in the sky. Yugo woke and I shared his sense of joy and wonderment.
Then he began to chitter, squirming in my arms, and I knew Sarree was somewhere near us. I watched him eagerly searching for his mother, trying to communicate with me his sense of rightness, hope and belonging. I clutched him tighter, willing him to stop, but I knew I had already lost that special link with him.
I had to look away, up at the sky. Rainbows danced in my teary eyes. Once in a million years wouldn’t be enough for me, that much I knew as a deep, intense longing filled me to go back home. I tried to tell myself that I was picking up Yugo’s emotions, but I knew that this was my own, my very own, feeling. I guess I knew all along that it wouldn’t work out with me staying here, that sooner or later I would want to go home again.
I understood it all; and I didn’t understand any of it. The pain that had ripped my heart in two, left me feeling oddly at peace. I scanned the crowd, looking for that face I would recognize as Sarree. It wasn’t hard to find her, for she was staring at me. Me and Yugo. Yugo blipped like radar when he spied her. I had a choice: break eye contact and turn away, or smile.
She strained to see over someone’s shoulder and I lost sight of her momentarily. When I saw her head pop into view, I smiled and moved so that there was a space for her.
The sky dripped colors, like a wet painting. The gallery of Monosapiens oohed and ahhed, as Sarree squeezed between me and Mr. D. Yugo chirped and mewed, rocking in my arms, delighted that he had us all together. He reached out for Sarree and she hesitated but a fraction of a second before she took him from me.
He has it all, I thought, watching them, happy for all of them, yet tasting the bitterness of my loss. Mr. D smiled lovingly at Sarree and Yugo, his massive, white-furred hand on Sarree’s elbow. She nuzzled Yugo, stroking his cheek. It was a perfect picture of a perfect family.
I was not the only one viewing the perfect scene, for others had noticed. It seemed all eyes were on us. What did they expect? I’d go crazy and run up and down the street, shouting and swearing? I stood quietly beside the family reunion until the onlookers lost interest and went back to sky gazing, then made my way back to Mr. D’s house.
It wasn’t easy to find. I had to walk up and down the little paths to the front doors and check out the nameplates. It would have been smart of me to have counted the houses, but it seems I get these good ideas too late. I had only walked in the door when Mr. D came in behind me.
“Dusty,” he acknowledged my pain in saying my name.
“It’s okay, Mr. D, really. I thought about it, and I know that it’s better for Yugo to be with his mother. There’s whole a lot I don’t know about raising a Monosapien.” I laughed, but it was half-heartedly.
He tipped his head. His smile was so nice, and his eyes were so kind!
“I’d like to go home.”
“Yes.” He indicated the five pennies on the table. “Take them.”
I shook my head. “No, I’d like Yugo to have them.”
Mr. D clasped his hands, his face a map of concerns. “That would not be wise. So much wealth for one individual would be a terrible imbalance in our society.”
“Then for the three of you!” I shot back.
Eyes downcast, he sighed. “No.”
With my back to Mr. D, I wiped the table clean of the pennies. I was about to pocket them all when I flashed on finding Yugo in the desert. There were probably others out there left to die.
I plunked a penny down on the table, turned and faced Mr. D. “Then this should be plenty to get enough food and shelter for all the misbegottens.”
I had stunned Mr. D, I could see it in his face. “You will make sure of it, won’t you Mr. D?”
“Of course I will,” his voice rose and filled the room with warmth. “Of course I will,” he repeated, coming to me and hugging me tightly. “Oh, Dusty, what a legacy you’ve left us!”
Well, at least it wasn’t a bad pun like my Dad would have made. But still, I finally appreciated how making ‘sense’ could mean a lot of different things, all at the same time.
I was smothering and pulled away from Mr. D’s chest. “Mr. D, how am I going to get home? I don’t have a magic ring, ruby slippers or a mirror, so what’s left—a space ship?”
He planted his hands firmly on my shoulders. I sucked on the inside of my bottom lip, to keep from smiling and crying, for I felt like doing both. We locked eyes, and I knew I would miss him and Yugo a lot, for a long, long time.
“I won’t forget you, ever,” I said, without even a crack in my voice.
He dropped his hands from my shoulders, brushing one hand across my forehead and down my cheek. “Nor I you.”
Out of the corner of my eye I could see through the window that the colors had begun to wash out of the sky. Everyone began to drift away. Sarree and Yugo would be home soon.
“Just open your eyes, Dusty,” intoned Mr. D. “Open your eyes.”
Weren’t my eyes already open? Confused, I squinted hard, trying to focus on Mr. D. I blinked and blinked again.