We Danced an Irish Reel

Are you going to stare at me all night, or are you going to ask me to dance?

Photo by Johnny McClung on Unsplash

This final entry for the #writingsprintchallenge given by @tuftin.reads is prompted by The Lobster, a wordless tune the Irish supergroup, The Gloaming. Below is my offering.

Some memories fade with age, becoming frail and full of holes, less and less real with each recollection. Other memories are etched in stone and you will take them with you to the grave. Such is my memory of that night so very long ago. I must have been barely 14, just a lad. My cousin had dragged me off to a céilí, to keep her company. I had no business being there—I couldn’t dance to save my life!

But there I was. Sitting with my back against the wall, a warm mug of beer before me that I had little interest in. Brigid had been quickly recruited by one young man after another to join them on the dance floor, where everyone wheeled about to the reel being played by the band. The music was grand, so I had succumbed completely to my natural glumness.

I looked about after this last round of dancers hit the floor and suddenly noticed the most beautiful redhead I had ever laid eyes upon. She sat two tables away and had to be close to my age. Her eyes were fixed upon the stage and I followed her gaze to the young man playing the fiddle with such skill and instantly felt a twinge of jealousy. Unreasonable, I now know, but there it was, me wishing that I were the one to whom she had given her attention.

I don’t know how long I sat there staring at her, lost inside my own imagination. It took me a moment to realize she was speaking to me. I snapped out of it and asked, “What?”

“I said,” she said, “Are you going to stare at me all night, or are you going to ask me to dance?” Her voice was as melodious as the music and it enthralled me to hear her speak. It took a moment to realize the meaning of her words.

“You want to dance with me?” I asked.

“Well, I don’t want you to put yourself out,” she replied sharply, a spark in her eyes.

I have two left feet, but my response to her is to shake my head up and down, at which she holds out her had to me. I found myself moving from my chair to her side and taking her hand, a lovely hand, and following her as she led the way to the dance floor, already beginning to twirl to the music and laugh the most spectacular laugh that ever left the mouth of a human being.

Here’s where memory fails me, for I cannot tell you a bit at how I performed that evening as a dancer—I’m sure I was terrible. I don’t think I mimicked the dancers around us, for I never took my eyes off of her. She moved with such grace and abounded with such joy! Heaven had come and landed right here before me, an angel with red hair, green eyes, perfect lips, graceful curves and music in every move.

One dance after another went by, the evening stretched out and we never left the floor until it was all over. Only then did I ask her what I should call her. “Caitlyn,” she said, “With a Y.”

“I’m Finnigan. But my friends call me just Finn.” I said.

“Thanks a million for the evening, just Finn!” she said and smiled.

She left with her companions. I left with my cousin. And I never laid eyes on her again, though I have often wondered what became of her and if she’s still alive, whether she married, was she happy, did she still dance?

I will never know. But I will always have the memory of a heavenly creature coming down from above to spend the most lovely evening with me.

I will always have that.

Home Sweet Mars

Photo Credit: @deirdredenaliphotography on Instagram

Day 6 of the 7 Day #writingsprintchallenge offered by @tuftin.reads on Instagram. Today’s prompt is the photo above. The red hue in the upraised rock reminded me of the Red Planet and the little patches of ice, snow and green growth cast my thoughts towards the terraforming of Mars, a process that will take anywhere from 50 years to 100 million years, depending on who you talk to. It all begins in earnest before this decade passes. I’m a huge fan and so, my entry today is called, “Home Sweet Mars.” Enjoy!

I stood on the tarmac watching the Stella Rose flip and begin its graceful arc on her way to the surface. It never ceases to amaze me, the beauty of a well engineered rocket designed to traverse the space between Earth and Mars, stop, unload, load, refuel, repeat. SpaceX had grown into the most powerful and wealthy company in the solar system by the simple virtue of being the first to perfect the process. They are by far not the only show in town. Bezos pulled off his own version and has given Musk a run for his money.

But for me, today is not about rockets, except this one, the Stella Rose and not because she is a thing of beauty, something not only a space engineer could appreciate. No, this rocket is beautiful because within her bowels is my family, whom I haven’t seen in a decade. I could have made the return trip, but my work here is critical. I am in charge of Operation Green Mars. And today, all that hard work has paid off for me personally. 

The issue that has been kicked around and argued about for decades wasn’t about whether or not we could terraform Mars, but a question about how long it would take. We understood the process fairly well, but change takes time, as they say. But Musk, in his usual cavalier and ingenious moves, decided it was a question of scale. He decided that you simply increase the inputs on a massive scale, you could speed up the process of converting the Mars atmosphere into a true atmosphere, one that humans can breathe in freely. 

Today I stand on the tarmac, without a spacesuit. I drove my Tesla here with the windows down. I do have an oxygen breather, developed by the folks at AlphaSpace. It is clipped to my belt, and consists of a plastic tube that terminates with a nasal insert clipped to my nose. Inside the small device on my belt are oxygen tablets the size of chlorine tablets used in swimming pools. It is really just an oxygen-enricher designed to make up for the thinner Martian atmosphere.

Around me, the sides of Jazero rise in the distance, behind the Stella Rose as she touches down gracefully. They are covered this morning with ice and the green of lichens and moss. We are not there yet, but we have worked a miracle in the 25 years since our first manned  mission. 

I move forward as a crowd begins to form by the gated fence designed to keep us all a safe distance from the rockets. It doesn’t happen often, and it hasn’t happened now in over 12 years, but sometimes things go wrong and a rocket will explode after touching down. This one does not.

Soon Marie and the kids will be making their way down the gangway and we will be a family again—a Martian family! Welcome, I think, to home sweet Mars!