“Ah, Dad?” Simon knew that he wasn’t supposed to disturb his father when he was working but his father was so rarely home and right now what Simon wanted to show his father was visible outside.
“Yes, Simon?” His father took off his glasses, rubbed his eyes and looked up from his papers. “What is it? I know I’ve had dinner and you’re not supposed to interrupt me when I’m working.”
“I know,” Simon shuffled a foot, “but Dad, when did you last look at the stars?”
His father indicated the papers on the desk in front of him and the computer screen set to one side, “Simon, I’m an astronomer. I look at stars all the time. I’m looking at stars now.”
“You’re looking at bits of papers with information about stars,” argued Simon. He added quickly, “Important information, but when did you last look at them with your own eyes?”
His father gave a short cough of amusement. “Why only-. Well, it was back at the lunar eclipse in spring, wasn’t it?” He scratched his head. “You have got a point there. Why don’t I come out and look at them with you now. That was what you wanted, wasn’t it?” He smiled at his younger son.
Simon nodded. “Uh huh. There’s some stuff I’ve been wanting to ask you about.”
“Excellent.” His father beamed. “Let’s go look at some stars.”
They walked out of the house into the darkness of the backyard and looked up. Above them silver points of light flared and retracted in unison, as if to an eccentric heartbeat. Each time the stars flared colours tinged the nimbi around them. The background glimmer of the Milky Way pulsated in time with the stars.
“How long has this been going on?” Simon’s father appeared fixated.
“At least two weeks.” Simon added, “Didn’t any of your work friends call you?”
“I’ve been letting a lot of things go through to my messages while I get this paper finished,” his father replied absently.
“I’ve noticed,” commented Simon.
“I think I should go call a few people now.” His father was still looking up but walking back towards the door. “Yell at me if anything changes.”