Boulder (short fiction)

Cindy and Cragg


Cindy and Laura made it to the hospital without getting in a wreck. It was a miracle in itself, considering how recklessly Cindy drove through midday traffic. There were at least a half-dozen near misses, and probably more she hadn’t noticed in her haste.

They ran into emergency admittance, trying not to think the worst but thinking it anyway. The nurse at the desk directed them to the waiting area and said they’d be notified when there was news.

Cindy fidgeted in her uncomfortable plastic chair. She glanced at the admittance nurse. “I’m going to check again.”

Laura took Cindy’s hand. “Mom, stop.”

“I just want to know—”

“Mom . . . . ” Laura’s voice trailed off. She didn’t know what else to say.

Cindy took in a deep breath, closed her eyes. The antiseptic smell of the hospital nauseated her. She hated this place. It reminded her of the room she’d waited in when her grandmother had died. Her good grandmother. The one who baked cookies and called her “Pumpkin”.

“He’s not supposed to get hurt,” she said. “How can he get hurt?”

“He’s tough, Mom,” said Laura. “Not invincible.”

Cindy saw the towering Saturnite in her mind. She couldn’t imagine anything short of a bomb harming him.

“Why won’t they tell me he’s okay?” she asked. “I’m going to ask again.”

“Mom . . . ” Laura let go of Cindy’s hand. “Okay.”

Cindy asked. They still didn’t have any news for her. She sat back down. She hated this feeling.

“I just don’t want anything . . . I just . . . what’s the point in dating a rock man from outer space if shit like this can happen?”

“It’ll be okay, Mom.”

Laura was trying to be strong, but Cindy saw the tears forming in her daughter’s eyes. They’d both become fond of Cragg. More than fond. They loved the big lug.

“I’m sorry, honey.” Cindy hugged her daughter. “I know this is tough for you too. I’m supposed to be the mom.”

“You get to be Terran too, Mom.”

Cindy squeezed Laura tight. It was comforting to have something, someone, to hold onto. She couldn’t imagine going through this alone.

Going through what? she wondered. All they really knew was that Cragg was hurt, had been in some kind of accident. Why did she think the worst? Maybe it was human nature. Assume the end of the world that way when it wasn’t, no matter how bad it was, you could feel better about it.

“It’ll be okay, Mom,” said Laura, her voice breaking.

Cindy wiped away Laura’s tears. “No crying. Not yet. It’s fine. It’ll be fine.”

Laura nodded. “Yeah.”

A doctor came for them forty-one minutes later. Cindy knew because she counted every one as it dragged its way across the waiting area. They were taken to Cragg, who sat in a room by himself. He had some surgical epoxy across a gash in his stone face and his right arm, a fresh crater in the forearm, was in a sling. In his other hand, he held a small brown dog.

“He wouldn’t put it down,” said the doctor.

Cindy and Laura embraced Cragg. The dog yipped.

“He should be okay,” said the doctor. “We thought we might have to keep him for observation for that head injury, but scans came back okay.”

“You big idiot,” said Cindy. “Don’t they teach you not to walk in traffic on Saturn?”

“I saw this canine about to be struck by a bus,” replied Cragg.

“How’s the bus?” asked Laura.

“I didn’t take the time to find out,” said Cragg.

The dog hopped into Laura’s arms and started licking her face. “Cool. I always wanted a dog.”

“We’re not keeping him,” said Cindy.

“But, Mom, Cragg was nearly killed saving him.”

“I was only slightly injured,” said Cragg.

“Regardless, don’t Saturnites have some kind of honor code? Once you save someone’s life, you have to take care of them or something like that?”

“We have no such code. If this beast wasn’t capable enough to ensure its own survival, it should be disposed of.”

“And you jumped in front of a bus for it because . . . ?” asked Laura.

Cragg sighed. “Because I have been on Terra perhaps too long.”

“You bet your ass you have, big guy. And on Terra, you save a dog, you have to keep it.”

“That’s not a Terran tradition,” said Cindy.

“Well, it should be.”

Cragg reached out with his good arm and patted the dog on his head. He yipped, wagging his tail, and squirming in Laura’s arms.

“Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to keep the creature around. At least, until it is full grown and can defend itself.”

“It’s already full grown,” said Laura. “It’s a Yorkie.”

The dog licked Cragg’s thumb. “If Terrans insist on breeding such creatures, it would be cruel to leave it to its fate.”

“That’s two to one, Mom,” said Laura. “Come on. He doesn’t have anyone, and the last stray you took in worked out pretty well.”

Cindy thought about saying all the requisite parent things. Laura would have to take care of the dog, feed him, walk him, give him baths. But it was all wasted breath. Cindy would be the one to do it.

Cragg took the tiny dog in one hand and smiled. Not a little smile either. She was glad to see it, and hoped to see it a lot more in the future.

“Fine, but I get to name him,” said Cindy.

“Deal.” Laura grabbed the dog and walked out of the room before Cindy could change her mind.

Cindy ran her fingers along the cracks in Cragg’s injured arm. “The next time you think about jumping in front of a bus, remember that some of us strange Terrans have grown fond of you.”

Cragg bent down and kissed her. “I have always been fond of the name Boulder.”

She hugged him again. “I’ll keep that in mind.”

His arm around her, they followed Laura and Boulder to the car.

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One Comment

  1. Rodney Baker
    Posted May 31, 2015 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    “If Terrans insist on breeding such creatures, it would be cruel to leave it to its fate.”

    This could be a meme.

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