redshift | blues

There sat at the window a Happy Space Camper.

The therapist was a honey colored bear.

Steel and glass hummed within. Cold heat bled through.

“I burned some leaves in the yard today,” the Happy Space Camper began.

The therapist was silent. Pale flares of rocketry receded beyond the pane, where revolved in the starless black a luminous beam, thatwhen elongated on its axisspelled out with playful lettering: WELCOME TO HAPPY SPACE CAMP!


An unspooled horizon coiled back upon itself. The utopians who built the station were quick to the name ‘Happy’ because it’s what they claimed as their birthright and ‘Space’ naturally from the coordinates of their exile. ‘Camp’ had been the subject of some spirited discussion. The proponents pushed the idea that as a concept, camp is universally understood to be a respite, an escape synonymous with recreation; evocative of primeval remembranceslong thought null or inaccessibleof dusty paths, cicadas in the summertime and folksy songs beneath the stars. The less exuberant among them pointed out that the word also connotes fundamental unseriousness. Or something more akin to an open air prison. The ascetic types meanwhile nodded their quiet consent. For if there’s only one quality the word maintains throughout, it is that ‘Camp’ is temporary.

So okay.

I burned some leaves in the yard today.

The therapist’s tufted brow dimpled ever so slightly as the Happy Space Camper went on. Here it was again. Remarkable now its ordinariness.

A case of the redshift blues.

red•shift (noun)

a shift in the spectrum

of a celestial object

toward longer wavelengths

caused by the object’s movement

away from the viewer.

blues (noun)

low spirits.


a song of lament.

The diagnostic material was vague for insurance reasons. The irony being that the therapist liked to tell his patients (many of them “writers”) that he valued precision of language above all else. But it’s a big spindizzy world. And he was, after all, just one bear with a Master’s degree.

The signs, in any case, were plain. Restless feet. Concave posture. Metacognitive cycling.  The true giveaway was the eyes. That flicker of subjectivity out of phase. Nowhere near as serious as other maladies like the Space Crazies, Delirium Terpsichorean, or plain old Being Born In The Wrong Place At The Wrong Time. The stowaways who remained on every rung and span of this station had seen and done dreadful things in the interstellar night. Sometimes to each other. Always to themselves. Even in the goldenest of years. All had one thing in common: their lights had begun to shift.

Folding his paws over his belly, the therapist settled in.

The Happy Space Camper confessed: He’d never bought a rake.

A rake being the sort of object that isn’t bought so much as stumbled across. So the leaves from last autumn had lain where they fell. All winterlong, enameled in frostcrunch until the station swung sunward again. Until the Happy Space Camper decided, on one pleasant morning of despair, to call in sick to work and burn them.

How strange this gentlest of thrills as he watched the white leaf smoke unfurl into the motorways. It was, he thought, how an unobstructed clock must feel. And so, with the help of a rusted rake tripped upon in the ruins of a meteor struck wood shed, he merrily set about the yard rearranging more leaves into neat little piles. He raked and burned and raked and burned. The pleasure of the task soon turned, however, to the gnaw of an inconsolable sorrow. He recited the rest to the therapist in a torrent, his hands like terror birds when a freighter pierces the fog.

Was this the most perfectly correct way to go about the burning of his leaves? Were his piles too meager, his pyre badly placed? Rather than leisurely harvest a plurality of subsidiary piles, would it not be more industrious, more efficient, to construct a single heaping mound at the precise center of the lawn and ignite them on the spot? Or better yet―if only to preserve the grass from a citation attracting blemishdevise a cunning systematic method by which every last leaf might be conveyed in an instant to the sequestered ashpit and fed to the flames as one? And was it not true that he would know the answers to all these questions (and more!) if only he’d bothered even once before this day to show the slightest interest in lawn care?

He stood there for a long time. Thinking.

A conversation with his mother came to mind. After the flood waters subsided in faraway Sector F, she’d fought her way up the magnetic North with nothing particular in mind. As always, the ansible connection was strong but weak. He caught this much: Stay away from the Black Hole. It is the sort of advice one comes to expects from a mother in Space.

This should come as no surprise. Happy Space Camp was built on the edge of a Black Hole. Right smack on the fucking edge.

Suffering makes a funny little sound. A kind of soft fizz pop. Not unlike radiation being counted. Or milk poured over rice cereal. The Happy Space Camper knew he wasn’t unique in thisbut he could hear it coming from every corner of the station. He showed his empty hands to the therapist, and said in a put upon tone, “What should I do?”

The therapist had sat silent these last few minutes while the anaglyphic field grew more and more unstable around the little man across from him. He slowly rose now from his spot on the mandala embroidered carpet and crossed the room in a single lumbering stride. The honey colored bear, towering darkly with a small smile on his lips, then raised a giant paw and smote his patient on the side of the head.


The Happy Space Camper dropped the rake. Somewhere.

The yard billowed out before him. A broken bowl of green shadow and light. Wind and birdsong roared in the gaps between fern, sunflower, thistle, mint and a wild profusion of poa pratensis {¿deschampsia cespitosa?} jostling from the loam, a floriferous thundercloud (!) over cool stones as all the station’s poorly imagined surfaces and extractive protuberances melted away like ice. There. All around. In every little thing. Within one stem. A riot of resonance. A blinding shaft of silence. A boy in a yard.

The Happy Space Camper gazed out thru the prism of his visor.

“Oh,” he said.

Then reached up. Unlatched his faceplate.

And filled his lungs with air.


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