My appearance: short, small, gently rolling with rounded edges, pale, a dainty curving nose, red hair straight and thick exploding out like a pom pom, oak-brown eyes that spark like horse shoes thundering across the smooth stones of a dry river bed.
My father: tall, wide-shouldered, lanky, with a long oval face squared at the chin and cheekbones, nose prominent, brown hair turning to straw, parted down the middle, tumbling onto his shoulders, his mustache likewise dirty-blond, full, and arching over and down under its own weight.
Our purpose: to chase the clouds, to stop the evil.
My father wears dark dress shoes, dark slacks, a white dress shirt, a blue tweed vest, a long navy blue trench coat — collar up.
I wear fresh white tennis shoes, fresh blue jeans, and a light green wool sweater over a men’s dress shirt with a button-down collar.
Unlike most people, we can walk in the sky. We can bound from cloud to cloud. We can walk on the water, or down into the sea like there’s steps there, or along the ocean floor. I’ve even witnessed us jump up into outer space, and leap from sun to sun, as if such things were possible!
I have a boyfriend.
His name is Joe, which is short for Joseph.
Or maybe Jon — short for Jonathon.
Or it could be Andy — short for Andrew.
Or maybe his name is Ted — short for Theodore.
Or maybe his name is another name I’ve not thought of just now.
My boyfriend is healthy, good-looking, and intelligent.
He graduated top of his class from a prestigious university.
He has a successful career, and in his free time he likes to go backpacking, study foreign languages, read and write poetry — including many nice love poems to me; and he also has a nice family and some friends that he keeps up with; and of course he makes time to volunteer for local charities and important political causes.
He is taller than me, but not very tall.
Everyone thinks highly of him and he gets along great with old people.
I met my boyfriend when I was bounding through a great meadow that stretched on for miles and miles of tall waving grasses, buzzing bees, violinning crickets, soft-stumbling butterflies, and sideways-thwacking grasshoppers. He’d been hiking alone along a little stream with a sandy bank running through the center of the meadow and was resting his naked feet in the stream while sitting upon a shiny piece of granite — shiny due to flecks of sharp quartz running through the rough, reddish stone.
I stopped to say hello.
“How do you do that?”, he asked me.
“What? Oh, you mean bound jump from one wind-bent grasstop to another, clearing perhaps a thousand feet in each easy, gently-arcing leap?”
“Yes. That. I’ve never seen that before. How do you do that.”
“How do you walk?”
“Well, I swing one foot in front of the other over and over again. I could also explain something of the forces, physics, and biology involved — if you had time and inclination. But what you were doing is, as far as I can reason, impossible.”
“We’ve always done it. We do even more amazing things, without ever thinking about how to do them. They come to us as natural as walking.”
He gazed around over an extended nose. “Oh, so you’re not alone?”
“Right now I am. Except for you. Unless you don’t count yourself as someone.”
He shrugged with a close-mouthed smile and big eyes, tossing his open palm — previously resting upon a bare kneecap — up in the air, as if to say, “either way — count me or not!”
After a short pause, I decided that was the whole of his reply and continued: “I live with my father. We’re cloud shepherds for planet earth. It’s a very important job. Otherwise we’d move to Venus. My father loves cloudy, overcast, foggy weather, and that’s all they have on Venus.
The handsome young man with a beige rough-canvas rucksack next to dirt-speckled hiking boots and socks on a sandy stream bank a few feet from where he sat relaxing upon a sun-splattering stone laughed. “What?!”
“What’s so funny?”
“No one’s thought Venus is like that for like a hundred years! Now we know the surface temperature is kept at about 870 Fahrenheit — 465 Celsius. Surely you’ve been there, so you know first hand that it is not a foggy, rainy place at all — but is instead a place with rivers of molten lead.”
I smiled gently, because this was a young man with extremely limited powers, and so of course for him, Venus was both unreachable and uninhabitable, and it isn’t nice to rub peoples’ faces into their own weaknesses.
We spoke on and on like that for some time, and now he is my boyfriend. I hope we can get married soon and start a family, even if our children may not amount to much — as far as cloud-hopping, and Venus-taming go. You see, I had gotten very lonely, and was filled all the while with womanly longings, and then I met this nice young man and grew delighted, always dancing and laughing, swirling around, plunging into life, love, contact, frolic, and shared joy. So I don’t really care.
Sometimes I worry that I’ll one day bound across a man with powers like my own. What will I say to him, my father, and myself? How can I explain that my heart is no longer mine to spend on any man except the one I’ve already found? Or will I turn inside out, overturn everything I now think and feel, and betray my love for the promise of a family of cloud-runners?
My father and I spend most of our time chasing down lost, rebellious, and miscellaneously straying clouds. Without our work, the world would surely end in a great inferno! So we have to do it. There’s no one else who can. There’s no one else who even knows it needs to be done.
My boyfriend — let’s call him Boy — has different concerns.
“Baby,” he says to me, “I’ll tell you what I think about. I think: How can I live in a way that is both OK and wonderful? How can I pay for myself, write beautifully, stay healthy, live well, and also be an OK person, who does the right thing by those closest to him, but also by everyone else in the world? How can I put it all together? And if the systems within which I live — environments, societies, economies, governments and other organizations — if these systems collapse, then my success, happiness, and contribution also collapse. So then, how do I balance my longings for fulfillment through art, love, life, relationships, and so on; with my need to be able to stand myself and feel OK about my actions; AND with my need to do right by the systems within which I live, create, work, and relate to others.”
We were leaning into one another, seated upon a soft gray sofa in his living room. I snuggled under his arm and twisted my head to kiss his T-shirted chest. Then I hugged him with both arms and said, “I love you, I love you, I love you!”
As you can see, we are very happy together.
I’m afraid won’t let him grow old and brittle. I am cheating. I am ensconcing him in a force field. I am playing with the edges of energy. I may go so far as to cheat him into a cloud-jumper. That’s not fair. But I may do it because otherwise soon he’ll start to weaken, his body caving in upon itself, growing stiff and gnarled, brittle and jealous of the youth it had enjoyed. I am cheating, but maybe it isn’t such a big deal. I don’t know. I am not telling him. But the other day he was lying on one side in bed, turned towards me, he reached his hand out and pushed against the bed, as if to raise himself up — I guess so he could wrap himself around me from above. But he ended up flinging himself right up to his feet. He gave me a sharp look with pursed lips, but said nothing, and then dropped down on top of me, enveloping me in his body, red-hot desire emanating out of him on all sides (like normal).
Author: Bartleby Willard
Editor (when he gets around to it): Amble Whistletown
Copyright: Andy Watson