The Thought of Home
Clint Fitzman grew to the age of 19 as any other boy in the '60s did: wanting to be an astronaut, to live in space, to explore new worlds, fight aliens, and win the love of a beautiful maiden. Unlike most boys, he did it.
A week after his 19th birthday, he left home. He packed simple: a clock-watch, extra clothes, a favorite music strip, and a picture of his mother. He boarded his ship, the one that was to take him to Mars; mining would be his home now. As he lay back in the chair, his clock-watch read:
19:17:37 July 8 2074
A month later, he landed on Mars, in a mining boom town. Noise, lights, gambling, and amazements of all kinds surrounded him. It was a few days before he did any actual mining. He did work hard, though. His skin reddened more like Mars itself everyday: his hands and feet from the dirt, his back and neck from the sun and its UV rays, and his face from his constant exertions.
Clint made good pay for himself, enough to be comfortable, and to acquire a few things: a small backed-stool, a chess set (though it seemed as though no one else knew how to play), a few books, and a new frame for the picture of his mother, now 10 years from the last sight of him.
Soon, though, a strike happened elsewhere, and people left; first in droves, then down to a trickle, leaving, after a long while, only Clint. That was fine by him. He worked hard, reddening himself with the dirt, the sun, and his toil. He thought much, since there was no one to talk to; he thought of the other strike, of his friendsnewly and long passed away, of his nights spent drinking, gambling, swooning, and dreaming when he first arrived. But mostly, he thought of home.
Ten, twenty, thirty more years passed, Clint making occasional sorties 45 miles to the nearest town for provisions, going as little as possible and carrying as much as possible. He relied on wanderers, as few of them as there were, to trade, for foodstuffs mostly. He no longer reddened while working; that had stopped long ago, for he was now a constant red, as if you couldnt rub Mars off of him; or out of him. He hadnt thought of Earth in a while when a wanderer came by. He took only a drink of water; gave only a piece of paper.
Mrs. Fitzman had died on Dec. 17, 2118. But as his clock-watch had also died some time back, he did not know how long she was gone. He packed his stuff, slowly, surely; like the wizened man he was. He took it all back to the nearest spaceport. He took it all back to Earth, took it all to his home town, all to what he had always called home.
A trust fund had protected the house for the time between his mothers passing and his returning, and now his time was spent filling his house with his things: books, a few tools he was unable to sell, and some other personal effects. This included his prized chess set, still complete but for one white bishop; but Clint had carved a similar, yet red toned one, out of Martian stone all that long time ago. The last thing he unpacked was that weathered picture of his mother in that tattered frame, which went on the table near the chess set.
He lived restlessly, not knowing how to fill his days. He felt ill at ease, uncomfortable in these luxurious surroundings. He had only been back for six months. One night, he went outside, and gazed at the stars at which he had seen on so many lonely nights. But the thing that bothered him was a small red orb of light that the Greeks and Romans had named after their War God.
He walked back inside, and saw the picture of his mother, which he held briefly. But his gaze wandered to the chess set, with all its dust on it; white earthly dust. Clint picked up the bishop he had carved. Its redness matched his own; Mars had come with them both. He gave a long sigh, and looked around.
This was his house.
These were his clothes. The walls had his pictures, the drawers his papers, the bookshelves his books. The computer held his binary codes on magnetic film and silicon chips. The music in the player was his, the dirty underwear in the hamper was his. And yet he could not help but have the same thought, the one he had held in a different place for many years, on which he now held for a different place:
He wanted to go home.