He’s reading his paper and you’re watching the documentary. Soon he’ll sigh, put the paper down, go upstairs, and you’ll stay here, watch the end, then something else. The Greeks, or something about the war.
On the screen, they’ve reached the point where they invite a civilian to fly into space. There’s a competition. A teacher wins. A woman. Overnight, her face is on every billboard in America.
He looks up for a second, not at you but at the screen, and you say, “You remember this?”
“It’s horrible. Watch.”
“Why you watching if you know what happens?”
The smiling faces of the crowd at the shuttle launch. Flags waving. A band.
He says, “Oh, it crashes, doesn’t it?”
“It crashes, yes. They all die.”
“Stupid bastards.” He goes back to the paper.
The camera focuses on the schoolteacher’s family. Her husband and their kids. They’re smiling. Waving flags.
“Look,” you say.
But he doesn’t, so you sit there alone and watch as the engines fire, and the huge, impossible flames force the metal shell and the people inside off the ground. The shuttle catches the winter sun, glistens, twists, and continues its climb.
“After seventy-four seconds . . . ” says the voiceover, and you watch as the flames suddenly flare, and then the shuttle is just gone. There are some firework trails in the sky. Some black spots of debris fall back towards the ground.
He’s not watching as the camera cuts to the faces of the family of the schoolteacher. The father is holding one of their children, a young girl.
She’s still waving her flag.