Bob Newhart had dreamed about the stars since he was a little boy. He used to stare out his window for hours, too enthralled to go to sleep, only to nod off later in class.
Despite his brushes with academic narcolepsy, Bob graduated with high grades and was quickly recruited to NASA. Here was where he truly excelled above the other space-exploring hopefuls, coming in first in tests of turbulence tolerance, advanced button-switching without the aid of gravity, and ability to eat freeze-dried ice cream in large quantities.
Bob thought he had found his soulmate when he met Marcy Heidiger, a science reporter who had eyes the color of the night sky, hair the color of the sun, and a face as round as the moon. They had only been on two dates when Bob had already decided she was the girl he was going to marry.
Art by Wirrow
All fires begin with a spark.
All sparks begin with friction, two pieces of something hard and unmoving that don’t fit together, but strain to, yearn to wear themselves down. They push and push, struggle, catch. And then a click, a thin scrap of light.
Everything begins with a spark.
(They were too different to ever work, all scars and jagged edges, hurt and broken and repaired so many times they were full of pit-marks and potholes. Both too stubborn, their friends said, shaking their heads. Hard. Principled. Unyielding. They shouted and fought, orbited around each other with gleaming eyes like animals in heat.)
The thing about you, kid – can I call you kid? – is that you’re fucking heartbreak from start to finish. There’s nothing that hurts more than watching someone grow up. It’s like, you ever see a little kid touch something out of the oven for the first time? It’s really hot, and they burn their hand, and when they cry it’s like they’re betrayed, like they can’t believe that pan they trusted hurt them. It’s like that with you every time the world betrays you, only you’re full-grown and I can’t help but think you’re just a kid, fuck, you’re just one big goddamn kid.
See that’s what makes you so stupid-beautiful, is that you never grow up. Like you can’t, or maybe you just won’t – maybe that’s the secret, you refuse to, and fuck what your body and physics and the whole goddamn world is saying. You’re Peter Pan, you’re Superman, you don’t have to obey the rules like everyone else. It makes it hard not to love you, all broken open and raw and reckless, makes it hard not to want to just hold you close and hurt anything that could hurt you.
The first thing Pip realizes in his time aboard the HMS Icarus is that while all the men say they’re sailing for Queen and country, they’ve all got at least one other queen they’re sailing for, too.
Pip’s Christian name isn’t Pip, it’s Jack. He doesn’t have a last name that he’s ever known, and there are at least four Jacks already aboard, so they call him Pip, ’cause he’s the youngest. He hates it, but when he complains to Bilson, the cook, he just snorts and says, “best not complain, Pip, it’s the ones they don’t name that never last.” Bilson’s like a battered scrub-pine atop a cliff – he’s gray-brown all over, beaten and craggy and knotted. He’s got two queens – the ocean and the ship’s mouser, Madge. Madge and Bilson hate everyone, but they like Pip well enough. And Bilson’s a good galley-master, too. His slop’s edible, far better than anything Pip used to scrounge in alleyways or swallow down in poorhouses. He keeps the larder stocked and warns them all against scurvy, forcing dried fruit on everyone if’n they like it or not. He always saves extra for Pip and Madge, and even if the Icarus is the strangest place Pip’s been in his life, Bilson makes it feel like maybe it’s home.