3190 words, short story
Teaching Bigfoot to Read
Subject: hi big guy
Sent: Saturday, October 10, 2122 11:09 AM LST
Life on the moon sucks. Dad got home early from the air factory today and I wasn’t done cleaning the dishes from breakfast so he broke my breakfast bowl over my head. Guess I’ll have to eat out of his bowl tomorrow.
Dad says he’s gonna have to get a new job. Not that he told me. He told Melinda, the girl he’s been bringing home lately. They drank the last of his screech — that’s this nasty rum like they used to make back on Earth — then started poking each other on the bottom bunk while I sat on the top. Dad caught me peaking and near took my eye out when he threw his boot. Melinda calmed him down at least, and they got back to poking at each other.
Dad saw me writing to you when Melinda left. He said What the f--k was I doing writing to a bigfoot. See one day I asked him why he didn’t pray to Jesus like Mario’s mother, and he said he may as well pray to Santa Claus or bigfoot for all the good it would do. Well I got to thinking praying might not do any good, but an email should get to you.
Not sure what good you can do anyway, seeing as you’re down there on Earth, but writing to you is better than nothing. I should probably get to bed. Dad’s snoring and that makes me tired. I’ll finish this in the morning.
Morning. Dad got up late and complained when his breakfast was cold but he ate it all anyway and I had to wait forever until I could use his bowl and to tell you the truth I don’t care for cold powdered eggs. Dad kept saying we wouldn’t be able to afford things like powdered eggs, and said there was other things we wouldn’t be able to afford too, like air and water, but they never shut off the air, just the water, and I can always get some from the neighbors anyway.
What’s it like to have water fall for free from the sky, and air you never have to worry about going sour? And trees. I'd sure like to see one. Mario’s shown me some with his VR deck, but you know they’re not real, just like the ladies he shows me aren’t real, but boy are they pretty. Prettier than Melinda, anyhow.
Don’t know when Dad will be back today. He said he’s going to go to the pharma factory to see if he can get work there, but Mario's dad works there, and his dad’s got his highschool, so I’m not so sure about my Dad’s chances. The breakfast bowl is still in the sink; I should clean it while I still got water running.
Subject: stupid prairie dogs
Sent: Thursday, October 22, 2122 10:46 PM LST
At school they asked us to do presentations, and I did mine on you. I didn’t tell them I emailed you, but I told them everything else. Mrs. Drissold said that I was supposed to do a presentation on a real wild creature, and I told her you were real enough. The other kids did gazelles and lions and stupid prairie dogs, and she said I should of done something like that. Well I told her, none of them kids has ever seen a gazelle or a lion or a stupid prairie dog, and I ain’t seen a bigfoot, so what’s the difference. I guess I got too excited, cause I ripped up the poster with the stupid prairie dog on it, but you know what’s it like sometimes when you get too excited, don’t you?
Dad was home when I got back from school, and he was none too pleased that I ripped up the other kid’s stupid prairie dog poster. Mrs. Drissold must of called Dad and tattled on me, which don’t seem right. I don’t tattle on her when she forgets my name. Dad warned me against messing with other people’s stuff, but when I told him about the kid who’d talked on and on about the stupid prairie dogs, he laughed and said yeah, they are f--king stupid.
The pharma factory didn’t take him, and neither did the shit factory. Sorry, shouldn’t have cussed, but Dad always says it, and heck, you’re bigfoot. You must shit all over the place. He’s gonna try the port tomorrow. I told him not to, Graham’s dad got killed at the port, and so did the dad of that kid who always stinks like piss, but he said there was shit else to do, with the mines all closed and everyone shipping out of Avalon to other parts of the moon.
Do bigfoots write? I don’t even know, but if you can read this, you can probably write. Don’t know why you’d have an email address if you can’t write, so you must be able to.
Subject: chicken heads
Sent: Monday, November 9, 2122 11:58 PM LST
They shut off the water. Jerks. Dad's only missed three payments. I’ve been round asking for whatever the neighbors can spare, but they don’t have much, and a few of them have been cut off too.
I got a boot in the arm for breakfast. I told Dad we didn’t have anything but yeast-meal, but he hollered that he hated the stuff. He apologized after he dumped it on the floor, and told me he’d buy me real eggs one day. He always goes on about em, real eggs. He says I even tried eggs once when I was a baby before Mom died, but I don't remember. They seem gross anyhow. Something like chicken in a blender? Nasty. Not that I know what chicken tastes like either, just the fake stuff they grow up here, though Dad tells me everything tastes like chicken but the fake chicken.
I'd like to see a real chicken. A kid did a presentation on chickens last week, which was better than the stupid prairie dogs, but I must of fallen asleep halfway through cause Mrs. Drissold whacked me on the head. One thing I do remember is that chickens run around when their heads get cut off. Can you do that? I bet you’d run around until you found your head then you’d stick it back on your neck and run off into the forest.
By the way, I still haven’t heard back from you. I know it’s only been two emails, but I’m waiting, all right?
I got an idea. Why don’t you send me a photo of you? Your computer can probably take it. Then I can sell your photo, get the water back on, and get Dad and me a better place to live. Could you do that? You don’t even have to write anything (it’s okay, I didn’t learn how to write until two years ago when I was seven).
Subject: can you read this?
Sent: Tuesday, November 17, 2122 1:33 AM LST
Dad got a job at the port. You’d think good news, but he spent the first paycheck on two bottles of screech and Melinda. She hasn’t been around in so long, I kinda forgot how bad she smells. Anyway, when they were poking each other and shaking my bed something fierce, I got to thinking I should come see you. Maybe you need someone to read these notes to you. Don’t know how I can get there. Dad said once that I can’t leave the moon, cause I grew up too tall and skinny for Earth gravity, but I think that’s nuts. People are coming and going from Earth all the time. And I heard that if you sit in a pool of water it feels like there’s no gravity at all. Well, I never seen a pool of water, but I was thinking I could just sit in a big creek or river or something and read you my emails. Maybe I could even teach you how to read em yourself. It’s not that hard. Well, it’s kinda hard. Dad actually helped me learn it. He said, if you can’t read, you ain't shit. No son a mine’s gonna grow up a literate. Course he didn’t have books or anything, just old magazines with lots of naked ladies and the hockey newspapers. I learned enough about reading to teach a bigfoot.
Course maybe you got one of those voice-reader programs on your computer. Still, I’m a good teacher. I taught Mario how to steal pastries from the baker without getting caught. Well, I didn’t get caught, and he didn’t get in much trouble, just the black eye the baker gave him. His mom ragged Dad out something furious!
Subject: Mrs. Drissold sucks
Sent: Wednesday, December 9, 2122 9:27 PM LST
Stupid Mrs. Drissold. In class today she tells us that tomorrow is Go to Work with your Parents Day. Tomorrow! She said she told us weeks ago but I don’t remember; maybe I was asleep, but some of the other kids didn’t remember either. I had to tell Dad tonight after he got home, which was real late, and he stunk worse than Melinda and could barely lift his dinner to his mouth. I don’t even know if he heard me, he just nodded his head and crawled into bed. I don’t want to go to the port. Graham’s dad got killed there.
Subject: got me a grizzly!
Sent: Thursday, December 10, 2122 10:04 PM LST
Mrs. Drissold ain’t so bad after all. Dad took me to the port today. I got up extra early and made him powdered eggs like he likes em, with tons of marmite and hot sauce, then when he suited up for work I followed him out the apartment, with the breakfast bowls still in the sink (we got me a new bowl, not as nice but better than waiting every morning). Dad said What the hell you following me for? And I said, Mrs. Drissold said I gotta go to work with you, all the kids are doing it. I didn't bother telling him I told him last night. Christ, he said. The port ain't no place for a boy. But when we got there, Dad got me a suit from some little guy who works the night shift and I got to walk in a vacuum!
Dad showed me around, and he introduced me to all his buddies. This is my boy, Ace, he said, and all his buddies said that I was even bigger than the guy whose suit I was wearing. Dad wore these big lifting arms that strapped on to the back of his suit over his own arms, and used them to move these huge boxes of ore and pharma and supplies around. He looked almost as strong as you!
He put all the boxes that were going back to Earth into these cylinder type things that got all sealed up then stuck in the railgun and fired off to Earth. I’ve never seen anything move so fast as those cylinders. It was awesome. The stuff coming in landed in the big magnet pits, which are kinda like the opposite of rail guns. Whenever a shipment came in, all the guys would crowd around to see what was inside.
That’s where Dad got me my present. He tipped one of the boxes and out poured all these stupid little plastic toys, building blocks, teacher's tools, that sort of thing. Whoops, he said. Broken merchandise. Take something, boy, so you remember.
There was only one thing that was even halfway cool, this plastic robot grizzly. When I got it home, the grizzly walked around and roared until the batteries ran out. So cool! You must see tons of bears. I bet you fight them off every day when they come and try to steal your breakfast berries.
The port got boring after that. Dad just kept doing the same thing, lifting boxes and putting them where the bossman said to put em, but whenever he asked, I’d say, Yeah, it’s an awesome job, Dad. Sometimes you gotta say things like that, even if you don’t really mean em.
Dad cooked up some real bacon that he got from another box of busted merchandise. I never knew anything could taste so good. My belly hurts, but I ain't complaining. You must eat bacon all the time!
Subject: stupid bossman
Sent: Monday, December 14, 2122 9:37 PM LST
Looks like I’m never going to eat real bacon again. Dad was home from work when I got back from school. There was an empty screech bottle but it wasn’t like last time, he wasn’t mad, just all weepy and wanting to give me hugs. He kept apologizing and saying how he’d never done me right and I didn’t know what to say. He said the bossman fired him cause they caught him taking broken merchandise home. He took my grizzly and some stuff from the freezer and said he had to bring them back or he’d be in more trouble. He left after that and I ain’t seen him since.
I filled up some water bottles for when they turn off the water next, not that it will do much good. They bill us by the drop, Dad always says, but I’m going to hide some away just in case.
I got an idea, bigfoot. I won’t tell you about it yet, but I think I know a way I can come see you.
Subject: don’t tell anyone
Sent: Tuesday, December 22, 2122 8:24 AM LST
They shut the water off, but I don’t care. I’ve got it all sorted out. I’m coming to see you! Know those couple weeks back when I went to work with Dad? Well, last week I snuck into the port and stole the little guy’s suit and checked out the place. Know those cylinders they blast off back to Earth on the rail gun? That’s my ticket! I just gotta slip into one of them before they’re sealed up, then I’ll get a free ride back to Earth. I even checked out where they land, and get this, it’s in the ocean! I won’t even have to worry about gravity.
Here’s the problem though, there are lots of guys there who’d notice if I snuck in a capsule. But not on Friday. The guys at the port were all talking about X-mas, and how a few of them got stuck working and were planning on drinking screech all day to piss off the bossman. Well, if they're into their screech, there's no way they'll notice me. I want to be around for X-mas, but this is my only chance.
I haven’t told anyone else about this, cause I know no one will let me go, but Friday, I’m going to do it.
I can’t wait to see you, and don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone that I’m going to teach you how to read. It’s our secret.
Subject: sorry - c u soon
Sent: Thursday, December 24, 2122 11:15 PM LST
Sorry I had to take off. I know you’re probably mighty sore at me for sneaking away without telling you, but I knew you wouldn’t let me go, and my plan was too good. I should get to Earth in a few days, and then I’ll go find bigfoot. I’m going to take a picture of him that we can sell for millions so you can come live with us too. We’ll live in the forest, with free water and free air, and you can fish if you want and maybe we can even bring Melinda along.
Don’t be too sore. I’ll see you soon. I left some breakfasts in the fridge, just heat em up and you’re good. There’s some water in the back of the cupboard. I took a couple jugs with me, but don’t worry, I’ll pay you back for it.
I’ll see if I can get a chicken. We’ll have real eggs when you get here.
Sent: Friday, January 1, 2123 4:33 AM LST
I must be crazy to be writing to a fucking Bigfoot. My head's been on fire for so long. I can't talk to anyone else about this, the bastards at the shipping company made me sign the non-disclosure after they paid me off. More than I'd ever make working for them too.
'Course there are a few people in Avalon who know what happened. Melinda, the guys who worked X-mas at the port, but they got their shut-the-fuck-up cash too, so they're probably happy Ace did what he did.
Still can't believe it was that bad for the boy. I've been reading everything he wrote, and it hurts so much to see what an ass I was, but what hurts worse is hearing his voice in the damn emails he wrote. Don't know if I'll ever hear his voice again. Wish he'd written more to you.
The bastards at the shipping company say he must have drowned. They didn't find a piece of him near the spot the capsule splashed down, and they say they searched for days. But that suit he stole should have kept him afloat. Shit, he can't be at the bottom of the ocean, he can't. My head feels ready to burst just thinking of it. He's gotta be with you. That suit floated, he wasn't that far from shore, and he was a strong boy, he could have made it. And he wanted to see you so bad. So you better be taking good care of him, as good care as he took of me.
Melinda and those other pricks are buying new apartments or gold teeth or other useless shit with their shut-the-fuck-up cash, but they should be saving it for the next time the water's shut off. The moon isn't getting a cent of Ace's money from me. I'm spending everything they paid me for a ticket dirtside.
I'm coming for you. I'll tromp through every forest down there if I have to. On the way, I'm gonna swim in creeks, climb trees, eat bacon and eggs, maybe even stomp on a stupid prairie dog. All the shit my boy should have done. He didn't deserve this place. I didn't deserve him. You don't deserve whatever cave you're hiding in, and I don't deserve to find you, but with whatever life I've got left in me, you better believe I'm gonna damn well try.
Rick, Ace's dad
Geoffrey W. Cole’s award-winning short fiction has appeared in such publications as Apex, New Worlds, EscapePod, Reckoning, and Imaginarium 2012: The Year’s Best Canadian Speculative Writing. His stories have been translated into Catalan, French, Hungarian, Italian, Romanian, and Spanish. He is the 2016 winner of the Premis Ictineu for best story translated into Catalan. He lives with his wonderful wife, three sons, and giant hound outside Toronto, Canada.