Polestars and Overcompensation.

Are your hoods up? They should be. It’s night out, and the hood is a useful thing at night. A hood is useful any old time but especially at night. Night is chilly, night is dark, night is full of things that, without sunlight, seem strange and menacing. Some of these things are strange and menacing. Strange and menacing during the day, to be sure, but the sunlight hides these qualities. That’s ironic, isn’t it?

You don’t know what irony is. Huh.

That makes sense. You’re five. And your brother’s three, so we won’t even ask him. Is he asleep? That’s fine. Is his hood up? Good. Remind me to explain irony later. Maybe when you’re seven. I think that’s when I learned about it. Yeah. Seven sounds about right.

Yes, it’s late. Well past your bedtime. Or at least the bedtime your mother gave you. Does Carson have anything to do with that? The setting of bedtimes?

You don’t know.

Look, I’m not being critical here, I don’t think you’re bad, but you really need to be more observant. You’re my eyes and ears in there, you know, my man on the ground. You provide me with valuable intel.

That’s right. Intelligence. Like in the spy movies we’ve been watching. See, you’ve got a good memory. That’s why I asked you to be my inside man.

Your brother? Your brother’s more of a… let’s call him muscle. Look at his arms, he’s much bigger than you were when you were his age. Huskier. When he grows up, he’ll probably have fists like slabs of meat. Angry meat. Churlish meat. Just look at your uncles. On your mother’s side. You, you’ll be wiry like me.

Don’t make that face. It’s not a bad thing. You’ve got a good brain. Manual labor is not your forte, and it doesn’t need to be. You’ll be telling the meat-fisted ones who to go and hit. You will be director of the meat fists. If you stay in school. Remember: tuition is not a gift. I’m not paying into that 529 so you can be a comparative lit major, unless you get paid for it, and god knows how that would happen. Comp Lit. They call that a discipline.

I know you don’t know what that is, but one day this will all make sense to you. I’m speaking in a sort of pidgin, half English and half another language you’ll learn slowly, as you get older. It’s called “bullshit.” You’ll be fluent by the time you’re eighteen, if you’re lucky.

I know I said a bad word, but technically, as I’m using it here, it’s not a bad word. It’s a descriptive term, a technical term. Maybe even jargon. So it’s not bad. Besides, that whole bad word thing is a social construct, and you’ll find by the time you’re in college it’s lost its power and allure, and you won’t pay any attention to it, and no one will notice you ignoring it.

That said, don’t use that word around your mother. I’ll get blamed, and I don’t need that bother. As a heads-up, you’ll probably hear a lot of words tonight that you shouldn’t repeat around your mother. Or Carson.

Carson.

It doesn’t even sound like a name really. Carson.

Fluent means you can speak it well. The language. You’re fluent in English, or you will be. I don’t know how they categorize kids, if kids can be fluent or not. You’re still learning to be people, how can you be considered a master of a language?

Wow. Yeah. Talking good is part of being an adult, or it should be. Though I should say at this point that you mean “speaking well,” but that’s a little nitpicky. Your thought was downright profound. Your brother wouldn’t have thought of that. Well, maybe he would have. He’s younger than you. I didn’t mean he was dumb earlier, I meant he was bigger physically, or he will be eventually, that digging and building and other jobs that require physical prowess would come easier to him than you. There’s nothing wrong with either one of you, you’re just different. You’re fine. He’s fine. Everything’s fine.

Everything’s fine.

No, you’re not going to get in trouble. No one’s getting in trouble. We’re just out late. It’s an excursion. I’m going to teach you something useful about the stars and we have to go out to bumf– to the middle of nowhere to see the stars, thanks to all the streetlights.

Yes, the streetlights keep us safe. I don’t hate streetlights. But you can’t see the stars. That’s why we had to drive out here. Your mom will be fine with it, by which I mean she’ll yell at me for a while and then ask why I didn’t just call her and let her know. I’m not sure how I’ll play that yet. Usually I make some snide, boorish, smartass remark, and we all know how well that works.

That’s right. That’s why mom and dad aren’t married anymore. At least that’s the most popular reason. Or the loudest reason. You’re a perceptive little bugger. Good to know you.

Don’t leave me hanging. Shake my hand.

Alright. Well done. And don’t say “bugger” around your mother. Put it on the list. We’ll play it safe.

So.

You still drawing those robots?

What do they do?

Yeah. Uh-huh. Yeah. With a cannon. And do the people know? Ah. Do they have a spaceship? Why not? Robots can have spaceships, they fly them all the time. Yes, in made-up stories, but yours is a made-up story. The same rules can apply. The non-spaceship kind, I see. Maybe they can fight some robots that have a spaceship, and learn to fly it, so they can leave the planet. Is it Earth? So they can leave Earth.

I know it’s your story, you can write it however you want. I’m just making a suggestion. It’ll be a good story your way too.

Not much longer.

You’ll be able to see where you are by looking at the sky, and you’ll be able to tell which way is north all the time, very useful stuff. I wish someone had taught me this kind of thing when I was a kid. That and cars. As soon as you can effectively hold a ratchet, I’m bringing you over to Tim’s so we can start your mechanic’s regimen. Every American male should be able to figure out what’s wrong with his car. You’re not going to look like some kind of dandy fool until you’re 37, like I did.

Ah, we’re there. We’ll have to walk up to the gate, there’s no room to park up there. What, it’s a picnic area, there’s nothing to steal. We won’t get in trouble. This is educational. Why’s your hood down? Put it up. Yes, it’s hot in the car, but it’s chilly outside. Is your brother asleep? Wake him up. Go ahead and poke him. Poke him hard, I’m feeling indulgent. I’ll have to scold you once he’s awake, though, it’ll stop his whining.

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