He goes to the only church he ever knew. The observatory entrance is littered with gum wrappers and cigarette butts. His mother’s King James, tucked in the folds, leathers his spring jacket. She insisted he take it—a worn edition bookmarked to Revelation 8. He shifts his gaze to the naked sky, it sparkles innocence, but the star he stares at—the one she called Absinthian—bitters the night.
He opens the dome, slews the refractor above the treetops to Corvus, the constellation rooking the night. The waning moon spotlights the patch of stars. He zooms in; watches the image grow out of the soft blur into hard focus on the computer monitor. Comet Walker-McQueen, an Everest-size rock, falls from the heavens. The ultimate catastrophe. He calculates as he had a dozen times before, hoping, praying they are faulty. They are not. The wishful echo of a hoax had faded months ago.
When he left his mom’s, the TV blared—so much looting, riots. He mumbles we are all pawns, that the world is going to hell, but his sister found religion. His coworkers had spoken of their spirituality—the stars gave them birth; the stars will scatter their dust to the infinities.
He empties his pockets: coins, keys, a Waterman safety pen…his father’s straight razor. It shimmers in the computer-green light. The comet’s getting bigger. He pours a whiskey and swivels to the chess set; pieces already positioned. Dials the phone. “Grandfather. It’s my move…Knight-to-Queen’s Bishop 3.”
John C. Mannone has over 550 works published in such venues as Peacock Journal, Gyroscope Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Baltimore Review, and Pirene’s Fountain. He’s been awarded a 2016 Weymouth Center for the Arts & Humanities writing residency and has released two poetry collections, including Disabled Monsters (The Linnet’s Wings Press, 2015), which was featured at the 28th Southern Festival of Books. He edits poetry for Silver Blade and Abyss & Apex, and is a college professor of physics. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart three times. For additional information, visit http://jcmannone.wordpress.com.