Chapter 08.1

Wednesday, October 10, 2018 (Wallyday, Pisces 30, 0031)

Over the next four weeks, Tom managed to work most of his own shifts, but spent the majority of his off time working with the computer. When he wasn’t reading or responding to emails from friends, family, or the public, he was surfing the web for articles about grief management and some of the strategies and methods used for dealing with the loss of a loved one, especially a spouse. Tom realized quickly, that Valerie was right about the mission and aborting for a slow return to Earth was out of the question. Bolo One had been approaching the mid-course adjustment point: to land on Mars or return to Earth. A Mars fly-by with the gravity assist to send them on the free-return trajectory would not allow for a landing had they changed their minds later. On the other hand, with the mid-course adjustment made in favor of landing, a mission abort from orbit could still be accomplished, though with more difficulty.

As it turned out, the one person that became Tom’s biggest confidant and source of support during this time was not anyone on the ship, but Ty. Tom would reminisce about the times spent together with Penny and Ty would tell tales about what he and Claire had done together throughout the years. At first, the monologues were more like eulogies, followed by long sessions of overwhelming grief and wounded cries. But after a long while, their talks slowly turned into something more closely resembling home movie narrations, being more of an event telling than an experience.

One night, as Ty sat in his living room, typing his latest reply to Tom over a few beers, a pre-Claire memory came to him of the ‘good old days’ when he and Brandon were roommates, at the Western Michigan University. In the note to Tom, he wrote, ‘Ask Brandon about the beer-crisper.’ As college roommates, Ty and Brandon were in agreement that vegetables left in the bottom drawer of the refrigerator would never get eaten (out of sight, out of mind). Therefore, any and all fruit and veggies (when they remembered to buy any) were kept on an upper shelf, in plain sight, and the bottom drawer served another, more noble purpose.

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