"Mom, do you want to come down to
the beach and look for shooting stars?"
Margery startled awake at her teenage daughter's entry and entreaty. "Um sure. Give me five minutes." She flipped off the motel TV and rummaged for a sweatshirt. Zoe was already outside on the second floor deck of Daunt's Albatross West, staring at the clear August night sky, oblivious to the beer-and-red-solo-cup revery down below.
"Okay, I'm ready," Margery said, fumbling with the room key with the large plastic oval bearing the mostly rubbed-out room number. Room 27. They all noted the coincidence on arrival. Their house number was 27, as was the house numbers of three of their good friends.
And Margery knew -- but didn't say out loud -- the eerie significance 27 had in the music world. All those famous rockers who died young -- Jimi, Janis, Kurt, Jim -- they were all 27. Margery shivered a little, aware that her oldest son, who was not there on this particular trip, was also 27.
Since Zoe's sister Kasey and Kasey's boyfriend (also named Casey) were already asleep downstairs, Margery and and she set out together. The beach was a block away, with a sandy easement that ushered the ocean novice in with awesome simplicity. Zoe was the baby of the family, the youngest of five and had, in her younger years, been very close to her mother. "Joined at the hip," Margery often said, indicating Zoe's old familiar perch on her right hip.
These days they were often at odds, fighting over anything, it seemed. That Zoe wanted her mother to join her on the beach was miracle enough to get the exhausted Margery up and out.
The sky was awash with stars! A net of white Christmas lights hurled across the sky, wrapped in a milky band that traveled west to east. Margery rummaged through her youthful memories, looking for the file marked "Astronomy Class 1972." This elusive file contained the names and locations of the five major constellations, which, on a clear night, could be seen without a telescope. At one time she could look up and find them all. Now she was not so sure.
"There's Ursa Major and Ursa Minor." She pointed up. "And there's the North Star, attached to Ursa Minor.
"Where's Orion's Belt?" Zoe asked.
They walked along the cooling sand, flip flops in hand, until they came to a soft flat spot. Pulling up their hoodies, they lay down, shoulder's touching and goose-bumped knees extended. "I'm not sure," Margery said, searching the sky for those elusive three stars, lined up like marching soldiers.
Just then, a star, a faded one, shot away from its assigned spot and arched away into oblivion. "Wow!" Zoe was excited. "I've never seen an actual shooting star before!" Margery smiled at her daughter's exuberance. Her smile remained fixed as the two stayed in their spots for the next hour, talking about stars and siblings.
She was glad the single tear that ran down into her left ear was invisible to Zoe who was lying on her right. This last of her five constellations would soon be shooting off into her own wider space. Margery felt a twinge in her right hip.