Writing Challenge — “Touch the Stars”

Because I’m bad at consistently motivating myself to put pen to paper, I’ve decided to challenge myself to set aside a half hour or so every day I can to write as much as I can, then set it aside and not touch it again.

I’m learning to live with imperfection because, by definition, creativity is imperfect.

“Touch the Stars” –written in 26 minutes on May 23, 2020

Manilow Jones lived above a sweet shop on the corner of Victory and Sixth. During the day, he worked as a janitor. In his free time, from the rooftop of his apartment building, he built a ladder to the stars.

At first, he attempted it out of straw. “It is light,” he said to himself, “Perhaps I might weave it together into a sort of rope ladder.”

For days, he weaved and weaved. After a month, he was ready. “What shall I wear?” he wondered. “Why, my best. One never knows who one may meet in the stars.”

Putting on his best suit and digging from his closet the least musty hat he could find, he tied a weight to one end of the rope and threw it with all his might.

Up it sailed, into the night sky –going, –going. Until, after several long moments, it finally found purchase on the lower end of a cloud.

“Wonderful,” Manilow Jones thought, and began to climb.

Up and up he rose, until he reached the underside of the cloud. Though he reached, extending his arms as far as he could, the stars were still too high to touch.

“Drat,” he thought, and descended.

Next, he tried wood. Clearing the supply of lumber from every hardware store he could find, he set to work. The rooftop, silent during the days, came to life each night with the sound of hammering and clanging.

After two months, he had three segments prepared, each a story tall. “Surely this will work,” he thought, “I’ll simply climb up and down the rope, carrying with me each time a piece of the ladder, and connect them all together as I go.”

That is just what he did.

He climbed and climbed, toting the first segment of ladder on his back. When he reached the cloud, he set the ladder on a sturdy bit of whisp, and descended.

Up again, with the second segment. Again he climbed and climbed, then attached the second segment to the first.

“Closer,” he said, “Closer, yes; but not there.”

Once more, he descended to the rooftop. Once more, he ascended to the cloud. Up the first and second stories of wooden ladder he went, bringing the third segment along on his back.

Attaching it like he had the others, it seemed, from his position, to just brush the lower tier of stars.

“At last!” he crowed, triumphant, and climbed higher still.

At the top of the wooden ladder, he stretched and stretched, and –success! His fingers brushed the stars.

“How odd,” he mused, “The stars feel nothing as I’d imagined. They are smooth and cold to the touch. And, look –a bit of the sky has come off on my fingers.”

Indeed, it had.

Manilow Jones examined his hand, and the black soot smudged across it. He peered through the newly-cleared piece of the sky, at the twinkling stars surrounding it. He knew the stars weren’t too terribly high, but these seemed far closer than he’d anticipated.

Carefully clearing his hand on his handkerchief, Jones descended the ladder for a final time to retrieve his hammer from the rooftop.

For the final time, he climbed and climbed back to the stars, dusting whispy remnants of clouds from his jacket and hat.

“Let us see what is beyond the stars.”

Raising the hammer above his head, he brought it down on the bit of sky in front of his face with a loud crack.

A thin line began to spread across the sky, sending ash down onto the streets beneath. Far, far below him, people gathered on the sidewalks. Their faint screams echoed up.

“Don’t worry!” he called down to them, “I’ve done it, I’ve touched the stars!”

His success was short lived.

The fault line along the stars grew and grew until, finally, the sky gave way. With the sound of a thousand bubbles popping, it burst.

It is interesting, what happens to the body when it suddenly finds itself in a vacuum. The lack of air takes a moment to register. The scream takes just a moment to die in one’s throat. The blood takes a moment to leave one’s face.

For Manilow Jones, the smugness never had time to leave his mind. That smugness was the last thing he registered, along with the crushing, blinding blue void.

He had, indeed, touched the stars. And that, though in the end a frankly catastrophic decision, was something he could hang his least musty, least dusty hat on.

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