I walked through the front door and straight to the newspapers. The owner of the bookstore started peering over his paper at me, but quickly returned his gaze. It was a small bookstore, more of a book stand with walls. Three rows of books and magazines and a stack of newspapers were all it had to offer. I had just opened up the front page when I heard the salutations from a long known schoolmate.
“Hey, sup Isaac?” greeted Max, probably there to buy a text book for the first day of school later today.
“Nothing much,” I replied while still scanning the newspaper headlines.
I didn't really know Max that well, but he was the courteous type. It was natural for him to say hello to anyone he knew, especially after having been raised on the lunar colonies. I've noticed the colonists have an odd air of decadence and civility about them. It's almost reminiscent of chivalry, but more so a way of the land rather than a set manner of rules to follow.
“Why do you get a paper everyday?” Max was browsing through the shelves of books to my right as I read leaning against the wall. His ability to make small talk was impeccable for a 7th grader.
“It's my right as a citizen of the United States.” I knew he was aware.
“Yeah, that's true. But why? The only ones that actually read newspapers are grown ups, we're still into toilet humor.” Max continued.
“Did you know that back during the Roman golden years all of the citizens got a loaf of bread everyday just for being Roman citizens?” As I spoke, I threw Max the comics, as he had been eying them.
“No, I had no idea.” Max's interest became large enough to capture his gaze, but only briefly as he began scanning the comics.
“Well, it's the same thing right now here in America. We're enjoying ourselves with all our prosperity, so naturally the thing that most citizens sought after became the easiest to access. Back then it was food, today it's information. So I'm thinking, why not cash in on it?”
“Well, I would, but I hate reading newspapers.” Max had shown his fading interest by returning to the book shelf.
“Like the Russians say 'Every man has his own way of eating yogurt.' I think some of the articles are interesting.”
An article caught my eye about the new testing procedure being used to distinguish espers, but soon found myself once again preoccupied in small talk.
Max had found the book he was looking for, and started towards the front counter before turning to me to ask, “Isn't today suppose to be a rain day? Or did it get canceled like last time?”
“How should I know that?”
Max's face showed little sign of annoyance as he politely pointed toward my newspaper.
“Oh, sorry.” Max gave me a small affirming nod to continue. “Well, it doesn't say anything in here about it being canceled, but the forecast doesn't' say anything about today being a rain day, which is especially odd because I'm positive that just yesterday it said it was suppose to be.”
“Yeah, Mom told me it was going to be, but I suppose not. Maybe they're having some troubles down at the plant.”
“Troubles at the plant? You boys think the weather plant makes the weather?” the owner of the bookstore butted in from above his newspaper as he sat behind the front counter, “I'll tell you both this, the weather plant doesn't make the weather, that's the planet's job. It just manipulates it to make it more convenient. You know, when I was your age, manipulating the weather was illegal.”
“So was reading a newspaper, or owning a bookstore.” the owner gave me a look of sheer frustration as I spoke.
“I was just saying that's how it was, I never said I agreed with the laws.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Max and I decided to share thoughts over a sandwich and a chocolate malt for lunch, then we could hurry off to school together. Our slow talking walk became a sprint as we rushed to the nearest shelter, completely surprised by the sudden downpour of rain. We were both shivering as we stood dripping wet in the door of Max's parents' teahouse. It was the first time in our lives that we hadn't known the rain was coming.
Max was a bit shorter than me, so the shirt I borrowed from him left a rather embarrassing naval gap, his pants were fine though. I was just happy to be in something dry, after my terrorizing experience with an unscheduled rain. I munched away happily at my bacon and lettuce sandwich and chips while enjoying a frosty refreshing glass of strawberry shake. It was delectable. Max's mother, with that same colonist politeness, called my foster father to expound on the recent events that took place. He showed up, not but five minutes later, holding a set of clean clothes, and my school backpack. My foster father, Amman Erlenmeyer, insisted that Max's parents receive reparations for their hospitality, but naturally Max's parents wouldn't hear a word of it. So, Amman insisted that he take Max and me to school, seeing as he would be going there regardless, being our teacher. Max's parents complied and soon enough the three of us were on our way to the car.
Just as we were leaving the front door, Max's mother hurried up to offer Amman a plastic bag of unknown contents. Amman peered in, then with a surprised expression pulled out a damp shirt littered with thick black blotches of ink.
“Care to explain this one, Isaac?”
There was nothing to explain, really. “I was holding a newspaper when it started raining.”
“You didn't just throw the newspaper down, did you? I shouldn't have to tell you about the consequences for littering, and the police won't care how surprised you might have been.”
“Don't worry, I kept the paper all the way to Max's teahouse, his parents threw it away.”
“It's true.” Max offered.
“Teahouse? You mean restaurant, or maybe diner.”
“Nope, we call it a teahouse,” Max's voice was somewhat adamant, which was odd considering his usually docile nature.
“Well, when I was a kid it was called a burger joint.”
An odd feeling was festering in the pit of my stomach. I had been attending the same school for the past 7 years, but now, finally, I was going to be taught by the man that raised me. Today was the first day of 7th grade. My father split off from Max and me as he went off to see the registrar for something. There was still a good quarter of an hour before 1 o'clock rolled around and classes started, so we just waited in my father's classroom patiently. I hate having to be patient.
“So what's it like to be in space?” I found myself asking Max. Somehow, I've always wanted to ask him that, but never felt like I really knew him until today.
“You'd think I get that question a lot. Not a lot of colonists move to small towns like this one. But actually you're the third person to ever ask me that.”
“Well, this may be a small town, but half the people here have at least traveled to space before.”
“You never have?” Max seemed pleasantly surprised.
“I've never been to an airport in my life.”
“Well, space really isn't as captivating as you think it would be. It's different, and that kind of makes it exciting, but when you're born and raised there it's just boring. For the kids that lived in my colony, we always thought living here on Earth would be interesting. I guess it's just a matter of where you're raised.”
“That makes sense.” I had already imagined he would think something like that, of course it was boring if you've grown up there. “So what's it like on the moon?” Please don't say boring.
“Well, it's pretty boring. From what I understand, it's nothing like it was 100 years ago when the first settlers came in and started digging out colonies. I don't know too much about the surface, but the colonies are just like little pieces of earth. We have sun lamps all over the top, or the roof, we grow crops, we have streams of water, we even had wind and rain. The only real difference is the gravity, and the fact that you're living in basically a huge cave sometimes creeps up on you.”
“Oh wow, streams? Really? That must be one big cave.”
A woman's voice rang in to add her two cents to the conversation.
“Yep, and plenty of them. The moon has come a long way in the past 100 years.” said the mysterious middle-aged women from behind me. She was just walking in along side my father holding a brief case in one hand and a stack of papers in the other.
“Hello, my names Mira. I was one of the first settlers on the moon.”