Give me a heroic captain, standing heroically at his sleek ship’s controls, jaw thrust forward, eyes squinting out at a universe that is bigger than a bread box. There is a space gun at his hip. If he fires it at some enemy there will be just the neat and bloodless glow of a bad man politely disappearing.
Give him heroic things to do and a noble purpose. Send him on a mission of great importance. You and I will stand at the space-port window waving him off. Let him save our world again and again, maybe discover new life forms. Send us a postcard, captain. Tell us all that you have fought and discovered today.
But when he does send a postcard, it’s disappointing, mundane, and depressing.
“Dear you,” he writes. “Kept the fabric of time and space from rending yesterday, but today the universe seems gray and uninteresting. Fought the Xracklamg Empire to a standstill. I long to spend a quiet evening by the red waterfalls of Traxlar or crawl through the short forests of Proctor. Maybe I’ll settle down somewhere in the Gragmar System, perhaps on the planet Bikgndom, where I can sip fgrompora with some pretty Klmpfrom as the Plompcores sing from low branches of the Dlaquar trees.”
We lose interest rapidly and become distracted while looking up “fgrompora” in the dictionary. We see the word “fichu” and wonder what it means. And then “fiducial.” And then “fibrinolysis.” The word “field mouse” reminds us of the time our kitchen was infested, and an exterminator had to be called in to do our dirty work.
And then “field.”
I remember fields when I was young. Tall grass. Hide and Seek. Cops and Robbers. Cowboys and Indians. Astronauts and Aliens. I lay on my back with yellow-green grass all around me. The clouds passed overhead. The books, the toys, TV shows, candy and comics. I remember all of my youthful ambitions, my adult realities, my various triumphs and failures. All of it seems lost now, and everything I do have is not the exact thing I had reached for. It is as if I have dressed in the dark, imagining I was putting on a certain shirt, a specific pair of pants, socks, and shoes, but when I stepped into the light, I realize what I’m wearing isn’t at all what I expected. These clothes don’t fit as well as what I found in the dark. The colors are wrong, the patterns jarring. Where is my splendid suit? Is it at the back of my closet still? Did I dream it while asleep and in my pajamas?