Copyright 2016 by Leigh Kimmel
Pain exploded across Toni's mouth, the slap of a hand hardened by a lifetime of ranch work. She blinked back the tears and stared up at her grandfather. She'd never seen him so angry, not even the time she'd sneaked out to get on one of the horses and ride by herself.
But she hadn't done anything stupid or dangerous, so his anger didn't make any sense. What was so terrible about the longing that had overcome her as she watched the old vid of that interview with the Apollo 1 astronauts just days before the Fire, Roger Chaffee's excitement about his upcoming mission? "But he deserves to get to fly in space." Toni struggled to find words adequate to convey the intensity of the emotions welling up within her. "We owe it to him to find a way to bring him back to life and--"
Another slap, harder this time – the coppery taste of blood filled her mouth. "Antonia Sophia DeVilbiss, what we owe Chaffee is respect for his sacrifice, which means letting him rest in peace. I will have no more of this talk under my roof. Do I make myself clear?"
Toni swallowed hard against the lump forming in her throat, the frustration turning to anger she dared not display. No, any further effort to argue Chaffee's case would just get her punished for backtalk. Nothing to do but lower her eyes in the best appearance of contrition she could manage and force out the necessary words.
It must've satisfied her grandfather, because he headed off to the front room. Moments later she heard the adults talking among themselves, those low hushed voices that always meant trouble in the offing.
And then her mom, saying, "Dad, why don't you just get those old books and vids out of the house. We'll keep Toni too busy to look for them for the next few days, and she'll forget the whole thing."
No I won't. Toni imagined Chaffee's face, fixing it in her visual memory: the dark hair, the bushy eyebrows over deep-set eyes, the firm mouth quirked in a hint of good humor. I'll never forget you, Roger. Never, not ever.
With nightfall the desert air had cooled to the point it was almost comfortable. The promontory gave a commanding view of the entire metropolis of Phoenix, excellent for the photography Toni's best friend had wanted to do for her admissions portfolio. Except her folks wouldn't let her come up here by herself, on account of the dangerous wildlife in the Piestwa Peak nature preserve, so Toni had agreed to accompany her.
Read the rest in Lazarus Risen, an anthology by Bundoran Press.