Tilting At Windmills: Theodore’s Star - Encore
Published: September 23rd, 2022
By: Shelly Reuben

Tilting at Windmills: Theodore’s Star - Encore

Here is a small enchantment I wrote years ago, that I hope will put a smile on your face.

The Universe is divided into three time zones: The Present. The Future. And the Once-Upon-A.

This story takes place in the Once-Upon-A time zone, in which there lived a little boy named Theodore and a little star named Star.

There would be no story at all if this little star hadn’t fallen in love with Theodore. If you gaze through all of the stories from the Once-Upon-A time zone, you will notice that they are love stories. Because Once-Upon-A is he time zone of love. It is the “I love you”; “you love me”; and “we love each other” time zone. So you see, it is the right place to be for all of the right kinds of people, no matter who they are or where they come from.

Once upon a time, a little star gazed through the heavens, as was her practice. Her father noticed that her eyes were not on the firmament, where they should be, but were always turned down toward earth, where they did not belong. Her mother called her an “earth gazer,” and all of her brothers and sisters told her to “Come back to sky!”

Alack and alas, her relatives sighed, “Star is incorrigible.”

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And they were right, because she had set her sights on earth, on a little town, on a little house with a small telescope on a small terrace, and on the little boy who pointed that telescope up every night to exactly where she lingered in the sky.

“He looks at me. He likes me!” Star whispered to herself every single night as she posed for the boy whose name she did not know was Theodore.

One night, at exactly midnight, Theodore walked out onto his terrace with his telescope in one hand and a glass of milk in the other. Theodore did not have a pet puppy or a favorite stuffed animal that he liked to hug. He had a telescope. His mother thought he was odd, and told her friends that he was “gifted.” His father knew that he was gifted, and did not talk about him at all.

Theodore’s father loved him very much and watched him very carefully. After all, somebody had to put out a glass of milk for him every night, because Theodore was too short to reach the milk bottle in the refrigerator. And since Theodore was very independent, that “somebody” had to do it without letting Theodore know that it was being done!

Theodore’s father was a good man who liked telescopes and gyroscopes and microscopes, and who had promised that he would write to his son every day when Theodore became a space scientist and after he had gone to live on a planet orbiting a star.

A very specific planet orbiting a very specific star.

On this particular night, Theodore set up his telescope and pointed it toward Star. He looked through the lens for a few minutes. Then he said aloud to the shadowy figure in the living room who was pretending to be reading the newspaper, “Father, are you there?”

“Yes, Teddy. I’m here.”

“Will you come out here a minute, please?”

“Sure, Son.”

And Theodore’s father got up from his big armchair behind the curtain of the window facing out onto the terrace, and he wondered if his son knew that he was there every night. Then he smiled, because he was certain that Theodore did.

“Daddy, look through the telescope at this star. It is a little bit above and to the right of Vega. Can you find it?”

“I know where Vega is, Teddy,” Theodore’s father said, and he got down on his knees and put his eye against the lens of the telescope. He repeated to his son, “To the right and above?”

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“I see it, Teddy.”

For several seconds, man and boy were silent. Then Theodore said, “Father, do you know what I think?”

“Not always.”

“I think that the star knows I’m looking at her.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Because she’s looking back.”

Theodore’s father was still peering through the telescope when he heard that last sentence, and if, at exactly that moment, Star hadn’t sent him a quick blink, he would have risen slowly to his feet, glanced down at Theodore, and gently explained that stars cannot look at people, because looking-at is an attribute of something that is alive.

When he finally did stand up and gaze down at his small son, though, he saw that Theodore had a big smile on his face and was pointing at the astral body he called Star. The boy said happily, “She’s laughing, Father. What did you do?”

“Your star winked at me, Teddy. So I winked back!”

And indeed, trillions of miles away, Star was leaning against a silky black cushion of sky, laughing happily to herself, and pointing a beam of light down at a little house with a little terrace, and at a little boy and a big man who were standing side-by-side next to a small telescope, and waving – first only to Star, but then to all of the stars surrounding Star, and finally, with wide, triumphant sweeps of their arms – to the whole Universe.

Copyright © Shelly Reuben, 2022. Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her writing, visit www.shellyreuben.com