Myna Chang ~ Like a Starward Rocket

Ten-year-old Albert Rodriguez sat crossed-legged on the floor, as close to the tele­vi­sion as his teacher would let him. It was 1969. Men walked on the moon and lit­tle migrant boys were allowed to watch tele­vi­sion in the school library dur­ing lunch break on Thursdays. Albert want­ed to touch that moon, too, so when the teacher turned away, he reached for the warm glass screen, dragged his fin­ger­tips through the fuzzy bar­ri­er of sta­t­ic. Albert spent the rest of the year crimp­ing used tin­foil into pre­tend space gear, leap­ing from the roof of the tor­na­do shel­ter like a star­ward rock­et, scrawl­ing his ini­tials in pow­dery moon­dust dreams.

Now 34, Albert works at an extrac­tion plant north of Amarillo, fill­ing rail­road tank cars with com­pressed liq­uid heli­um for NASA’s rock­ets. It’s a good job, firm­ly on the ground, with hourly wages and a pen­sion. Albert wears a hard­hat and earplugs, mon­i­tors pipeline pres­sure gauges, slides under tank cars to check for rust. On his lunch break, he walks the tracks to be sure there are no imped­i­ments between his sta­tion and the Santa Fe Railroad tie-in, where the heli­um cars will join larg­er trains head­ed for Houston or Florida, or maybe, some­day, the moon. When no one is look­ing, Albert spits on his fin­ger, sketch­es his damp ini­tials on the side of each tank, send­ing a lit­tle part of him as far as he can.


Myna Chang’s work has been select­ed for Best Small Fictions, Fractured LitX‑R-A‑Y Lit Mag, and The Citron Review, among oth­ers. She is the win­ner of the 2020 Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction. Read more at or @MynaChang.