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 Lit, X‑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 MynaChang.com or @MynaChang.