Larry thought for a long moment. He chose his words with the utmost care. “I know that he loves you,” Larry said. “And I know that he wants you to come home safe.”
Jad breathed heavily as he made his decision. “Mr. Crisp?” He asked again.
“How do I turn this piece of junk around?”
“Hey,” Larry said in mock pain, “that’s my pride and joy you’re talkin’ about.”
Larry talked him through the process of slingshotting around the moon.
Jad waved at the surface and took some great pictures, but he did not land.
After getting Jad on his return trajectory, Larry landed The Amalgam in Carl’s yard. He needed to refuel, use the restroom, take a shower, and eat something more than space rations. He found Carl sleeping off his hangover in one of the empty rooms. He let Carl sleep.
Larry also showed Lisa how to read the monitors so she could notify him of any problems. He returned to his lunar synchronous orbit hours before he needed to. He craved the silence of solitude.
Jad used far less fuel on the return journey leaving plenty for landing.
Carl met Jad as he disembarked, a new, empty bottle in his hand.
“Coward!” Carl shouted. “You could have landed.”
“You failed. You lost us the prize. Coward!”
Larry, who had disembarked in time to hear Carl’s drunken tirade, grabbed Carl by the collar. He threw Carl up against The Sun Skimmer, and held him there. “No!” He shouted, “You failed him. You blew through the preflight. You didn’t check the fuel levels. You sent him out there to die for your stupid moon rock.”
Larry shoved him again before letting go. Carl slumped to the ground.
“Jad did the bravest thing a boy could do.” Larry continued. “He followed his idiot father into danger. This is on your head. You’re to blame.” Larry spat on the ground and kicked the dirt.
He turned to Jad who stood weeping. “Don’t… Don’t let him…” Larry said. “Just because he’s your father doesn’t mean…”
Jad looked away.
“Listen, Jad,” Larry said. “He cheated on your Mom; cheated on Mona. He only taught you how to fly so we could go for the moon prize. He was so deep in debt he couldn’t think of a way out. He sent his own son on a suicide mission. All that piece of crap ever cared about was himself.”
Larry stepped toward Jad. Jad stepped back.
“It’s okay, Jad,” Larry, said. “I’m here to help.”
“Stay away from me!” Jad shouted.
Jad turned and ran toward the house.
Lisa had come out the back door and ran to meet him. He rushed past her and past Mandy (who’d followed close on Lisa’s heels) and went into the house.
Lisa looked across the backyard at Larry and then at Carl.
Mandy turned and ran back into the house after Jad.
Lisa sunk to the ground. She looked at the house, at the dark doorway that yawned at her like a grave. And then she wept, for she knew that Jad, her beloved little boy, had died somewhere on the way to the moon.