Stardust Johnson: Another Santa’s Tale

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Beware, I say, beware the things you believe in.

Because believes can turn against you.

See what happened to Edward Johnson:

“Rumours say Edward was a normal kid. He enjoyed playing football with friends; hear the bell announcing the end of classes, the butter and sugar sandwiches and waiting under the stairs of the school to try to see the girl’s panties. But what he liked, above all these things, was to watch the stars from the attic of his house. He spent hours and hours looking at each and every one of them, thinking theories about what could be those little bright lights twinkled in the sky.

Just that day, Miss Brown, Professor of Natural Sciences, had explained this. According to Miss Brown, stars were giant balls of gas burning incandescent material constantly producing huge amounts of light and heat. Light rays traveling through space at unimaginable distances to reach Earth. She even said that since it took so long to arrive, there were times when the star had ceased to exist as a match goes off, and we did not notice because its light was still coming.

Edward thought it was stupid. How could we be seeing something that did not exist? Professor Brown did not know what she said, because only repeated what she had read in the book without questioning whether it was true or not.

Edward preferred the explanation that his grandmother Helen gave him. To Edward, his grandmother Helen was the wisest person in the world. She had lived with them ever since. He had never come back home without finding her grandmother reading a book, she always knew all the answers to these contests on TV – except the film questions, Grandma Helen never went to the movies. Edward’s mother once told his son that all she knew she had learnt it from his grandmother, and Edward thought her mother knew a lot. However, Grandma Helen was always telling him things like: “How much you have to learn yet,” or “I knew at your age …” what made Edward think that his grandmother was still a lot smarter than he imagined. So if he had to decide between who he trusted most, if among his grandmother or Miss Brown, (who, as far as Edward knew she did not even has a mother to teach her all that his grandmother taught her mother), definitely was the explanation of Grandma Helen.

According to Grandma Helen, there were as many stars as people in the universe, and each person had their own. If you stopped to look at them all and looking lot, with eyes open, you would know recognize yours. If you were lucky you’d get it, because then you would be able to catch the star because it would also recognize you and let you catch it. Then and only then, you were free to give the star the person you most love to keep as a token of that love.

Grandma did not know anyone who would have succeeded, but had heard in his village about a small boy made it.

When Edward’s mother said that they were only stories for children and he should heed what they said at school, Grandma winked and smiled behind her.

That night was no different from the others. So Edward went to the attic again wiping a milk moustache after dinner. He placed his grandfather’s old sofa just under the huge roof window. He sat and stared at the sky.

There was not a cloud, only the moon and stars. At first all equal to each other, but little by little, one of a bluish colour that flickered rapidly, another beside a yellowish one glowing even faster, up against the pole star, the brightest of all, one red burning like fires of a summer camp. Some were bigger than others, some were even harder to see – whose would they be?. He was looking for one by one trying to follow an apparent order. But it was very difficult, so many and so disordered.

“As in big cities,” thought Edward.

So he decided to find a group of stars that were separated from the loads of stars more like those of a small town where he lived. He tried to find a star very very fat like Mr Willow, who lived next door, but he found no large enough so that it could be his. Besides, after all stars could not only look alike their owners physically, it was not logical.

Although thinking better, his grandma’s theory wasn’t too much logic. However, someone had heard that, in a town, once, a person had said that he had been told they knew of another that he was told that a boy secretly told a friend she had got his star. Or at least so said his grandmother. And his grandmothers never lied. Well, except when her daughter caught her secretly eating cookies and she told her it was Edward. But that did not count.

Edward kept searching and searching. It was like walking into the sea and go diving for starfish. It was hard because there were so many grains of sand dancing in the waves, and many algae and dirt that in the end it was difficult to see or distinguish one thing from another, one star from another. And his eyes ended up itching and had to rub them to see well, but when he opened them again and the sight got used to again to see the landscape it was no longer the same and he had to start over.

Edward was in despair. Back when all the stars looked a whole, he liked to imagine it was a blanket covering the earth and found it beautiful. But now he was trying to find a needle in a thousand haystacks he began to getting upset. For a moment he thought her grandmother could be wrong, that it was just a fairy tale as his mother used to read to him when he was younger. It could even be that Miss Brown was right and they were just fireballs. The sun was a star and everybody knew we were warmed by its fire.

Edward was scared. He did not like to think those things. His grandmother never lied, never. Why would she tell him a story? A story that instead of getting him asleep kept him awake night after night. Then he thought:why do they send me to school if grandma knew better than Miss Brown? Edward shivered in fear thinking that maybe his grandmother did not know as much as it seemed. And then he remembered that his grandmother was not as good as him at Maths. And when there was a big problem at home his father solved it, not Grandma Helen. Maybe Grandma was wrong.

A cold sweat ran down his hands. A gentle gust of wind brushed his cheek, and suddenly he did not want to look at the sky covered with glowing balls of gas millions of miles away. He stood leaning his hands on the floor with his head down and opened the window.

 

He was about to enter, but one thing stopped him short. A reflection in the window. There were these little points of bright light in the depth of the darkness of space. Glistening, shimmering and beautiful. And among all of them bright spots shone in a special way. Edward turned his head slowly trying to follow an imaginary line connecting between the reflection in the window glass and the true point of light in the sky. At the end of the sky. There it was. At first it did not seem special or different from all the other stars. Edward was not sure exactly what he was that made him look at that particular star. He had seen it sideways as he opened the window. It had been just a reflection in a glass on the corner of his right eye, but that minimum flash had attracted his attention as a drum that made him shiver.

He followed with his eyes, wondering why it looked so pretty. He lay again on the floor and placed his hands on his chest. He could not stop shaking, his heart beat … that was, his heart was pounding, almost like the drum beat that he had felt. The star flickered too. Edward put his right hand in his neck and tried his best to feel beats. It was amazing. His beats rhythm was similar to the stars’. It could be coincidence, but … the emotion, the heart of Edward began to beat faster. And it was even more surprised to find that the star also increased his rhythm.

Edward started laughing uncontrollably. He felt as tears accumulated in his eyes and struggled to get out. He placed his hands in his eyes and rubbed them. For a moment, he was frightened at not seeing the star. He had stopped staring at it when he rubbed his eyes. Now maybe he could not find it again. But no, there it was again, flashing, throbbing in unison with his heart. He closed one eye and looked at it. It was beautiful, he was sure it was his star and he could not let it escape, he would not scratch his eyes.

He stretched his right arm with an open hand. With the open eye he made sure to aim well. With the thumb and forefinger he circled the small point of light above and below. And he squeezed it. The light disappeared. He closed his hand tightly and pulled it close. He opened the other eye to be sure to look his best and looked down.

            Between the cracks left by the closed hand flashes of white light scattered. He had promised not to mourn, but he felt again a rush willing to go out without respite or warning. He swallowed and endured the tears to open the hand.

There it was. It was like a little diamond, like a tear of pure glass enclosing a bright and warm light across him filling him with happiness. He stared at it for a few minutes and finally put it in his pocket and got back to the attic.

His life would never be the same. And the next day he would give it to the person he loved most.

 

——————

 

And indeed, he gave it to the sweet Samantha Kirby and she received it with joy and excitement.

They enshrined the star in a silver chain and she carried it around her neck thereafter.

It happened years later, when the innocence of children left still young, but not so naive, Edward Johnson. Grandma Helen had died, Santa Claus was his parents and the magic book they had bought for his birthday had taught him that it was all sleight of hand techniques and dismissal. The mysteries of the world were explained through documentaries on PBS, BBC or the Discovery Channel a lot better than by unmotivated teachers in his school.

An afternoon like any other, he was watching television when the world of Carl Sagan and Professor Hopkins were busy explaining the secrets of black holes. The documentary awoke a spark in his memory and had fleeting memories of the night he found his star. But of course, it made no sense, stars were glowing balls of gas millions degrees. It must have been a dream, because it was big enough to believe in such things.

The next day the funeral was held, still fresh, Samantha Kirby’s and her entire family. Fire-fighters determined the point of origin of fire in the bedroom of the daughter. “Maybe a lit cigarette.” The temperatures reached levels higher than ever seen by anyone, but astronomers.

Only the ashes left. So, thereafter, Edward Johnson was known as “Stardust.”.

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