Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
by Leslie Whatley
When I was a little kid, I actually couldn't see well enough to see the stars at night. Ironically, I became very interested in astronomy, because in the astronomy books my mother bought for me, there were pages and pages of photographs of the night sky, photographs taken with telescopes of planets and galaxies and the moon, and other photographs, always, beneath which, in caption, the authors claimed that the dazzling array of stars pictured was "visible to the naked eye." I loved the pictures of the stars in these books, twinkling in a spectrum of brilliant colors, but I knew that the authors were liars. When I looked up at the sky, I knew, the only thing visible to the naked eye was a skein of dim light, smudges of faint brightness.
When I was eleven years old, in the sixth grade, an eye exam was administered to the students at my school and it was discovered, finally, that I was nearsighted. That afternoon, my mother took me to an optometrist and got me my first pair of glasses. I knew that we were poor, and I remember feeling embarrassed and ashamed by how expensive the new glasses were, how much my weakness was costing my mother. But that night, when the sun went down, my mother and I walked out into the road in front of our house and looked up at the night sky. I had been enthralled, all the way home that afternoon, by the strangely crisp appearance that everything around me had acquired, especially by the appearance of individual leaves on the trees we passed on the road. But the stars were incomparably beautiful. I was speechless with wonder, at first, and then I couldn't contain my excitement at being able to see the stars for the first time. I remember, too, the shine of moonlight on my mother's tears.
Leslie Whatley is a graduate of the creative writing program at Florida State University and an assistant professor of English at the College of The Bahamas in Nassau. His writing has recently appeared in Yemassee, Segue, Hotel Amerika, The Absinthe Literary Review, and elsewhere.
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