Stephanie clenched her jaw and gripped the loop in her coffee cup as if she dangled from it, thirty feet high at the local gym’s climbing wall. Box breathe, in: one, two, three…
“I told you Steph,” her sister, Tessa, said, driving home her point one more time, “it’s too expensive and, I don’t know, too damn weird, you know? Dad was never a techie.”
“Not a techie?” Stephanie released the cup and ironed out the cramp that had sprung to life between her thumb and index finger. “Sometimes I wonder if you knew him at… Listen,” she said, calming herself, out: one, two, three… “Ricky and I will cover the cost. All you need to do is,” four, “show up.” When Tessa drew a quick breath, one that Steph knew led to further argument, she interrupted. “Hup. All you need to do is let everyone know when and where. Send the damn invites. And show the hell up. That. Is. All.”
Tessa let herself smile with her lips, skipping her eyes. “Alright, Sis. I know he mentioned it. Maybe the two of you talked about it. And yeah,” Tessa reached for Stephanie’s hand. “Maybe that’s what Dad meant by that line in his will. So. OK. We’ll all show-the-hell-up.”
“It’s gonna be amazing.” Stephanie embraced Tessa’s hand with her own. “A true silent spectacle. Just what he’d have wanted.”
Stephanie and Rick slowed to a stop at the selected site in the desert campground.
Tessa poked her head through Stephanie’s passenger side window. “Where have you been?”
Stephanie ignored her. “Did everyone show up?”
“Uh, yeah. We’ve been here for an hour now.”
“That’s great. Thanks for getting that done, Tessa.”
“And what about you, where…”
“We’ve got all the food, catered, of course, and fold-out tables in the back. Ricky’s got fairy-lights for, you know, ambiance. He’ll get those set up pronto. I had a cake baked to resemble, well, you see it here in a bit. I sent the launch results to you this afternoon, didn’t I?”
“I got it. So, you pulled it off, didn’t you?”
Stephanie smiled, stepped from the SUV and pointed her head to the hatch. “Help me get this stuff setup. Ricky?”
“I know, Steph, I’ll get the lights strung and the tables placed.”
Once the wine started to flow and food began to quell the group of hangry relatives, Stephanie brought forth the sheet cake cut in the shape of a spiral galaxy. She pulled open the box making sure her cellphone’s light shone within.
“And for desert, tada. Dad’s favorite: buttercream frosting, marzipan decorations and rich yellow cake with vanilla pastry cream layers.”
Tessa slipped forward a finger and Stephanie bopped her hand. “After the show, Tess.”
“Which is when, exactly?”
“It’s in the text I sent.”
Tessa tapped her phone, scrolled, scrolled again. “Ten twenty-one PM. Well, it’s ten fifteen now. Should we…”
“Yeah, we should.” Stephanie grabbed a wine glass and began rapping it with a spoon. “Everyone, thanks so much for coming to our father’s memorial. I know this seems a bit odd to hold such a ceremony out here in the desert. But, as you’ll see in a moment, it’ll be worth it.” She rapped the glass a few more times. “Uncle William, can you… Thank you.
“One of Dad’s last requests, one he made primarily to me, was to be turned to, well, star dust. I know this sounds ludicrous but, I found a company, maybe you’ve heard of it, that will launch loved one’s ashes into orbit, and give you the exact time and place that they will fire a capsule carrying the ashes out to descend in a fiery re-entry.”
“You set all that up?” someone asked.
“We did, Jennifer.”
“One minute, Sis,” Tessa said and then mouthed the word we?
Stephanie grinned and nodded. “Ricky, can you kill the lights? Thanks. OK, well, here comes our father, brother, and friend shooting through the sky, turning back into the stardust from which he came.”
The group of twenty-three family members all gazed up to the night sky at the assigned angle and compass direction explained in the text.
Stephanie tried to angle her phone simultaneously looking aside it to gain the full experience. Taking a step sideways she stumbled on a large rock and fell to the ground. “Goddamn it,” she quietly cursed, trying to pick herself back up.
As she did, the folks around her all cried out in awe at the sight.
“Ooh, there he is. Did you see that? That was amazing. Swoosh, just like a falling star. Incredible sight. Wow, that was so cool.”
Tessa looked back at her sister. “Stephanie, that was incredible.”
Stephanie was just returning to vertical. “Yeah, I’ll bet it was.”