by Linda Petrucelli
It is difficult to begin new things when you are nearly seventy. The ridiculous condition of your bones (the titanium implants) discourages adventure. Incidental mental lapses create doubt about the reliability of your synaptic connections. For every septuagenarian who takes up Taekwondo or learns to speak Portuguese, there are hundreds more like you, an old dog who might go pee while attempting a new trick.
The Book* tells you to start a record of your observations. You sit on the back steps with a notebook on your knees
Sky Log 001
Waxing Gibbous Moon at 7:21 pm.
Cinnamon candy twilight.
Low-floating streaks of cloud.
Air clear. Cool, wispy breeze.
Venus twinkling tangerine.
Impatient, waiting for the stars.
Two thousand years ago, a grammarian designed a typographic tool while proofreading Homer. Aristarchus of Samothrace, head of the fabled library at Alexandria, wondered what he should do to inform readers when a manuscript mistakenly displayed duplicate lines. Gum erasers and white out hadn’t been invented yet, so the bookman drew a glyph like this ※ whenever he encountered something that warranted comment. He called the symbols asteriskos, Greek for “little stars.” His cross and four dot prototype slowly rotated ninety degrees over time. Then the dots lengthened into lines. Thus the asterisk was born, a navigational device on paper, sharing a similar function as stars in the sky.
You are barefoot and it is a mistake. Sh*t! In the disorienting darkness, you stumble, scrape your toes and ram your shin against the metal patio chair. You look up. The odd angle dizzies your equilibrium. You look up again. Vision begins to adjust, pupils widening. But you can’t relax. The salt scattered sky is confusing, chaotic. The celestial theatre in the round is a pain in the neck. You tilt your head back, raising your chin. Like countless other witnesses to the vast vault of space, you also feel small, insignificant. Barely a speck of dust in a fathomless universe! A footnote written in fine print *sigh* relegated to the bottom of the page.
Asterisks are celestial soldiers that can stand alone or march in formation. When they align by three and center together in white space, they form a dinkus.**
It is easier to read The Book than to feel lost under the stars. You retreat to the living room and read. An asterisked to-do list appears on a page.
* Be prepared (wear shoes)
* Locate stargazing site (your rural backyard will do nicely)
* Figure out what you want to see (how do you do that?)
The Book also touts a list of the top ten stellar targets. The goal-setting appeals. Orion it is. (Its stars are among the brightest, making it one of the easiest constellations to locate.) You’ll be looking for a ginormous dinkus in the sky.
There is no entry for dinkus in the Oxford Etymological Dictionary.
Back in the living room at 11 pm. Reading again. Trying to figure out why you couldn’t find Orion. Knew it was in the eastern sky. Sat in the chaise lounge. Finally relaxed. (Was that it?) You learn from Diagram 3-2 that the W you spotted wasn’t Orion at all. You had discovered what the Arabs called ‘the breast’ and the Greeks named Queen Cassiopeia. Glittering tits. On the way to one thing, you learn another.
Disagreement over the pronunciation of the asterisk continues. It’s not supposed to rhyme with six. Computer scientists have adopted the symbol as a wildcard character meaning the sky’s the limit. But they never call it asterisk. Instead, they say star.
Sleep and the comfort of the love seat overcome you. At 3:18 a.m. you awaken with urgency, as if you’ve been given a reverse-age transfusion. You have learned that stars, like resurrected saints, rise at certain times, and only then are you are able to commune with them. You (carefully) rush outside and lean against the car in the driveway. There is no porch light. No street light. Only the small amber bulb glowing in the living room. You face east. Look up. And it is unmistakable. A dinkus in the sky with diamonds.
You have forgotten the rusted joints, the bunioned toes, the lapses of memory. Fascination cures even chronic pain on nights when you’re unable to sleep. A visceral zing shoots up from your belly like fireworks, electrifying your spirit with a little battery charge. Insert dinkus. Begin the next scene. Something new has come into your life.
* * *
*Stargazing for Dummies
**This author claimed to see dinkuses everywhere. See Daisy Alioto’s “Ode to the Dinkus” in the Paris Review, June 8, 2018.
***The disappearing dinkus: “I Reject Your Asterisks, and Your Dinkus, Too. Brandon Taylor is Not Having It” in Literary Hub.
Linda Petrucelli is a writer obsessed with short form fiction and CNF. Her latest essays appear in Barren Magazine, The Mindful Word and are forthcoming in Parhelion and Permafrost. In 2021, she was named runner-up in the Santa Clara Review Flash Nonfiction Contest.
Diamante Lavendar lives in the Midwest US. She enjoys using art as a medium to explore the issues of life with a strong emphasis on spirituality. Most of her work is mixed media digital art which includes some or all of the following: photography, fractals, drawing, painting, and digital art.