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Ray Bradbury
The Rocket Man
Inword

Impressions Ray experienced of his family while growing up in Waukegan, Illinois, called Green Town, Illinois in many of his stories, finds a place in this story of an outerspace family, where fireflies light your way in the dark, and beds sing you to sleep at night, and father travels far, far from home.

The struggle for cohesion of the family is apparent in the first few words to roll onto the printed page “…she (mother) stood in her bedroom door looking out at me as I passed in the silent hall. „You will help me keep him here this time, won't you?“ she asked.”

Keep who? Why, Father! Husband! The one they await for his return from the deeps of seemingly endless distances. The one they want to “keep” on Earth.

Ray weaves again his magic. And the pathos that he evokes with each passing scene, brings us into a bonding with this family. We delight in the discoveries of the motes and dust of far exotic worlds the boy discovers in his father's clothing, there, now seen plainly in the microscope. We are troubled, too, while, as the father explains the need to be out in far space, he explains the equal desire to be at home, with them. There is this nearly maddening conflict of yearnings. Again, Ray discusses loss, and separation, and the reality of horrible hurt. In the last lines of the story, we are not prepared to look away from what we find, in truth, so vital in life.


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Story

The electrical fireflies were hovering above Mother's dark hair to light her path. She stood in her bedroom door looking out at me as I passed in the silent hall. “You will help me keep him here this time, won't you?” she asked.

“I guess so,” I said.

“Please.” The fireflies cast moving bits of light on her white face. “This time he mustn't go away again.”

“All right,” I said, after standing there a moment. “But it won't do any good; it's no use.”

She went away, and the fireflies, on their electric circuits, fluttered after her like an errant constellation, showing her how to walk in darkness. I heard her say, faintly, “We've got to try, anyway."…



You can find this story in “R Is for Rocket”.

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Immersion
Eight first stories. 1
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The Women
The Fog Horn
The Smile
The Blue Bottle
The Rocket Man
The Scythe
The Haunting of the New
The Playground