June 15th, 2013


When he was young, David had loved Crackerjack, not so much for the crunch and sweetness as for the anticipation of discovering the prize at the bottom of the box. He used to fight with his brother over who would get the prize, until their mom finally had to start making sure that they each had a box to themselves.

David might have been the last kid on earth to actually find a decoder ring in a box of Crackerjack. After being disappointed by countless rebuses and gimcrack puzzles, he finally got the ring he had always wanted. Wearing it, he imagined himself living the adventures of a spy, or a spaceman, or a spaceman spy. Everything, when he was eight, tied back to the stars.

These days, with a mortgage and a family and a career to maintain, he wished he had a decoder ring for life.

The house was quiet now. As the evening waned, he listened to the cicadas outside, the wind in the trees. His wife had joined two other moms to take carloads of kids, including their own, to the premiere of The Hunger Games. He hadn’t read the books, but he understood they featured adolescents hunting one another for the sport of the public. He thought they might have been better off with the Heinlein novels he had read at the same age.

For a minute, he let his mind wander back to spaceships and intercepted messages from alien worlds. He closed his eyes and listened to the silence inside the house.

He knew there was no decoder ring to be had. He settled for another sip of his cocktail.

(This started as a #tinystory on Twitter, then became a #littlestory on Facebook, then became this.)

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