When I was a kid and we drove in the car Mom tried to make use of every opportunity to stimulate my powers of observation. “Look,” she’d say pointing out the window. “A white horse.”
“Where?” I would say. I loved horses; especially white ones, which I thought granted wishes if they were truly white. I was always interested in getting wishes granted.
“Right there,” she would say, pointing again.
I would press my nose to the window and scan the fields and then scan the horizon too when I couldn’t find anything more horse–looking than bales of hay.
“Where? Where?” I’d plead.
“Right there,” Mom would say. “Oh, you’ve missed it.”
I would whip around and look out the back window. Nothing. Not even so much as a white house.
“I didn’t see it,” I’d whine.
“Well, maybe next time,” Mom would say, which she knew was a boldfaced lie. I never could find anything out the window unless it was huge in the future such as: “Here’s a huge building coming up on the right in two minutes. It looks like the empire state building. The right side of the car! It’s red! It has trees all around it and pink flowers leading up the sidewalk. It’s right THERE! See?” Then maybe I’d see it if she took my head and pointed it in the exact direction and pointed with her finger, too.
So, last night, at midnight I went outside to see Mars. An Internet site said: “Mars is the breathtakingly bright "star" in the southeast after dark. You can't miss it. Mars shines many times brighter than any actual star in the sky. Anyone can see it, no matter how little you know about the stars or how badly light-polluted your sky may be.” Did I see Mars. No. It was not in the sky. Nowhere. It will be this close again in the year 2287, the Internet site said.
So, I stood in the street, looking everywhere for the red planet. I was all alone. All sensible people were in bed, asleep. I finally spied the streetlight. It was red. Honest, it was. I always thought they were white or at least yellow. This one was red. So I looked at it, for a minute, squinting and pretended it was Mars. Somewhat satisfied I stumbled back into the house and read a book until 1:30. Little did I know that in just a half hour a lunar eclipse was starting—a “rare lunar eclipse.” Rare, because—surprise, surprise—it was going to glow red, just like Mars! So, not only did I not get to see Mars, that is so easy to see that “you can’t miss it,” but also I missed seeing the real show in the sky, the red full moon and then a lunar eclipse. It’s just like when I was a kid. I looked in the wrong place at the wrong time and now it looks like I even looked for the wrong thing.
Maybe there never was a white horse. Maybe it was really a chipmunk, on the side of the road, on the opposite side of the car and maybe it was Mom’s way of having some fun. Maybe she’s still doing it, from Heaven, having a good laugh.
“Look, Reed,” I can almost hear her say. “She can’t find Mars and she’s going to miss the lunar eclipse too. Just like old times, huh? Heh heh heh.”
It’s not funny. The next lunar eclipse won’t be for three years. I’ll probably be looking for the space shuttle or a building as big as the Empire State Building or a mythical white horse and miss it again. That’s how I do things, I’m afraid.