In the fall of a slow year, he detects extrasolar wobble, the first clue.
Then telltale shadow, and smudges on a star in the Pegasus constellation, then he’s sure it’s there, a new planet, he’s the first to see or almost see this celestial revealing—and then what reverie. He kisses his telescope lens. He buys a bottle of scotch to take to his stucco house.
His bread-and-butter wife blows on the purple nails she’s enameled and glittered, has already fixed bacon sandwiches for supper. She claps at his news, squeals like a pierced balloon, promises shish kebabs for a celebratory meal tomorrow, and brings mayonnaise when he asks, two glass tumblers, and ice cubes in an empty margarine tub.
That night, in their ordinary, bed beneath the plaid comforter, staring at her cabbage-shaped head, he dreams of the trajectory of his life, if he leaves her:
his quest for planets gnaws him, like a termite pulping a block of wood. Colossal machines—digital camera and spectroscope— transport his quivering eye on voyages through the night. He searches for the next planet, then just one more, calibrates the telescope’s tilt, catalogs the attendant moons, spends all his wakeful hours juggling columns of data and begging the stars.
Through galaxies of wanderers, of decimals, numbers, and powers, he spins and spins, a lone speck of dust and filigreed bone.