Ain’t nobody gonna tell me what to do no more.
Worked my ass off three solid months for that car.
I’m free. You all hear me, goddammit? I’m finally free.
"At the high school. She's got swimming."
"Swimming again? Is that every week?"
"Three times a week. Plus she goes on her own after school sometimes, sometimes even on the weekends. It's as if all she wants to do is spend time in the water. Can't keep her out of it." She sighed. "Girl has twenty-three swimsuits, Carla. Twenty-three. Can you imagine?"
"Maybe there's a boy."
"It's a girls' team."
"Well, they hang around, you know how they are. Like Bob used to hang around for you after band."
"Maybe. I mean she's certainly at an age where she should be dating."
"Or… Jeanie, maybe there's a girl."
There was a pause, and then a shrug. "Maybe. That'd be all right too."
"You're so modern."
"Well, really, Carla, I just want her to be happy; I only wish I could get her to be happy on dry land."
"I'm trying to help you."
"You work for them."
"We all work for them. That's the way it is. Maybe it could have gone another way, but they're here now, and they're in charge, and if you want to earn work credits for food, you'll follow the rules."
"And if I don't?"
"I'll report you."
"Of course you will."
"If I don't, I lose my position, and my work credits, and I starve to death. I'm a couple years from making Class C, and if you think I'm letting you fuck that up for me, you're out of your mind."
Twenty years, then ding: you wake from hibernation, stretch, yawn, dispense yourself a cup of coffee and then start going through the graphs and charts and readouts and error dumps and false-color images the computer has accumulated while you've been asleep.
Everybody else is behind you, between the crew module and the drive section, still asleep, cargo. They'll stay that way until you get to Epsilon Eridani.
It's days or weeks getting through all the data, and then you're back into hibernation again. I'd tell you you're not awake long enough to feel lonely, but it'd be a goddamn lie.
She was called Mary Margaret, and she was your grandmother. You look like her, do you see, around the eyes and above the lips. You smile like she did, sometimes.
When she died I was given some of her things. The big painted platter that comes out at Christmas was hers, and the piano. There is some jewelry, but not much: a ring, a silver necklace, a few earrings.
And the housecoat. That housecoat. I remember curling up in her lap and falling asleep amidst the folds of it. It's hanging in my closet; it still smells of the sea.