by Anna Blanchet
Cherry eats two bags of pickle flavored potato chips as we wait for our 12 a.m. launching. Destination University of Glasgow-Spaceport, on Glasgow Spaceport 219, six months away from our home in Hartford, Connecticut, Earth. I eye my girlfriend over the top of a pamphlet describing the Interstellar Travel Agency of Good Living’s route across the cosmos.
“You’re not supposed to eat, like, at all before you go spacing. You might… vomit,” I caution.
“I’m not eating all of it,” she reasons. “Half of it is going to Fat Dog,” she gestures to the sphere-like beagle wriggling gleefully at her feet, and drops a few more chips in front of him.
“Poor Fat Dog,” I commiserate. “Launching into space is gonna be scary for him. He can’t even stand car rides.” Cherry rolls her eyes at me.
“He’ll be fine, Amelia,” she says, stuffing another handful of greasy chips between her lips. “Besides, I gave him a sleeping pill. He’ll be down after we get on the ship. Give or take a few hours.”
I stare at her without blinking, my entire body tensed up in the cheap plastic chairs of the Hartford Earth Launchport.
“What do you mean, ‘down,’ exactly?”
Cherry sniggers. “He’ll be fine!” A dense thud is heard from beside our feet. Fat Dog is panting, lying on his side, eyelids drooping while faithfully trying to wag his tail, as if saying ‘All good guys! Still ready to party!’
“Did you just kill our dog?” I demand. Cherry’s face looks gray.
“Uh, no, I don’t think… I mean, he’s not supposed to do that…” A string of drool flows steadily from Fat Dog’s mouth, tail still going as best as it could.
“Um, maybe I gave him too much too soon,” Cherry says thoughtfully. “I mean, he is kinda big, so I put a lot in that hot dog.”
Just then a bell booms, echoing throughout the hangar.
“When did you give him a hot dog? I didn’t see you give him a hot dog!” I snap.
“The ship is ready for boarding now,” a voice screams politely through the speakers.
“About half an hour ago, while you were in the bathroom? He was supposed to fall asleep gently, the bottle says. I thought that meant it wouldn’t be noticeable.”
By now everyone around us had jumped up, plastic chairs shrieking while getting kicked back at once.
“Not noticeable? What does that even mean? Were you planning on telling me this?” I demand.
“Yes! But I didn’t expect him to do this! I thought it meant that he’d be asleep after we get on the ship. Listen, Amelia, he’ll be okay! We just gotta think this through.”
Cherry and I stare at the dog beside us before we turn slowly to look at our luggage. We have our whole lives at our feet and yet to load it onto the rocketship that will be our home for the next 6 months. Fat Dog, arguably, weighs more than our luggage combined. We have, just for reference: two suitcases of clothes, a suitcase for bathroom supplies like shampoo and toilet paper (you don’t wanna be caught on a several-month-long space cruise without toilet paper) and two more suitcases full of miscellaneous junk we just couldn’t leave behind. Photos of family and friends, extra hand knit mittens by worried grandmas, random old DVDs and notebooks and favorite mugs. Checking our bags would have cost too much, and the Interstellar Travel Agency of Good Living allows up to five bags as carry-ons, considering it’s a spaceship.
I groan. Everyone around us is heading for the ramps leading to different spaceship doors. As per usual, the holographic TSA is hardly doing its job, just yelling at people and pointing to the directions people should be going but aren’t. Occasionally they pause long enough to extend a glitchy arm (thanks to spending cuts) and wave it over some exhausted passenger to make said passenger isn’t hoarding any bombs beneath their sweat-stained pajama bottoms. No one is even going to notice we need help.
“The idea,” I hiss through gritted teeth as we stand, “was that Fat Dog could waddle himself up the ramp no problem, we get our hands on a cart, and wheel our junk onto the spaceship.”
“I know,” Cherry snaps. I kneel down and nudge Fat Dog’s legs to remind him what movement is. His little stumps twitch slightly but otherwise don’t move, curled against the bulk of his stomach. He tries to lift his head to lick my hand but can’t, only managing to get more drool over himself. It smells faintly pickle-ish.
“There’s a veterinarian on board, but we gotta hustle,” I say. Cherry snatches up two suitcases with an extended moan, then throws the happily grinning, twitching, and now slightly peeing Fat Dog over her shoulder. I watch Fat Dog thump his dribbling urine into Cherry’s jacket with his wagging tail. Some of it splatters and rains around her, landing on not only our suitcases but those of the people around us. Her chin is set raised, defiant and determined. Her eyes are dark shards. I know to take a step back.
Cherry nods to the remaining suitcases at my feet.
“Remember, due to our rigorous launch schedule all passengers have one hour to board,” the automated voice screeches kindly.
Cherry starts to volley her way through the crowd, taking wide strides and hitting people aside with our suitcases and portly, urinating, beaming beagle.