An Introduction to Meteorites by Nicholas Cook

An Introduction to Meteorites

The man with the small hands shows me his collection of space rocks. He talks about the summer he spent in the North Pole collecting chondrites. They’re the most common, but they’re still beautiful. He touches my crooked nose with his tiny finger, and I feel homesick.


He wears Earthly scents like my father, says he wants to smell like a meteorite. He asks if I know the difference between meteor, meteoroid, and meteorite. I let him tell the story as if I haven’t heard it a thousand times. A meteor is just a phenomena. We’ll never call a meteoroid home. Down here, all we have are meteorites. He shows me an angrite. When he asks how it smells, I say like dirt.


A moth when squished looks like a stain across the sky. I believe this man with his collection of universal things. I tell him how as a child I could see ghosts, but that went away. What did they look like? he asks. Like everyday people, I say, leaving out the part about the woman who died in a grease fire in my elementary school. The side of her face looked like a space rock.


I call my mother about the space man. Does he make good money? she asks. He runs a meteorite newsletter Mother, you do the math. She asks what happened to the lawyer, the short guy with the proportionate hands and mentally unstable mother. She isn’t any more unstable than you, I say, but my mother isn’t listening. I hear the everclear spinning in her glass. Straight up, on ice.


For his birthday he travels to Russia to look for pallasites. I tell him, when sliced, an iron-rich meteorite looks like a brake pad worn down. You’re crazy, it’s a good thing I love you. The phone connection is all static. I picture his voice turned into waves traveling across satellites to reach me, what gets lost in transit. I hear him say crazy and love and none of it sounds real.


My father visits one night while the space man is away. My father died years ago, so it’s his ghost. What no one tells you about ghosts is how they’re stuck in whatever they were wearing when they died. My father died in his underwear. Right now he stands behind the closet door, his head peeking out. I don’t want you to see, I lied about working out. I open the door. Dad, we all lie about something.


The space man proposes with a ring made of extra-terrestrial iron. The Widmanstatten pattern looks like a child has scratched his name in stone. My finger feels heavy and out of this world. Good one, he says, I get it. He says he wishes he could meet my father; that he, too, knows what it’s like to lose a parent. He’s right over there, I say, but when he looks my father has turned into a mesosiderite, the rarest of all space rocks, only I can see it.


An introduction to meteorites


Nicholas Cook wishes he had a meteorite collection, but will settle for geodes. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Unbroken Journal, Spelk, (b)OINK, 100 Word Story, and elsewhere. His story The Peculiar Trajectory of Space Objects won second place in the Bath Flash Fiction Award. He lives in Dallas, TX and can be found at @thisdogisdog.


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