Flash Fiction: A Space Between the Stars

“You’re as dumb as an ox, Cam.”

The other kids, his teachers, his parents, his best friend- they were all in agreement.

They weren’t wrong, he’d think. Cam imagined the cheerleaders, the jocks, the geniuses of his high school as stars of a constellation, each their own bright light. People like him, people who were as dumb as an ox, were only the space between the stars.

But Cam wasn’t going to stay that way. He didn’t know what, but he knew he was meant for something. Something great. Something his little town had never seen.

As he grew into his twenties and his picked up shifts at the grocery store became full-time employment, this belief never waned. He would be something someday. So he paid his dues- he stocked beer and toiletries, swept floors, and asked his peers to ‘have a nice day’ in the most pleasant and hopeful tone that he could muster.

When his thirties came, the thought became a mantra. He knew he was meant for something. And when it came, he would show the world he wasn’t just empty space.

His thirties flew by, and his forties hit like a sledgehammer. His mantra became more desperate, and the desperation was plain on his face. In his drinking. In his failed relationships.

By the time his fifties came, he hadn’t thought about his childish dreams in some years. He was too old now, he thought, too jaded. Too worn down for hope to be anything but a fantasy. He looked on at the youth wasting away their lives on their iPhones and swept the floor of the grocery store he still worked at.

At 60 years old, Cam was staring at Orion in the driver’s seat of his pickup, moments before he’d been ready to turn the engine over when something occurred to him.

He’d been waiting too long.

What if he took what he longed for?

This is where our story changes. Not in the narrative, the subject, the point of view. Cam didn’t become an artist, a writer, a Hollywood star. Instead, Cam did what Cam did best.

The following day, Cam put on a smile and asked the young cashier how her new baby was doing. He helped an older woman reach a jar off the top shelf- after all, Cam may be as dumb as an ox but he was also six foot two. He whistled as he swept the tile floor, making a toddler walking by giggle.

And Cam knew at that moment he’d become something.

Some people spend their lifetimes finding the place they’re meant to be, the person they’re meant to be.

We are all giants just waiting to stop looking at the ground.

Look instead to the stars.

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