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First Starlight of Summer

A 2021 Short Story

By Steven Christopher McKnightPublished about a month ago 3 min read
Top Story - April 2024
First Starlight of Summer
Photo by Ryan Hutton on Unsplash

Your whole being is constituted by yearning. You miss the stars but have never seen a fully-realized night sky sparkle to life before your eyes. You write things, funny but short but profound, emulating the archaic cosmos that turns by its own unknowable calculus emulating love in all its celestial glory turning in that same cryptic way, but fully know neither and hardly know both, and it feels disingenuous, so you write about writers. It feels vaguely masturbatory, but it’s funny but short but profound and it impresses the people around you enough, so you run with it forever until you can’t anymore.

Your Uncle Fred is dying or dead, and your roommate Whitney uses this as an excuse to drag you into a brief foray up north to see him. Maybe it’s her Uncle Fred. The details are hazy, but they’re there. So with a day’s notice, you pack a duffel and throw it into a hatchback that’s her age, and you’re on the road for four days, taking turns dozing off behind the steering wheel, sleeping in musty motels, listening to her favorite mixtapes because you hadn’t thought to bring any, over and over again. Sometimes she’ll snag on a song, play it five, six times in a row, each time whisper-singing the words she finds solace in, like the words and melodies and stories they tell are hers, and you envy that, because your stories belong to others. You fix your eyes back on the road, and you can’t remember if you’re the one who’s driving.

In a notebook, you trace the poetries of innocuous things: bumper stickers on big red trucks, cows in pastures, the blurs of trees, Whitney’s sunken cheekbones and her mouth’s sharp and rigid movements to the music she loves, the constellations you trace with her freckles. It’s an old notebook, a ten-cent one from a Staples, one of many you have in a crate beneath your bed, and you grabbed it last-minute because something wordworthy might appear at any minute. You force yourself to find what’s worthy, and while the old notebook had only one word in it at journey’s start, now it’s filled with flowers and the way the flowers make you wish you feel.

You’re ninety minutes from Fred, but it’s dark out and you’re both dead tired, so you pull over into the parking lot of a picnic venue and realize how cold the nights can be when you turn off the car. So you pop the hatchback open, and pull the only blanket you took along with you out of the messy duffel. It’s fleece. You bought it on clearance during a heat wave. The two of you sit on the hood of the car, eating stale sandwiches from a gas station you stopped at yesterday, sharing that blanket and sidelong glances and breathing the same crisp night air and listening to the same crickets ringing out their mating calls. For the first time in your life, you feel heaven unfurl above you, stars and nebulas sparking from the darkness, planets and moons dancing their cosmic dance in universes you cannot see, but perceive out there. In the faint light of your phone, you and Whitney laugh over things you found wordworthy the days before: the shape of a truck driver’s moustache, the gentle tragedy of a gas station janitor, a particularly lively dog, and it makes you feel bright.

In your childhood bedroom, your parents put stickers that glowed in the dark on the ceiling. They were stars, five-pointed, large and sparse, and when you were young, you’d reach out to them in the darkness and try to caress the faux heavens. When your arms grew long enough, you’d do it by habit in the moments before sleep.

The heavens feel within reach tonight, and Whitney points to the first word in this journal: “Car.” She wonders why it’s there, and you tell her how you feel beautiful things need mundane things to exist to be truly beautiful, how you never know the majesty of the true night sky unless you’ve grown up with a slate black heaven. Unconsciously, she hums along to the melodies of the crickets. You look to her, catch sight of her hair falling like a curtain over her face. With the backs of your fingers, you draw it out of the way to find a better view of heaven.


About the Creator

Steven Christopher McKnight

Disillusioned twenty-something, future ghost of a drowned hobo, cryptid prowling abandoned operahouses, theatre scholar, prosewright, playwright, aiming to never work again.

Venmo me @MickTheKnight

Reader insights


Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!

Top insights

  1. Easy to read and follow

    Well-structured & engaging content

  2. Expert insights and opinions

    Arguments were carefully researched and presented

  3. Eye opening

    Niche topic & fresh perspectives

  1. Heartfelt and relatable

    The story invoked strong personal emotions

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Comments (8)

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  • Anna 27 days ago

    Congrats on Top Story!🥳🥳🥳

  • Carol Townend29 days ago

    This is a breath taking and emotional poem. It is beautifully written and very descriptive.

  • S. A. Crawfordabout a month ago

    This has really lovely imagery and flow. Truly fantastic work!

  • The Writer about a month ago

    Congratulations 👏👏👏

  • Angel Lianabout a month ago

    It carries a lot of meaning in Hindu and Buddhist cultures while many ancient civilisations associated the planet with new beginnings as well as beauty

  • Natasha Collazoabout a month ago

    Ok, the first sentence had me hooked. Well written!

  • Babs Iversonabout a month ago

    Breathtaking!!! Love it!!!

  • D. D. Leeabout a month ago

    Congrats on Top Story.

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