Paula wheeled her father, Commander Joshua P. Neighbors, Retired, through the widest open place of the space ship Agnovion. Attempts to grow grass and shrubbery had become sparse as two generations had lived on the ship without any experience of earth.
“Why is it such a big deal for me to go into zero-G for a while?” he asked.
Paula didn’t hesitate as it was the same conversation they had every day. “It will deteriorate your bones and muscles.”
“For an hour?”
“You have to pass the physical to go into those parts of the ship. Did you pass your physical?” She set the chair’s brake next to a bench and sat with him.
“You said you wouldn’t talk down to me again.”
“I’m sorry, Papa.” Paula fished into her purse for their screens. “After saying the words so many times, the wrong tone is ingrained. You want your reader?”
“No. I’ll just sit.” He stared at the ground, so Paula held her screen in her lap and searched her mind for something to perk him up.
Not many people were about, a few couples hand-in-hand and some guys throwing a frisbee. The place always gave Paula sweet memories with family and friends.
“It’s depressing here,” said Joshua. “They’ve really let it go.”
“You kept it a lot nicer.”
“I shouldn’t have retired.”
“It was mandatory.”
“Between two galaxies for hundreds of years, and you think a petty earthborn rule like that would have forced the issue?”
Paula shrugged. She pulled a cigarette out of her purse and lit it. Joshua held his hand out, so Paula lit a second one and handed it to him.
He took a puff. “I designed the zero-G commons, you know.”
A few robins—descendants of accidental passengers from earth—hopped along the ground.
“They’re nice. The play equipment for the children is fantastic and I love to harness into the lounge and stare out the big window into space.” She hummed lightly at the pleasantness of it. “So much emptiness, I believe I see God filling it.”
“But you won’t let me enjoy them.”
Joshua drew deeply on the cigarette and let it out slowly.
“You’re a healthy girl.”
“Of course, I am.”
“I used to give you sugars.”
“That’s why I love you.”
“Right. That’s why I love you sometimes.”
Joshua chuffed a laugh. “I mean I gave you sugars sometimes.” He reached behind the bench and dropped the cigarette into a disposal chute.
“Because I knew it wouldn’t hurt you sometimes. A parent would receive trouble for that now, but I didn’t ruin you.”
“Not by any means.”
“The modern obsession has it’s place, but the ban isn’t necessary.”
“Uuuh!” Paula flicked her cigarette in the chute. “You’re talking about zero-G.”
“I indulged you just a little as a child. Can’t you indulge me? Just a little?”
“You’re a man, not a child.”
“Right. You know the difference between a man and a child?” said Joshua.
Paula tilted her head and thinned her lips, gazing into his eyes.
“A man shouldn’t have to beg.”
Angry for allowing herself to be guilted, she instructed the televator to take them to the zero-G section.
Joshua unstrapped himself from the chair and pushed off. As Paula watched him fly around, visiting people, looking at the flora, and teasing the kids, the memory of raspberry candy on her tongue dissolved her ire until she smiled and soaked in the joy of her father’s freedom.