“Pop-Pop, tell me again about when you were a kid.” Scotty slid into bed as his grandfather tucked the covers in around him. He leaned up on his elbow. “Tell me ‘bout the grass, and the bumble bees, and the rain…”
Grandpa laughed. “Okay, Scotty, but first you have to promise me you’ll go right to sleep afterward. Promise?”
“Yes, Pop-Pop.” Scotty laid his head on the pillow and stared up at the artificial stars that floated across the ceiling in his room.
“When I was your age, people didn’t live in the Metro Dome, they lived in houses. Each family had their own home with a backyard for playing in the soft, green grass. Outside the house, the world seemed endless, like a body could walk forever and never reach the end.”
“Tell me about the lakes and the fish.” Scotty yawned and rubbed his eyes.
"There were lakes with clear, blue water where creatures such as frogs, fish, crawdads, and turtles lived. Us youngun’s would go out and roll up our pant legs and wade in the cool water. The tiny fish nibbled our toes and it tickled. Sometimes, we’d bring our rods to do some fishing’." Grandpa stood up to demonstrate casting a line. “We’d sling it out just like this, and when we’d get a bite, we’d reel in it and tug like this. “ He jerked his arms back while moving his hand in a circular motion.
Scotty laughed. “That looks funny, Pop-Pop. Now tell me bout the bees.”
Grandpa sat at the edge of the bed and leaned over Scotty. “Well, there were these little fuzzy flyers, with yellow and black striped bodies. They went Buzzzz as they flew by. But a guy hada watch out for them ‘cause they had a pointy little stinger that hurt bad if it poked ya.”
“Like a shot, right?”
“Yeah, but some people, like me, were allergic to them, and I’d puff up real big wherever the stinger got me. I was rushed to the hospital 'cause my throat began to swell shut.” Grandpa held his throat and wheezed.
“Are lying to me?”
“Now, would Pop-Pop lie to you?”
Scotty shook his head. “No, never.”
Grandpa sat up straight and stared out the window of the Metro Dome. The sky was black, not one star twinkling in the sky, and the moon’s dim glow struggled to penetrate the smog. It created a haze around the dome.
Scotty tapped him with his foot. “Tell me more, please. Was there more flying creatures?”
“Oh, yes. There were butterflies with colorful wings that fluttered about stopping at the flowers eating nectar. There were birds, like some here in the dome sanctuary, but also so many more varieties.”
“Did they have stingers, too?”
“No, no. The butterflies didn’t bite or sting, and birds, well, they were a peaceful species.”
“What made the all those things go away?”
“Well, the earth just kinda got tired, like you do at the end of the day. And, the sun became too hot and moon too dim. So, we built these domes to keep us safe from the scorching heat. “
“What was the sun like, Pop-Pop?”
Grandpa noticed his grandson’s pallid complexion and tears filled his eyes. “Well, kiddo, “he cleared his throat, “The sun was a bright yellow globe in those days. A kid could go out in the daytime and play. We’d go swimmin' and the sun’s warm rays dried our skin turning it to a golden brown color. The moon was brighter in those days, and we’d play outside at night.” Grandpa turned his head to wipe his eyes.
Scotty sat up on his knees and put his tiny hands on Grandpa’s cheeks. “What’s wrong, Pop-Pop?” He lowered his brows. “Are you crying?”
Grandpa breathed in deeply. “No, I think there is something in my eyes.” He dug at his eyes to conceal the tears.
“Pop-Pop, do you think I’ll be able to go out and play like you did some day? I want to see the bees and catch fish. It sounds like fun.” Scotty lay back and smiled. “I want to feel the soft green grass, and learn to swim…”
“I think it’s time you get some sleep.” Grandpa tucked the covers around Scotty and turned toward the door.
“Do you think so Pop-Pop? You’ll take me fishing, right?”
Grandpa stood still. He didn’t face his grandson. His voice quivered as he spoke. “Sure, kiddo, we’ll do all that some day.”
Scotty yawned. “I dream about it at night, and I know it’ll come true cause you don’t lie, right?”
“Never, kiddo.” Grandpa shut the door behind him and walked out to the community room. He stared out into the pitch-black night. It was nothing like when he was young. He could barely see the moon, but no stars— just a thick cloud of smog.
“I heard you making promises you can’t keep, John.” Grandma sat a cup of coffee on the table behind him.
He turned to his wife; tears welled up in his eyes. “What am I supposed to tell him, Helen? That I’ve lived here since I was fifteen, his father grew up in this God forsaken dome?” He beat his fists on the dome wall. “We’re running out of resources and Pop-Pop doesn’t know if he’ll even survive to adulthood. Is that what you want me to tell the boy?”
“No, but you shouldn’t make promises you can’t keep, that’s all.”
Tears streamed down Grandpa’s cheeks and dripped onto his chest. “I give him something nice to dream about. I give him hope.” He sat down and buried his face in his hands. “When I tell him about the old days, his eyes sparkle with hope. I can’t take that away from him. I can’t allow him to grow up in fear.” Grandpa sat back and closed his eyes. He prayed for the days when kids walked on soft grass, played in the sun, and the world seemed endless.