Guess what “Treasure of the Terra Madre” is a title rip-off of — er, I mean tribute to? We don’t need no steenking originality. Many thanks to Jane, who gave me this beautiful little globe.
Treasure of the Terra Madre
by Marian Allen
All the children watched the monitors as the planet dropped away behind the ship. Not even the teachers thought it would be a more genuine experience if they had been able to see it, say, through a viewport in the rear of the vessel, supposing there had been one. This exact view,which was, of course, being recorded, was the one which would be replayed for as long as the name of “Earth” was remembered. The last view of Home with a capital H, a sight to bring tears to the eyes of generations yet unborn.
Ten years later, deep into the voyage to the next inhabitable planet, five-year-old Houston Naylor stared at his favorite thing in the universe: his father’s paperweight.
“Can I hold it, Daddy? Can I look at it?”
Sometimes he could, and sometimes he couldn’t. When Daddy was working, like now, he usually could.
Sure enough, Daddy was busy on his etab and didn’t look up as he said, “Sure, buddy, sure. Be careful though, okay?”
“I’ll be careful.”
Houston hefted the small but heavy mounted sphere, marveling at how much weight such a small thing could have. He put it down and turned it on its axis, slowly, drinking in its beauty.
Most of it was deep blue. Daddy said that was water on the real thing. Daddy said the weird shapes and blogs and blips in other colors were land, and the different colors told you who the land used to belong to. It was also divided into grids by intersecting bands of gold; Houston thought those were probably like the walls of their family cubicles.
None of it belonged to anybody, now, Houston supposed, since there was nobody there anymore.
Just to be sure, he asked, “Who does the Earth belong to now, Daddy?”
“Doesn’t belong to anybody now, buddy. The last people are here on this ship. We’re going to find a new Earth. Be a long time before anybody could live on the old one again.”
Houston, of course, knew all about faster-than-light travel. A baby could understand that, by the time the ship reached its destination, and they assembled the smaller ones that could carry just crews and pioneers, Houston would be old enough to be one of them. They learned in preschool that, by the time the pioneers got back to Old Earth, it would probably be lush and habitable.
He had asked Daddy so many times about the globe, he could rub his thumb over the blue and give the name of the gemstone it was made of: Lapis lazuli. He could touch the other colors and say: sandstone, agate, jasper, mother-of-pearl, jade.
“Is the Earth really made out of jewels, Daddy?”
Daddy was busy, but he surfaced enough to say, “Sure, buddy. Sure, sure.”
“And nobody owns it now?”
“Nobody there. Look, could you go plug into the playtender or something? Daddy’s really busy.”
“Sure, sure,” said Houston.
It was from that day that Houston knew what he wanted to do when he grew up.
A WRITING PROMPT FOR YOU: World, globe, jewels, childhood misunderstanding.