Author : Joseph Lyons

A few years ago I was lucky enough to land a reasonably well paid job. Like most well paid jobs in this system it meant not great work in a not great place. It was a mining facility on an uncomfortably hot but habitable planet. We were encouraged to bring our families, so I did. My wife and I had just had a son so the new start and good money were very welcome. Worker’s housing was a good deal better than we’d had before, an old world looking wood-effect two storey home with its own small plot of land and full mod cons. For a long time I was happy, but my wife was not. It was no surprise when she left me, but it was a surprise when she left our son.

The work had been long shifts on rotating patterns till this point. Now I had to cut back to set hours, have friends babysit, enroll him in nursery and eventually school. My colleagues and friends were incredible throughout the adjustment, very supportive, but no one can really tell you how to raise a young boy by yourself.

I had always been the fun parent; discipline was never my thing. I knew enough to know smacking wasn’t the route to go down so I tried naughty steps, time outs, removal of privileges. He continued to become more unruly until I stumbled across something that worked. Once, as a child I had spilled my cereal on the floor and my mother made me count every single piece back into the bowl. My son dropped his on purpose so the memory kicked in and I set him to counting. It worked very well. Eli was five then, he’s six now. He’d been young enough that I’d had to help him once he reached a certain number. It felt oddly good and rewarding for us to work together, even if he was being punished.

Tonight he’d been avoiding his homework and not turned his console off when I had repeatedly asked him to.

“No, no, NO!” he eventually screamed after I asked for the dozenth time.

“That’s it.” I killed the power myself. He stormed out back. “If you’re going to sulk out there you can count the stars while you’re at it.”

“ONE!” He shouted. “TWO! THREE!”

I sat down and tried to block it out. He’d simmer down eventually.

“FIFTEEN! SIXTEEN!……One, two.”

“Hey, no shortcuts. You keep going till you hit a billion.”


“Speed it up. Count to a hundred fast and you can come back in.”

“Fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen.”

“That’s better, keep it up.”

“Dad, they’re going too fast for me to count.”

“What’re you talking about?” I mumbled as I headed out.

“I got to twenty three less but they’re going too fast now.”

“Twenty three less?” My son looked back to the sky and I followed his gaze. “Oh god.” I took a second to make sure I held it together infront of my son. “Wait here.” I headed back inside and came out with a blanket, ice cold lemonade and the last of his chocolate. I poured us both a drink and we laid on our backs.

“I’ll help. You point and I’ll count.” He raised his arm to the darkness as he took a sip of lemonade. “Here.” I moved it up to the left. “We’ll count the ones that are still there. By the time you’ve finished your chocolate that’s going to be the much easier job.”