Eclipsed

The children’s giggles lifted and bounced across the enormous curved paneling of the planetarium. The class of six year olds raised their hands to receive the solar eclipse safe goggles from Sarah.

“There isn’t much time,” she said, placing the last pair of chunky tinted plastic in the soft fingers of the last child, Emily, “and if you don’t have these on, you don’t look up.”

The class teacher, Miss Beasel, helped each child make sure the goggles were fit and fastened. Sarah looked down at the sparkling girl next to her, determined to manage everything alone. “Shall I help you with that Emily?” The girl’s cheeks flushed, half embarrassed, half proud that her mother, the most qualified astrophysicist in the building, was bending over to help her.

“In about ten minutes our moon will pass between the earth and the sun, and we’ll be lucky enough to be standing in the shadow. Who’s ready?”

The children squealed and cheered their best response as Sarah and Miss Beasel ushered them outside onto a viewing balcony already packed with onlookers. The air was festive. Adults clipped photos of each other in their eclipse sunnies, phones were occupied as viewpoints across the city were compared, and jobs paused. This moment in history demanded time. It was a momentary free pass from all the norms. The children, still excited, pressed into a tighter circle, protectively shepherded by Miss Beasel and Sarah whose eyes stretched up and skyward.

Sarah felt Emily’s hand timidly slip into her own. Mother and daughter exchanged a look, with more feeling than seeing from behind their protective glasses. This moment shared between them would not happen again, not in their lifetime anyway. Sarah wished to feel the even lighter pressure of little Jake on her other hand, her balance somewhat off without both children by her side. Her thoughts flashed to the face of the three-year-old boy, his kindergarten play oblivious to the great shadow about to pass above them. She hoped he was inside, that he wouldn’t feel her looking skyward and suddenly search for a window. Sarah squeezed Emily’s hand as her voice went out to the children.

“Okay boys and girls, here we go.”

Countless pairs of protected eyes looked toward the heavens as the shadow slid across their skin. The dogs stopped barking first; the bugs and birds fell silent; then the electric hum of the world went with it. The shadowed disc through Sarah’s glasses looked just like it was supposed to, just as the textbooks described.

The fidgeting started. The children first, shuffling their little feet. The trick of time, Sarah thought, the minute that seems like an hour lost contact with measure.

From a few feet away came a statements of civilized bewilderment: “My phone’s stopped working”; and rising from the other end of the balcony: “Hey, what happened to my phone?”

Excitement shifted to angst and the children sucked in the air of disruption. Miss Beasel jabbed at the phone in her hand, trying to wake it up.

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Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan

Jasmine Yuen-Carrucan currently lives in Berlin with her family. She has written magazine articles about the films she worked on, or interviewed people she worked with. In 2008, she directed and wrote her first feature film, CACTUS, a road movie set in the Australian outback. She has written two more scripts since then. “Eclipsed” is her first venture into prose.

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