Creative Writings Flash Fiction

Over Dinner

“Uni’s been great, right?” 

General Sheltron had meant it as a mere small talk starter, between unpacking the take-out food to the plates. But to his surprise, Aster’s eyes and voice light up. “Dad, how could it not?!”

The occasional stutters and pauses to admire the meal did little to stop his excited chatter. The university pleases Aster, very much, and the boy is eager to go about life there. The club activities he might do (“They have a band, Dad!”); then the lessons he is to study-in this semester, in the semesters to come (“Third-year students might do an internship at a company’s lab-won’t Mama like the sound of that?”); the interactive moonbeam hologram presenters in his classes (“The molecule models would float about us-and we can tweak it with a simple wave-no goggles necessary!”)

The old general’s amusement increases at how Aster is even eager about the compulsory classes. “The lecturer’s nice, so that’s a plus point-and the lesson’s actually interesting-if you can pay attention long enough. But I think my friends already knew all about them when they were in high school…”

My little star, his mother had mused, adoration seeping through each word. He never failed to cheer me upthere’s always something exciting in his world. 

The three of them had been touring the General’s ship. They lingered in the steering room, and the crew were laughing at Aster’s little pun. General Sheltron hadn’t known how to respond, was still reeling at meeting the boy for the first time two hours earlier. He did suppose that his son was given a fitting name, or Aster himself had lived up to the meaning. 

Now the boy is quiet, chewing his dinner before speaking again, “There are so many fun things to do and try, I’m not even sure I’ll be able to do all that.”

General Sheltron smiles, “But you want to do them all?”

Aster’s eyes light up again, fingers snapping in agreement. “That’s the point!” he exclaims. “Sometimes I’ll think, maybe next year there’ll be another seminar or something. But at the same time, the other side would pester me, like what if there’s no other opportunity? And if there is, what if you won’t have time later?”

“Well, surely some will be more beneficial or interesting to you than the rest, Aster,” says the General. “Don’t want to be mopping in some miserable obligation, don’t we?”

“No, indeed,” Aster grins. “I’ll stress the neurons out of my brain trying to fulfill everything well.”

“Well then!” The boy chuckles at his father’s words.

“Of course, you’ll have greater worries and concerns at your age,” the General continues softly. “You can’t help it. But I’d prefer if you choose to do things responsibly.”

“Mama said the same thing,” Aster pipes. His tone is musing, yet far too lilting with the amused glint in his eyes.

“Well, I know she didn’t raise a brash young man,” General Sheltron retorts before he can overthink the allusion.

 “No, sir.” 

“You mind your studies well. Don’t worry about anything else- money or food or lodging. Your mother made me swear I’ll provide for you, and I will.”

“You have, Dad. A great deal,” Aster acknowledges kindly.

“That’s why. Enjoy yourself, and gather your skills. You’ll survive the workforce well enough with those.”

Aster swallows then raise his right hand in a proper salute. “Yes, General Sir!”

“At ease, Corporal. Well, listen to me. An old geezer with his advice,” the General chuckles, turning to pick up the puddings set aside on the counter. 

“I don’t mind. I’m still a duckling to this world, looking for guidance.” There’s a pause as Aster chews his food, an intent look in his eyes. Then he leans forward, and says, “It’s not like you’re half a century old, Dad.”

His father stills, and his gaze turns sharp. Aster, being the little tease who knew he hit his mark, begins to snicker. General Sheltron is no old rickety officer, being in his late forties. Still, it is enough a gap between his comrades for them to tease him relentlessly.

“You should stop seeing your uncles,” the General sighs. Aster only laughs louder.

Author: Ruth Tirza Arina / 224214046

Editor: Cynthia Olga Handoko, Cherry Larissa Hendranata (QC)

Illustrator: Ajeng Suci Hati

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