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For their 50th wedding anniversary, my parents took the family on a week-long trip to Earth. I hadn’t been to Earth since I was six, when the planet cleanup mission finally ended and civilians were allowed to vacation at the six government-sponsored resorts on the planet. I vaguely remembered gazing out the shuttle windows as we hovered above an African plain, watching the strange beasts roam the land. I had only seen such creatures in pictures and videos, but there they were, living free on the planet instead of in a floating residential station orbiting the earth.

I felt the same sense of awe holding my daughter Ria’s hand as our ship landed in the parking lot of North America Port 627C. My mother’s hands shook as she gestured to the map next to the window. “This used to be Florida,” she said. Beyond the lot, giant palm trees swayed in the breeze, and a V of birds flew by.

“I was born north of here, in South Carolina,” my father told my wife. “Back then, the government was offering jobs to families who agreed to move into the space homes. My mother was raising my sister and me alone, and she needed the money. Only jobs left here were in the environmental cleanup industry, and she was a teacher. The USA was one of the last countries to join the restoration effort. By the time we packed up our belongings and boarded the rocket headed for our new home, half of Australia was already finished, and a few countries in northern Europe were completely restored.”

“Daddy, the ground feels funny,” Ria said, a few minutes after we stepped out of the ship and onto the grass.

“That’s the gravity,” I said, motioning to the smooth pavement. “The planet is pulling us down to it. It’s a natural effect, different from the false gravity of the ship.”

My mother, her curly bleached hair whipping around in the wind, began to cry. “It’s such a beautiful world,” she said. “It was awful as a child, when the only jungles I had seen were made of plaster and metal. I always lived in the city, where everything was stale and polluted, even the air we breathed.”

“Aww, ma, is this going to be one of those ‘Life was hard when I was a girl’ stories?” My younger brother groaned.

My father put a hand on his shoulder. “Life was not as not as hard for us,” he said. “We were killing the planet. If we didn’t leave, the environment would soon collapse, and it would be the end of all of us.”

Ria ran towards the grass outside the parking lot. She bent down to feel its soft spines and gasped when a tiny ant crawled up her hand.

“What’s it doing?” She shrieked. “Get it off!”

“It’s not going to hurt you,” I said. “Put your hand down to the grass, and it will crawl away.”

My mother knelt by Ria’s side and watched the ant climb back onto the blade of grass and scurry away. “I remember when my father had to call the exterminator because our apartment was infested with ants,” she said softly. “Of all the things I never thought would happen, I’ve never been so excited to see one again.” (by by Ade Conway)
Not all are good in multi tasking
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Upload Date: 31/12/1969

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