Walter M. Miller Jr. The Hoofer. (Fantastic Universe, September 1955)

Read in Judith Merril’s The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy, 1956.

A spacer is back on Earth, having completed a seventh, and final mission. The plan was to have amassed enough money to settle with his wife and child and set up in business on Earth. But hes has gambled away all his money, and makes the final miles of the journey home stinking drunk.

It’s a sobering tale, as the spacer finds not only Earth’s gravity problematic, but actually being rooted on the Earth’s surface an issue – the call of space is a powerful one. And, irony of ironies, the story closes with his feet literally encased in concrete. There’s some wonderful writing in the story :

“The sun was almost down, forge-red on a dusty horizon…. He shook his head. It wasn’t really the sun. The sun, the real sun, was a hateful eye-sizzling horror in the dead black pit. It painted everything with pure white pain, and you saw things by the reflected painlight. The fat red sun was strictly a phoney, and it didn’t fool him any. He hated it for what he knew it was behind the gory mask, and for what it had done to his eyes”.

A great read.

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