I sharpened my hook against my whetstone and cast my line into the inky blackness.

Three tries later, I hooked a star.

I was a novice sky-caster and those slippery points of light liked eluding me. We seemed to have developed a relationship, though; if I practiced with good-natured patience, eventually the stars allowed me to catch them. Then I set them free.

The stars were drawing other casters, as well. Holding a slender casting pole, a boy the age of my young grandson approached me. “You’re not very good at that,” he said, with the innocent bluntness of youth.

His observation didn’t bother me. It was accurate, after all! “I’m sure I’ll get better, in time.” I reeled in my line, accidentally tangling it again. The little star broke free from my hook and sailed back up into the sky. A pang went through my heart—I would have enjoyed admiring its glimmer up close for a moment. How easily some things slipped away from us when we weren’t ready to let them go.

“It got away!” A girl a little older than the boy joined us, holding a banged-up tackle box and gripping another pole. Her eyes seemed hungrier for the stars than the boy’s. Some of us casters needed more wishes and dreams than others. I wondered what dreams she needed, and why.

But I only said, “I’m learning from the experience. I’ll eventually figure it out.” I finished untangling my line and cast again. Glorious stars lay strewn across tonight’s meteor-filled sky, creating a double glory—a sky begging for admiration.

“How can you be learning if you’re doing it wrong?” the girl asked.

“I untangled the line, didn’t I?”


“Aren’t you awfully old to just be learning now?” The girl set down her tackle box next to me, opened it, and chose a hook. The boy rummaged through the box’s contents and selected a hook, too.

They were brother and sister, I guessed. They had the same soulful eyes. I considered my answer to her question, since I was the oldest woman I’d seen casting, so far. “I don’t think it’s a matter of age. It’s about caring about what you’re doing.”

The girl studied her pole as if she hoped it would capture things far bigger and even finer than stars.

A minute later, I caught another star, a tiny, graceful one that perched on the tip of my hook like a finely crafted diamond. “Beautiful.” I gently pulled it in—no tangles this time—and let it rest on my palm so my new companions could see it. We all admired its sparkle, and then I nudged it free of the hook. It flew back up into the sky with a brilliant arc of light, the kind that sends hope into your soul and makes you smile after a dark day.

“You let it go already!” the boy cried in dismay.

“I couldn’t keep it,” I said, my curiosity rising about their method of sky-casting. But I didn’t want to spoil our new friendship with too many questions. “Look how brightly it shines up there. It wouldn’t be content down here with me. In fact, it’s light might go out.”

“But it’s gone….” the boy murmured. “Not everyone can see them when they’re so far away—”

The girl nudged him, and he stopped talking.

“It’s all right,” I said. “We all see differently.”

The girl and boy looked at each other, as if swiftly judging me. Then, she said to me in a low voice, “Mama can’t see the stars anymore. She says she’s going blind. The stars used to make her so happy. Now, she can only see them when they’re up real close. When she can hold them. So, we like bringing them home to her. Then she’s happy…for a little while.”

“I think I understand.” A longtime friend of mine had also lost his sight, and he’d loved the joy of the sky. “That’s a very loving thing for you to do for her.”

The girl glanced down at her tackle box. “Does their light really go out?”

“I’ve never kept a star for that long, but yes, I’m told so.”

“Do you always let them go?”

“Well, I’ve often wanted to keep them,” I admitted, sensing the need to be a co-conspirator. “It’s very tempting, but they’d be lost without their sky. And if everyone took one….” I didn’t need to finish.

“That’s what mama says sometimes.” The boy quietly wiped an eye, then gripped his pole. He tugged at his line, staring up at the sky’s brilliant display. A meteor shot past us. A smile flickered over his face, like a ghost.

I prepared to cast again into the bright-dark sky, wondering what would be best to say. These children needed something beyond pithy words of wisdom or well-intended encouragement. The girl solved the problem by asking, “Can stars find their way back home, even if they’ve been gone a while?”

“I would think so.” I glanced at her. Her young face held hope, sadness, and a poignant longing that touched my heart. I guessed at what she wasn’t saying. “Every one seems to find their own correct place, every time.”

The two children whispered, a complex discussion with many tense pauses. “We should put them all back. Maybe they’ll be okay,” the girl murmured at last.

“Can we keep just one?” The boy’s wistful disappointment was noticeable.

A hesitation. “No. Their light shouldn’t go out. Mama already feels that way.”

“Okay.” He sighed.

The girl departed. After a time, she returned, bearing a second tackle box. This one was sturdy and heavy, although tiny points of light glimmered through thin cracks in the lid. She set the box down carefully, as if it contained something infinitely precious.

I held my breath.

The heavy lid creaked open. Glimmers turned into a brilliant wash of light. Gleaming stars filled the box. Some twinkled, while others had lost a bit of their shine.

No wonder the children’s decision had been so difficult. Considering their mother’s circumstances, I’d have probably taken stars home, too.

“I’ll miss them,” the boy murmured. “They make my sadness go away.”

“But only for a while.” The girl’s voice echoed his feelings.

Soon, stars perched in little hands. With resolve, as if saying goodbye to close friends, the children gently tossed the bits of brightness back into the air. At first, the stars wobbled, then they straightened, and then—as if gaining strength—they flew up to the sky in luminous arcs to nestle among their companions.

With admiration, I watched the two determined youngsters return star after star to the sky, one by one, no matter how difficult it was for them. Soon, the box sat empty, but the sky twinkled with a little more glee, and a new, soft shine glowed in the dimmest stars.

“Look,” I said, proud of the children. “They’re all shining brighter.”

The girl gazed at the empty box. I quietly closed the lid for her. “You can still catch and bring them home for a visit.”

“Mama would like that.” The boy carefully cast his line, avoiding the area of returned stars. Soon, the girl’s line sang out as well. Their two hooks were lost in the dazzle above, as all the stars rippled in a shimmering twinkle, just for us.

“I’ll catch one for you, too. Whenever your mother needs one,” I promised. “I’ll do my best. I’m often out here, practicing.”

The girl smiled, a little sparkle returning to her eyes, as if teasingly reminding me that I was still a beginner. “Together, we’ll keep the stars bright for everyone.”

I smiled back, sending my line sailing again into the eternity above. “I think we’re making a very fine start.”

Sandra Siegienski is a speech pathologist in the Pacific Northwest. Her fiction has placed in the Willamette Writers Kay Snow Writing Contest, the PNWA Literary Contest, and the Romance Writers of America FF&P Contest, and it has received several honorable mentions from the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Contest. She is currently writing multiple sci-fi/ fantasy novels and short stories.

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