This story was first published in Whiskey Paper on September 15, 2017.
Happenstance sits up straight, paw over paw, on a hammock that hangs between two lemon trees. A white and tan-patched Jack Russell with a thistle nose, Happenstance is an expressionist in space, panting, gently, and swaying, gently, in the Atlantic sea breeze. She’s slow jamming to the tinny, trebly R&B playing from the pocket transistor radio that dangles from a tree branch to her left. Mouth open, tongue flopping and lips curled, Happenstance smiles like stained glass on a new moon: Simon is peering in from behind the tree on her right.
“Hey, girl—this is me,” the towheaded Simon says, showing Happenstance his latest work, a fingerpainting of his own fingerprints. He selected day-glo orange to depict the friction ridges of his seven-year-old fingers. To present his prints in the best light, the boy chose a textured, cobalt blue background that’s a ringer for the lunar surface.
“Don’t lick all the paint off,” he says. “Hey, girl!”
Happenstance yawns, registering a complaint with the slightest of whines at yawn’s end. She shakes and shakes and shakes her head, wriggles out of the hammock and bounds toward Simon. She love-bumps him. Simon musses her ears.
“Let’s go hang this with the rest of them,” he says.
Happenstance at his heels, Simon handles his fingerpainting with the care of a curator as he heads past the lemon trees toward a sheet-metaled structure. “My igloo,” he calls it.
The igloo features bay windows, wall-to-wall avocado carpeting, a conversation pit and a quadrophonic stereo system. In the front hall, which is lined with moon rocks, a fridge is stocked with space food sticks. In the great room, the disappearing sun shines through a bottle of Cool Mountain Blue Razzberry soda. Out back, gardeners drinking Tang tend a day-glo orange grove.
Artwork lines the igloo’s wood-paneled walls. They’re mostly self-portraits in a variety of styles—Simon in repose, Simon at Virgin Galactic, Simon with George Clinton and P-Funk, Simon as Copernicus. Simon, guest-hosting on Kimmel, interviewing Lance Bass.
“Hey, girl!” he says. “How about if we hang it here?”
Simon Scotch tapes his painting to the igloo gallery’s last remaining wall space, next to a bas relief of Simon and Buzz Aldrin sharing powdered-sugar-topped funnel cake under the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. Simon takes a step back to get a better view of his work. His flaxen mop is golden in the waning sunlight. Happenstance glows like earthshine.
“We’ll expand this gallery—out past the grove and beyond the pale pale blue,” Simon tells Happenstance. “We’ll tunnel beneath the Sea of Tranquility. You and me, girl. We’ll funnel and furrow the deep-sea floor.”
Simon extends his short arms, opens his small hands with day-glo fingers and reaches for Happenstance. She love-bumps him and lip-curl smiles like a cathedral.