The Telescope

by Jack Foster Mancilla

You all remember the Loomis twins. … I remember them very well. Art and Rick in alphabetic order. Funny little haircuts. Two sisters. Father was a doctor. … You know, “The twins.” Most people could not tell the one from the other because they looked so much alike.

The twins were very lucky, and they were smart. Their father gave them most of what they wanted that had anything to do with learning. That meant that they got a bunch of toys to play with.

They spent big parts of their free time during their Junior year grinding a piece of glass into a mirror for a telescope. When it was ground to perfection and sent away for mirroring, they had time to build the body of the telescope and pour the concrete for the equatorial mount. They had time to order the eye pieces and internal mirrors. All in all, it was a fairly involved project grinding a ten-inch mirror and building the housing. Their timing could have not been better. On the day that everything that could be done without the returned mirror, had been done, the mirror came.

They called me; and I went up to their house and they were busy putting the final pieces in place in the late summer afternoon. As soon as it was dusk, I would have been tempted to look at something, but Art and Rick both said “Wait.” So we waited.

We sat out in front of their house and looked at the finished telescope. We watched the final rays of the sun fade over the hills of Camp Pendelton. We watched as the darkening sky revealed the stars. It was a moonless night without a single cloud, clear as a bell. The stars seemed even brighter because we sat in the dark without a light anywhere. We could see the house and the trees and the hills all around because they were black places, shadows between the stars. And still we waited. The Milky Way was so sharp; I could almost touch it. We spoke of universes and infinity. Time moved in two directions. The universe was before us. There stood Orion, the Pleiades and many other unnamed constellations calling to us. We were waiting for the right moment.

Just after midnight the moment was right. Art said it was time, and we all ran over to the telescope. Art was looking into a little book and reading off numbers as Rick dialed in the “right ascension” and the “declination” of their chosen target. It was not a star they had chosen. It was Saturn. One thing that amazed me from the first was that as they were dialing in the numbers on the scope they were not looking at anything through the telescope. They were trusting their mathematics and engineering skills. As soon as the numbers were set, Rick dropped the eyepiece into place and looked through the scope. He was happy, Art looked and was elated, my turn came and there, in the dead center of the viewing area, hung by the gravity of the sun and the powers of the universe, the ball of Saturn with her rings and two moons easily visible. For the first time in my life, I realized the universe was ours.

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