“Frontiersmen” by Matt Rowan

Image by Pete Jelliffe

Space is a great time. It’s a lot of fun being an astronaut out in it. I especially enjoy the space tether that allows me to dangle out in the void of it all. I love having the job of retrieving space junk. We aren’t always so good with supplies, supplies get low, and I volunteer to man the space tether–a thirty-foot length of cotton rope. I go get whatever space junk is floating out near our space vessel. I go out into space.

Usually the space junk is stuff sent up here by other countries. Backpacks shot up here by space cannons, filled with letters to aliens in languages we decipher as best we can. Usually they are formally written pleas for help, to save them from some cruel overlord or another. I have learned so much about the overlords of earth, usually men and sometimes women. The overlords’ one shared defining characteristic seems to be their cruelty. They are all so glad to be cruel.

I grab this latest backpack filled with space junk. I pull it back to the shuttle, just like I always do. I throw the backpack strap over my shoulder, and I’m pulling hand over hand on the cotton rope. When I finally get to the door of the space shuttle I pull back the tarp, Velcroed to the doorway. When I open the shuttle door, it makes a hissing sound. (There are noises in space, despite the vacuum and what you’ve been told about screaming.) Once inside, I’m glad to be able to stop holding my breath. I’ve been holding it for what feels like hours but really it’s only tens of minutes. I’m now so good at holding my breath.

Inside, my crewmate, Sailor Mick, has been stewing a new stew. It’s really damp in the cabin. The shuttle collects all of this dampness eventually and runs it through a filtration system. Then it releases the dampness back into the shuttle, so it can form as condensation on every surface. We lick these surfaces clean when we get thirsty.

My man, Sailor Mick! How goes it? I say, after getting myself together upon reentry.

Aye! Great, it goes great in space, as ever. As ever it always does, Sailor Mick replies while continuing to stew the stew.

Wonderful! We love it! I say, and open the backpack, pouring its contents into Sailor Mick’s pot.

We do! he agrees.

We eat hearty this night. Munching stew and filling our bodies with the pleas of people.



Matt Rowan lives in Chicago. He founded and edits Untoward and is managing editor of Another Chicago Magazine. He’s author of the collections Big Venerable (CCLaP, 2015) and Why God Why (Love Symbol Press, 2013). His work has appeared in Gigantic Worlds Anthology, Timber Journal, Pacifica Literary Review, Noctua Review, Necessary Fiction, and SmokeLong Quarterly, among others.