“The Hoofer,” Walter M. Miller, Jr., 1955 – Returning “tumbler” Spacer tries to reconnect with his family, whom he’s abandoned on long missions several times. His promises were always meant to keep his wife at bay. This last haul would have been the biggest, the one that would allow him to remain home, but it’s implied that he’s gambled it away. Drunk and maudlin, he stumbles toward his home, occasionally with the help of neighbors who sympathize with Spacers. By the the time he arrives, it’s evening; he lingers outside in the dark, listening to the sound of a baby crying, which he assumes is his. He passes out in a cement pool and wakes to find his feet stuck in the semi-dried cement. He sees the red, tantalizing dot of Mars on the horizon, but he’s begun to realize that the rest of his life now belongs to his son. He realizes he’s truly “stuck and he won’t ever get out.
Comments: Themes: Spacers, re-acclimation, family, male roles, freedom from expectations and responsibility through mobility (walking/hoofing/flying). Read in The Best of the Best, ed. Merrill. Online text at Project Gutenberg.
Author: Wikipedia: “Walter Michael Miller, Jr. (January 23, 1923 – January 9, 1996) was an American science fiction author. Today he is primarily known for A Canticle for Leibowitz, the only novel he published in his lifetime. Prior to its publication he was a prolific writer of short stories.”