A Funeral Leads to a Week On Mars with Ray Bradbury

OK. I didn’t really go to Mars, but I felt like I was making regular visits without a rocket through the pages of The Martian Chronicles. I never read science fiction. I’d had this book for years and never touched it. So why did I suddenly decide to read it?

It all started over almost twenty years ago in a cemetery somewhere in Los Angeles County near the west side, not too far from the San Diego Freeway. Although I had no children still remaining at home, Sarah was still in the area. Her birth grandfather had died. The children’s natural grandparents had been of great help to us in adopting the children, and we had learned to know and appreciate them as a part of our extended family over the years as they visited the children. They either came to the house or we went to a park or restaurant to meet. We thought it appropriate to go to the burial service. It was a way to show Sarah that we cared.

Before the service started, those of us who had gathered began to get acquainted. We had not really known any of John’s friends. Our only connection to him was the relationship to our children. I knew nothing of John’s other life outside of his family, except that he was retired. I happened to be standing next to a large, gray-haired gentleman and when I introduced myself, he told me he was Ray Bradbury. I, of course, asked if he was THE Ray Bradbury, and he said he was.

At that point, I was a bit stunned. I was wondering what his connection was with John. I was feeling sheepish I’d never read one of his books. I admitted this fault — that I had never read much science fiction. I asked him which of his books he liked best. He said his favorite was the Martian Chronicles. We continued to chat until the service started.

After the service, since no one lived nearby to host the normal family gathering that happens after such occasions, no one was really leaving. There were probably less than 25 of us there, and Mr. Bradbury invited us all out to lunch in Santa Monica. He told us all to follow his limo.

That was quite a ride. Hardly any of us knew the restaurant. If we were to get lost, we’d never know where to go except home. It was a peak traffic hour, and at that time the freeway we were on didn’t connect to the San Diego Freeway without a bit of a detour. So you might imagine several cars trying to follow each other through busy city streets in West Los Angeles as they followed the limo.

We finally got to the restaurant. I don’t remember its name. I believe it might have been a deli. We all sat around a group of tables that had been put together as we ate and chatted. I felt as though I was a bit out of place, but we were hungry and we were still hoping to have a couple of words with our daughter, who was also there. When it was time to go, we all thanked our gracious host and headed off to our homes, since most of us had traveled some distance to get there.

I have never forgotten that afternoon. So when I found this copy of the Martian Chronicles in a thrift store, I bought it. I’ve had it for years, but only this last week did I pick it up. I knew Mr. Bradbury had died. I thought I owed it to him to read what he considered his best book.

The book showed me the complexity of the man’s mind, what he thinks of those of us who inhabit this planet, what he thinks of censorship and bureaucracy, and what he thinks might be the response were we to discover life on Mars. The book revealed the man’s vivid imagination and his skill with words. I only wish I had read The Martian Chronicles before I met him, so I might have been able to talk to him about the parts that are still a bit over my head. There are some loose ends in the plot I can’t find.

I’ll always be happy that I had a chance to meet Ray Bradbury the way I did. In my line of work it’s quite possible I could have met him at a book signing at Book Expo. I might have heard him speak somewhere. In either of those scenarios I would have met him as a celebrity and known in advance who he was. The way things happened, we met as two mourners in a cemetery, both there to pay tribute to someone we each knew.

Content is original and may not be used without permission, B. Radisavljevic, Copyright 2013, All Rights Reserved

Image Credit » http://pixabay.com/en/mercury-venus-earth-mars-jupiter-163610/ by PublicDomainPictures

Originally published at www.personapaper.com.