What was one year in which Doug's father was a boy in Ray Bradbury's short story "The Rocket Man"?
Ray Bradbury's short story "The Rocket Man" is one of many in his anthology titled The Illustrated Man. In this story, Doug is the son of a man who works as a Rocket Man, traveling through space. Doug's father, referred to as Dad in the story, is frequently gone for three months at a time, leaving Doug and his mother to miss him terribly.
Early in the story, Dad has returned once again from a mission. The first day he is back, Dad absorbs himself in the earth through gardening as if he had missed Earth until his heart would break. He digs into the earth constantly, never looking up, unless Doug and his mother are right beside him, and never looking at the sky.
That night, a summer night, the three family members sit together on the porch swing and sip lemonade. As they swing, Dad reads the "stereo-newspapers." Catching up on Earth's latest news apparently reminds Dad of his own past, for he begins to reminisce with Doug about his own childhood. It is in this paragraph that the reader learns one of Dad's boyhood years was in 1997. Dad's unanswered question posed to Doug, "Why aren't you out playing kick-the-can, Doug," helps the readers see how very different Doug's childhood is from what his father's was. Doug doesn't answer his question because the reason why he is not outside playing is that the world is so very different now, with all of its electronic controls, and Doug spends all of his time pining for his missing father.