What is the name of the sci-fi story featuring an old man and boy who miss (on purpose in the man's case, accidentally in the boy's) the last shuttle leaving a destroyed, polluted earth?

I read it as a child, possibly in an anthology for elementary students. It could have been an excerpt of a longer work.

The man stays behind on purpose, and in the closing scene he is showing the boy how to dig up the concrete and plant a tree.

  • 1
    It's not the answer, but your title brought to mind the William Tenn short story "The Liberation of Earth". Oct 13, 2012 at 22:25
  • Just asking, because this seems familiar: is this a really, really short story (2-3 page length)?
    – Broklynite
    Nov 10, 2014 at 10:51
  • Not the answer (no trees were planted), but another William Tenn's story almost fits the bill, with a man and a child remaining on a dying Earth awaiting the Sun's going nova, the first on purpose, the latter almost by accident: The Custodian, in Asimov/Greenberg/Waugh's Catastrophes! (1981).
    – LSerni
    Nov 28, 2017 at 22:37
  • In the unlikely event that you are still around. Does this answer the question: scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/272267/… ?
    – bob1
    Mar 23, 2023 at 22:19

1 Answer 1


Is it Childhood's End by Arthur C Clarke? The description of two people at the end of the world seems familiar.

  • I appreciate all these leads. Thanks to all who contributed ideas!
    – Chris
    Mar 25, 2023 at 13:29

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