The Moon

Bud Smith

 

Jane drove her new white Mustang out of the development, away from the lights of the city. I adjusted the radio, found an old love song there amid the static, “Blue moon of Kentucky”

As she held my hand on the center console, her long dark hair whipped in an out of the open window—I studied the ring on her hand; a large iridescent opal that resembled the moon exactly. I rubbed my fingers on the ring and imagined that it was beginning to glow.
The car hummed, we hummed, the trees and the road and all of the life on this blue marble hummed as we broke away from the streetlights, into the shadows.

Wild strange new love just finding it’s bearings. We’d known each other for a short time, but I could tell by the way that she looked at me, that she felt how I felt about it, that we’d known each other forever.

Though in the back of my mind was her warning: “I can’t get into anything serious, I’m leaving soon.”

In a field we parked her car, rolled down all the windows and looked up through the moon roof. Everything felt alive. The night birds chirped and called to each other across the pine trees all around us, whistling neither full of sorrow or hope—something in between.

We kissed slowly. The tree frogs began to scream. The stars grew in intensity until they were like the hot flashbulbs of a thousand heavily invested photographers.
I wanted to see her that weekend but she said that she couldn’t. She got quiet and evasive when I asked her about it.

“I have plans.”

“Alright,” I said.

The way she handled it, how she anxiously changed the subject, fidgety and awkward, I figured that I was probably ‘the other guy.’ This bothered me. I’d just met Jane, but I felt things for her and already my heart was like a stone falling and chipping the inside of my ribcage. She had a secret. I could tell that she was balancing me against the secret, seeing which would stick and which she would have to give up.

Again, I saw her. She wanted to go camping. Just the two of us, up in the mountains. I drove my pickup to her house. Her white Mustang wasn’t in the driveway.

She came out with her sleeping bag, kissed me at my window.

“Where’s your Mustang?”

“I sold it.”

“You sold it, I don’t believe it.”

“I ride my bicycle to work now. It’s for the best, more exercise, better for my body.”

We went up into the mountains. Ascending, into the air as if we would find another life up there.

Then, Jane peeled her blue jeans away, her tight striped tank top … her lace bra. She stood there in the moonlights; showing me her legs, her hips, the small of her back, her shoulders, the nape of her neck—her breasts and the point of each nipple as if each one would scrawl out a message for me in the atmosphere around us in debilitating neon light that would never fade.

My eyes were wide, studying her body, her pale skin reflected the moon back at itself, making her appear otherworldly.

“Forget that car, the bicycle is a good thing,” I said, floored by what I saw.

“I thought you’d say that.”

We laid down on our sides in the soft grass and felt around with our hands for the switches on each other’s bodies that would reveal all of the mysteries of light and horror, patience, doubt, desire and truth.

After we worked up a good sweat, we walked hand in hand down to the lake below and washed the sweat off. We swam out into the dark water with the stars and the moon shining down onto us, making everything shimmer.

That night, we laid flat on our backs in the bed of the truck. Jane kept staring up at the sky. As if she was seeing it for the first time. She’d blink slowly, her eyelashes trailing behind her lips.

“I’ve always felt close to the moon.”

“Yeah?”

“When I was a little girl, I had a dream every night about walking around on it. Living up there. Having a life. Look at all of that light. Imagine being in the middle of all that glowing?”

“It’d be nice, I suppose.”

“More than nice … to live in a dream.”
Later, I found out that Jane’s house was on the market. She was selling it. There was a realtor sign on the lawn by the Elm tree.

My heart fell sharply and broke another one of my ribs. My heart is a wrecking ball. Don’t you have one like me? Doesn’t your’s swing wildly when given cause and create all kinds of internal damage?

“You’re really going away?” I asked.

“I am.”

My mouth hung open, Jane watched my mouth very carefully. What was going to come out?

Nothing came out.

Jane looked at the clock on the kitchen wall.

“I’ve got to go, I have to be somewhere.”

“Where are you going.”

“I’d rather not talk about it.”

I was petty. I was jealous. I was in love. I didn’t want to lose Jane.

She rode her bicycle down the street and I followed far behind in my truck, the headlights off. She had no idea I was back there.

I coasted in neutral, quietly gliding down the hills.

It surprised me when Jane took a turn down a quiet dark road. We rolled along slowly. She pedaled into an old abandoned strip mall with a bowling alley and a supermarket that’d been closed for some time.

The weirdest part: there were other cars in the lot. Why?

I watched Jane lean her bicycle against the door of the bowling alley and then disappear inside. A light shone from inside as she went in.

I parked my truck, crept in behind her.

There was a large group of people sitting in the plastic bucket seats of the bowling alley. Some strange meeting. A tall bald man with small spectacle glasses stood in front of them. He looked like a mole. He wore a button up dress shirt and had a lot of pens in his breast pocket. The pens made me think he was very important for some reason. I cracked the door, tried to listen but they were speaking too low. I watched the backs of their heads for a while, specifically, the back of Jane’s head. Periodically I’d note that she would enthusiastically nod her head. What was she nodding about? A few minutes later, she rose and asked a question. It nearly drove me insane not knowing what the question was. I should’ve crept closer, perhaps crawling on my belly like a boy playing soldier, infiltrating enemy line. Instead, I got nervous and I left.
Late that night, she was at my window, pebbles bouncing off the glass, “You awake?”

“I am,” I said, peeking out.

“Let me in.”

I opened the window and she climbed into my room. Her body was warm and her neck was salty when I kissed it.

That weekend, again—she was too busy to see me. I couldn’t figure her out. It was hot, then cold with her.

“I followed you once,” I confessed

“What?”

“To that abandoned bowling alley.”

“Oh. I was worried about this conversation.”

“What were you doing there?”

“If I told you, you’d think I was nuts,” she said blankly.

“Try me.”

“Ok…”

“Just say it quick, like pulling a band aid off, Zip. It won’t hurt as much.”

“I worship the moon,” Jane said.

“Heh?”

She couldn’t look at me. “Yeah?”

“I belong to a sect and we worship the moon, I don’t know how to put it any other way.”

“A moon cult?” I asked again, skeptically.

“Ha! A moon cult! No, I don’t think I’d call it a moon cult, it’s not that at all … well, uhhhh, maybe it is kinda a moon cult.”

“Alright.”

Jane explained that she had sold her car and had given them the money. Her house was in the middle of a bidding war. She was giving the house money to them too.

“For what?”

“We’re going on the moon.”

“You’re gonna fly a spaceship to the moon?”

“Not exactly,” she said, then batted her eyes. “Come with me,” she said, her voice impossibly soaked with feeling for me.

“I couldn’t,” I said. “They need me here on earth.” We laughed a little, but this wasn’t a joke. Not a joke at all.

“I want you too,” Jane said, taking my hand and kissing my fingers until I got hard.
She was brainwashed. There was no way of talking any sense into her about it. I knew what I had to do. It was simple: I just had to go with her to her next moon cult meeting and grab that mole faced bald guy with all the pens and get him to … to what?
My plan was just to shake the living hell out of him. If that didn’t work, I’d start punching. That always seems to help.

I drove Jane in my truck out into the mountains. There was a large steel structure there that her moon cult had built. A bridge of sorts, that went up above the trees and into the sky.

“Thanks for the ride,” she said. “I’d wish that you’d change your mind and come with us. I really love you.”

The people were all standing around in a cluster, looking up at the sky. As we got nearer, I noticed the serious mole man with all the pens consulting a chart of stars. He’d look at the map and then look at the tree-line, then back to the map and then up at the full moon.

“Yup, tonight’s our night,” he said definitively.

There was an excitement in the air. These were people waiting on the dock for a cruise ship that would take them on a voyage around the tropics. They smiled, standing there with their suitcases, and all of them silently wondered, “Do I have all I’ll need for the moon?”

I was about to go over and start shaking the mole man until all his pens flied out of pocket.

Then, as predicted—the moon appeared to be getting bigger and bigger. As if swelling up. It was getting closer and closer. The people went like this, “Oooooow!”

“Ahhhhhhn!”

“It’s coming!”

A few of the more eager ones began to clap and jump up and down. Jane grabbed onto me so hard that her fingernails went through the skin of my arm and nearly drew blood. I didn’t notice. I was staring up at the sky. The moon swelled and swelled and a light came over us so white and blinding that it was hard to keep our eyes open. We had to look through the cracks at the bottom of our eyelids.

Then, as simply as an orange hanging from a tree, the moon was immediately over us. Some of the people went up the structure and simply stepped onto the moon, as if boarding a train. One by one, these people just hopped on.

I watched all of this, disconnected and unable to process it.

“I’m going,” Jane said, “but you should come too, please.”

“Where?”

“Up into the sky and then space. Who knows after that.”

“I’m not sure.”

She took my hand and we went up the structure. I was unable to resist. She led me like a child walking with a balloon. Then, she let go of my hand, and she did a little playful leap onto the moon.

“Don’t be scared,” she pleaded, waving me on.

I wasn’t scared. I was terrified. How long would we be gone?

Would we ever come back?

It didn’t matter. I held my breath and stepped down onto the moon with her and she put her arms around me. The lights got brighter and brighter, but our eyes quickly adjusted and soon it was normal and everything was just glowing and pulsing all around us. We pulsed with it.

The moon started going up and up and up. The ground got smaller and smaller; soon I was looking down at the big marble that is planet earth—in awe.

And we began to float.

 

Bud Smith is a writer living in Washington Heights, NYC and is the author of the short story collection OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. His work has recently appeared in The Bicycle Review. Red Fez and Citizens for Decent Literature. Also, he likes beer more than soda and soda less then water.  www.budsmithwrites.com or @bud_smith if you’re into that kinda thing.

 

 

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