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The Man Who Could Not See the Moon

December 7, 2017

Short stories have been a huge part of my reading life throughout the years. Their importance sprung upon me with my first reading of “R is for Rocket” by Ray Bradbury. What a magical story! I read the incredible words on the pages of that collection of short stories and marveled at how they moved me.

The following story is from the original Rogues Gallery Writers’ collection of short stories titled “Writing is Easy.” This story is indeed an “internalized” story within the mind and heart of the protagonist. There are no other characters in play – only the moon and memories. And emotions. Let me know what you think.

At the end of each story in the book, each of us wrote a paragraph about what inspired us to write the story, then we answered three questions about the story to help the reader connect more with the writing. For the full collection of stories, you may order a copy of the book from me or online at this link: Writing is Easy

The Man Who Could Not See the Moon

Straining to see the evening star, he rocked peacefully on the porch and sighed.  Green grass waved to and fro, tickled by warm kisses from a spring breeze.  Separated from this Earth by the green carpet of the horizon, the deep, brilliant blue sky began to reveal its possessions.  Venus rose prominently, lording over the stars its ability to show up first, jealous of no one save Earth’s nearest neighbor, the moon.

He remembered her, her Greek beauty evident even on her worst days.  Her jet-black hair had known many incarnations: curled into cute swirls, allowing her a soft and gentle appearance (a lie), piled atop her head in a tight bun, bestowing a stately—even queenly—quality (a falsehood by all measure) but mostly allowed to fall straight, stretching to her mid-back in thin, smooth, black licorice strands that bespoke a no-nonsense woman (truth indeed).

He met Sylvia when she was young; at twenty she was vibrant and brazen—one of those women who could ooze sexuality without the slightest of effort.  She strode olive-skinned legs; timeless, ageless, without blemish or imperfection, they embodied any man’s dream of silken skin and tantalizing muscle.  In keeping with her down-to-earth nature, she dressed in a style that was both revealing and plain.

Sighing once again at the mere thought of midriff tops and short-shorts, he panned his sight across the graying heavens for that sliver that had grown recently to half a pie, knowing all the while it would not yet be visible.  There was a sense of serenity in this search, with the warm breeze lightly brushing his white beard and the smell of flowers wafting about under his nose.  Nothing was left of the turmoil surrounding his life, infesting it at times with loathing, and often deteriorating his view of her.  Now, in his solitude, there was peace.  Calm.  Possibly, this evening would be the one that would show him the moon.

He could have married her at that young age, but he was young as well, foregoing the plunge for a bout of perceived unworthiness.  He had no right to consider himself within the context of such beauty.  Who was he, anyway?  Truly no one of consequence.

He wandered about in his head and to his parks, writing on any paper he could find.  He strove to capture all that roiled within, all that vexed and plagued him, and all that allured and pleased him.  No woman such as she would bore herself with him, or so he thought.  He saw all the idealistic concepts and currents of his day, reveled in the complexities and virtual hopelessness of love, and cried onto white paper the red tears of loneliness, yet he could not see her love for him.  He did not realize that underneath the model’s curves, nestled in the lovely high cheekbones, and behind the piercing dark eyes a little girl longed to be loved.  Yes, she could have been his, but it would take years for him to realize it.

He rose from his padded wooden rocker and strode through the screen door to the refrigerator.  Plinking four crescents of ice into the depths of a glass, he drew a generous amount of lemonade from the tap on the dispenser.  As he swirled the liquid around and around, he watched the half-moons clink against the rim and reflected on how they would melt away just as she.

His reality had been that he finally married Sylvia ten years later.  She was a constant in his life: constantly critical, constantly negative, constantly busy, constantly stunning.  Periodically throughout their life together, he glimpsed the little girl – playful, free, longing for love and peace in her life.  The stretches of time between these observances were devastating, and they wore his patience thin.  The woman clashed with his ideals, his dreams, and his whimsical notions of life and how it should be led.  Over the decades, white-hot anger would boil behind the crumbling dam of his patience; it caused him to wonder that he never lashed out.  Oh, he lashed out, but only verbally.  Only?  Oh, how his world darkened whenever he walked inside that house.

With a nearly visible start, he quickly turned on his heel and returned to the porch, taking up residence in his soft, welcoming chair.  The night sky was winning its battle with the day; stars began to wake up on the horizon.  The green of the meadow was fading to gray, and would soon be steeped in lazy blackness.  He sensed that the object of his attention was overhead, but he waited patiently.  Soon enough, it would slip below the wooden canopy over the porch.  Soon enough, he would relax—not strain—to see it again.

She was always busy, running hither and yon, completing tasks, not completing tasks.  More often late than on time, she was distracted by thousands of agendas, projects and family fires.  She teased him with glimpses of the little girl, showing her just often enough to make him believe she was there.   The little beauty lived within the beauty—he was convinced of it!  Throughout their life together, he arduously attended the premise of the incredible treasure within his Helen of Troy.  He worked so very hard to be patient, and to bide his time until the little one came out to play.

Struggling with the constant criticism and accusatory questions that left him in damned-if-I-do, damned-if-I-don’t situations, he persevered through the cold indifference that mauled his inner self-worth.  All this was done in the hope that she would come full circle to a child-like love of life, and recognize the amazing thrill of viewing this world as something huge, complex, teeming with adventure, and worthy of attention to its minutiae as well as its grandeur.

He attempted to convince her of the need to look, smell, listen, and learn.  Frustrated, at times he cursed her for her aloof indifference.  Angrily, he would strike back at her snide, backbiting remarks and questions, realizing that, all the while, the little girl was slipping away.

Darkness now revealed the faint tinges of the Milky Way, its slow spiral a spectacle even at this late day in his life.  Stars filled the void with camaraderie, a cheerful, collective voice, even though muted by incredible distance.  Luna’s light gave pale life to the grasses and flowers and revealed a more perfect world than daylight could ever show, devoid of blemish.  Mysteries were born, and the soul was soothed by the rhythms of the night sounds as soft as the quiet landing of snowflakes on top of snowflakes.

But this was no time of shivering cold days.  It was spring!  There was no need for shelter, no need for brief forays into the bitter night, although some of those nights could make one forget the cold.  No, now was a time of renewal, an ancient time handed down gracefully through the ages despite men’s attempts to destroy all that is good.  Spring.  Warmth.  Nurture.  Life.

He had tried many means of turning her from her path of indifference to all that he held sacred.  They took dance lessons; he sought to dance her into positivity by whirling her through waltzes and tangos, foxtrots and rumbas. They floated mere millimeters above the floor into another world where exquisite music and synchronized movement jelled with perfect harmony.  At times his efforts seemed to work, for float they did.  The little girl would then be lured from hiding only to retreat as quickly as she’d appeared: a phantom, a wisp, and a hope.

He would take her off alone, to woo her and strike boldly to her heart, yet he seldom found the mark.  They would meld in bed, their passion furious and full of flavor, sating his need for the her playful person within, who held the power and presence and knowledge of the woman.  As time passed, the need for that girl would return.  He devoted his life to his wife and their offspring, and gave of himself all that was humanly possible.  At times he was contrite of his selfishness – or critical of his self-indulgence.

He gave her nothing that detracted from her natural beauty.  The gifts were accents which drew attention to that which was apparent and needed no explanation.  The hats she wore at his request lent her a graceful appearance.  Her dresses – always demure – shrouded her beauty in mystery and focused her stunning looks into perfection.  He had an eye for these things.  He wished to please her in any way so he could reach into her heart, grasp the child’s hand, and bring her forth into their lives. She never complied.

The first peek of white curvature appeared under the rigid line of the darkened roof that covered the three steps to the porch.  He ignored it and glanced lazily instead at the fading Milky Way.  The light of the galaxy was being overwhelmed by the light reflected from an object that could generate none of its own.

“Isn’t that life?” he thought.  “We strive so very hard to make something that is our own, yet we only truly reflect that which has been taught to us and passed on through knowledge and experience.  Oh, to be a star, to be someone of peculiar importance, to shine a singular and original light upon this world.”

This longing cried out from his soul.  Ah, a dreamer still!  There were times in his life that he had been dismayed by his propensity to dream, to fight for ideals, and to believe in his fanciful views of life.  But these traits were hard-wired into him, and once he realized that, he gladly gave in to creativity, enjoyment, and ignorance of that which plagued most men—day-to-day life.

Death left Sylvia’s beauty untouched.  He learned over the years that love did not change, it only beckoned without demand, and that little girls flourish when least expected.  He had asked much of her: wife, mother, lover, friend, slave, free-bird, and soul mate.  But the most demanding of all was his constant calling out to a waif—the child in her heart—to reveal herself.

The girl flirted, revealed only enough to keep him looking, but not so much as to lose her charm.  She played hide-and-seek with him over the decades.  Cruelly, she kept her distance and betrayed all that should have been between them.

A tear trickled and tickled his cheek.  He slowly turned his gaze to the half-moon now fully exposed below the line of the porch roof.  He endeavored to see it as a ball in the sky – not the flat, white surface he inevitably saw.  Years and years ago, she had laughed derisively—mockingly—at his wonderment during an eclipse.  He had seen the moon as a spherical object in the sky for the first time that night, and he was amazed.

For some reason, the moon had always manifested itself to him as a flat crescent, or an even flatter white pancake, two-dimensional and of little consequence.  He had, infrequently, been able to drink in the sphere as a three dimensional, thrilling sight.   Now, he focused nightly on reliving that experience – to see the moon in its regal splendor, devoid of its own light but ruling the night sky despite its barren lands.

Wiping his eyes, he relaxed for another chance to glimpse the night’s grand beauty. He strove to see the truth, the cold lifeless truth of the moon as well as Sylvia. He refused regret of the years wasted with attempts to lure the playful, loving child within out into life just as he refused sadness at how long it took for him to see the moon is it truly exists. All he desired now was the essence of the beauty of truth. He could embrace that…

 

Story’s Inspiration:

 

The Man Who Could Not See the Moon was conceived one morning around 3:00am.  I was driving up State Route A1A along the Florida coast when I looked up at the moon and saw it as a three dimensional sphere for the first time in my life.  Prior to that moment, the moon had always looked to me like a flat crescent or pancake.  I was amazed and pulled my van over just to stare.  I wrote down the title on a piece of paper, and then I drove home and went to bed.  The next morning, I wrote the story in two hours.

 

Q&A:

  1. Do you write your stories that quickly on a typical writing session?

In two hours?  Sometimes.  My writing times depend more on how long it takes me to get into the groove of writing.  Not necessarily the ‘muse’ chick because if you wait on her you may never write again.  Once I get rolling though, I can knock out a first draft in a couple hours.

  1. This story is a very internalized piece of writing. Are you concerned about whether it will hold the reader?

Ouch!  Actually, yes.  If I were to pick one story in this anthology I’d like to work significant hours on, this would be the one.  I believe there is quite a bit more I could do with this to make it much stronger.  My attempt to reach an ‘internal dialog’ with my main character will definitely make or break this story with the reader.  I’m sure there are those who will not care for it.  I’ve had enough feedback from others I respect that like it to put it out for consumption.

  1. Everything a writer writes tends to contain aspects of the writer in the story. What portion or portions of this story ring true to who you are?

As mentioned in the inspiration paragraph, I literally had never in my life seen the moon as a three dimensional orb.  I pulled over in my van and dumbfounded is all I can come up with.  I had no idea I would end up writing about my wife (who is still alive, of course).  There are some accuracies between the couple in this story and my wife and me.

 

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