Moon Expert: A Reverie

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The Moon is 2,000 miles across and about a quarter-million miles from Earth. It formed from chunks of rock and ice when the Earth and the rest of our solar system was molded from the Grand Cataclysm responsible for everything, about 4.5 billion years ago, the one that ended one thing and began another.

Perhaps a big something hit the Earth and knocked a hunk loose, which then got trapped in Earth’s orbit and was rounded by time into this satellite Moon. Time can do that, you know, shape things to its will. Just like sandpaper rounding the rough edges off things.

I was born amidst screams and a shrieking typhoon in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. Consternation reigned. I left my mother’s womb while she and the wind both raged and the EMTs shouted for this or that medical instrument. Mother does not know how her tiny wetling could have been such a calm little person. I had wide, silent eyes even then.

Because it has no atmosphere to protect its surface, the Moon can be 260 degrees Fahrenheit where the sun hits it and minus 280 where it doesn’t. The Moon is a place of extremes.

On the Earth, Jose plays on a sandy beach. He is building a sand castle with a rusted coffee can, stone, and sticks. Cecilia stands near him and watches, fingertip to her chin as if considering Jose’s architecture. She wants to play too. Her sagging swimsuit barely clings to her skin. Jose sees her and waves her over. He shows her his imagination: castle walls of wet, packed sand, his moat of emptiness, a drawbridge of discarded popsicle sticks. Cecilia thinks this is funny and laughs. Using the tip of her forefinger, she shows him how to crenellate walls to make them look like battlements. They play happily while her parents sip drinks, murmur, and nap, and her father enjoys a fat cigar. Wet sand clings to the children’s faces and forearms.

After a time, Cecilia’s parents swoop her away from her playmate with admonitions for straying. You must not wander off, they say. Cecilia did not have permission to speak to this boy of foreign origin in his own land. After all, they know nothing of him or from whence he comes. He could have climbed from a sewer, for all we know, this slumdog.

I am a child too who is swimming nearby. I witness this scene and learn some have fear of the unknown. I am suddenly cold with gooseflesh creeping up my arms. Even in my unformed mind, I know this fear can divide human beings. I think of fear as an extreme and wonder if it too can be honed by time.

The Moon’s surface is soft and cratered from having no atmosphere to slow down and burn up space debris that hurtles at it.

Thus, the Moon is scarred like the heart from pain we all suffer. My Oma tells me no human being is exempt; such is the price for humanity. The holes on the Moon, she instructs, are empty desolations. The holes in people too.

Such are the musings of a small child who does not yet have holes in her heart. I watch, though, observing time itself passing, for time is the road such debris travels, this wreckage that makes the holes. I have seen the evidence, deep crevasses in faces of aged men and women. Some fare better than others, but all are somehow marked.  

Our Moon is one of sixty-one moons in our solar system. Our Moon circles the Earth about once every 29 days.

People who have relatives and friends are fortunate. Such contacts provide security in their lives. They are like the linings in coats, or walls that keep us safe and warm from what is outside. They circle us like satellite moons. And they are environments, atmospheres actually, giving us regularity. You can inhale the oxygen of loved ones.

Chailai is not pretty like her name. Acne has eaten her face like time can eat up your faith. Bangkok might be full of people, but she considers none of them hers. Chailai’s day is filled with the tinny sounds of the restaurant, but otherwise silence, except for the Piphat she plays in the evenings in her tiny apartment, a mid-sized orchestra that channels the dancing of Siam’s dragon legends. She loves to prepare peppered lemon chicken in her small kitchen while she hums, just as her mother used to. Performing this simple domestic task helps her remember childhood.

Chailai once wrote her number down on a napkin for a customer at the noodle bowl. This Aert from the Netherlands fucked her silly, then left a fistful of baht on her dresser. He thinks all Thai girls lust for the baht a Euro can buy. Money can buy other money, you see. They capitalize Euro but not baht. You might wonder why.

Chailai imagines scenarios of her funeral wherein people grieve deeply. In one of them, Aert is filled with woe at her passing and wrings his hands at her farewell service. He sweats the stains of guilt into his shirt of silk. She did like him, after all. He was not ugly and was kind at first, even if somewhat distant.

Her Buddhism has taught her that all life is suffering. A monk in yellow robe would officiate. The guests, everyone she has ever known, suppose her rebirth in another form, though she does not desire more suffering. Sacred concepts are written on parchment with feathered stylus and blue ink, then placed inside her closed mouth. They will bring good to Chailai in her new existence. They will pour water over her hand, surround her coffin with wreaths, and light candles and incense. An orchestra will banish sorrow, then the party processes in the streets toward the crematorium. After they burn her remains, the monk will eat food. Chailai will be so happy she is remembered.

This woman cannot be the heroine of our story because the only dead hero allowed these days is the risen messiah Christ Jesus.

I am the child in church learning about this servant leader. I have already seen such processions in streets. I am being rounded by the sandpaper time.

When the Moon is new, Sun and Moon are on the same side of the Earth and we only see its shadow. At first quarter, it has revolved 25% of the distance of its elliptical orbit, and we see the quarter lit by Sun. About a week later it will be halfway around, and we then see half of it lit. We then say this Moon is full, when the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun, despite only half being bathed in sunlight.  It takes another full week to return to New Moon.

You can teach children geometry of the three bodies by shining a flashlight on a basketball as you move it around a beach ball.

I am a growing child and learning. I learn a human being is limited by what she can see. Warring parties cannot see what their enemy sees. A young jihadist recruit in Pakistan cannot see like a mother of three in Dubuque. She cannot see what a starving Somalian child sees. He sees nothing because hunger has collapsed his eyelids. You could see what they see if you try. You could read books. Or travel. Talk to people. This takes some money and effort. And time dedicated to seeing instead of pleasure. I consider these things as I process through childhood. My church, school, and parents teach me, though each only sees what they see, so I must see on my own.

I know a Moon is full even when you see only half.

Sergei Gasparov is a sensual creature. He revels in feeding his appetites. Sergei cultivates fruits, runs his fingers along textures, feasts his eyes on rich cloths. He pays to watch women undress and move around each other like planets stars, only one of his several peccadilloes. They move through space like a solar system of flesh.

Sergei relishes fine orchestras and loves to walk through the bakery district. He passes homeless along the way, not glancing in their directions. He enjoys, however, scanning horizons. In his businesses, he is known to have the greatest vision. Sergei believes he can see inside people as well.

Sergei Gasparov has no family to speak of but has many friends with similar tastes, and they often travel in packs roaming the pleasure districts of night.

My mother takes me indoors by then. I see gluttonous pleasure in TV commercials. I remind myself: When you see half the Moon, it is full.

When a celestial body blocks another from your perspective on Earth, we have what is called an eclipse. During a solar eclipse, the Moon blocks sunlight. During a lunar, Earth blocks light that normally reflects on the Moon. Again, you can demonstrate that with a flashlight and balls.

People rotate around each other like electrons in atoms. We call such rotations relationships. We relate with some but not others. Selection is seemingly random but really depends upon preferences, choices, and accidents of contact. People like each other and don’t. When people understand things, we consider them enlightened, but this is not often the case. There is much darkness in our craniums. They still eclipse others, though, thinking the light shines only on them. Some such as these have risen to power in nations.

Chien Ho Park works hard as a Hyundai executive. His father raised chickens, his mother children. He prefers to be called Mr. Park. Mr. Park believes in Austrian Economics, i.e. capitalism unfettered. He is not concerned with the impact such might have on his globe for he will not exist long enough to suffer consequence himself. Mr. Park can afford nice dinners for very nice women. He is busy deciding whom he might wish to birth his children. Mr. Park is most content. He loves orchids and museums and has fine taste in suits. Dating fine women takes all his free time, and this is his major concern. It is critical he make the right choice.

Mr. Park once worked with my father.

Sometimes you can see the Moon during daylight. That is just the way it is, and you need to accept it.

In school, I learn that science proves brutal facts we all should accept. Conclusions derived from quantitative empirical data can be trusted, unlike systems of belief such as religion. More people in our world believe in ghosts and gods than science. They think science requires a form of belief consent. It makes me unhappy to learn this. It makes me feel different, that perhaps I am a freak. It becomes hard to talk to some people, so I am quiet and often listen. And observing conditions and the results of actions in order to derive conclusions tires me very much. Some are so long-term that I cannot see beyond their horizons. Then I cannot deduce but must infer, which can be somewhat of a guess, and I wonder why bother at all, as if then it is but another belief.

Armand is a Frenchman who migrated to Canada for the great outdoors. He purchased a fishing lodge on a clear lake replete with smallmouth bass, walleye, and muskellunge. People who meet him like him. In his spare time, Armand writes poetry on Nature with clear, precise images, but down deep he really believes in nothing. Whenever he can, Armand sexually molests small children, but only when such chances arise. He travels great distances by car to find them. When he is done, he discards the evidence on the sides of bleak roads as if they are empty fast food containers. The authorities use scientific methods to seek him but do not know whom they seek. The dead children, however, are proof he exists, even if we cannot grasp how such a person could be. We simply must accept that he does.

Armand walks past me and likes how I look, though I am by then older. I notice his jittering eyes seeking my inner child. Armand has eaten an ice cream cone. He has butter pecan on his chin. I use this evidence to conclude he ate one.

The moon once had volcanoes, but they are now dead, unlike volcanoes on Earth. We should be happy our planet still has heat underground. We could not have life without it.

The human heart is like a heat pump too. It is the internal organ that keeps our blood flowing and warm.

Shaniqua Adams Washington is born with a murmur. This makes her a fussy child, and she cannot gain weight until doctors close the hole in her heart. Shaniqua is told this story as she grows. Fascinated by the skill of her doctors, she wants to be just like them. She reads all she can about medicine. She likes people and has a smile her mother says could swallow the sun and send it on its way again so others can warm in its light.

Walking home from the library, Shaniqua is caught in a gang war crossfire. Her heart stops when a bullet rips through it, making another hole. The protracted conflict keeps EMTs out. Because her heart has stopped, her body is cold by the time they arrive.

We hear this on the radio as authorities clean up the debris, including Shaniqua’s body.

There is a Full Moon that evening, and the werewolves are out and about in the streets.

Scientists are still seeking water on the Moon in the form of underground ice.

Human beings are always searching for something. We are inquisitive, and there are still mysteries. We seek knowledge like ants seek food, but we do not pass it on in a very soldierly manner like ants are wont to do. Ants work together much better.

Each day we try to work together because we must to survive. People answer phones in offices, trucks cart goods down freeways, oil tankers ingress and egress the Strait of Hormuz. Sometimes something will gum up the works, a brownout, car accidents, pirates. These are the times when people panic and scurry every which way. Often, we gum up the works ourselves. We panic like ants when you step on their line ahead formations.

Abdullah Jahandar is proud of his father’s legacy as a Revolutionary guardsman, especially for seizing the American embassy in Tehran. He initially follows in his father’s footsteps as a member of the Guard itself, resolved to himself fight western atrocities, but now he is having second thoughts. The truth is, despite an Islamic religion he adores, he and his compatriots enjoy western culture, the dress, clubbing, alcoholic drinks of many colors, and deep in his heart he senses the value of individual freedom. Plus, he is being pulled further west in his heart by this girl Chelsea from Manchester who has a lovely heart herself and will soon return to London for work. Love complicates everything, he thinks. Abdullah feels pulled by family and God to the east and Chelsea to the west, and is unable to choose direction for himself. He feels he is seeking underground ice. Abdullah has thus resolved to petition Allah for answers.

He once saw me in the street and gave me a yellow candy. He tousled my hair and told me I am one of God’s exquisite sculptures, and he hopes one day to sire a child like me. Abdullah had the whitest smile. He said, Assalamu Alaikom, which means, May peace be upon you.

The moon is actually moving away from the Earth by about an inch each year. Progress is slow, but it keeps working at it.

Billy Joe Bob Jones hails from a proud confederate family in the hills of North Carolina. There being little work there and no surviving kin, he moves to Asheville to sell watermelons from his stall. He tells his customers his name is Billy Joe Bob Watermelon. He is working hard to buy a truck that won’t break down. Billy Joe Bob Watermelon believes in the American Dream and will work hard to achieve it. Though progress is slow, it is steady.

Billy Joe Bob Watermelon treated me to a slice of melon and chuckled when the juice ran down my little chin. He laughs like rain thumping a roof.

Billy Joe Bob Watermelon sees things that are not really there, but he is afraid to reveal this to anyone. He is a very lonely man, a man alone with dark visions.

The Earth controls the Moon’s elliptical orbit around itself because the Earth is heavier. That makes the Earth the biggest boy on the block, so to speak. But the smaller Moon does exert influence on the Earth in the form of tides. They are caused by the pull of Moon’s gravity. Oceans facing the Moon are pulled upward into high tide.

Some personalities are stronger than others, and they pull others along like satellites. Some of these people become elected political leaders. Others simply seize power. Those who do not might still exert great influence in their businesses or families.

Daiki Watanabe is one such man. He is a journalist of extraordinary influence who writes of conspiracies and corruption. Daiki adores spending free time trimming his several bonsai trees. He is meticulous and precise both in his work and hobby. Everything he does is clean. Many admire the man for his craft. They follow his words daily as if they are trails of bread crumbs leading to a shining place of truth. Deep down, this great man of influence fears he does not know where to go himself. His vision is murky, the trail lost in jungles of details. He thinks of these things as he trims his trees. Life is art, he knows, and one must live it carefully.

When I am old enough, I read some of his writings and wonder how this good man came to disappear.

Although the Moon does spin, the same side always faces us.

People cannot see behind their backs. Things happen there we will never see.

Cinta sells fish in a Jakarta market. She does not own a mirror. She cannot see the mole growing on her back that might or might not shelter cancer.

On the street, I can see the mole between her shoulders. It is shaped like a tiny half Moon.

There are other lunar phases too, between full and half and quarter and no Moon at all. They are crescent, gibbous, waxing, and waning. A crescent is when less than half the Moon’s surface is illuminated. Gibbous is when more than half is. Waxing is growing in illumination and waning diminishing. So you can have, for example, a waxing gibbous or waning crescent moon. Not too complicated.

Professor Van Houten tells his students there are no answers, only questions, and everything is complex. When he meets a male student at the urinals he will say, Yes, this is where half the world’s great minds meet. Then he will laugh his deep bass laugh. His students trust and revere him as a man of kindness and the greatest wisdom. This professor knows every truth has a modifier, every sentence a comma upon which hinges a qualification. His students do not know that at home Professor Van Houten clings to a bottle and searches its basement until it is hollow, his face as empty even of questions as a sky of clouds with New Moon. The wife he has beaten often has left him.

I study ethics under this man. He seems to know something despite always needing one-hour martini-izing.

Moon mythology is extensive. There are many Moon deities in many cultures. The Man in the Moon is featured in many. I heard a tale once in a British pub that claims the Man in the Moon was banished there for some obscure crime or unnamed act against Nature. Some superstitious Christians say he was caught gathering sticks for fuel on the Sabbath and banished by an angry God. The Romans claimed he stole sheep. Dante wrote in The Inferno that he is Cain, doomed to wandering forever for his fratricide. Viking mythology claims he is pursued by the great wolf Hati, who will catch him when Ragnarok arrives, the end times. The Chinese say the goddess Chang’e is simply stranded on Earth’s satellite for double dipping in the immortality potion. An African tale claims he is a king who vies to retrieve the Moon from the sky for his only surviving son. In the Middle Ages, the Man in the Moon was considered the god of all drunkards.

You might even end up believing there is a Man in the Moon. This phenomenon derives from a trick of the human eye that convinces us, especially when we are small children, that we see the features of a face in the hills and valley of the Moon. The face is seen only when the Moon is full. I saw it as a child too. But, of course, it is an optical illusion promoted by the great distance between the Moon itself and our eyeballs, an example of Paredolia, a psychological phenomenon wherein the human brain responds to a stimulus by filling in a pattern where none really exists. The brain can do that with sound too, but the Moon does not produce any sound, so the Man in the Moon says nothing when you stare into his face and eyes.

But now I think the Man in the Moon simply proves that we humans do not see straight at all, that we possess an infinite capacity to delude ourselves.

Life can be harder when rationalism and science strip away all your childhood beliefs and your heritage of stories passed down from generations. The world can lose its shine and mystery when you unfetter yourself of magical thinking, deities like Gilgamesh, ghosts, readings of your aura, even kismet itself. You must adopt another system of beliefs, those involving people and the systems we create. People being so fragile, wanton, and fearful, these are generally weak and unstable constructs, so one can tend to see life as ironic, perhaps merely as entropy’s consequence. Thus, people say, our only saving grace is love.

The Moon has fired human imagination since ancient times and has infiltrated our lexicon, most notably in romance. Moonbeams are considered romantic and are thought to exercise a starry-eyed influence on young lovers, causing them to behave in ways other than normal, though moonbeams in reality are merely the Moon’s reflections of sunlight. They are sunlight at night, so to speak.

Now this is the crux of all things, is it not? At the center of our beings? This romantic form of loving? You might reach for the moon, e.g. ask someone on a date who is especially lovely and thus perhaps out of your league. In other words, you might exhibit behavior you would only exhibit once in a Blue Moon (Of note: A Blue Moon is a second Full Moon in a calendar month, a rare phenomenon).

You might do this because you are over the Moon for someone. You think that person has hung the moon, i.e. that this person is exceptional or wonderful. You want to dance with them by the light of the silvery Moon.

You might then promise that person the Moon in order to stimulate them to consent to a romantic engagement with you.

But that person might not be interested, in which case you might be barking or baying or even braying at the Moon. And, thus, you might look silly.

I have suffered unrequited love myself, and I have loved and lost. I once perceived these as failed or broken relationships, but then a friend asked that I imagine my life as walking down a lovely path. The shiny baubles I pick up along the way, he said, are my relationships. I can only gaze at them for a short time, however, before placing them in my leather pouch. He said you cannot hold them forever for their luster fades, but if you put them away and continue your journey, you can take them out from time to time, and for a few brief moments they will shine as if new. It is then you may remember having that shiny bauble for your very own for a time. This tale brings me comfort despite the holes expanding in my heart.

And I continue my journey seeking another shiny bauble. Eternal love might simply be impossible, like a cow jumping over the moon, but every relationship, albeit brief, has its luster.

Love is sunlight at night.

The Full Moon can turn infected humans into werewolves.

I know you might think this crazy, but on the Earth today, the dominant sentient species that crawled from primordial ooze is engaged in war over half the globe. They are fighting because some people want this and others want that, and after all these years of supposed civilization, they have not cultivated a better way to resolve disagreement. In America, most people in the middle have gravitated toward one of the extremist political poles so they are not so lonely in the middle where they cannot carry on a reasonable conversation because nobody else seems to live there. It seems like the same reason people cluster to live in cities. No one likes the wilderness.

The entire world is a Blood Moon, whereby the Moon in total eclipse is reddened by sunlight refracted in Earth’s atmosphere. Blood Moons drive werewolves crazy, and werewolves are doing these terrible things.

Because they are so lonely, of course. Forget the stories. This is really what a werewolf is, a person hungry and lonely who is driven crazy.

I conclude this after the Grand Cataclysm. The bloodbath. Jose is a student too, and we are holding hands near Times Square when our universe Big Bangs again.

Sergei Gasparov will never again touch fine cloth or wander with friends the fleshpot districts of night. He no longer has any vision at all despite what he believed.

Chien Ho Park will no longer mull which woman will birth his children.

Armand will no longer molest and murder little children and leave their bodies in deep ravines near bleak roads like discarded fast food containers. His perverse appetites have ceased yearning for satiation. The police will finally identify him as the perpetrator of many horrors. Forensic methodology will only play a minor role. They will find the body of an eight-year-old boy in the trunk of his Buick Enclave and follow the breadcrumbs from there.

The mother of Shaniqua Adams Washington will no longer mourn her sweet daughter.

Abdullah Jahandar will be missed by those in East and West alike.

Authorities will finally find the body of Daiki Watanabe. He had been living anonymously in the city free of the stress of crafting words so precisely. He need not now uncover truth.

Cinta will not die of cancer. She is dead already. So is the sister she was visiting.

Professor Van Houten is finally free of his sadness and bottle.

Chailai will get her funeral ceremony. The monk will eat much food.

Jose will never teach his children how to crenellate battlements because he will have no children. When the suicide vest detonated, Jose was holding my hand. He had imagined having children with me. The wrenching collision broke my arm in three different places.

Journalists will speculate it was home-grown terror, and the government will seek ties to foreign groups. But Billy Joe Bob Watermelon could not help what happened inside him. He was oh so lonely, the pain expanding like a desolate crater over time, and he very much feared a future of seeing horrible visions alone, loneliness being the greatest disease. Then the full Moon turned him into a werewolf. He was hungry for the deaths of many and hungry for his own.

How sad and ironic that Chailai would have loved him, and he would have loved her too.

None of these unfortunate people will rise again like the Christ Jesus, the only hero many believe is allowed in our stories.

I am one of the several survivors. Thinking on this tragedy, gooseflesh creeps up my broken arm. I hope to one day love again, but Jose was my shiniest bauble. I hope to not become a werewolf. I will teach my children about the Moon.

Do not be lonely, I will tell them as I comb their hair and touch their cheeks or, like the debris that collides with the Moon, time will put holes inside you.

When I was a child, my Oma often put me to bed, but first she would let me bid goodnight to the Moon. Learn about the Moon, she would say, and you will know much about this Earth.

I do understand this: I am alone like the Moon… always circling the living and always trying to touch them small. Perhaps I can influence their tides. I know they pull my heart around them as if we are tied to strings.

And time has now given me holes in my heart.

One must be careful, I recall Oma would caution, to not spend too much time with the Moon. You see, the Moon is a liar, my love. If you are not careful, lunacy just may ensue. I say MAY because you invite it, because you give it permission. Always remember — Lunacy’s name is the Moon.

I try my best to recall these truths.

As I am born silent witness.

By a waning crescent of Moon.

glasses

Larry Malchow

Larry Malchow graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Cum Laude from Ripon College where he studied literature and later worked as Alumni Director, Annual Fund Director and Executive Director for Major and Planned Giving. In another life, he worked as an instructor of government and military personnel in the orbital mechanics of celestial bodies, including satellites and the moon.

If you enjoyed ‘Moon Expert: A Reverie’ leave a comment and let Larry know.

You can read Larry’s previously published words below:

“Wash The Crying River”
Winner of the 2019 “John Steinbeck Award For Fiction” sponsored by “Reed Magazine” of San Jose State University, and is featured in “Issue 152.” (reedmag.org)

“Trapped”
“New Guard, Volume VII.” (newguardreview.com)

“Liberty Motel”
Finalist for “Easy Street Magazine’s Portal Prize in Fiction” and was published in summer 2019 in the “Portal 10: Speculative Fiction” anthology, available at Amazon.com.

“Molecular Music”
Published at “Cagibilit.com.”

You can find and follow Larry at:

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