Moonshadow, by Barbara Long
Melba held the moon in her hand, caressing it gently, opening and closing her palm around the silvery sheen. It often slipped in through the space between the curtain and the edge of the window, and once inside it fearlessly explored her bedroom. It curiously poked here and there until it found her and nestled in among the creases of the sheets, sharing the pillow with her even in late summer as it was now.
It was then she talked to the moon, telling it all her deepest secret thoughts and dreams while the shadow light played across her fingers. She let the moon drip onto Eddie’s side of the bed where Eddie should have been but wasn’t—not tonight, nor many nights, chased away by his own hopeless struggle to sleep. How far, she wondered, had he gone this time? Would she find him, if she looked, in the chair by the window or on the porch looking out on the same moon she held in her hands? Or had he gone away from her, and would it be a day or two, or would it be forever?
Eddie watched as a truck sped down the deserted street and wondered where it was going at this time of night. A half-moon peered over the trees. No, he told himself, it’s early morning. Some folks are on their way to work already. He looked the other direction up the street to the dark neon sign of the corner jazz bar. He knew the guys in the band were probably still working on their midnight breakfast in the cafe downstairs and wondered about joining them. He thought better of it and leaned back in the faded pink, chintz chair. He put his feet up on the little coffee table. He knew he might doze off as he had on many a night, leaving Melba to find him still there in the morning, sad compassion in her smile as she smoothed his hair off his face to kiss his weariness away.
In this early half-moon morning he felt comfortable with his thoughts. They were all of Melba. He’d tried to sleep as usual, and when he couldn’t, he watched her sleep. Light from the window dappled her hair, and in repose her face was softened and child-like. He felt suddenly protective of her and fought an impulse to pull her into his arms with a crushing force. He feared waking her, but even more so feared revealing himself.
Eddie thought back over to everything they said that evening as they sat on Melba’s little porch, Eddie reclining in the old Adirondack chair and Melba in the rocker. He told her the stories of his childhood, playing football in the house when his parents were gone and careening through the streets of East L.A. with his little brother on the back of his bicycle. He wasn’t sure of himself because she never seemed to want to talk about her own childhood. He began to tell her about his Aunt Thea with her starched hair and low, hoarse voice behind ruby lips.
“I have an aunt, my Aunt Thea,” he said. “And she would say, ‘You’ve beaten fate at its own game. And now,’ she would say this very dramatically and her eyebrows would arch up like they were gonna fly off her face, ‘And now, you have to make something of your life.’”
Melba had laughed and that made him continue.
“Yeah, only, you know what, she said it all the time. For anything. Not just me when I came back safe. I mean, I was just lucky to be non-combat.”
“Still, you were in a war zone. And there’s the not sleeping thing,” Melba reminded him.
“Yeah, but I don’t think my Aunt Thea noticed. No, no. You’ve beaten fate at its own game. Now you have to make something of your life. Like everybody in the family would get sick but one person. You’ve beaten fate at its own game. Now you have to make something of your life. She would be so serious. But eventually, I think she said it to everyone. Me when I got back. My sister when she had a car accident and didn’t get a scratch. My cousin who was always getting in fights when he was a kid and didn’t get a broken nose or lose any teeth. Everybody. You’ve beaten fate at its own game. Now you have to make something of your life.”
Her laughter came easy and relieved his uncertainty.
Eddie stared out the window as the moon scattered across the street. He wanted suddenly to fill her days with laughter so that when she was as many years away from today as she was now away from her childhood, she would speak easily and with joy about her days with him.
Melba told the moon it didn’t matter. If he was gone for good, her days would be as they were before, the sun rising and setting with its relentless duty and the moon consoling her as it occupied the empty side of the bed. She’d opened her arms, she knew, to a man more free in his own life than she was in hers.
She held the moon in the palms of her hands and covered her face. When she looked out again, there was Eddie, with his drowsy eyes, climbing under the sheets next to her. Seeing she was awake, he pulled her into his arms, scattering the moon and with it a haunting fear she hadn’t known was there, lost as it was among the shadows of her dreams.
Barbara Long is a native New Mexican and a graduate of the University of New Mexico with a degree in Art History. She worked in libraries at UNM and also as an 8th grade American history teacher. This is her debut fiction publication.
Painter Nina Tichava was raised in both rural northern New Mexico and the Bay Area in California. Her BFA is from the California College of Arts and Crafts. She lives and works in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Tichava was the recipient of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award Grant in 2007. Museum exhibitions include the New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts; Marin MOCA; University of Science and Arts Museum; Museum of the Red River; and the Charles B. Goddard Center.
Tichava’s densely layered, mixed-media paintings depict the overlap of nature and culture—
what things look like to her and how they feel. A prominent element of her work is the application of thousands of beads of paint that create screens and patterns. She designates her works as imperfect and this is what continues to engage Tichava in her painting.
Tichava is represented by K Contemporary, Gallery Mar, Laura Rathe Fine Art, Gallery Wild, and George Billis Gallery. Her work is in numerous collections.