"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Stumpy's Spur, and the worried moods of the moon

Chapter 9
The swollen moon inched above the silhouetted sandstone rim of the caprock as Greg walked out on his wooden deck with a cup of coffee and his binoculars.
     After the day of the threats and warnings, Greg wondered just how much other people knew, especially after he'd started teaching a night class at Panhandle State Junior College, one of the bright spots in Darling in his opinion.
     'The first time I remember seeing Aunt Sissie was when she showed me the moon,' Greg thought, putting his coffee down on a table, and lifting the 7 x 50 Bausch and Lomb binoculars to his eyes as he twisted the focus ring.
     He often went to the deck at the back of the house to think.  It helped him focus on what he was going through, and tonight, he needed focus. Did anybody else know? He'd covered it up well today, but Myrt's warning  stuck in his head.
     At least he thought he remembered the dark shadows of summer-thick bushes and trees rising above him on the sidewalk, the black built of nearby buildings framing a few yellow-lit apartment windows, and the huge round silver-white face in the dark Dallas sky reflecting its light off Sissie's equally round, kind face.
      'Perhaps it's just that I heard Mom tell me about it, how Sissie would take me for a night-time walk and show me the  moon.' he thought. "'How I'd reach my little hands and stubby fingers for it, and how she'd tell Mom, "Well Faye, get it for him"'
     The full moon seemed to always make him talk to himself, and think. He knew Sissie would take him out in a baby carriage, but seeing in moon seemed to make it fresher. He knew his parents may have told him about it, but they wouldn't have mentioned the details about the shadows and lights. "Can you remember anything that far back, at age three or four," he said out loud to the night as the moon kept rising.
      Aunt Sissie was his favorite aunt, and even now, years after she died of cancer, when the moon jogged his memory, his throat thickened, and his eyes would water.
      "Let him reach for it,  Miss Vera," was his mother's reply. That's what Sissie told him years later, when as a teenager, he'd visited her.
     "Seems like you've been reaching ever since," she'd said, chuckling.
     Greg didn't know if it was a blessing or a curse, or both. Maybe that was the key. Always reaching, challenged by some remote destination; yet, once attained, never satisfied.
 Easily bored when newness wore off and routine set in, a  journalist's life was at once a sop and a sentence, Greg knew. The Panhandle Index, despite his resentment was important, as was his family and reputation.
     Still, he treasured the full moon and moonlight, and the hunt for adventure. Maybe that's what had attracted him to the older student in his college class. It had been casual, at first, but then a friendship formed in the first few months in Darling.  With stress at home and at the newspaper, with boredom in the small town, it had deepened.  He should have known that nothing in a small town was ever discrete, but he'd been in the big city too long. At least Stumpy didn't seem to know anything about it, or wasn't saying, but Myrt's words had worried him all day.
      Now as he watched the moon rise, and remembered the day's warnings, he finished his coffee, the family already asleep inside. He was worried, and could talk to no one--except perhaps the moon.
     Watching the moon, shining through the edges of swiftly moving clouds, he put the binoculars down next to the coffee cup, reached up, and said, "Come on, Babe, I want you."
      It was a short night.

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