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The Moon Doesn't Shine at All

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“Love is like the air we breathe,” Mama always said. I imagined maybe love was most beautiful in the spring because there was no better time to breathe than in the springtime like that when all the flowers were blooming all around and when the breeze blew my hair over my eyes. I liked to sit up there on the tops of the trees and breathe in air as if it were a delicacy and let the sun beam on my face. Sometimes the wind would wait until it collected and then it would gust all at once in a sort of channel. I stretched out my arms and thought for sure it would carry me off and I would fly.

I told that idea to Mama once. She said she likes the ground because it’ll always catch you. But Theo had been with us then and he kissed her and he laughed and said, “Now is this coming from our own same Mama who we know to have had her share of the tree-climbing glory days?” And Mama smiled and said all seriously she only chose trees with really good solid roots.

Now I had made it my childhood’s work to select the best and sturdiest trees in our orchard and after I did my chores, in celebration of spring, I made it a point to climb them all in one day. But finally the sun began to slip into the mountains and I didn’t know if Papa had come out of the garage yet where he did all his work but if he had I knew I couldn’t be late for supper.

I could smell it as I got closer and I saw Mama in the kitchen window taking out three plates for us. I think her eyes were tired.

I heard a howl from the garage and I looked up and I hoped that he would stay inside and I stood there frozen staring at the door on the side and I heard him yelling more and he was yelling my name. I knew he was coming for me and I was still frozen. Papa slammed the door open and stood there in the doorway like a storm and then he saw me. I ran.

I wanted to get inside the house and I was scared. He wouldn’t have done this before the car crash. He was so proud of Theo. Theo was so smart. But now he spent all his time in the garage or away from me and Mama and sometimes he came home drunk.

I was so scared. I tried to think of what I had done because he was growling my name and I knew he would catch me because he was barreling toward me and I wasn’t fast enough to make it to Mama in time even though he wasn’t running straight.

Papa snatched me from my flight and I was still kicking, still trying to run away, but he shook me and made me face him and he said low and mean, “How many times have I told you where to put that rake?” He had been drinking. It was on his breath. Then he shook me again and shouted louder, “How many times have I told you where to put that rake?” I started to cry because his eyes were so cold and I thought that I had put the rake away.

He dragged me over to the garage wall and I was screaming please no Papa, but he unbuckled his belt and yelled at me and I had to face the wall. I wished I didn’t have to face the wall because it was dark now and I couldn’t see the moon.

Mama had seen us and I heard her running toward us pleading for me. “Breathe, Hunter,” she told Papa. “Calm down. Breathe.” And he ignored her and prepared to strike.

One time Theo chopped wood for Mrs. Piper every day for a week. When he was done she gave him more money than I had ever seen in one place before and he was so proud. Somewhere between Mrs. Piper’s house and our house it must’ve fallen out of his pocket, though. He spent the next three days looking for it. I could see the disappointment in his face.

“Have you lost hope?” I asked.

“I lost my money,” he said, “not hope. I won’t stop hoping until the sun stops shining.”

Papa held nothing back as he snapped the belt against me. I held my breath and hugged the wall and I didn’t want to cry anymore and I didn’t want to hurt anymore.

“I won’t stop hoping until the sun stops shining.”

I thought for a moment. “Well what about nighttime?” I asked.

Theo chuckled a little. “So no one’s ever told you?”

“Told me what?” I asked.

“The secret of the sun.”

Mama screamed again and she tried to stop him. Papa kept yelling at me and at her and once I think at Theo for dying. Mama heard him say that and she gasped but Papa, angry, belted me again. It hurt so bad.

“The secret is,” Theo said in a quiet voice, “that the sun is always shining.”

“But it’s night-” I began.

“Look at that moon,” he said, pointing. “The moon actually doesn’t shine at all. Right now the sun is hovering over some other part of the world and the moon is a reflection, like a mirror.” Theo was so smart.

Papa got louder and cursed and Mama suddenly was hugging me with her back to him but he wanted to strike again.

“Move!” he ordered and he yelled more, but Mama just held onto me. With a growl of anguish he walked to the wall and beat it and beat it and beat it right beside us. And then he growled and sort of tumbled away into the trees walking with his flask as though he couldn’t find the ground.

Mama and I sank to the floor together. She wasn’t crying anymore except that tears still dripped from her eyes. She patted my hair and soothed me. “Breathe,” she said softly.

I think Mama feared that I hated him. But Papa had nothing. He lost his only son and now he hated daytime and drank alcohol like air and couldn’t even walk straight.

Mama told me now we were safe because we were together and the ground that we were on wasn’t going anywhere. We stayed there until we woke up some hours later and as we walked to the house I saw the moon shining as a sliver in the dark sky.

I remember some time later Mrs. Piper assigned our class to write an essay about how love transforms the world. I told her I couldn’t write that because love is like the air we breathe. She told me I had to do the assignment anyway.

I wrote that love is funny because everyone can love just like everyone can breathe, and if we all love at the same time we won’t run out. Love doesn’t transform the world because that would mean that the world goes from not having love to having love. I titled it “How Love Doesn’t Transform the World.” Mrs. Piper told me I’d have to redo my essay because I did the wrong thing.

So I wrote a different one and I said how people can start by not loving and end up by actually loving and this transforms the world. But the only way this is could happen was if everyone popped out their eyeballs and rubbed all the muck off so they could learn to see faith and hope like the earth and the sun.

Mrs. Piper said such a thing was not possible.

I said it is possible and I won’t stop hoping for it until the sun stops shining.

Mrs. Piper looked out the window and it was raining and the sky was dark and such a queer doubtful expression crossed her face that I suddenly felt the burst of amusement of an inside joke. I knew that the sun was shining and Theo knew it too. I beamed all the way back to my desk and all the way home and all the way to the tops of the trees where I let the rain shower on me until I decided that maybe, wherever he was, Theo would almost be finished laughing soon.



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This article has 5 comments. Post your own!

wordjunkie said...
Apr. 9, 2011 at 5:13 pm:
There was something about the flow that was a bit hard to read, but over all it was beautiful. I always wondered how authors make up such powerful statements for books and stories, and I am yet again baffled by the pogniant way the child seems to keep hope from the words of her brother. I love the last line.
 
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PJD17 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 18, 2011 at 5:53 pm:
I really enjoyed this story  your a very good writer, keep it up!
 
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e.c.frances said...
Jan. 17, 2011 at 11:55 am:
This is great! I love the idea of the sun shining even when it is dark because of the moon. I had never thought of the moon that way. I also like that your narrator is a child. It provides an interesting point of view. I enjoyed reading it!
 
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Babylufin said...
Sept. 12, 2010 at 6:39 pm:

I looove this. The title is awesome too. And the intro is beautiful! I love it. :)

Please take a look at some of my work if you have the time, and leave a comment if you will! :)

 
EGram replied...
Jan. 15, 2011 at 2:08 pm :
Thank you so much for your comment!! And congratulations on getting published! :)
 
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