By: Edward Wells
The moon laid a strip of light on the dark ocean. The reflection was soft except for the crests of the waves catching the light sharp and white. The ocean seemed so quiet. “Nothing.” John outlined roughly the shape of the moon. “You don’t think it’s a little windy out here?” He held up his right hand to gesture at the ocean. “Yeah.” John was starting to get the feeling that something was off. “It’s supposed to be the moon,” John said. The wind blew in slowly. It seemed almost too slow. Katy smiled and poked at the moon on the canvas. “Listen to your grandfather. He’s a very smart and wise man.” Katy tapped a finger against the moon. “So are you.” John was becoming more confident. John took a brush and painted a stem and leaf on top of his moon. He glanced back at Katy, who giggled. The painting was not complete. “Bed,” said Katy, then stood up and stretched out on the beach. “You see,” John said, gaining Katy’s attention, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him paint the moon.” Katy smiled, then stood, bent over, and started to wash their hands in the waves. John cleared his throat. “There was an it who used to live on this mountain and it was married to a witch.” He pointed to the sky. “A witch?” said Katy. “Yes,” John said softly and glanced around then went on. “This it who was married to the witch fell in love with a girl named Martha, the most beautiful girl in these parts.” He shook his head. “Go on,” Katy said to John and looked at him for a moment. “The witch found out and told it to stay away from Martha. But it could not. They decided to run away together, and on a cold, rainy night they set out across this mountain. The moon was full and it kept trying to push through. In the darkness they got separated. It couldn’t find her. There was a great search, but she was never found. The rain stopped and the moon came out and it went crazy. Now, every time the moon is full it calls for her.” He reached over and touched Katy. Katy thought this a wonderful tale and liked how he talked about the moon. Ella Fitzgerald was singing “How High the Moon.” The music was slow, with a soft, melancholy tone. “Oh listen, John,” Katy said. “I just love this song.” She looked at John’s eyes. “What are you thinking about?” Katy went to him and kissed him. John smiled. He turned. They stepped out and past the parked cars at the start of the path that led down to the beach. The stiff breeze rustled through the seagrass and kicked a little at the sand. There was no moon to see in the cloudy sky. It was the day before John’s birthday. John followed Katy into the house. There was a wheelchair parked in the front room, and a woman was lying across the high-backed sofa. Katy introduced the woman as their wife, Martha. The wheelchair was a little older than what John might have expected, but it was still good. Katy explained that their wife was diabetic and had come home from hospital Monday. They had tried to drive off that day, but a storm kept on coming.
John noticed something and turned. John fired the last shot of his salvo and passed the rifle. “I’d like to see the Columbia River Gorge, but I think I’ve been spoiled by southern rivers.” He turned, walked to the edge of the path and looked across the river. “Yes,” replied the voice of his companion. John turned back. The guests arrived. There were Cornix and I, both large birds, Larissa, Anton, Camille, I.R. Lion and Ruby, who never seemed to be in the same room at the same time, Harry and It, who never seemed to be in the same room at the same time, and Ms. Trucker and the trucker, who seemed quite close when they thought no one was watching. All had spent summers in Yachats before, so much talk seemed inside. And there were Katy and Martha Turner. Introductions were made, and John watched while people ate trail mix and drank juice. He, Katy, and Martha stayed with the party for about fifteen minutes. Then they left through the beach-side sliding door. Martha’s wheelchair was left on the upper deck and John carried her down the steps and down the slope to the beach, where they sat in folding chairs. They ate bacon and drank beer. John went to the studio and came back with a blanket for Martha. Afterward they played games of bridge and watched people. They lay on the beach, looking out at the water, as people walked past. The sea was blue and blue. Blue waves into the blue blue ocean, in blue skies. The sun was blue and orange. There was no life. There was no smell. There was no life. But John wasn’t listening. He got into his car and drove off slowly. Slowly, all the way home, with cars passing constantly, and with blaring horns when traffic was too heavy to permit passing. He glared back at the angry faces that snarled at him as they passed. He leaned forward, squeezing the wheel until he felt it give. He tried to remember what was going on. He tried to remember what was happening. He tried to remember how he felt. His eyes followed the cars ahead, but his mind wasn’t on them; it was on a voice in his head. A voice like a thunder. A voice like a trumpet. A voice like a voice. John, Katy, and Martha sat in the small Moonset Cafe in the town center. Martha’s wheelchair faced the window. Her eyes were wide and childlike as she watched what she called her private, turbulent sea. John sipped tea and studied her. She was actually beautiful, her hose perfectly sculpted, her eyes extraordinary, dark and fierce. Her hair was always a bit mussed. He wondered if she had been as exquisite when she was younger or if age had blessed her. Martha seemed pleased when she spoke. She wore no jewelry and had a small red scarf wrapped around her neck. She smiled. “She is that.” John passed over the remark. “I’m off to pay her a visit now.” Saying it flat-out like that gave him some faith in himself. He felt stronger. “So, how’s the fence coming?” He asked. Katy and Martha both looked at him. “It looks better and better.” Martha said. She smiled. “They ever argue?” John was intensely uncomfortable posing these questions. He passed over them, seeing that he was only confusing Katy and Martha. He felt better. “What do you mean?” Katy asked. John looked away, embarrassed.
Martha passed over his remark. “Katy says they’re getting quite a bit of work done.” She added that they should probably go back to the house. Martha paused. A couple of minutes of silence passed, and John found himself tapping his glass with his nails. “You know, Katy, I think about such things.” He shrugged. When they walked in Martha was awake, in her wheelchair in the hospital room, but still in her gown and robe. John studied her face, concerned with her health, but she had only the look of someone who had overslept. Inwardly, he laughed at himself for trusting his diagnosis; he was not a doctor. Martha looked at him. She smiled and put a hand on his arm. John nodded. He felt embarrassed again for being so concerned about her.
“Are you telling me she was awake during the cutting of her foot?” Katy asked. Martha nodded. “Yes, yes. I think so.” “I would have to say it is a possibility,” John said. He felt guilty, having just told Katy about the cutting. In his opinion, it was wrong for a doctor to cut the body part of someone who was not yet dead. “There is a reason they do what they do,” Katy said. “They are doing the right thing.” They put their hand on Martha. “And you do what you do,” John said. John asked, “What do you think about abortion?” Katy nodded, “I think it’s a really important issue, but the government can’t dictate what happens inside a person’s body.” She turned to Martha. The conversation then moved to the topic of climate change, which, as we know, is a really big deal. There was a little bit of discussion about it and then John said he would like to see the bill. Katy was surprised to hear that. She was a little worried about how she was going to get through this. She thought about it for a moment. She said, ” I think I’ll just let it go.” Katy then offered to help Martha with her paper.