What the Moon Forgot

by Claire Thomasina J

I was brought up in a home that was ambivalent about god. My sister and I went to Saturday Prayer Club for about a month. Only because my father thought it was something you do to look good. So that he could say to his business friends “My children are holy, they know what god is and thus I have raised them correctly.”

His mother raised him on a diet of corn and grains and Sunday apple pie and a punishing god. The punishing god lived with them in their house of stone at the bottom of Rollesby Loke. This god often spoke through his father. He chose to speak in black tones of whisky and sharpened a belt strap that hung on the kitchen wall. My father’s two brothers and four sisters were rinsed weekly in holy water in the local church.

My father learned to work hard to please his father and the holy father. He learned to work the land and drive the tractor as the swallows rose at first russet light. He learned how to shoot rabbits and skin them for his mother. She would wash off the blood and serve it as a sacrifice for Sunday dinner.

If his father was his moon then his mother was his sun. Her love for him lit him from within. He did not think he would find a woman he could love as much as her, until one day, he found Linda. She was as tall as the pine in their backyard and her heart was as wide as an oak. She loved my father as only Eve could. Best of all his mother loved her. He used to walk Linda home from where she worked in the pub. He walked her through sweet fields of sugar beet, clusters of foxtails and bobbing dandelion heads. He held her tight when the north wind blew his hardest and ghosts of the marshes followed them home. Sometimes he would collect her in his father’s red pick-up truck and drive her over the tiny bridge, through the woods to Filby broads. They would hold hands as they parked on the bank under a tall sky, watching the reflection of the milky way bounce off the water. Thousands of stars floating with duckweed and lilies, dark bellied geese swimming in glitter.

One evening he couldn’t pick her up from work, so she got a lift from someone in the bar. How could he have known it would be one of those black nights, a night so dark you couldn’t see god. That the frost of winter would arrive early. That her friend, slippery with liquor, didn’t know to take the corner of Billockby bend slow, to take it wide where it kneels close to the hedgerow where the hazel catkins grow. That without the moon to guide them or the thick hand of my father at the wheel, the car would slip and spin and roll through the gap in the hedge to the river that spat and churned below. Nobody was to know the car would sink, that not a soul was around to save them. That the nearest house which looked over the mouth of the river, with its blinking lamp in the bedroom had stood empty for months. My father didn’t know her ghost wandered the marshes that night looking for him, death clinging to her dress, that her icy fingers couldn’t find his.

I didn’t know my father had lost his first love until he told me one drunken night 30 years later. He was clutching a tumbler of whisky and I was studying the constellation of freckles on the back of his hands as I always did. Tracing the brown spots, still hoping to find Orion. He told me he had met my mother just a few months after he lost Linda. I wish he had told me before. I would have forgiven his sins to his family earlier. Understood why he searched for god at the bottom of a glass. I would surely have considered redemption.

Photo by TZOLTEC on TZOLTEC.art

Philip Brautigam
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