Jim Oldman stood at the top of the world, watching the immense arc of the moon crest the horizon and rise into a sky that was indigo and would soon deepen to black. It was a special moon. A super blue blood moon. Millie would have loved it.
It wasn’t really the top of the world, but that’s what the locals called it. Jim wasn’t one of them. He had no family in the area and even though he had lived there for nearly forty years he was not a local. He never would be, unless, like Methuselah, he lived nine hundred years, and even then he had his doubts.
He knew this place as Bennett Hill. That’s what it said on the map. It was the highest point around. Two roads that once had names and now had numbers came to a tee at the apex. If you stood on the ground, the north-south road dropped out of sight, and if you drove south on that road there was so much air around you it seemed you catapulted into space, flicked like a fly.
The other road led westward toward the park police training camp or eastward toward the village. The training camp had been a detention center for boys, stuck out in the country so they would be reluctant to roam. But it didn’t work. They got into plenty of trouble anyway and were all exported after a rape at knifepoint. He didn’t know where they went. Now there was shooting day and night. It must have been dinner time, though, because it was quiet for a change.
It was also cold. Very cold. He leaned against the gritty bumper of his truck. Between the salt spray and gravel dust there was no keeping the truck clean. Even soapy water congealed like fat.
The snow that covered everything just a few days ago had washed away in a pounding winter rain. Arctic air quickly returned, suspending motion in the hayfields, frozen like the sepia photographs of long ago. He had a phone in his pocket that took pictures that would rival a Leica, for snaps anyway. He thought about taking a shot of the moon, but who would he show it to? He could send it in to the local weather channel, but he knew he’d never do it. He would just watch the moon, and the eclipse to follow, with his bare eyes, like people had done for millennia.
It was the last day of January 2018. Two full moons. February wouldn’t have any. March would also have two. What a way to start the year.
He thought about the Julian calendar, the lunar calendar, the names of the months, constellations, and so on, and the dominance ciphered into them. Like Orion, for instance, known by Ojibwa as Winter Bringer, the name he preferred. All those names carried cultural stories, especially at night, when the veil of day lifted and you could see into vast creation, speckled with stars, planets, satellites, airplanes, sometimes meteors, or an orbiting space station, and of course, the shape-shifting moon.
He liked to look at the sky, day or night, but especially at night. Millie got him into it. She’d drag him around the country, and up and down the Americas, chasing celestial events: comets, eclipses, the auroras, and visiting observatories, looking through giant telescopes, the new race of Cyclops, their bulging, contrived eyes reading the Milky Way.
There was no getting warm. When Millie was alive she’d bring blankets, hot sweet tea, and a snack. He didn’t bother with that.
You’re too tough for your own good, Millie used to say.
Not so tough anymore, he thought.
An SUV was climbing the hill. He was hoping it would keep going, but it pulled onto the shoulder off the road just ahead of him. A man and a woman he didn’t know got out. He nodded and the man nodded back. The woman never looked at him. Soon there were more vehicles lining up along the road. One man set up a telescope and people gathered around him. Someone with long hair talked nonstop. He couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman but it was a voice he’d heard before and he knew it would go on until they all finally drove off.
Well, Millie, he said to himself, should we stay or go?
Don’t be silly, she would have said. He could almost feel her tuck herself against him.
Dianne Sefcik writes poetry, fiction and non-fiction. She lives in rural upstate New York.