12/23/14

A Trip to the Moon
By Cathy S. Ulrich


When I knock at the door, your mother says you’ve gone to the moon. She speaks through the wood so she doesn’t have to see me. I get down on my stomach and direct my questions to the crack between the door and the jamb. I can see your mother has polished the toes of one foot, but not the other. Her little toes are crooked and ugly.
Did he say when he’d be back?
There’s a hesitation, and then your mother has gotten down on her stomach too, her plump lips filling my view.
He’s not coming back. Go away.
I scratch my fingers along the bottom of your door until your mother rolls up a towel and sticks it in the crack. I think she says again that I should go away, but it’s hard to tell with the towel in there. Anyway, I don’t go away. I go round to the back of your house, where your father keeps his things in piles. I hop up and down on a broken refrigerator until the handle comes off. Inside your house, your mother flicks the kitchen light on and then off again after I’ve held real still, so she thinks I’ve gone away, like she said.
There are pieces missing from your father’s things that we used to make our rocket. We were going to go to the moon together. I see my helmet hanging from the handlebars of a bike with a missing front wheel. Your helmet is gone, just like our rocket. My helmet goes on my head and the bike flips over backward. I want to kick it, but the last time I did, my foot got tangled up in the spokes of the remaining wheel and bent up my pretty toes. Now they’re ugly, like your mother’s little toes.
I wonder if you wouldn’t have gone without me if both my feet still looked nice like they did when we went wading in the puddles between your father’s things. They’re always dripping, like he got them out of a lake.
When we sat inside our rocket, it smelled damp, and you found a mushroom growing under the seat. The mushroom was going to come to the moon with us. It was going to be our baby. Mushrooms are better than real babies, you said.
Get it taken care of, you said, and I got mad and kicked the bike.
I rummage through your father’s things until I find a working flashlight. I pull off my shoes and go up on top of your house, one ugly foot, one pretty foot, empty on the inside, like you wanted me to be, and then I’m on the roof. I aim the flashlight into the sky and flick it on and off, and wait for you to see my message, and come back for me.


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Cathy Ulrich doesn't really like looking at the stars, but she has always enjoyed the moon.


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