Stanley imagined that he held the moon in his hands. He cupped it in his palms raised up against the night sky and the moon nestled there like a small bird or a kitten. “It’s still ours,” he said to Colleen. She stood next to him and swayed a little, hearing music between them as she often did. The music was in her head, of course, but she only heard it standing next to him. Every love should have its own music.
“The moon?” Colleen asked.
“Yep. It’s still ours. No one can take it away from us, no matter what. “
A long time ago, in another life it seemed, the world looked upon the moon as one and the moon looked back. It was 1969, and amid great turmoil that hinted at what was to come decades later, three astronauts landed on that gray sere face. From Ohio, Colleen could only see a sliver, the first moon phase, emerge that night in July but on the television she saw the two astronauts climb down from their ladder in the black and white static that separated the moon from the earth, nearly 240,000 miles away. Colleen still couldn’t get her head around that distance—a quarter of a million miles. How far is too far, she wondered.
Now they stood on land that was nearly as dry as the moon’s.
They left good jobs to come here. Colleen had her CPA and worked for a family-owned accounting firm, tapping at a calculator and plucking out spreadsheets, birdlike. Stanley was an engineer for the city, overseeing the sewer system and its complex angles beneath pedestrians and cars and weighty buildings.
Colleen traced it all—their withdrawal to the land and life since–back to the housing crisis, pages and pages of foreclosures in the newspaper. She saw the meltdown coming. Then the drug overdoses—a couple of friends over the period of a year dying after accidental overdoses, mixing pain meds with alcohol to numb themselves. All this sorrow, Colleen thought, couldn’t be healthy for society. Worse yet, those closest to Stanley and Colleen – their family and best friends – didn’t see that too much despair could be too much.
The disparity between rich and poor grew exponentially, as Colleen calculated it in her head, and suddenly people they knew (Stanley’s secretary, Colleen’s book club friend, others) found themselves at homeless shelters and food kitchens. Colleen and Stanley poured their savings into land and unintentionally became preppers. Not gun-toting, Bible-spouting, flag-waving preppers, but self-reliant, off the grid farmers who just wanted to plant a furrow of hope.
Colleen was too busy to think about bees, the irony of which now sounded like a bad joke. She didn’t notice the bee population disappearing—and neither did the media, even though biologists were publishing reports and shoving reams of data at anyone who would listen. No one wanted to know. Massive bee die-offs were dismissed with the chortled moniker “Beemageddon.”
It was the only thing she regretted. Had she paid attention, she would have started some hives of her own. She never voiced her regret. Stanley would have told her that she could have built 50 hives and still would have ended up with hundreds of thousands of dead bees on the ground. It was too late now.
Fireflies lit up the valley at their feet. “Say hello to our moon friend,” Stanley said to her, still cupping the pale circle of light in his hands.
“Hello, moon.” Colleen sighed and put her arm around Stanley’s waist. “Do you think it will rain tomorrow?”
“I hope so.”
Off in the distance, gunshots fired. Colleen listened as they echoed in the valley like firecrackers. She knew the raiding had begun for the summer. She dropped her arm from Stanley’s waist and turned her back to the valley and the moon above it.