Light My Way Home
The cobalt blue house was situated on five acres of untouched forest. The forest extended far beyond the invisible boundaries but those five acres were Dette’s exclusively. Days that weren’t spent milking goats and milling cheese, were spent wandering through that dapple canopy, collecting mushrooms and wild lettuce. Some days her husband, Paul, would join her. On even rarer occasions, they would pack a lunch and spend the afternoon making languid love. This was not one of those days.
Dette was scraping food off of dinner plates. Paul was in the living room watching a comedy on TV; Dette could hear the laugh track.
“Paul? Did you get the goats back in their pin?”
Paul ignored her and laughed along with the TV.
Sighing, Dette finished washing the dinner plates and, wiping her hands on a dishtowel, stood in the doorway to the living room and watched the back of Paul’s head. She studied the swirl in his black hair. “Paul, did you hear me?”
He craned his neck to glance back at her. “No. What’d you say?”
“I will in a minute, Dette. Let me finish watching this show.”
Dette knew that it would be too late once the show was over. She was too tired to nag Paul into taking care of it; it would be simpler to do it herself. Throwing the dishtowel over her shoulder, she stamped out the front door hoping that Paul would hear and stop her. He, of course, didn’t and Dette was left to herd the goats herself.
Trudging down the front steps, she whistled for the goats. Using the dishtowel like a whip, she managed to pin all of the goats. All but one that is. A single white one stood at the edge of the forest, grazing placidly. The herd was normally too skittish to approach the trees. The moon had come out and the goat gleamed silver. Dette approached it cautiously; she didn’t want it to spook and bolt into the forest. The goat paused mid-bite and looked up to study her. It took a couple of steps towards the trees.
“Oh please don’t do that, little goat. Please go join your friends.”
The goat regarded her thoughtfully and took a few more steps into the forest. Without further hesitation, it turned and fled into the trees. Dette could see it still highlighted by the moonlight, darting around trunks.
“No! Wait!” Dette knew that she shouldn’t follow it. The forest could be dangerous after dark. She couldn’t stand to loose one of her animals, though. It would cost too much to replace. Tying her dark blond hair back, she ran after the goat as quickly as good sense would allow. She wrapped the dishtowel around her right hand and used it to push back branches and steady herself on tree trunks. The shining goat ran in front of her, just barely in Dette’s line of sight.
The animal flitted behind a tree and was gone. Dette ran a few meters more before coming to a stop. Unwrapping the dishtowel, she wiped the cold sweat from her forehead. Turning around, Dette realized that she couldn’t see the house. She couldn’t make out even the barest hint of light. She had traveled further into the woods than she meant to. She stared up at the moon, trying to get her bearings. The moon shone directly above her head; it gave no indication of what direction she should travel in. If she could wait until morning the way would make itself clear. She knew that there were wild animals in the woods though, and she might not make to morning with only a dishtowel to protect her.
She gazed up at the moon, her whole body trembling. “Please, moon, help me get home. Please don’t be so precisely over my head.”
Dette thought that she saw the moon shiver as she beseeched it. She continued to beg for the glimmering orb’s help and was sure that she saw it shiver, as if it were sympathetic to her plight. Clutching the dishtowel tightly, she watched in astonishment as the moon’s trembling increased and it dislodged itself from the sky. She watched as it streaked a silver ark across the horizon. It landed close enough for Dette to hear its thud of impact. With no other options, Dette followed the silver ark towards where the moon landed. She walked on, stepping carefully, for 10 or 15 minutes. Just as she was beginning to despair that the silver trail was fading, she found herself out from under the trees. She was standing in her own clearing; facing her own cobalt blue house. There on the ground, halfway between house and forest, lay the moon.
It glowed brightly and pulsed with a rhythm that Dette recognized as her own heartbeat. It was so bright, in fact, that at first she didn’t notice Paul standing on the porch, his mouth agape. She met his eyes, her smile brilliant.
“What’s that?” Paul called out to her.
“It’s the moon!” she replied. “I got lost out in the woods and it led me back home.”
Paul was speechless, which, Dette thought, was an appropriate response. She hurried over to where the satellite lay. Kneeling reverently, she hovered her hands over it, afraid that it might be hot. To the contrary, the air around it was pleasantly cool. It felt like she had plunged her hands into a stream. Carefully, she picked it up. It weighed less than she thought it would and was the diameter of a child’s ball. It was absolutely beautiful.
Dette laughed. It was a laugh unlike any other she had ever produced. A stunning liquid tinkle like hundreds of tiny bells. Hearing it, Paul couldn’t help but join in. He watched as his wife laughed and spun around, holding the moon over her head, the glow washing over her face. It turned her skin to porcelain and her hair to honey. No longer afraid, Paul ran the rest of the way to her.
“Dette, it’s incredible.”
“I know! Here, feel it,” Dette said, lowering the globe.
Paul plunged his hand through the cool air surrounding it and caressed the moon’s pitted surface. His face filled with wonder, he smiled at his wife through the glow.
A look of pain crossed Dette’s face. “Oh no, Paul.” She looked up to the sky, into the blank spot where the moon belonged. “We have to get it back up to the sky. We can’t keep it. It doesn’t belong here.”
“How are we going to do that?”
“I don’t know.” Dette sat down, cradling the moon in her arms. She made a nest for it with her dishtowel and gently sat it down in front of her. After thinking for a minute she said, “We will build a latter, then I will climb it and place the moon back in the sky.”
Paul sat down next to Dette and put his arm around her shoulders. “I couldn’t let you do it, Dette. You will never make it all the way up there. I’ll do it.”
“No. I will do it. The moon came down to guide me out of the woods. The least I can do is help it back into the sky.”
Paul couldn’t argue with her logic. “If that’s really what you want to do. I guess we should get started.”
They set the moon into a crate lined with the dishtowel so that it could be close while they built the ladder. She grabbed all of the twine that she could find in the barn. Paul got his hammer and a can full of nails. They worked nonstop on the ladder for the rest of the night and through all of the next day. When they ran out of lumber around daybreak, Paul dashed into the forest with his axe and chopped down saplings. Just before dusk on the second day they were finished. Satisfied that the ladder would be tall enough to reach the sky, the couple sat down their tools and smiled at each other.
“Are you sure that you want to climb up there, Dette? It seems like a very long way and you have been working hard for the past two days. I wouldn’t want you to get tired and fall.”
“I don’t feel particularly tired. I think that moonlight is refreshing me. I feel better just looking at it. I’ll be fine, Paul. Don’t worry.”
Paul drew her into a tight embrace. “I can’t help but worry. You’re my favorite thing in this world.”
Smiling, Dette pushed back to look in her husband’s eyes. “That’s very sweet, dear. I promise to come home to you.”
Still smiling at one another, they began pushing up the ladder. Standing at full height, you couldn’t see the top of it. Paul would stay at the bottom to hold it while Dette climbed up. Dusk had settled into the velvet darkness of night. The empty space where the moon belonged was clearly visible between the flickering stars.
Gathering the moon in the dishtowel, Dette picked it up gingerly. “Hold the ladder tight. I’ll be back soon.”
“Don’t worry about it, love.”
Dette put a foot on the shaky first rung and began to pull herself up. It wasn’t long before Paul was just a speck far below her. The air was cooler than on the ground and seemed to have a life of its own. It pooled and eddied around her in twisting patterns raising her hair and churning her clothes.
The moon felt far larger than it had only moments before. Dette could feel it straining against the dishtowel, whose ends were beginning to slip through her fingers. Reaching down she hefted the moon under one arm. It had expanded the size of a beach ball. It was still surprisingly light. If anything it was more buoyant than it had been at ground level.
The shinning orb continued to expand. Soon it was too big for Dette to comfortably hold. The bigger it got, the lighter it became. Dette, herself, felt lighter. She felt as if she could let go of the ladder and float away on the streams of air that gently tugged at her. Instead, she looped the dishtowel through one of the moon’s rock bridges and continued to climb. She had to get it back home.
Dette climbed higher, the moon ever expanding over her shoulder. It was huge now, a giant air balloon floating behind her, only staying in place because of its dishtowel tether. Soon it was even bigger than that, as big as a castle, as big as a moon. Dette was into the sky and she could see the stars clearly pulsing. They seemed overjoyed to see the moon.
Reaching the end of the ladder, Dette stood on the top rung and slowly raised the moon over her head. Balancing on tiptoe, she released one end of her trusty dishtowel and pushed the moon gently. It settled back into the vacant expanse of sky that was its home. The moon’s soft glowed filled Dette with an immeasurable warmth and sense of wellbeing. It still pulsed along with her heartbeat. Dette felt as if she weighed nothing and, in fact, she was balancing perfectly on one tiptoe.
The thought of climbing back down the ladder seemed ridiculous, she would just float. Smiling up at the moon Dette said, “Thank you,” and took a deep breath. Holding it she stepped off of the ladder. She began to drift slowly back to the Earth. The whole world below her was specked with lights. She could see the sun breaching the horizon. It shown golden arks into the air, softening the night sky into cerulean shades of blue. The water-like air currents nipped and swirled around her. Floating slowly at first, she began to pick up speed as she got closer to the ground.
Looping the ends of the dishtowel around her right hand she floated it over her head and slowed her decent. The air helped by spirally up around her continually. Even with these safe guards, she was closer to falling than floating by the time she could see her house. The sun had risen to wash the whole world in shades of green. She could see Paul far below her, his head cocked back to watch her. She waved down at him. They watched each other intently as she got closer and closer to the ground.
Dette was falling quickly. Quicker than was probably safe. She watched as Paul positioned himself beneath her. She never doubted his ability to catch her; he was too strong to fail. When she was twenty feet above the ground she let go of the dishtowel and plummeted the rest of the way home. Paul caught her easily in his arms, and Dette threw hers around his neck laughing in delight.
“I’m so happy you’re back,” Paul murmured into her hair.
“I told you I would be,” was Dette’s reply.
From then on, every night after dinner, Dette and Paul would sit on their porch and talk under the warming glow of the moon. Dette swore that she could still see it pulse with her heartbeat.
| COPYRIGHT 2006-2011
Portland Fiction Project
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED