by Tara P
Short story I wrote last year
|I kicked my shoes off as I walked into the living room. The life of a loan officer was a dirty, rotten job… and I didn’t want it. Rumors around the office said I was up for promotion, but I wasn’t putting much stock in them. I wanted to make money, not manage everyone else’s.
I put my feet up on the coffee table and turned on the television. A talk show was on about finding family members. I leaned my head back, listened to some woman from Ohio or Idaho – some place with an “o” – and let my mind wander.
It wandered to the summer I visited my great-grandmother, Nonni. She wouldn’t tell us her age, but most of us figured she was in her eighties. While my friends packed for exotic vacations I reluctantly showed up at Nonni’s three days after school let out.
My goal was simple: help Grandma Nonni and stay inconspicuous the rest of the time. One night in early July I sat on the porch debating whether to catch fireflies. I heard Grandma Nonni come outside and sit in her ancient porch rocker.
“Lotti, won’t you come sit with me a moment?” She patted the arm of a porch rocker adjacent to hers. I obliged silently. “Have you ever heard of a Blood Moon?”
“No,” I replied. Did I want to know?
“It’s time I told you.” Grandma Nonni looked out over the back yard, lost in thought. “It’s a once in a lifetime occurrence, only happens with a full moon.” She stopped rocking and leaned in close to me, like it was a secret only we could know. “Strange things happen,” she whispered.
I didn’t like where this was going. She chuckled and continued, leaning back in her rocker.
“Oh, it’s nothing bad.”
“So what happens?”
“That you have to experience for yourself. Remember, when a full moon turns a rusty red, be alert.”
For the next year, I became obsessed with the full moon. I scanned the skies above my suburban home, but between the street lamps and the maple trees any visions I had of the moon was obscured. I scanned the paper less often for odd happenings the days after a full moon. By my high school graduation I had given up.
Grandma Nonni passed away two years after she told me about the Blood Moon.
My mom, Grandma Aggie, and I went to the farm to get the estate ready to sell.
“Mom, come look at this,” my mom called from Nonni’s bedroom. I tagged along. Mom sat on the edge of Grandma Nonni’s bed, the drawer of the bedside table open. In Mom’s lap was a black and white composition notebook, the kind most of my teachers required for journals.
It appeared Grandma Nonni used it to record important dates. The last entry was the day she told me about the Blood Moon. Mom looked at me with raised eyebrows. I returned her look. “What did she tell you?”
“Nothing really. Just strange things happen.”
Mom and Grandma Aggie exchanged knowing looks.
“Did she tell you anything else?” Grandma Aggie pressed.
“Just to be alert,” I replied. Was there more to what Grandma Nonni told me?
I don’t know what possessed me to change the channel, maybe it was the talk show theme and the memories it brought back. It was the first time in almost seven years that I had thought of the Blood Moon. A curiosity was awakening in me. I had to know if a full moon was coming so I switched over to The Weather Channel.
“Hey, Lotti,” Ashleigh said when she arrived home. “How was work today?” she asked, joining me in the living room. I just grunted, waiting for the national weather to finish. “That good, huh?” She sat cross-legged in an armchair. “There are more interesting things to watch than The Weather Channel,” she teased.
“Just checking for the full moon,” I said, not taking my eyes off the screen.
“Why? Afraid of werewolves?” she asked. I snorted. “Vampires then?” When I didn’t answer, “Because Jessica just bought garlic the other day. I don’t know how much…”
“I’m not worried about vampires! Sorry. I just want to see if I can see a Blood Moon soon.”
“‘A Blood Moon soon’? You’re a poet, Lotti.” I rolled my eyes. “Isn’t the Blood Moon usually in the fall?” Ashleigh continued.
Just then, our roommate, Jessica, arrived home. Jessica followed the lunar calendar, a pagan tradition. She would know. “Hey Jess, when is the Blood Moon?” Ashleigh called.
“Twice in October, new and full. Why?” Jessica answered, setting her purse and keys on the front table with ours and joining me on the couch. She kicked off her flip-flops and tucked her feet under the cushion between us. “Tonight is the full Mystery Moon.”
“So the full moon won’t be red?” I asked, remote poised to change back to the talk show.
“Only if you look through something red,” Jessica replied matter-of-factly. “Why the interest in the Blood Moon?”
I switched the television back to the talk show. The woman from Ohio or Idaho or wherever was now joined by a private investigator. “My great-grandmother told me about it.”
“Was she lunar?” Jessica asked.
“Not that I knew of. She told me it’s a once in a lifetime occurrence that only happens with the full moon. She also said strange things happen.”
“Sounds to me she’s mixing up the lunar calendar with a myth or folklore.” Jessica shrugged at my expression. “Sorry, hon.”
I was ready for a discussion change, “Does that cutie pie still work in your office, Jess? I wouldn’t mind meeting him.”
Jessica laughed. “You mean Eddie the Perv? He has a file ten miles thick from all his write-ups.”
“How does he stay employed?” Ashleigh asked.
“Uncle runs everything,” Jessica replied. “Besides, I thought you had eyes for that guy in your department. What was his name?”
“Alex. Didn’t he ask you to dinner once?” Ashleigh asked.
“Yes he did,” Jessica replied like I wasn’t there. “But someone turned him down because of her principles.”
“I just don’t think it’s right to date co-workers,” I interjected.
“And this is why you’re perpetually single,” Jessica said, ducking as I
threw the remote.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I didn’t doubt Jessica, but I also didn’t believe my great-grandmother would be wrong either. After all, Mom and Grandma Aggie seemed to understand. Before I went to bed I called Mom to see what she knew.
“I’ve been on the lookout more or less since I was thirteen. Maybe I missed it?”
Mom chuckled. “You’d remember a Blood Moon.”
“You’ve seen one?” I asked.
“Oh yes! It’s how I knew I was going to have you,” she replied.
I told Mom about the lunar calendar. “So where am I confused?”
“Just trust Nonni,” Mom said.
“Lotti, each Blood Moon is experienced differently. All I can tell you is it will give you insight.”
“Thanks, Mom,” I said, just as confused as when I called her.
I looked over at the clock. 2:30 a.m. I had to be up in 4 hours. Maybe I’d call in sick and take a mental health day. The loan department could get by without me. Next to my alarm clock was the last photo of me, Mom, and Grandma Aggie, taken at my college graduation. Grandma Aggie passed away six months later. It was Grandma Aggie that encouraged me to get my current job. We always did number puzzles together and when I decided on my major, math was a natural choice. I was hired at the bank a month to the day after Grandma Aggie passed. I couldn’t explain it, but I had a feeling she had something to do with it.
Maybe that was when I experienced my Blood Moon. Mom said she found out she was pregnant when she experienced hers, so it wasn’t a stretch that I experienced mine when I got my first real job. That made sense – both were milestones signifying adulthood. Calling it a Blood Moon was probably just a metaphor for the whole thing.
I must have dozed off figuring out the metaphor because the dream that started next was too surreal to have actually happened.
What I thought woke me up was the sensation I was falling. When I tried to grip the sheets I was aware that nothing was beneath me. I looked down and noticed that not only was I levitating but now I was moving.
Note to self: no more nachos before bed.
Just like the children in Peter Pan, I floated out my open window. I kept floating upward until I was tucked into the fluffiest clouds I had ever seen. They were so dense I couldn’t see the ground.
I didn’t have time to get comfy. As suddenly as I had taken off, I was descending. When I got closer to the ground I realized I wasn’t at my apartment complex. I wasn’t even in my town. Somehow I was 150 miles away at Grandma Nonni’s farm. It looked just as I remembered: white house with red shutters, split rail fence, long dirt driveway, tall oaks all over the lawn. I touched ground at the bottom of the driveway.
“Welcome back,” a familiar voice said to my left. I turned to see Grandma Aggie standing against the fence. “Come along. There’s not much time.” She grabbed my wrist and started up the driveway. Tripping, I tried to keep up.
“Grandma Aggie? Why are you here?”
“Don’tcha want to know why you’re here?” she replied, leading me around to the back porch.
“Sure,” I answered.
“Nonni, she’s here,” Grandma Aggie said, stopping suddenly. I tumbled down in front of a weathered porch rocker. When I pulled up to sit, I noticed Grandma Nonni was sitting as she always did, rocking slowly.
“Lotti, have a seat,” Grandma Nonni said. She motioned to the chair next to hers, the same one I sat in when she told me about the Blood Moon.
“To answer your question,” Grandma Aggie said, “I’m here because it’s my time. When I passed on, I came here. One day, you will too.”
I must have looked confused. “Your roommate wasn’t entirely wrong about the Blood Moon. It is a part of the lunar calendar,” Grandma Nonni said. “The women in our family,” she smiled at Aggie, “interpret it a little differently.”
She explained that our Blood Moon took place at unpredictable moments, yet retained the lunar meaning of balance, harmony, and finding comfort in friends and family.
“Especially family,” Grandma Aggie said, going to the screen door. Several people filtered out on to the porch. One I recognized right away, Grandpa Merle. I hadn’t seen him since I was eight. I remember Grandma Aggie was beside herself when he passed away. A woman stood behind Grandma Nonni.
“This is my sister, Carlotta,” Grandma Nonni said, looking up at her younger sister, the one I had been named after. She had passed after being in a fire when she was my age.
The other people were identified as various relatives of Nonni and Aggie. Only one woman had separated herself. She stood at the bottom of the porch steps, gazing out over the yard. I shot Grandma Nonni an inquiring look.
“Her name is Elmeda,” she replied. “Everyone in this family can be traced back to her.”
As if on cue, faces appeared in the distance. Hundreds, thousands, all converging on the porch. I stared in awe. All these people – men, women, children – of all ages; I was one of them. Yet they had lived decades and centuries before me. Why were they at Grandma Nonni’s?
“What do you do, Love?” Elmeda spoke, her voice raspy.
“I work at a bank.”
“I can tell by your eyes that you’re not happy there.” She beckoned me forward, led me off the porch and to our ancestors. Every now and then introductions were made.
“These people,” Elmeda said as we walked, “know of hardship, sadness, and adversity.” She slipped her arm through mine. “But they know it doesn’t have to be that way, and they’re here to help. Me included.”
I stopped. “How?”
“Family is always there to help each other, whether you know it or not.”
At this point, we were back at the porch. Nonni and Aggie were waiting for me.
“Call your mother when you get to work tomorrow,” Grandma Aggie said, giving me a long hug. “Tell her the lilies will come back.” At my confused look she winked. “I did help get your job. You’re quite good at it.”
“I’ll walk you down the drive,” Grandma Nonni said, taking my hand.
“That summer you told me about the Blood Moon,” I said. “I thought…”
“I was crazy?” Grandma Nonni finished for me, laughing. I blushed and nodded. “So did I when I was told. Most of us did.” We had reached the end of the driveway. “Sometimes, you need to see with both your heart and your eyes before your mind understands.”
My alarm went off promptly at seven. Had that been real? If I wanted to be at work on time, I didn’t have time to figure that out. After a quick shower I dashed into the kitchen to fudge a decent breakfast. A non-toasted Pop Tart and instant coffee made with warm tap water would have to suffice. As I ate, Ashleigh entered the kitchen. She didn’t have to be in to work until 10. Lucky.
“’Morning,” Ashleigh said, preparing herself a pot of real coffee.
“’Morning,” I replied, mouth full of Pop Tart. I washed it down with my coffee. “Gotta run.”
“There’s a note for you on the table. Jessica found it taped to the door when she came back from her run last night.”
In our building’s elevator I read it.
I told you family is always there to help and I will be with you today. It was a joy
to have met you.
All my love, Elmeda
I thought about the note all the way to work. Remembering Grandma Aggie, I called Mom as soon as I got in.
“Grandma Aggie says your lilies will come back.”
Mom squealed. “You experienced the Blood Moon?” I told her all that happened, including the note. “What could that mean?” Mom asked.
“Lotti, Mr. Andrews wants to speak to you,” Alex, my co-worker, said, raising a curious eyebrow. I loved it when he did that. Maybe I’d have to take Jessica’s advice and ask him out after my meeting. Potential balance in my life? Harmony?
“Call you back, Mom. I think I’m about to find out.” My mind was ready to understand. I loved my family.
Right before I left my office, I closed my eyes and kissed my note. “Okay, Elmeda. It’s showtime!”