The Man and the Moon

The Man and the Moon

A Story by Kylan


across the stratosphere
a final message
'give my wife my
then nothing more


– Peter Schilling, “Major Tom (Coming Home)”


It is very cold. Hands won't barely move anymore, fingers tight, unfeeling. And I'm very tired. I can't stay awake much longer. Outside, the stars in the steep barrows of space squint like weak old eyes and the shuttle moans slowly, drumming as it passes over the moon. The bleak, stripped heartland, craters shaped and canyoned. Old ruins of some airless civilization. I put my fingers to the glass of the window.


The constellations look very different out here.


Aborted, I flicker.


Another breath – my eyelids droop further. It is very cold, and very silent. My thoughts emerge like noctambulants. Coming out in the night of my consciousness. I see earth. Bearded with clouds, the boots and appendages of land. The boundaries and territories laughable and terrible. I wonder how much longer I have. The minutes and seconds and milliseconds. The sun crosses my window. I have to look at it sideways. Godhead. Manes of nuclear energy looping off its surface like lariats. The sight is a like a diamond given to a man dying of thirst.


Sleep stalks me.


I think about her.


I watch the sun pass and I think about her.




I show Kim the moon. Tucking her in, I point up to it. Round and pale and sunless, some kind of cavedweller with no need for eyes, molting its skin, weeping its light. It is sad and unmarried. She asks if that's where daddy is. I tell her yes. I tell her that he is on the moon, teetering like a toddler in the absence of gravity, dressed in white and wearing his headgear, like some cosmic beekeeper. The little tin foil pod that brought him standing on its stilts, lifeless and industrious as a virus. She smiles. The light from the moon puts dark shadows on her face. She looks at the moon. I look at her.


“He's the man in the moon,” she says.


I smile, too, smooth the hair from her forehead, and kiss her softly. Her forehead is warm and unmarred and she is very small. I don't say anything.


Actually, he is the man orbiting the moon. Forever orbiting. Tucked in by folds of gravity, goodnight-kissed by the private, secret light of the moon. He rattles in his spaceship, like a pea in a sundried pod. I haven't figured out yet how I'll tell her. How I'll tell her daddy isn't coming home. Daddy is going to stay up there forever. Daddy ran out of oxygen. Daddy's rocketship broke.


He is spacejunk now.


I leave the room. I turn out the light, filament fading like a smirk.


“Night mom.”


“Night, hon.”


I leave the hall light on, and the door open a crack, and I go into the kitchen. I think about turning the radio on, but that will probably make it worse. News of the accident, the fatal mistake. White noise. White head and body floating in a useless suit. I pour the tea. The wind rattles the windowpanes, seeking escape from its black, outdoor asylum.




we can't keep our hands off of each other. He whispers something into my ear and I don't even hear it because I'm too distracted by the feeling of his breath on the little hairs of my earlobe. The way my earring catches on his chin. The people in the restaurant look at us. The waiters pass by, white and hurrying like maze mice. The wine in the glasses is red, lulled, my lip-prints on the glass like rorshach blots. And what do you see here? A butterfly? Two men dueling? Rabbits? Mad as rabbits, is what we are. Just crazy. Crazy for him to leave behind his dad and the law degree and me running away from Ashborough with some outoftown guy with a halfsmile that rags on the side of his face and a bad shave job. There's a new moon tonight, he says to me. I look outside. The sky is completely black. The moon hidden and unseen, like a bride adorned for her husband. He rubs my fingernails. Smiling. I wonder where it goes to? Where does the new moon go?


I expect a call from Harvey Sandrock soon. Mission command leader. His voice will be tired. He will have been smoking. There will be complete silence for a few minutes, save the wind. The flowers in the vase on the table lag like sickly, bedridden children. The teakettles purses its lips. The teabag in my mug slumps like a bodybag and I breathe in steam for a moment. It hasn't hit me yet. My thoughts are too scattered. They pinball back and forth wiggle down little wormholes of memory and I can't help but think about him, about his promises, about his smell after he worked outside, about his cloudy eyes, concerned, lingering.


But the phone just sits there. Cradled and silent, like a stillborn baby. I drink a little tea and I go to the window. I can hear catfights behind the fence, wailing and eerie. I look at the moon. It is not as timid and flighty as it pretends to be. Pale-faced seductress. Helpless and complimenting, breathless. Singing siren songs to the dreamy hearts of men and astronauts.


my astronaut.


we sit on the beach and watch the breaker waves and listen to the crackpot seagulls preach and wheel. We can see the rocket in the distance. Great, white monolith, paragon from the future, tower of babel. The flowers he has given me pant like confounded tongues. I wiggle my toes under the sand, where it is warm.


'I'll bring you back a moonrock, babe. How bout that?'


I nod. I think I'd be just as keen on getting another bunch of flowers from the farmer's market.


'Man oh man, it's exciting, isn't it?'


'Sure. Sure it is.'


He looks at me. The sun is coming up. I think about how far away it really is, and the trip it makes to visit us.


'Don't worry,' he whispers into my ear. 'I've trained for this. I'll be home in a week.'


I lie down. He lies down, too.


'You promise you'll bring me back a moonrock?'


'I'll bring down the whole godforsaken moon, kid. And a star for Kim.'


'In a week?'


'In a week.'


'You'd better.'


He smiles.


I hear Kim coming down the hall, her eyes dazed by the sudden light of the hallway and kitchen. In her little nightgown, she sways on the spot, sleeved by sleep.


“I heard voices, mom.”


“It's just me. It must have been the wind.”


She walks over to where I sit and sits beside me. The wind murmurs and the flowers on the table seem to stir in their catnaps, their faces out of place in the yellow, waiting kitchen, shuddering like glitches. I kiss her on the forehead. She lays against my heart.


“I miss him,” she whispers.


I don't say anything. This is happening to me far too often. Silent as the moon with her secrets and her silver-edged rumors. I avoid her eyes. I drink some tea, which I can't taste, because my nose is stuffed up and I'm crying. I wipe my nose and I hold my breath as it comes out in short draws. Kim puts her hand on mine.


“What's wrong?”


The moon outside waits patiently for me to answer, a priest in confession.


I tell Kim that Daddy's not coming home. That things went wrong, that space was just too big and too dangerous. I tell her that he loved her and that we are going to get through this together. I tell her he tried to bring back the moon, but that the moon was too big and too stubborn.


She keeps her hand on mine.


The stars fade in and out, like fads and the leaves outside are cast in the wind, dark flowers cast at a bodiless funeral.


The phone rings.


I have to look away from the light nested under the rocket. Blooming, divulging. Lift off, they're all saying.


we have lift off.




The eternity. The eternities. Vast and deep, and the little globes of light and the unmapped spasms of darkness. I am a waxless, wickless candle, gasping, groping. My wife. My daughter. Here. Orbiting with me, exiled. They are such real ghosts. I savor the cold now, when I feel it. When it comes. It doesn't come.


My head, a cathedral, vast and empty. The stars, a choir. The archbishop sun. There is frost on the glass, there is frost on my lips. I can see them. I can see the galaxies and I point at them for my daughter, like exotic animals in a zoo. Twisting, wrapped up in themselves like egotists. The suns contracting. Expanding. The mute, bald planets, following like latchkeys.


Tin can. Tin head. I watch earth through the window. The sleep comes. It comes and it takes me. We revolve. I close my eyes. I wonder why I didn't do this sooner. I dream dreams filled with shadowy negatives, with muffled voices. My daughter and my wife, trying to shake me awake, their hands pressing mine. Their eyes wide and awake and frantic.


But they shouldn't worry. No one should worry.


I'm coming home.




earth below us

drifting, falling

floating weightless

calling, calling


© 2009 Kylan

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falls off chair in admiration. You're a senior? If I wrote have this good when I was a senior, I wouldn't be wasting away in corporate hell...

Posted 13 Years Ago

There is a great deal to like about this piece--the main characters, especially the wife/mother, are richly textured, especially for such a short piece, and the tone is pitch-perfect; the feeling of loss is palpable. The one aspect of the piece that doesn't work for me is the notion of an astronaut--it's such an unusual profession/lifestyle that is out of the range of experience for virtually everyone, and it's too much in here--it casts too large of a shadow over the whole piece, and dilutes the pieces strengths. I realize that the idea of a 'spaceman" could be a metaphor, but if it is, I missed it. Again, the piece's strengths are considerable, and I think the astronaut notion was an unfortunate choice which tends to blunt their effect, especially given that you could have written something about the issues of loss, ambition, and failure without it.

Posted 13 Years Ago

Kylan, this is brilliant. One of your more superb pieces of fiction.

The description here is absolutely great. In some other works, this type of constant description could totally be boring, but I think it's good here. In some spots, the description in similes does carry on a bit heavily, especially when you're reinforcing an unimportant detail, such as the flowers in the kitchen. I think that those sort of descriptions are good, but seeing as the flowers have no solid place in the story, it's kind of not worth it.

However, I do really like the excess description of space. It's giving realism to this piece, because I'd assume it's indescribable being up there, and it would be the sort of place that you'd continuously strive to describe and can't really (if that makes any sense at all?).

The emotion here is good, but I have a feeling that it needs more. There's emptiness, which is a good emotion to throw in a story like this, and there's a little sadness, but there needs to be more. For the little amount that Kim shows, her mother kind of needs to show more, so that Kim's witholding some emotion for her mother's sake or something.

Aside from this, I really liked the story. In a way, it was fuller than your other flash-fics, and I really enjoyed that. Good work on this, Kylan. Definitely a piece to treasure. :)

- Jewn

Posted 13 Years Ago

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3 Reviews
Shelved in 3 Libraries
Added on October 5, 2009
Last Updated on October 5, 2009



Medford, OR

I'm a senior in high school and I came out of the womb with a pen in one hand and a notebook in the other. I have a complex relationship with poetry and fiction -- fiction being my native format, but .. more..

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