Outskirts online journal

Patricia Howell

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Volume 1, May 1996

in the beginning, t'was the moon

Name's Bertha, Bertha deBlues as blue as the night.

Bertha have you lost your reason'? The night ain't blue.

... Never had much use for reason, survived on instinct and knowing when to laugh. As for the night, honey chile, of course it's blue!

If ya look hard enuf ya can see it. I always borrowed Auntie HeHa little thimble glass for that purpose, the one she used to drink her "medicine" in. Well, that's what she liked to call it. We all knew different but kept quiet. Reckon we all need masks. ANYWHO, wipe that glass out and point it at the night sky! Almost as good as the telescope Cheater McSkeeter set up in the loft of his barn but ya had to pay to use the telescope. No account hound dog.

So we found other ways to look at the stars, that thimble glass being the best. If ya look real hard ya can see the blue. Makes ya feel real strange like someone's whispering a joke in your ear. Ya can hear the words, but not the reason. Must be Sister Moon's big joke. Is it night, is it day, does it matter? Bad as a bug bite.

We all have our little secrets, I reckon. Different coats to try on, like ole Widow Hank who'd laugh, spit tobacco juice at the ground, and say

"Call me Hank, I'm nobody Mrs," so we did.

She liked to play with that, cutting her hair real short, and wearing jeans & plaid shirts with the buttons on thc wrong side - so folks called her a man, but on the night of the full moon [so hoohaas, yipyaps and no accounts liked to howl]. Hank was seen dancing along the side of the Rivver, in a long white gown, and long silver hair.

Thought of that makes me scratch, but the Full Moon always left us guessing.

Like the cousin no one wants to talk about, but makes you smile when she floats in your mind. Ever since I was knee high to a coyote, folks spoke in whispers 'bout the Moon, if they spoke at all. Sometimes got the impression they thought Sister Moon was sneaking up the hall, mebbe listening at the door. Folks sure act funny when it comes to the Moon. Couldn't admit to feeling funny, though.

When ya watched the sky at night ya better be careful, ya hear me? Else you'll soon think the fleas are doing the cha-cha As for head lice, they sing. Romance! Revolution! If ya eve' reckon ya hear voices at night, go stick your head under the leak, spicket out back. Get rid of 'em bugs. Don't let on 'bout Sister Moon.

Ma threaten to beat me blue if I ever mention the Moon in her presence. Hah. Ma wanted to be refine, but I knew better. She drew Sister Moon's faces in her diary. I crawled across the roof and snatched it off her I wanna be young again but it ain't no use table. The fleas and de ole ShiverMan just wouldn't let me rest that night until I kicked. I'm kin to a jack rabbit, I reckon. Ma couldn't catch me the next day; and, I put the book back later. And so it goes.

The Moon makes ya funny, I s'pect. Some folks say there's nothing to it, and you're foolish if ya think it's so. Huh, they 'mind me of dried up leaves in the wind, better yet, the whine of a dog when there ain't no dog. Gotta be sumpin to it if it makes Ma yellow. She'd die if she knew I said that, but why else would she get so mean. If someone hollers, crawl after 'em in the grass. They're hiding sumpin, like the Moon with her mask, and Ma with her book. S'pect it has sumpin to do with the Amazing Grace, but that's another song.

Whenever the women in our town whispered about the Moon they called her Sister, smiled, and didn't say much more. Threadbare Theda mixed her medicines in Sister Moon's light. Picked the roots and herbs near the Rivver when Sister was sailing high in the sky. Sometimes Theda reeled me in for the job. I had to sneak out to do it, though. Money was scarce. If Ma had ever caught me she woulda hung my hide out to dry on the back porch. Pa didn't care, he always gently smiled when I told 'im my stories, shook his head, and told me to keep my hind legs strong.

Hmn, he ain't no fool. He understood jack rabbit and me. Knew I had to fight to stay alive where Ma was concerned.

Sometimes, when I think back to my young pup days, I gotta scratch my head and wonder. How much did I know 'fore school learning chased it outta my mind? Ya know the type of knowings I'm referring to, that comes as natural as breathing and sticks like the glue in your bones - until ya go and spoil it with thinking. When I was young, and jack rabbit and de ShiverMan did mambas in my heart, I'd sit on the windowsill at night. Sister Moon would smile at me thru the crown of the tall oak which snuggled up 'gainst the house. She'd whispered stories in my ear whenever I cared to listen.

I 'member one particular summer when ole Man Sun was beating us up during the day and leaving a blanket to wrap round us at night. Didn't have no choice in the matter. Air was as thick as Ma's bad pea soup. T'was hard to breathe! Folks put off their doings till late at night that summer. T'was coolest than. Good way to fight off de ShiverMan and keep your mask on tight.

Some nights, that summer, I 'member running to the window and just standing there, giggling (Gotta wonder what made me giggle. If ya had asked me, than, I probably couldn't of told ya.). Sister Moon's charms musta gotten to me. De ole ShiverMan didn't he'p One night I shimmied down the tree like a drowned cat, and ran into the backyard. Fortunately, the bushes hide me from the house and Ma's eyes. I looked into the bushes, at the shadows t'ween the leaves, giggling until I just HAD to dance. Jumping round like Jack Rabbit trying to swim on his back. The dance was over in a few minutes. I scampered up the tree soon afterwards.


'Minds me of Ma's drowning Pa's jigsaw puzzle in the Rivver, dropping piece after piece in the water, watching 'em swim out to sea.

All's I know is the Moon makes folks funny.

Started high school that fall and lost sumpin precious. Makes me sigh at night, now, when I can't sleep, looking up at Sister Moon and wishing. Mebbe someday.



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