My father used to tell me stories about the moon. He’d say: “the moon sees it all, Billy. Sees when you smile or cry, sees when you’re sleeping or awake, when you’ve been bad an’ good.”
I was around five when he said that the first time, that Sunday night. Little did I know - I’d
be the moon, the moon I imagined with big, round, silver eyes looking at me, as if we were pals. I remember how I wanted to be the moon - to see everything there is to see. I wanted to see the world.
I watched from my bedroom. The moon was reflecting off of the marina as the boats lay still. My father’s friend, old Captain Tory was sailing back on Big Bertha. I saw his yellow waterproof jacket that would blind you, even on the darkest nights. I could see smoke from his cigar as he savoured each puff. And I could see another man.
This man was wearing black clothes, camouflaging himself in the dark. He turned his back on Tory, pulling something from his jacket. I couldn’t see what, but I saw The Captain lift his arms: he clutched his cigar between his teeth but it fell with a bang: a deafening bang.
It was a gunshot. One gunshot to the head.
For a moment I could see his yellow coat floating around, but then it sank like rocks - like the man himself and the man who stole Bertha. The fog made sure I couldn’t see no further from my bedroom, where I should have been sleeping.
Jesus, I stayed awake for weeks shaking like a leaf, scared of the moon – even after my old man’s reassurance.
He’d say, "Billy boy, wa' a dream you silly fool. Ol’ man Tory wa’ lost at sea. Ne’er found his body but Big Bertha went down like murder – pirates apparently, lad."
I tell you, that devil of a thief got lucky. I’ll tell you something else too; Captain Tory came to me once and said, “Billy, lad, don’t fight it, I’d rather my death be a peaceful mystery. These waters were my life, kiddo. I’m home. I haven’t told another soul. When you hear about The Captain, the pirates and the ‘big war’ – it’s just a peaceful mystery. We know the truth, son.”
“Dad, is that why you hate the moon so much?”
“Tory, I love the moon. It sees everything there is to see, so we don’t have to.”
“I want to see the world just like the moon!”
“Tory, lad, I wanted that, but there are some things we shouldn’t see.” I whisper. “Good night, kiddo.”
I head downstairs and pour myself a whiskey and knock it back. I then pour myself another to sit down with.
“You know, Bill, you shouldn’t tell him those stories.” I hear. I listen for voices. Only mine can be heard, calling my wife.
“Could have poured me one.” I hear again. A pale Captain Tory rests on the sofa opposite me, still wearing the yellow jacket, holding a cigar.
“How rude of me.” I chuckle.
“Honestly though, Bill. Isn’t it about time you stopped being that moon?” He puffs the cigar, choking me slightly. I open a window, glancing at the moon as I do.
“I’m not trying to be anything,” I argue.
“Let me go, lad. You’ve a life to live – a boy of your own now.”
“How can I let you go? You come an’ drink whiskey with me every night, fool.”
“Never my idea.” He complains. “I would have set sail on my ship a long time ago.”
“Fine, I don’t want you ‘ere.” Tory inhales more of his cigar. “Why don’t you jus’ tell me?” I shout.
“Doesn’t need to be said, lad. Nothin’ to be said. I’d rather it be a…”
“Peaceful mystery, I know.” I interrupt. “Wa’ never peaceful for me, though, wa’ it?”
“Everybody thinkin’ me crazy, telling me different stories about you, watchin’ ya’ die over and over, not being able to tell anybody. Enough to send a fella’ nuts.”
“Sorry, Bill. It’s just better forgotten. Wanted you to forget all ‘bout it.”
“How can I?” I snap.
My whiskey glass flies through the air, skimming Captain Tory’s head, smashing against the wall, staining it a golden brown. I cusp my hands together, resting my head between my knees like people do when they’re panicking. I am.
“Sweetheart, what’s going on?” Sarah worries.
“He won’t tell me.” I cry.
“Who won’t tell you? Tell you what?” she panics.
I pour myself another whiskey whilst Sarah waits on the sofa for an explanation. I sip it, set it down beside me and take a deep breath.
I say, “My father used to tell me stories about the moon…”