The moon was wise and round, rimmed with a fiery gold crest that shined very bright against the navy sky. A little girl lay, her hair like curled gold against the grass. Her hand was outstretched, it gripping onto a wrinkly, patchy, red one, which belonged to an old man.
"Where do the old moons go when a new moon comes up?" She asked, moving her head to align with her grandfather's.
"Well, the old moons are cut up into stars, sugar plum." He smiled, his eyes almost the same as the stars that twinkled in the sky.
“How many stars, grandpa?”
“Hundreds. I’m so glad to be back. I get to spend so much more time with you.”
The plaid mat was worn and a cowboy red, the tips of it rustled in the wind. The girl picked up a blueberry biscuit with her sand-covered fingers and gave a little nibble to a white-breasted seagull that flitted along the top of the closed picnic basket. The grandpa held a sandwich in his hands.
“Soon I’ll go and live on the moon.” The grandpa patted the girl’s shoulder.
“What do-” the girl started.
A silky, foam-crested wave ran along the sand in front of them.
“What do you mean, Grandpa?’ the girl asked, not understanding her grandpa’s solemn expression.
“Well, sugar plum, I’ll-I’ll leave you and live on the moon, along the stars. And in the distant, far away future, you shall too. My mother’s up there and my father is too. It’s my time for me to join them.”
“Will you cut up as many moons as you can, grandpa?” the girl asked, looking away at the wind who was chatting with the sea.
“Almost every night will be star-flooded.”
“When will I see you, grandpa?”
“Every full moon, I’ll be there.”
So the girl sat, doubt bubbling up inside her head, but the weary grandpa kept patting her hand and saying, “It’s going to be alright.”
The girl’s sandy hair was now short and soft, it provided a strong contrast against her high cheekbones. The girl and her grandpa laid in the car, staring up at the sunroof which was blurry. But they could still see purply lines that swirled around through the black, it was hypnotizing.
“It’s a shame, we couldn't be outside on the field.” the grandfather, said trying to move into a more comfortable position.
“Yes, it is.” The girl said, sighing. Too soft-hearted to mention that it was only because of him that she couldn’t go out.
“Grandpa?” The girl questioned, straightening her hair, “What happens when there are too many stars in the sky?”
“They’re sewed back together, of course. If they weren’t the sky would be all gold and silver.
The girl rested her head against her grandfather’s fragile shoulder, her feet sank in old candy wrappers and crumbs of crackers. The man looked up at the sky as if it was a precious painting that would only last for seconds.
The painting was an amazing one, dark colours were stroked, with bright dots of silver and swirls of gold which were creased with twilight purple. It hung on the blueish hospital wall. Hanging in front of the grandpa who laid on his firm bed. He heard the door creak and welcomed the visitor excitedly. A girl with sleek, shoulder-length hair marched in.
“Grandpa!” she shouted and flew down to his bed, hugging his hands in her bright ones.
He smiled, not wanting to waste his little energy on talking.
“I just won a drawing competition and a trip to Disneyland. It’d be so fun if you could come with me. My 13th birthday is coming up, my mom’s planning a Full House theme. That is a weird theme, like what’s my birthday cake going to have on it. Michelle’s face. It’d be so weird if someone called dibs on the nose. Right? Grandpa?”
“Yes-sugar plum.” he nodded.
“Dad’s also coming home from China. He had a business trip there, I’m so excited. He said he bought me lots of trinkets.”
“Yes, but don’t take me to Disneyland. I’m going to the moon soon.”
“No-grandpa.” The girl smiled a forced smile to block her falling tears.
“Yes-sugar plum. I have that beautiful painting to remind me to keep my promises. I’ll cut up the stars and show up on full moons.” the last word was almost a croak.
The girl painted, she sat with a shiny new canvas and a set of untouched paints. She painted a man with frosty hair and deep indigo eyes. She painted a moon behind him, a wrinkly disc of silver. She drew herself looking up at him like he was her hero. He really was. And she kept that right next to her bed. Every day when she missed him, she’d look at the painting. She didn’t want to go and see the moon yet. Not alone. Not yet. It was empty and she felt a ghost of her grandpa laughing and talking. It hurt. She sighed.
The girl and her friend sat in front of the circular kitchen window, which was blessed with a brilliant view of whispering pines and a moon-glowing lake that hummed loudly but quietly at the same time. They drank the clear soup that was dotted with big mushrooms and wild greens in ceramic bowls that were painted with bright reds and calm blues. Her friend had a slender face and black eyes that radiated against her warm skin.
“Why’re you looking there?” The friend asked the girl, sifting her spoon through her soup.
“Well, I think it’s beautiful.” The girl pointed at the moon, “The moon really is.”
“I can see-eyes. There are craters and a mouth. And a sunken nose in the middle. It’s a f-face.”
“Yeah.” the girl smiled.
“W-what. I must be some illusion. Right?” the friend looked at the girl with imploring eyes.
“No. It’s real.”
She stared at the big circle, she pictured every night with her grandpa.
“It’s my grandfather.” she thought aloud.
“What’d you say?” the friend turned her head.
The girl took another spoon of the spicy goodness.
“Nothing. Nothing.” the girl assured.
That smile was her grandfather’s. Those thin lips were his too. He was watching her, praying for her. Always with her. He was the man on the moon.