The Moon in Natchitoches

You might know, if you were to look down on the town as one looks up at the stars, the points of its terrestrial constellation. It is nestled in the neck of a body of water that had many years past been disconnected from its greater source. The inability to define such a paradox resulted in the remaining water to be called the River Lake. It moves through the town like the midsection of a snake that has just swallowed a mouse whole—damp, fat, and slow. To the south there is a glaring actual lake that no body visits due to an unverified rumor of it being riddled with toxins. The rumor is supplemented by the various sighting of green meteors that sad people have confirmed by claiming that the balls of light rushed over the hood of the car as the drivers meandered around the town’s backroads weeping and singing loudly to Etta James, flicking cherries of cigarettes that to the asphalt roads also look like meteors. In the center of the town is the unbeating heart of it all, the cemetery where you can find the oldest bodies in the Louisiana Purchase. Everyone in town is always just outside of the cemetery, whether they are walking to school, going to church, or celebrating someone’s birthday. At night, the bellies of the centuries’ dead are said to glow, and on some nights their soft light breaches the surface causing a gelatinous hue across the hill where they rest.

Although the town doesn’t know it, the pilots who run the route from Alexandria to Shreveport have nicknamed the town Nebulitoches based on its odd glow and points of light. The college students in town also have a nickname for it (Natch-i-Trash) but that name has nothing to do with the reason why a part of the moon wound up splayed out across the center of Second Street (a street just outside of the cemetery). Course everyone who saw it says it was the moon, but it really was no more the moon than a thought you have midday about an ice cube is your brain. It was a flicker of a sentiment of the moon that smacked into the pavement, reeking like the autumn of the trash strike and oozing like a days-old watermelon. The first resident to find it was shuffling home from the bar by the River Lake and nearly tripped over the thing. He knew it was the moon, or a whiff of it, by instinct and patted it a few times sympathetically on its gooey brim saying, “Who-ee, son! looks like you’ve gone and got drunker than I am. At least I still know my way home.” The moon certainly did not know its way home, though had it a mouth and tongue and all other biological requirements for speaking it would’ve informed the man it was a staunch teetotaler. Forgive it for ending up in Louisiana.

Second Street, like all the other streets in Natchitoches, remained very still at night and little occupied. For this reason, and due to that cunning flap of a moon that figured its way home by four in the morning, only a few residents actually saw it—living ones anyway. The ghosts of the cemetery like ghosts everywhere are stirred by the uncanny, and came to grip their fingers around the cold bars to watch the thing heaving and moaning and joined in unison. One woman, very old to town, was witness to the whole symphony. She sat on her porch across the way smoking a joint and laughing and laughing. The moon accused itself for winding up in such a state, in a town that looked like a constellation, with people who barely recognized the strange. It leaked great globs that must have resembled crying because the third resident to see it was a young woman who had barely moved to town and believed it to be sobbing. The young woman, in her short life, had come to love more people that were dead now than alive, and on her first night out had left a crowd of people to wander the cemetery and convene with the half-cut pillar of a granite stone aligned above the body of a woman named Helena. Helena had been dead four times as many years as the young woman had been alive, but the girl was propelled to her, as she was to all things passed on. She came to visit Helena frequently, now, leaving letters weekly with small gifts stolen from parties where she was meant to be making friends. She approached the moon carefully, weeping. “Helena, is that you?” The moon was not Helena, but the tender gesture of the young woman wiping away scorns of tears that came to her face made it wish to be. It reached out an arm to her. It did not know it had an arm before it did so. The two sat in the middle of the road—a safe thing to do in a town like Natchitoches—and leaned into one another. The girl did not care that the moon excreted its souring skin onto her t-shirt. The moon did not care that the girl had no idea who it was. If the college party across the parking lot hadn’t been full of college students after all, the number of sightings of the moon would’ve gone up by twenty. However, that night at the party, Jenna, a freshman from south of I-10, threw up for over thirty minutes in the bathroom but Daniel, a sophomore from West Monroe, had been in love with her long enough that he kissed her anyway and distracted everybody. When Daniel left the party, smiling from cheek to chin, he was the fourth and the last to come upon the moon. He wobbled over, lovingly, to the moon and the young woman still embracing and said “Hey y’all lovebirds, it’s real late now and it’s time the whole family went home.” And all three did.  

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