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Red Moon

June 26, 2011 | Comments: 0 | Views: 174

I stood out in the cold, damp grass barefoot and felt the tendrils of mist curl around me. The lighthouse half a mile down the beach flashed through the fog every one and a half seconds exactly. Last year it was one of the last kerosene-lamp lighthouses still used on the east coast, but in May they changed it to electric bulbs after someone on a sailboat couldn't see it and hit the rocks. He survived with minor injuries, and it was later found that he was drinking when he wrecked. The lights were changed anyway.

I listened to the waves crash against those rocks a hundred feet below. I was sitting on the edge of the cliff five minutes away from my house with my feet hanging over the edge. There was a fence that guarded the edge of the cliff, but twenty feet on either side of me the owner of the land had gotten rid of it. The neighbors had both fenced him off.

I checked my watch. 11:11 P.M. "Make a wish, Christina," my grandpa would say if he were here. Last I saw him, he was within the white walls of St. Mark's Hospital. He's now at the intensive care unit. I don't know what color the walls are. He'd seen every single eclipse that occurred in his life since he was four. I didn't think he would see this one, though.

"I wish Grandpa could see the eclipse," I whispered.

Nothing happened. A breeze barely stirred the fog. The sea continued to breathe, regal and calming. I looked up, but I couldn't see even a glow where the moon was through the mists. The earth's shadow would be moving across its silver face in an hour. I knew I wouldn't see it from the cliff. Grandpa was twenty miles away. Maybe the sky was clear there.

I saw a light, faint as a star, on the horizon. A ship heading for shore. I hope it appreciates the electric lighthouse, I thought. I stood up and walked back to my house and got in the car. I didn't have my license yet, but I could drive well enough. Screw curfew. I took the key out of the glove compartment and started up the car, hoping I didn't wake my dad. The way to St. Mark's was pretty easy to remember. It was mostly a straight line.

After forty minutes, I pulled into the hospital parking lot. It was nearly empty. The building was half dark. I went in and found only one other person in the lobby. The woman at the desk looked up. "Can I help you, dear?"

"I'm here to visit Joe Schaffer, my grandfather."

"And your name?"

"Christina Schaffer."

She rifled through some files, then she made a phone call. "I'm sorry, but visiting hours are between ten and four," she said.

"I know, but I need to see him now," I said.

"Do you have a good reason?"

I faltered. "It's the lunar eclipse tonight."


"I didn't think you'd understand. Please, I need to be with him. He's expecting me."

She hesitated. Then she sighed. "Julie will show you to him. But you can't be long."

"Thank you very much," I said. "This means a lot." I followed Julie, the nurse, to the second floor, room twelve. She knocked and opened the door. The walls were white.

"Mr. Schaffer, are you awake? Your granddaughter is here to see you."

My grandpa looked at me and grinned. He was propped up on a small mountain of pillows, an IV tube was stuck in his arm, and an oxygen tank was by the side of the bed, but he grinned. That's my grandpa for you. I grinned too.

"Call me when you're ready to leave," the nurse said. "The button is above Mr. Schaffer's bed."

"I told you," my grandpa rasped to the nurse, pausing for breath between words. "My name is Joe."

The nurse smiled and left.

"Grandpa!" I said as soon as she was gone.

"Christina," he said. "What brings you at this hour?"

"It's the eclipse tonight," I said. "It was foggy at my house, so I came here."

"Well, that's very nice, but I think there's a small problem. Do you see that overhead?" He pointed. "That's called a ceiling. So unless you brought you x-ray vision goggles..."

I laughed. "But you know that door down the hall? Out there's called a balcony. No x-ray vision required."

"Well, go right ahead, then. Describe every detail for me. I'll be here."

"But, grandpa..." I swallowed. "The next eclipse isn't for another year." I left the rest of the sentence unspoken. The doctor had given my grandpa three months to live.

He nodded. "Well, tell you what. If you go out on that balcony, climb onto the roof, and cut a hole in it right there, I'd love to." He started coughing, and I was worried until I realized he was just laughing.

"No, I'm serious!" I insisted. "Look, there's a wheelchair. I'll just wheel you out. You've seen every other eclipse in your life since you were four, you've told me a million times."

"They'll never let you do that. Besides, these goddamned wires-I'm part of the room now. You go and see it, and come back and tell me."

I paused. Then I sighed. I was just being selfish. "You're probably right. I just wish you could come."

"I wish I could, too."

It was quiet for a moment. Then my grandpa said, "That would really be something."

I looked at him.

"Christina, you're right. Take me there."

"What? Grandpa, you said yourself-"

"I know, I know. But you know what? I would rather be out there than in here. And I'm going to die either way. Bring the wheelchair here."


"It doesn't matter. Like I said, I'll die hooked up to the room or not."

"Are you sure? Grandpa, I can't."

"Of course you can. Please, take me outside."

I stared at him for a long moment. Then I checked my watch. Midnight on the dot. I got the wheelchair from against the wall with shaking hands. Grandpa Joe was slowly disconnecting himself from the tubes and wires. First was the IV. Then the heart and breathing monitors. Finally, he took the oxygen tube off and set all the loose ends on the bed. "I suspect I'll have no further use for those. Help me in."

I lifted him up and set him down in the wheelchair. He'd become so thin and shrunken, it was hardly a challenge. "Thank you," he said. I smiled, but I was trembling. What have I done?

The nurse would be coming back soon. We'd have to get out quickly. I wheeled him through the door and into the deserted hall. The balcony was down at the end of it. I looked around wordlessly and pushed him towards the door. His head drooped to one side. "You okay?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. There was something in his voice-a note of melancholy, maybe. But I also heard excitement. I hoped it would be worth it. The sound of the wheels on the floor seemed deafening in the silence of the hospital. I walked faster and hoped the nurse didn't catch us. After what seemed like forever, we reached the balcony door. I pushed it open and let us outside. The night was black as pitch except for the light of the moon. I could see the tiny edge of a dark red shadow on the moon's horizon. I sat down next to my grandpa and heard him gasp. He didn't say anything, but his eyes shone. They almost looked like the eyes of a child, despite the wrinkled and weathered face they belonged to. The shadow slid serenely across the moon until it looked like a drop of blood in the sky. I looked out towards the sea. The mist was just visible on the shoreline. Here the air was crystal clear.

Suddenly I heard my grandpa. His breathing was fast. "Are you alright?" I asked again.

"Yes, I'm just fine," he managed to say. "Tell your dad I love him. And tell him to tell you that I love you, too."

"Tell them yourself," I said, but I stopped. I held his thin hand tightly. The shadow was nearly gone from the moon. "Not yet..."

"Don't worry about me. Really." He was breathing hard now, and he closed his eyes. I stared. I didn't think he would go so soon. He looked like he was sleeping now. I was startled at how frail he looked. I laid my head on his shoulder and saw a tear fall on his neck. Mine.

"Don't cry," he said. "That's an order." He grinned one last time. Then I felt his hand go limp in mine, and much too soon later the little clouds of mist from his breath stopped coming.

The shadow had just slipped off the other side of the moon as I wheeled him back to the room and pushed the button above his bed. Then I drove home and passed the driveway and kept driving until I reached the sea. I parked and walked to the edge of the cliff where there was no fence.

I checked my watch. 2:17 A.M. The fog had cleared, and I sat down with my legs dangling over the edge of the cliff. I looked at the pearly white moon, and I let my tears mingle with the sea spray a hundred feet below.

(c) 2010

Lucia Baker is a young author from Minnesota. Visit her website here:

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