The Far Side of the Moon
by Fiona Davis
Life wasn’t easy when I was growing up. Jobs were scarce, pay was low, and when Dad lost his job at the mill it seemed like we had come to the end of a very difficult road. The night he told Mom she burst into tears. She told him she couldn’t live like this anymore, and she ran off to their bedroom, slamming the door as usual.
Meanwhile, Dad had slipped quietly outside. I put my little brothers to sleep, then stepped out into the cool autumn evening. There was no point in trying to talk to Mom yet.
I found him in the front yard, a lone figure standing in the moonlight, carefully smoking a cigarette. It was his only vice, and since we couldn’t afford much he only bought a few now and then. He savored every single one like a fine cigar.
He was staring up at the moon, his face illuminated by the silvery light, making him appear washed out, almost ghost-like. He looked tired.
“Daddy?” I said as I approached, my voice barely a whisper.
I hesitated. “What are we going to do now?”
He was still lost in thought, staring up at the man in the moon. I wondered if he were looking back at Dad. “Mmmmm?”
I considered my words carefully. This was a new situation, and I didn’t know quite how to put my fears into words. “What are we going to do? You know, now that you ain’t working anymore.”
“Aren’t working,” he corrected gently, absentmindedly.
He seemed to come out of his reverie, and shook his head briefly. He looked me in the eye and made his best effort to smile convincingly. “I’m sorry, honey.” He took another drag of his cigarette.
“Look... Don’t you worry about anything, okay? I’m going to take care of you, all of you. I will always take care of you. Okay?”
I felt like crying. I knew when he meant things, when he was sure of himself. And he wasn’t sure at all. He was scared; I could hear it in his voice. “But Daddy... Where are you going to find another job?”
He looked back up at the moon, thoughtful again. He finished his cigarette and then smiled sadly. “On the far side of the moon, maybe,” he replied. The tone of his voice told me that the conversation was over.
* * *
Dad found another job soon thereafter. He worked long hours, and sometimes would be away on business trips for several days at a time, but he was making more money than he ever had at the mill.
He frequently came home with other things too: toys for us, jewelry and furs for mom, thick steaks and roasts big enough to feed an army. We moved out of the small ruin of a house we lived in and into a more respectable domicile. Mom finally had the admiration of her friends, and she was thrilled. But something was wrong.
I couldn’t put my finger on it. I started asking questions, and the answer was always the same. No matter how many arguments I raised, or how much I badgered him for a real answer, his response never varied. Everything came from the far side of the moon. His long trips were to the far side of the moon. The moon!
I know now that he was trying to protect me. I can’t second-guess his choices, no matter what I thought at the time.
My childhood ended when I was twelve, the night I helped him in the door because he was too weak to walk in by himself. He was limping, breathing heavily and covered with sweat. When I got his coat off I saw he was also covered with blood. He never told me what happened that night, and I never asked. But I understood then what I’d suspected for a long time, and I never again asked him about where things came from, or where he’d been.
The night I graduated high school, I went out to celebrate with my friends. Mom had taken my little brothers to visit grandma and grandpa, and Dad was home to make sure I didn’t get into too much trouble. Sometime shortly before midnight someone broke into our house and shot him in his recliner, where he was sitting up waiting for me to get home.
At 12:07 I snuck quietly into the house, afraid of getting caught breaking my midnight curfew. It was dark, but something didn’t feel right. Maybe I smelled the blood and subconsciously recognized it. I will never know. Whatever the reason, I turned on the light and found him. He was still breathing, but only barely.
I called 911 and rushed to his side. When he saw me he swallowed hard, struggling for every breath. “Dad, I’ve called an ambulance. Just hold on, okay?”
He smiled at me, and it was the first real smile I had seen in a long time. “No need,” he choked out. Tears welled up in my eyes. “No, Daddy, please just hold on a little longer.”
“Have to go...” he whispered.
“No you don’t!” I was starting to panic. “Daddy, no you don’t!”
“Don’t worry...” he said. “I’m going... far side of the moon... safe...”
* * *
“Mommy?” My daughter’s voice breaks into the memories I am replaying in my head.
“Mmmmm?” I say.
“Why are you sad?”
“Oh... I just miss grandpa, baby.”
“Did he die?” she asks, in a small whisper.
I look down at her. She is so small, so innocent. Finally understanding my father’s words that first night, when all hope seemed lost, I say, “No honey... He just had to go far away for a while.”
“Where?” she asks.
I smile, and there is sadness in my smile, too. “To the far side of the moon, honey. He went to the far side of the moon.”
Copyright © 2008 by Fiona Davis