Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Adolescence/Teen Years (07/16/09)
TITLE: What the Moon Knows
By Betty Castleberry
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I crept down the hallway and peeked in Mama and Daddy’s room. Daddy was snoring and Mama lay so still I watched to make sure she was breathing. Convinced they were sound asleep, I tiptoed out the front door.
The moonlight cast a soft glow across the path. Underneath my bare feet, the packed clay felt cool and hard. Katydids clicked from the bushes along the path. I found Maxey standing under the shag bark tree just where he said he’d be. His black hair and lean frame made my heart do a somersault.
He flicked a cigarette butt down and ground it into the earth with his boot. “Hey Janie. You done it.”
“Yep, I told you I’d come.”
He sat under the tree and patted a spot beside him. I joined him.
Maxey shook his head. “Your daddy would kill me if he found me with you.”
“I’m sixteen now. I see who I want to see.”
“Then why ya meetin’ me in the middle of the night?”
I picked up a stone and turned it over in my palm. “Well, it ain‘t you. I don’t think Daddy would like me seein’ nobody.”
Something scuttled in the bushes nearby. Startled, I dropped the stone.
Maxey grinned. “It’s just a coon. Did ya think it was your daddy?”
“Maybe. I don’t know.”
He let out an audible breath. “You know your daddy wouldn’t have all the money he’s got if folks like me didn’t smoke.”
I pictured Daddy driving around our tobacco fields checking on the workers. He said he had worked his way up to owning his own farm, but the truth is, I’d never seen him working in the fields. Maybe he worked some before I came along. I had to believe him.
Wanting to think about something else, I looked at Maxey. “Why’d you drop out of school?”
“Wasn’t nothin’ for me there. I don’t need to know how to solve algebra problems.”
“I miss seein’ you there.”
“You’re the only thing I miss about it, truth be told.”
A breeze puffed my hair across my cheek. “Max, do you believe in God?”
“Yes and no.”
“It can’t be yes and no. You either do or you don’t.”
He leaned toward me. “Do you?”
“See the moon? When I see something that big that lights up the whole sky, then I think there just might be a God. But when I think about how things turn out for some people, then I think there might not be. Why is it that my daddy can’t find a job and my mama is sickly? If there‘s a God, he don’t care about us. ”
I touched Maxey’s hand. “God cares about everybody. Sometimes God puts us though trials to teach us something.”
He lit another cigarette. I watched its red tip volley back and forth from his fingertips to his mouth. “You look classy. You’re wearin’ a fancy blouse.”
“Thanks, but It’s just somethin’ Mama bought for me. It ain’t really special.”
“Well, it sure looks special. I can’t never buy you nothin’ like that, Janie.” He seemed deep in thought. “You don’t need me. I’ll be just like my dad and never amount to anything, even if I try. Besides, your people wouldn’t accept me. Maybe your God will help you find somebody you deserve.”
“I don’t care what my people think, but I do care if you believe in God or not. I can‘t be with somebody who don’t.”
Max snorted. “That’s the best excuse I heard yet for dumpin’ somebody.”
My lower lip quivered. “Sounds like you’re dumpin’ me.”
Max lifted my chin. “You. Don’t. Need. Me. Now go home.”
I stood up and dusted the dirt off my backside, trying to keep my dignity in tact. “Maxey, I’m gonna pray for you.”
I ran all the way back to the house and went to my room. Kneeling at my bedside, I did pray for him. Through my window, I watched clouds move swiftly across the moon, obscuring it, then bring it back into sharp focus. For an instant, the man in the moon became Maxey, his head bent in prayer. That had to be a sign. I smiled.
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