Catch the Moon, Mary

This is the first chapter from ‘Catch the Moon, Mary’, by Wendy Waters, as promised. 

At its best, his soul was in flashing, quivering, constant motion: the gold, yellow, white and silver light of it darting about like fish in a sunlit bowl. But this interminable quest had dimmed and contracted him.

The rigour was self-imposed. No one, not even God, expected him to keep going now. But he was too rigid with honour to abandon his mission. And so, he continued to fly night into night: trailing the paths of bats, mothing deserts of sand and sea, flickering static shadows over bracelets of mountains whose permanent ice-caps glittered like pale blue fire. He searched for the beacon light of a zealot, someone so constipated with righteousness he would never release an ounce of faucal doubt. A man like this – a saint, indeed – would surely have the oratory skills to forge universal redemption. He had seen glints and pulses over the years and once, in the hills of Assisi, a young man possessed of such unshakable naivety his soul lit the night. But no one, not even the saint from Assisi, would sign his contract. And so, he continued his holy, possessed search, retracing his aerie sunless path, robotically switching hemispheres at dawn.

Long past midnight in the year Anno Domini 1986, he was flying low over Sydney, scanning the streets for lovers – those obsessed cavaliers whose tepid, carnal passion was an echo of the once-ecstatic fiesta in his soul. But it was too late for lovers. They were all entwined in beds. These small eclipsed hours belonged to the homeless: the ratlin squadrons who seemingly rose out of cracks in the pavements to rummage the trick-or-treat bins.

He circled the city twice – the full moon casting his wing shadows on the silvered streets, fuselage scrapers and wind-bellied sails of the Opera House – and came to rest above the Botanic Gardens where he hovered languidly, taking a little more of the night into his soul. The rigour of his existence suddenly clagged, and feather-weighted, he began to drift down. Abruptly conscious of his fall, he arched his wings and pressed hard against the sucking earth, missing in this effort a single note of music that pierced the night like a swan’s last song. But he did not miss the contrapuntal harmonies that followed in bubbly processions of notes like windblown spume – music that spoke of elves and nymphs and in the spaces between, where breath might be taken, held a tenuous thread of purest light. Quivering his wings, treading-water in the currents of air, he listened intently, enchantment prickling like sudden cold.

Charted at last, he followed the skein of melody into the labyrinthine sprawl of Sydney’s Western Suburbs, until he found its incongruous source: a dull brown house in Blacktown. Through an open window, the symphony streamed, rimming the edge of a bowl of honeyed bread on the sill. Its familiar was a little girl no more than eight or nine years of age lying in bed, her imagination conjuring an opus so free of complaint it served as a temporary bridge between heaven and earth. The child was too young to understand her genius or the nature of his quest, but later, when she was fifteen or sixteen – old enough to be precocious about her talent but still naïve enough to want to make a difference to humanity – he would return with the contract. Hopefully, she would fail to see the flaw in it and sign. Once the music was his, he would fluoresce the spaces between the notes with subliminal inspiration so bewitching it would charm Satan himself into redemption and serve God’s sublime plan. And the girl? Well, that was the flaw. The girl would never be in awe of her own music, and would therefore never find salvation through it. But the path home, signposted with crucifixions as it was, needed a new marker and the end just had to justify the means.

Hovering outside her window, imbibing her symphony, the angel felt reborn and the guttering flame of his quest reignited. The flaw in the contract slightly blotted his joy. But his concern for the girl was wasted. He had no authority to correct the ancient agreement. Only God could do that, and He was too busy holding the vision of perfection to be disturbed by the small matter of one sacrificed soul.


The opening section of a piece of music or movement.

James Granger pressed his back against the wall, immersing his body in shadow as he unzipped his fly. The full moon cast a perfect circle on his daughter’s bed and in its lime-washed phosphorescence, the room had an underwater look. Sliding his hand over the flea-trail of hair that led to his crotch and gripping his member, he pulled and coaxed as he traced the line of his sleeping daughter’s body: eyes tracking from the mound of her naked pubis, over the swell of her belly to the nipples studding the bodice of her thin cotton nightgown.

Mary held her breath, aware that her father was once again hovering in the brown shadows just inside her door, watching her. She lay on her back, eyes screwed shut, hands folded protectively over her abdomen and while her father tugged and strained, she imagined a symphony: violins taking the lead, cellos and violas suspending a harmony over rolling tympani counterpoints.

Suddenly James cursed under his breath, sibilantly accusing his penis of conspiring against him just as his boss had done that day when he fired him. This was the third job he had lost in a year and he felt impoverished in mind and spirit. Usually just watching Mary was enough to bring relief but despair had rendered him impotent. He released his unyielding member and moved toward the bed, stepping into the spotlight aureole of the full moon. Illuminated thus, he imagined himself a lover, skilled and anticipated. He imagined drawing back the thin cotton gown, exposing the naked planes of his daughter’s body and she eager and hungry for him. He was about to lunge at his offspring but froze, unnerved by the moonlight. There was something odd about it and he could have sworn it was breathing.

The angel closed his eyes and allowed the girl’s music to rearrange him: draw the golds, silvers, yellows and whites of his being into symbiotic fusion. Ecstasy and then – silence. He opened his eyes and saw a man paralysed by his lustre, tremblingly arrested on his way to the girl’s bed. He read rape and incest in the man’s sullen light, confirmed by a shivering of the child’s sheets. Time and frustration had made the seraph ruthless: he sent an invective of light into James’ gut, twisting his entrails with violent cramps. James doubled over like a pair of clipped scissors and fell to the floor writhing, knees drawn up to his chest, fists balled, mouth open in a silent protesting scream. Mary sat up and watched her father’s struggle with unblinking indifference.

When the angel felt the man had had enough, he shut off his light and James Granger crab-crawled out of his daughter’s room. In the living room, he lay on the lounge – a refuge he had taken so frequently during his marriage that the contours of his body had phantomed into the brown velveteen – and ran through the terrifying range of possibilities for the God-awful pain in his gut: ulcer, kidney stones … cancer. For the first time in his life, he considered his own mortality and wondered just how many years he had left.

Now Mary Granger turned her face to the window – cadenzas, variations, violin solos burning, churning in her imagination – and smiled at the angel almost as if she had been expecting him. She had a martyr’s smile: wounded and wronged but forgiving, accepting, self-renewing. She released a single cello cantabile, mellifluous as aged wood and the seraph – fixed, gorged, yet starving for more of her music – drooped his tired wings and met her unblinking blue gaze. Again she smiled and he felt a stab of guilt and the urge to warn her that soon, in a mere parcel of years, he would be back for her soul as surely as her father had come for her body. But his coward ambition silenced him and he shot up into a sky rimmed with yellow flame as dawn cracked over the horizon like an egg. Haunted, hunted by the light, he flew off into the dark wintry north, into the ebony night that had become his way of being.

But the seed of hope God had skewered into his soul when he accepted this mission – eons, centuries, worlds ago – split with green promise and he sounded a cry of clarion joy. A little of the girl’s symphony fluxed. Even cropped and ruminated, her music had power. Back on the wing, he cleaved the black spaces beneath the star-contruded sky, joyfully reconciled to seven more years of flight until the child was old enough to sign her gift over to him.

What was seven years but a blink in eternity? Time would pass. It always did. It had nothing else to do.

One Response to “Catch the Moon, Mary”

  1. I love the first chapter of Catch The Moon Mary. Can’t wait to get the book and see where this goes. Very imaginative and descriptive imagery. It might be a challenge to maintain it but all the more to look forward to.

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