Moon Water

Alicia Bones

Alicia Bones

After dinner, Roger’s wife, Eileen, dozed in front of the TV. A fat man on the screen shouted something while shaking leeks, so Roger clicked it off. His wife didn’t wake up. Nobody would look her now like they did once, Roger thought. Her face was puffy and mottled; it had been filled too often with greasy bags of French fries and too-sweet cakes, oil-slicked from the breaded and fried American-Chinese conglomerations she made for dinner. Roger pushed her dark hair back from her forehead and it was greasy, too, the strands clumped together into thick bundles. She breathed in three times, quickly, and opened her eyes.

“Dinner in the kitchen,” she murmured.

“We already ate, darling,” said Roger, re-covering her with the blanket. “Want to get into bed?”

“Take me out dancing?” She whispered, putting her finger to his lips, laughing a little. When she laughed, her eyes twitched up.

“Maybe tomorrow.”

“Bed then.” Eileen nodded, wrapping the blanket around her shoulders and trailing the tails of the afghan on the ground as she slid in her stocking feet down the hallway like a little child.

Roger didn’t know much, but he knew for sure that Ei’s lungs had been infected with too much black bile. His wife would only get well if he helped the bile pour out from her lungs so it could seep through her fingertips, where it would be dissipated harmlessly into the dollars and cents she gave to the checkout girl at the grocery, who, in turn, might weep harder than usual at movies. But that was all. The stuff could move out of her into the seeds she planted, which would sprout into carrots and potatoes that would only make people who ate them unusually sentimental around babies. Nothing more.

Tonight was one of the only clear nights that Seattle had at this time in January. Leaving the living room, Roger pulled a heavy cast iron pot from under the kitchen sink, hulking the fat thing up with his elbow. He filled the pot with water, and crushed the willow bark, pokeweed, and poppy he’d been drying on the windowsill into it. Holding the heavy bottom of the pot with his hand, Roger tiptoed past his sleeping wife and out the front door. He crept down the stairs into the night, looking past the city skyline up at the moon above the wind-blown clouds. He set the pot under the brightness of the nearly-full moon, the rays making replicas of themselves in the water’s smooth surface, illuminating the liquid and herbs.

“Make moon water for my wife to drink,” Roger said to the moon. He imagined the sadness in Ei’s lungs oozing black and thick like the tar the men swept onto the highways with wood-handled brooms, hot and syrupy from the center of the earth, spit up into the air they all breathed, left to hang, getting sucked up in too-large quantities by his wife’s open heart and her too-intense attentions. “Turn this water into a replica of yourself, so you can be inside her instead.” Roger kissed his palm, pressed it to the side of the pot, and set the mixture onto the front lawn to steep.

Roger had only seen moon water work once, when his mother drank down a glass of the brightly-glowing stuff in their dark kitchen after she’d thought he’d gone to bed, screaming as the blue-white rays burned her throat. But Roger stood in the hallway, sucking his thumb, and saw anyway. The next day, his mother made him a sandwich with the crusts cut off like he liked and when he left for school, she said, “Have a nice day.”


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