Harold walked the streets that night when the moon rose only halfway into the sky and stopped as though it was sitting on a shelf and didn’t want to move any more. It wasn’t a full moon, only a sliver so it looked like a crooked smile carefully placed on someone’s mouth.
Harold had to step into the middle of the street to get a better look. The moon was hiding itself behind the trees growing in the parking lot island in front of the warehouse where they made carnival tickets and packaged those junky toys from China where you don’t know if there is lead in the paint or if they will break the first time they are dropped on the floor.
It was way past midnight, so Harold felt safe stepping off the curb. It took Harold a long time to do this. He was almost one hundred years old and refused to use a cane. He knew all he had to do was take his time and all would be okay.
Harold always wore his slippers with the lambs wool lining because, even in the heat of the summer with waves rising from the asphalt, his feet were always cold. Also, he liked the sound they made. Harold decided when he got old he wouldn’t go for those old fart things like walkers and glasses.
But he would get a hearing aid.
He loved to hear the birds in the early morning before the sun rose and the crickets as the sun set in the evening. And he liked the sounds his slippers made as he crossed each surface slowly and deliberately. So when Doc Crebbs said he needed a hearing aid, he bought the best. It was worth every penny.
The step off the curb surprised Harold. He was stepping off near a drain. He didn’t see it. It was too dark and even if it was light enough, he probably would have missed it if the excess sprinkler water wasn’t gushing down the gaping hole. It annoyed Harold that people were so wasteful. But they would find out too late when they didn’t have enough money and were almost one hundred years old and needed to buy a hearing aid. Then they would understand.
The step took Harold off his balance. But being Harold who always stepped carefully, he was able to catch himself in time. He stopped to take a deep breath, something he learned from his great, great granddaughter who did “yogi.” He always said “yogi” even though he knew it was “yoga.”
Harold was sharp and surprised people how up to date he was with social fads and current events. He would ask Emily if she taught her “yogi” class before she visited him, not to just hear to her light giggle and feel the gentle squeeze from her hand on his, but it tickled him to think of Yogi Berra doing “yogi.”
So Harold took a deep breath and started into the middle of the street. He kept his eyes on that old smiling moon and it didn’t move off its shelf, not one bit. Harold could feel the heat in the asphalt rising through his slippers. He decided to take them off.
With his slow determination, Harold first stepped on the back of the heel of his right foot catching just enough of the slipper to hold it tight as he raised his foot out of its grip. He didn’t wobble. Harold felt strange that this sort of balancing act could be done with such precision. Once the right slipper was off, he repeated the action just as gracefully with the left.
Once out of the slippers he wiggled his toes in the cool night air. Harold never wore socks. Too much trouble to wash and too hard to bend over to put on.
He enjoyed the wiggle, but never looked down. He kept his eyes on the prize. That old moon started to rock and as it did it slipped down out of the sky and off the shelf. That made Harold smile.
As the moon got closer to Harold, its glow lit up the street. Even though Harold wanted to see if the warehouse and parking lot looked the same at night, he kept fast his eyes on the glowing slice as it slid down to him.
The moon stopped just short of setting itself on the asphalt. It was the perfect height for Harold to settle his behind down without having to lift anything or scoot anywhere to grab hold. Harold simply sat in the most comfortable seat he had ever imagined.
As Harold curled his arm around the moon’s grin, it started to rise. This time the moon didn’t stop for a rest on that shelf. It took Harold up and up and up.
Harold rose to heights he never imagined. He smiled a crooked little smile to himself seeing everything happening below him. It was as if his eyes were twenty years old again.
Wiggling his toes, this time in the cool fresh sky, Harold watched as the man in the truck with bright lights lighting up the asphalt jumped out of the truck and ran to a crumpled figure on the ground. The man picked up the hearing aid laying on the street.
Harold could see his slippers sitting at odd angles. One on the sidewalk and one next to the stop sign near the drain.
But he couldn’t hear the sirens.
All Harold heard were the fading crickets of the late night, and, far off in the direction of the traveling moon, the birds welcoming the soon-to-be rising sun.
This little story developed from a prompt at Wednesday Afternoon Writers this past week. Taken from Laurie Halse Anderson’s Mad Woman in the Forest August Writing Challenge the word “ghost” and the quote “Never be afraid to sit a while and think.” By Lorraine Hansberry.