“That night was the brightest moon of the whole year.” Her eyes were as wide as the celestial body described, her little hands expanding to demonstrate immensity in her small context. I smiled down at her tolerantly, unsure if we were having a conversation or if she was merely extemporizing for the sake of her audience.
“Why do you think it was so big?” I tried not to hunker down too much. Bringing myself down to her height was one thing, but if I hunkered too much, I still tended to loom. I imagined it was an uncomfortable experience for one so small.
“Mommy says that it is just because the moon gets really close to the earth every once in a while.” She frowned. It was the least imaginative explanation a parent could have given to their children. Although I had no children of my own, my people had a long history of telling tall tales to children. They would grow up soon enough to learn the lessons of harsh reality. It was better that they spend their childhoods in a state of wonder; it fed the soul for the long lean days of adulthood.
“I heard a different story.” I settled more comfortably on my haunches, all this bending and hunkering was bad on my old knees.
“What was it?” Her expression hungered for something more. She expected fairy tales from me and was rarely disappointed. I lived to please, after all. The children could ask anything of me. Adults, and goats, were another matter.
”Once, long ago, longer than you can even imagine, the moon and the earth were the best of friends.” I paused and she nodded for me to continue, settling into the posture of intense listening common to all children. “And one day, the moon came to talk to the earth. She was an insistent thing, you see. Quite like you, actually. Well, the earth was busy talking to the sun, serious conversation about allocation of sunlight, allowances for searing heat, amounts of atmosphere. You know, the sort of boring things that concern adults.”
“Well, the moon wanted a hug, since she still loved her friend and realized that the earth had been ignoring her for some time. It wasn’t that the earth didn’t love the moon, you see. It was just that the earth was busy with work and was trying to concentrate on serious business. The sun always was trying to reorganize the terms of their agreement, his nature being one of searing and burning and eating. Back then he wasn’t as kind and warm, he’s aged, you see.”
She nodded, the wet in her eyes telling me I had guessed her situation quickly. There were only a couple reasons why children found their way to my bridge. “The moon just wanted some attention and the earth wasn’t in the mood to deal with her. So she glared at her and told her to get out of the way and stop bothering her. Now, this hurt the moon so much that she cried so hard she got black splotches all over her pretty white face. She wobbled and wibbled and her orbit went from its perfect circle to the oval shape we see today. But in that moment of inattention, the sun took what he wanted and burned the top right off of Africa. Do you know what the Sahara is?”
“We saw it in the movie Ms. Hanson showed us. It seemed so big. I wanted to slide down the dunes.”
“Well, that’s what caused that. The sun taking what wasn’t his just because the moon wanted a hug. The earth forgave the moon, of course, but the damage was already done. But when the sun saw how sad he had made the moon, he apologized and struck an agreement with the earth. They would still have to negotiate, but every so often, the moon would be allowed to come between them. During those times, the earth would be protected from the sun for just long enough for a hug. Then it would be back to business as normal. But even now the moon only dares to come close to the earth to see what she’s doing once in every while. And when she gets close, she gets big and everyone earth can look and marvel at how pretty she is.”
“Is she as pretty as me?” She looked up at me, the need for approbation burning in her eyes.
“Of course my dear. All little girls take their beauty from the moon.” I looked up at the sky, seeing that the afternoon was shading to evening. “But now you should go home. Your mommy is probably missing you now.”
“All right Mr. Troll.” She stood up, brushing the knees of her jeans. “Can I come back tomorrow?”
“Only if your mommy doesn’t mind.”
“I don’t think she would care.”