TITLE: Blue Moon 9 Feb 2015
By Jane Hoppe
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by Jane Hoppe
What I don’t know won’t hurt me, what I don’t know won’t hurt me, chanted Julia under her breath. Her dim Maglite cast amber triangles on coppery pine needles whose fragrance smoothed her sharp-edged nerves as she padded out of the forest. At least she hoped she was headed out and back to the campfire. She hadn’t had enough Riesling to get too lost. She’d already passed six low, sprawling blueberry bushes, their purplish orbs a temptation to bears here in northern Michigan. That much she knew. Did bears prowl around at dusk? She cast her eyes ahead toward treetops split by the path but dared not glance sideways. What I don’t know won’t hurt me, what I don’t know won’t hurt me. Shouldn’t I be able to hear Dave’s guitar by now? Lindsey’s squeaky peeps passing for birdsong? Martin’s clear, sweet tenor?
Maybe everyone suffocated inhaling marshmallows and graham crackers. She smiled, then moaned aloud, Why didn’t I ask someone to come with me? She knew why, of course. An amber triangle exposed yet another blueberry feast. That’s seven, Julia muttered, refusing to yield to the temptation to dart her eyes into the brush on the left or the right. I’ll just be as quiet as I can. So far, so good on that score. Her gym shoes and the pine needles carpeting this forest’s sand dunes were soft. Odd that they have they stopped singing. Why don’t I call out to them? She knew why, of course.
Dark feathery foliage above parted to reveal early evening stars twinkling on a periwinkle canvas. The moon that might direct her back to camp had not yet risen. Julia was eager for tonight’s moon, which would be the second full moon of the month—a blue moon. Since she’d first heard the decades-old song “Blue Moon,” she’d applied it to hopes she dared not dream. On the drive to their state park picnic this afternoon, “Blue Moon” had burst from the radio of Martin’s Jetta and Dave had cranked up the volume. As Martin had crooned the tune to her and Lindsey in the backseat, Julia burned to enfold this cosmic sign as her own. Since she was seated behind Martin, Julia could see his playful eyes in the rear view mirror as he sang. He had turned his head slightly to meet Lindsey’s eyes directly.
Maybe this cosmic sign doesn’t belong to me, she had sulked in the car. So junior high. Sigh. Shy thirty-somethings shouldn’t have to contrive coworker picnics. Why couldn’t I just ask Martin for coffee at the corner café? She knew why, of course. Julia stomped the next few steps in frustration, and the sand squished beneath her. When she came to a hiking trail sign, Julia realized she’d headed the wrong direction after her little necessity visit in the forest. She backtracked and picked up her pace. She was confident now she would find her way before the Maglite’s amber triangles burnt out.
Soon a clearing was in view with the impossibly huge yellow moon resting on the horizon. Their campfire was gray ash with embers weakly flickering gold against the cobalt Riesling bottle, as though fireflies had gotten caught inside. Her coworkers were not in sight. Her shoulders stiffened, then relaxed to note the Jetta still parked beyond the picnic table.
Kicking sand from her shoes, Julia jogged toward the deserted site. One lawn chair lay folded on top of Dave’s guitar. Another had fallen onto the rusty rim of the fire pit. Everywhere she looked, sandy grass tufts were strewn with ripped bits of cracker boxes, marshmallow bags, sandwich scraps. Was that a trail of potato chips heading off into the woods? As Julia took in the scene, she didn’t know what to think. She approached the Jetta where Dave slumped in the front passenger seat; the driver’s seat was empty, so she opened the door and slid in behind the steering wheel.
“What happened?” she quizzed a dazed Dave. Hugging a Merlot bottle, he slurred, “Bears,” and tossed her the car keys. Julia considered retrieving Dave’s guitar and cleaning up the litter, but instead gritted her teeth, fired up the engine, and spun the car backward toward her blue moon without checking the rear view mirror. The last thing she wanted to do was visually untangle the enmeshed human lumps in the backseat. What I ….
“Blue Moon,” my very short story, is 734 words.
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