The man of the moon lived at the end of a quiet street in a small cottage that had a curious thatched roof the colour of the sky on a clear spring day. A low fence overgrown with brambles enclosed a small front garden and larger backyard. Although the front garden of the cottage was immaculate, the back garden held a chicken coop with five hens, a large tabby cat (who enjoyed the taste of scrambled eggs more than a mouth full of feathers), a tangle of birch trees, shrubs, and a jumble of buckets and containers. These seemed to have little use, but the man of the moon refused to part with them, even though the neighbours complained and gave him stern, sidelong stares.
In the centre of the garden stood an oak tree that was much older than the cottage, the neighbourhood and even the whole of the long-lived town. It’s boughs stretched upward and outward to touch the birch leaves and form a shaded garden of dappled sunlight. The man of the moon looked after the oak tree day after day, even talking and singing to it during the bleak midwinter when everything seem to lose its colour. Then, on the nights when the moon had waxed fully and the silver light of the moonbeams struck the oak and birch trees, the man of the moon would be outside and clattering about with his containers and buckets well past midnight to the chagrin of his neighbours. Placing the containers just so to fill them with the dripping dew of the moonbeams could take the whole afternoon. Balanced on his rickety, silver-splashed ladder, the man of the moon would hang pails on some of the middle branches of the oak tree, adding more silver-splashed pails, buckets, and even glass jars beneath the trees in the garden where the dew would drip from the heavy summer leaves. By the time the sun finally set, the whole garden would be set aglow as the moonbeams gathered among the trees and the moonlight-filled, silver dew drip from the leaves into the waiting containers. As one container filled, he ran to empty it into the large water tanks that he kept in the corner of the garden, rushing back again, splashing through the silver dew to replace the receptacle before emptying the next filled container into one of the water tanks. So it would go on the whole night. Rushing from one jar to the next, from one bucket to a dangling pail that he deftly hooked and unhooked from the height of the old groaning ladder.
By morning his clothes and boots were as silver-splashed as the garden, but he would quickly close the water tanks before the sun rose and go scrub his face and hands while the jumble of containers settled noisily in their heap next to the water tanks.
By the time the first people up the street left their homes for the day, the garden with its oak and birch trees would look like any other; the moonlight dew faded to nothing but water that dripped-dripped onto the leaf-strewn ground below. The boots by the back door were no longer silver-splashed, but muddy, and even the tabby would have washed the last remnants of silver from its coat. She, of course, would be sitting by the front gate with such a look of malice and disdain for the people of the street that none would dare to come and bother her owner while he was trying to eat breakfast without falling asleep at the table.
It would be with new moon that the man of the moon’s next task would begin. This night, after all, was the best night to see where he painted the stars that would swirl, shine, and shimmer for the next month. The rig that he built to pump the moonlight dew from the water tanks to the roof was almost silent and he turned it on after everyone had headed inside for the day and he was left alone outside. Standing on the blue thatch, he took a large paintbrush from a bucket at his feet and ran his hand over the bristles to make sure that they weren’t clumped together. He dipped the brush into the container of silver at his feet and, with broad strokes of his arm, painted the light swirls of the Milky Way, stippling the stars of the sky and paint the constellations in place with a fine brush. By midnight the swirling night sky was alive with silver light again and he looked at his work with a smile. He headed back inside after taking down the light dew’s rig and climbed into bed dreaming of dancing silver swirls.
This is the first story that I’ve written that will make up part of the collection titled Where the Stars Used to Sing.