Fiction · 05/06/2009

The Moon Is A Star

When the river dried to mud, us brothers, we walked down to the muddy banks of where the river used to be, and with our boy hands, digging down into this mud, us brothers, we dug down to where, we believed it, there was another river there, there was another river down beneath where our river used to be, there was another river there running underneath where this other river of ours was now just a river of mud. Us brothers, we dug down with our hands, we ate mud with our mouths, for three-hundred days and nights. For three-hundred days and three-hundred nights, us brothers, we dug and we dug until we dug ourselves down to where this mud, it turned back into river. Here in this under-the-river, under-the-mud river, this other river, underneath this mud, this river, it was even muddier here, here in this river, this river, it was even a dirtier river than the dirty river was that used to run its way through us brothers’ dirty river town. There were no people down here, here in this other river world, down underneath where our dirty river used to be, there were no mothers or fathers to call us brothers Son, there were no other boys along this river to ask us to call them Brother too. There were no steel mills sitting shipwrecked on this river’s muddied shore, there were no houses here built on or up from the river for us brothers to call our own, there was no town here for this dirty river to run its way through. No, there was only the river here, here by this other river underneath where our river used to be: there was only the mud of this other river holding this river in its place. There was no moon here, here by this other under-the-river river town with no town for this river to run its river through, there were no stars here in this other under-the-river world, there were no birds here, there were no fish here, no singing fish here, there was no Girl here for us brothers to say to her, Hey Girl. It was just us, the two of us brothers, with this river and the mud that this river made. It was just us and the three of us – brothers, river, mud – and for a while there was no other place for us brothers to want ourselves to be. But after a while, after a few hundred more nights of us brothers watching this other river flow on by our muddy boots’ feet, us brothers, we said to each other, it was time now for us brothers not to be, all by ourselves, all alone with just each other and this river and mud. So, us brothers, what we did was, we dropped down, onto our hands and knees, down into the mud, and we started to make. We made, up from the mud, up from the river, we made Girl. We started at the bottom and made our way up. Girl’s knees were especially muddy. Girl’s knees, they were so beautiful, in their mudness, that us brothers, we wanted to stay forever on our knees kneeling. But then, so that we could better see Girl, here in this river night’s dark, us brothers, we made us a moon for us brothers to better see Girl by. We made moon, out of mud, and we stuck it, this moon, up against the muddy night’s sky. Girl took this moon, when she saw this moon, and she took a look inside it. Look inside it, Girl said to us brothers, and she lifted us up in her hands for us to see inside. Us brothers, we listened to, we did, what Girl said for us to do. We looked inside this moon. Inside this moon, there were girls, other than Girl, there inside this moon. Us brothers, we looked at these girls. Then, when we were done looking at these girls, we looked with our looks at each other. There was this look that us brothers, we sometimes liked to look at each other with this look. It was the kind of a look that actually hurt the eyes of the brother who was doing the looking. Imagine that look. Us brothers, looking with this look, we looked this look back away from each other. We looked with this look back into this made out of mud moon, into this moon with these girls there inside it. When we did this with this look, this moon, it shattered into a million pieces. Each broken piece became a star.

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Peter Markus is the author of a novel, Bob, or Man on Boat (Dzanc Books), as well as three short books of short-short fiction, Good, Brother (Calamari Press), The Moon is a Lighthouse (New Michigan Press), and The Singing Fish (Calamari Press). Recent stories have appeared in Chicago Review, Denver Quarterly, Unsaid. The Moon is a Fish is forthcoming from Cinematheque Press in July of 2009. We Make Mud will be brought out by Dzanc in early 2011.