Brenda Richards: “Moon Beams”

Maggie was tidying up. It was a never-ending job with a four-year-old. She straightened the blankets on the little bed, picked the teddy bear off the floor and placed it neatly on the pillow.

She sighed as she looked out the window and watched Millie and the old dog cuddling up on the front veranda. Looks like Millie had found her own teddy bear. Maggie watched as the little girl ran her fingers through the tattered ruff around Max’s neck as he snuggled up against her. Then she heard Millie’s soft voice.

‘He’s up there Max. That’s where he is. He liked me singing to him. What if he doesn’t have anyone to sing to him? If we sing loudly, maybe he’ll hear us.’

Max snuggled close and thumped his tail. The little girl’s gentle voice filled the air.

‘I see the moon and the moon sees me
The moon sees somebody I want to see.’

Maggie remembered singing that to Millie when she was a baby. Then the sound changed. Maggie went to the door and looked out. A strange duet was in progress. Max was making a high-pitched yowling noise. The girl and the dog were synchronising in some strange way, as they sat with their faces raised up to the full moon.

It was getting late. Maggie sighed – it had been a long day. She was mesmerised by the strange caterwauling chorus that Max and Millie continued to send skyward. She hated to interrupt.

‘OK you two. It’s bed time’

The girl reluctantly came in, with the old dog padding along beside her.

‘Make sure you fill up Max’s water bowl – he gets thirsty now that he’s getting old – and as there’s no school tomorrow, you can sleep in.’

Maggie was used to getting up early. That happens when you have a new baby. The pattern still continued. She wandered out to the kitchen and switched on the electric jug, then spooned some Nescafe and a shake of sugar into a mug, followed by a splash of milk. She held the handle of the jug as she gazed out the window. She didn’t wait for the automatic timer to work, flicking it off when the water started to bubble. The early sun was just starting to shine on the ever-cheerful geraniums next to the window.

Maggie sipped the coffee slowly, her hands comforted by the warmth of the mug. The house was quiet. Too quiet. It was like a big blanket had descended on it and muted all sound. She picked up the tin of dog food to refill Max’s bowl and went into the laundry where he slept on an old blanket. He was usually sitting up looking for his breakfast by now. The poor old fellow must have been tired out. She gave him a nudge.

‘Wake up Maxie.’

There was no response. Something wasn’t right. She gently wrapped his blanket around him. She heard Millie’s voice behind her.

‘What’s wrong with Max?’

‘He’s sick. I’ll have to take him to the vet.’

‘Wait for me. I’m coming too,’ said Millie as she darted back into her room and put a jacket over her pyjamas. She picked up the teddy bear on her way out. ‘I can sit with him while you drive.’

The vet looked at the little girl in the waiting room. While she was patting the old dog, her tears fell on his raggedy head. She was singing softly to him. The teddy bear was between his paws. This was the hardest part of the vet’s job. He gently picked up the dog.

‘Max was old, Millie, and he had a lot of pain. He’s peaceful now. We’ll look after him. He knows you love him.’

Mother and daughter drove home in silence.

That evening, Maggie again heard the young voice soaring up to the sky. She came out to join Millie on the veranda.

‘I see the moon and the moon sees me
The moon sees somebody I want to see.’

Millie stopped as she heard her mother behind her. She turned around.

‘Baby James isn’t on his own any more, Mum. Now Maxie is up there to look after him.’

‘You’re right darling,’ said Maggie as she hugged her little daughter. With faces raised, they sang the next two lines together.

‘Please let the light that shines on me
Shine on the ones I love’ *

And the moon beamed.

*‘I see the Moon.’ Old children’s lullaby. Possibly Irish. There are a number of different versions. Author unknown.

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