“Wheel me outside, Eleanor.”
“No, David. It’s too warm. You’ll…”
His smile was wry. Ironic. “I’ll what? Catch my death in that heat? Too late to think about that, I’m afraid.”
I turned towards the window. “The lightning bugs have arrived.”
I looked over my shoulder at him.
“Send me off with a bang.”
I nodded. “OK.”
His cheeks brightened. A smile—a real smile—flashed across his face. “Call the kids over.”
I picked up the telephone. Dialed Paul.
“We’re having a party,” I said.
“Mother, Dad’s dying,” he said. “Can’t you ever think about him?” My son needed to blame someone for his father’s illness: God wasn’t available.
“It’s what he wants. Call your brothers. Have them bring the little ones. It may be…”
Paul hung up.
I went outside and built a campfire. I rummaged through cabinets for graham crackers and chocolate bars and marshmallows. I cut thin branches from the trees in the woods.
I fixed David a mug of tea; held it to his lips. “Are the kids coming?” He asked, eyes closed.
“Drink,” I said.
I went to the garage and gathered up a handful of the glass mayonnaise jars David had insisted upon saving—just in case I want to make pickles—for the entire span of our thirty year marriage.
A car pulled up into the driveway. I ran to meet it. “Liam!”
“How is he?”
I took the baby from Meredith’s arms. Nuzzled her close while her sister wrapped her arms around my leg.
“Hi, Mimi. Party?”
Meredith slapped the child. “No, Karen. No party. Grandpa’s sick.”
I knelt before Karen. Kissed away her tears. “Yes,” I whispered. “A party for your grandfather. Run inside and say hello.”
Derrick next with his two year old twins and then, finally, Paul.
“How is Dad?”
“Hello to you too, Paul. He’s doing the best as can be expected. Help me wheel him outside?”
His eyes widened. “In this heat, Mother? With these mosquitoes?”
“It’s what he wants, Paul. We have to honor that.”
“No.” He shook his head. “I’m calling his doctor.”
I wheeled David out onto the deck. He watched the little ones toddle around on fat baby legs, chasing lightning bugs; squealing with delight whenever they trapped one. The adults eyed each other uncertainly.
“Who wants a s’more?” I said.
Meredith, sweet Meredith came to my rescue. “I want a s’more Eleanor. Shall I make you one, David?”
He smiled. “Please, dear.”
“Lightly toasted or burned?”
“Lightly toasted.” David eyed me, grinning. “Hopefully that’s all the punishment I’ll get.”
“Don’t say that, Father.” Paul appeared at the sliding glass door. “You’re going straight to heaven.”
“Did you call the doctor?” I asked.
“Yes.” Paul light a cigarette and shook out the match. “He’s coming over.”
“Oh, there’s no need…” David began.
Paul shook his head. Blinked back tears. “He said to save him a s’more.”
The full moon hung heavy and expectant in the sky.
The doctor showed up; pulled a firecracker from his medical bag. Set it off. The noise drew out Bill—our neighbor, and, unfortunately, the fire chief.
“I’m sorry, Bill,” the doctor said. “It was my fault.” They conversed in a corner of the lawn for a few moments. Bill headed home and returned with a big bag of fireworks.
The children were gathered. The lightning bugs were set free. Bill planted a firework in the ground and lit the fuse.
As the moon rose higher, David weakened.
“How will I live without you?”
“Watch for me in the fullness of the moon,” he said. His eyes were light by the glow of the fireworks, and I turned to watch.
Meredith. Tears in her eyes. She picked up a napkin and wet it in her mouth before dabbing away a bit of marshmallow from David’s lips.
* * *
Thirty years later, I still wait for the fullness of the moon; to see if David’s face is reflected in it. And the mayonnaise jars continue to stand sentry in the garage, as if they too, await his return.
This was written in response to StoryDam’s prompt: Show us what is waiting for the full moon.
This was also linked up with Yeah, Write.