The Last Irishman to Walk on the Moon
The Bird waited at McGettigan’s pub for the Lotto numbers to come on the telly. Laid off from the marble works for misspelling the name of the Mother Superior on her gravestone, he’d taken to his bed for a month and finally signed up for the scratch and welcomed the few Euro the government passed his way as his just desserts. He’d been energized that morning by news on the radio of the biggest lottery pay-out in years and forked the money over to Miss Lemon in the sweet shop and watched her print out the ticket with his lucky numbers printed on it. “Good luck, now, Bird,” she’d said. “Wouldn’t it be a grand thing altogether if a poor creature like yourself won the money?” He removed the last €20 from his hatband and ordered a last pint and a short one.
Bunny Carr and a young one came on the telly and the numbers tumbled from the container. After the second number the Bird drained the pint and drew a deep breath, ready for the long walk home. He gave the numbers on the screen a last once over and crumpled the ticket inside his pocket. Poor creatures didn’t win millions, he knew that. The clouds were swollen with rain and the moon nowhere in sight, as he stumped along the lit street until he reached the park and the narrow path that led by the river. The lampposts with their dim bulbs were wreathed in fog from the nearby water. A night heron was standing in the middle of a soccer pitch, oblivious to the Bird’s arrival.
A walker with a black Westie passed the Bird, tipping his hat and wishing him a good night. The Bird sat on the cold wooden slats of the bench marveling at the cloud formations overhead. Somewhere up there, he thought, men have traveled in narrow containers, shot like stones from a catapult toward the lifeless hope of the moon itself. As he imagined white-suited men strapped into rattling metal tubes, the moon itself showed its face as a vast cloud the shape of South America rolled eastward across the sky. He emptied his pockets of loose coin, placed the change from the bartender on the bench and put a rock atop it. The Bird ran through a checklist of items to ready himself for the journey. Satisfied, he stood on the river’s edge with the reflected moon, one foot on the brink of the chill night water and one foot already in the Sea of Tranquility.
James Claffey hails from County Westmeath, Ireland, and lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, CA. He is fiction editor at Literary Orphans, and the author of the short fiction collection, “Blood a Cold Blue” His work appears in the W.W. Norton Anthology, “Flash Fiction International” and in Queen’s Ferry Press’s anthology, “Best Small Fictions of 2015.”
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