Giving The Moon

A small bell attached to the door chimed when he came into the shop.

It was a small shop lined with solid wood shelves, on which lay porcelain plates, bowls and fragile dolls depicting small, furry animals. It was the kind of shop you might find in any reputable pedestrian street.

He would not have entered the shop if it weren’t for its name, which was registered outside: Other Things. The sign made him think that perhaps he might find exactly what he was looking for here.

Behind the U-shaped counter lining the shop on all sides stood an old woman. She wore comfortable, colorful clothes, a dark red headscarf with a simple pattern, and hid a pair of big, brown eyes behind her thick, small glasses.

The moment he entered, she conspicuously lowered a shiny object she had been holding and put it behind the counter, on the floor. She rose quickly and turned back to him. “Hello,” she said crisply, “Can I help you?”

“Oh…I’m not sure,” he said. “You see, I’ve been to so many places and no place had what I’m looking for.”

“What exactly are you looking for?” she asked.
“Look…” he said, feeling a little embarrassed, “I have…I mean…there is someone, she is …”
“I understand, thank you.” She raised her hand, stopping him.
“No, no. You see, I’m supposed to meet her tomorrow. To propose to her…and I already have a ring and everything, and a specific spot on the beach, and it’s all planned out, really. But I want to get her something else. Even a small thing, but something special. She…she’s so…”

“I can offer you a lovely china doll, or a beautiful set of dishes for the table…”

“But outside it’s written that you have other things,” he mumbled, beginning to feel a bit stupid. “You don’t have anything…you know…special?”

She looked at him. “Hmm…special? Basically what you see is what we have, I don’t know – “

“What’s that you’ve put down there, in the back?” he interrupted.

She stared at him. For a few seconds did not reply, as if she were considering if she even should. Finally she sighed. “Moon.”

“Pardon?”

“Moon. It’s a moon. Tomorrow’s moon, more accurately.”

He tried to understand what the shopkeeper could possibly mean. “You mean like a moon statue made from artistic glass or something similar?”

“No, no, no. I mean the real thing. Tomorrow night’s moon.” she said. Slowly, she bent down and placed the object on the counter before her. It was about the size of a large plate, scythe-shaped and white, with slightly darker passages here and there. It had a palpable height and width, but seemed to lack depth.

It was the moon.

“Tomorrow’s moon?” he asked, not knowing what else to say.

“Yes,” she said, “today’s moon has already been sold.”

“What do you mean today’s has already been sold?” he asked, “Do you sell them regularly?”

“Obviously,” she said. “How do you think they get to the sky?”

He tried to use his logic. “The moon is enormous. It satellites the Earth, people have traveled to it and walked on it, right? ‘Small step for man, giant step for mankind,’ and such.”

“No,” she answered. “The fact that you saw it on TV does not mean it really happened. Like many other things, someone needed money or respect or whatever. Do not believe everything. The moons are sold here.”

“I don’t understand.”

She leaned on the counter, spinning the moon between her fingers playfully. “We, among other things, are the sole suppliers of the moons. Every month we get about thirty moons of all kinds. We have very loyal clientèle that come to the shop, buy the moons, and hang them outside. The demand is extensive, you know. Not a day goes by that the moon hanging outside doesn’t come from us. When the stocked moons are sold out we place a new order, then there is sometimes a day with no moon. But our supplier is usually very responsible. The most expensive are full moons, of course, as well as almost full. The thin scythes are also popular, but mostly in the summer. This moon is pretty simple. Not quite full, not quite scythe. Medium. I have just received a call from my regular client who says he will not buy it after all, but that’s not so bad. There is a waiting list from here to you-know-where. “

“How many people know about this place?” he asked, astonished.

“A hundred,” she said. “Exactly hundred. People who have the appropriate means and the right spirit to buy what we have here.”

“What do you mean? You have more ‘other things,’ other than the moons?”

“Obviously,” she said, “You do not expect me to live on selling moons alone, right? We have it all. Baby’s smiles, wrinkles of joy, feelings of levitation, childhood memories, feelings of satisfaction, canned kisses, fresh kisses, looks of admiration, laughter in a box, in a jar, in a bottle…just name what you like and I have it. I am the shop for ‘other things,’ aren’t I?”

He thought a little. “I want the moon.”

“That one?” she asked.

“That one.”

She was silent for several seconds, thinking.

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Darling, go home and forget what I told you, okay? It’s not for you. This shop is for very special people. You won’t be able to afford it, anyway.”

“I want the moon.”

“It’s not for you.”

“How much do you want for it? How much?”

“It’s not money, baby. We work on a barter system here. I give you something and you give me something in return.”

“So what do you want? “

“Leave it.”

“No, I want the moon.”

She looked at him. “You really like her, huh?”

“Yes.”

She sighed. “Okay, I’ll sell it to you. I’ll even give you a special price, but you will regret the purchase, I just know it.”

“How much?”

She thought. “A quarter of a smile,” she said.
“I…I don’t understand.”

“What’s not to understand? You give me a quarter of a smile. From now on you will only have three-quarters of your natural smile. But I remind you that you do not have to take the trade.”

“No, No. I want it.”

“So please, it’s yours.” She picked up the moon and placed it in his hand.

The moon was not particularly heavy, a little rough, maybe, and cold to the touch. It was the perfect gift, and he smiled to himself three-quarters of a smile.

“Thanks.”

“You’re welcome. Have a nice day. Thank you for buying at Other Things.”

He began to turn toward the door but returned to the counter. “How do I hang it?”

“Just toss it up,” she said, “like a Frisbee. It will hang on its own. It’s a special patent.”

The little bell rang, announcing a customer at the door.

“Hello,” the old woman greeted him, “we have not seen you for quite some time, dear. How was the moon?”

“Moon?” he said, “The moon was excellent. I hung it right in front of us on the beach. She was really excited. She even said ‘yes.’ We’re actually getting married next week.”

“Excellent! Excellent! I am very happy to hear it. Have a good life together.”

“I certainly hope so,” he smiled shyly, three-quarters of a smile. “I want something to give her at the wedding.”

“You sure you want to?” she asked. “There is no more introductory price, now you’re like everyone else.”

“No, that’s fine,” he said, thinking a little. “I was thinking, that…maybe if you have memories? “

“Memories? What kind of memories?”

“I do not know exactly. I want something she can recall and be filled with happiness.”

She looked at him through the thick glass of her spectacles. “I have such a thing, but it’s expensive, specially handmade. It’s a memory montage assembling all of your beautiful moments together and such.”

“How much?”

“Oh, come on,” she sighed. “Why do you need it? It’s a memory like any other memory. It, too, erodes over time and loses its charm, like all memories. I have enough income from my other hundred customers. Why not just create a memory for yourself?”

“I want this memory. How much does it cost?”

“A million hugs.”

“All at once?”

“No, no need to exaggerate. Installments. Each month you will be missing 500 hugs.”

“I’ll die before I’ll finish paying.”

“In that case you will not be charged for the remaining hugs,” she promised, pressing her glasses firmly against the bridge of her nose.

“Excellent.” He put his hands in his pockets and leaned on his heels with pleasure. “So where is this memory?”

She sighed. “When are you getting married?”

“Next Thursday.”

“A messenger will bring you the memory. It takes about three days to prepare an order like that.”

“No problem. I trust you.” He waved. “See you on Thursday, I guess,” he said as he turned to leave, clearly pleased with himself.

“Are you sure that – ” she called after him, but the bell above the door had already announced his departure.

“I have to have my hugs.” His voice mixed with the bell as he entered.

“Remind me who you are?” she said, “So many people buy here.”

“Well, it’s me,” he said nervously. “I got an extended package of happy memories for a million hugs, in payments, three and a half years ago.”

“Oh yes, I remember,” she said. “How are the memories?”

“Oh, they’re perfect, they’re okay,” he muttered. “My wife uses them every time I travel abroad for business.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

“But I have to have my hugs!” he almost shouted. “Every time I want to hug my wife or my little boy, I can’t. I always land on one of the five hundred I paid. My wife is starting to look at me disapprovingly, as if I do not love her or something. I do not have enough, just simply do not have enough. “

“It’s okay, it’s okay, relax,” the old woman soothed. “I told you this was an expensive gift.”

“Can I return it to you? And get my hugs?”

She shook her head. “It has been three and a half years. This memory is worth much less now; as I understand from you it is used quite severely. The hugs you already paid are gone. The most I can do is take down your payments to 175 hugs in exchange for the return of the memory.”

“And if I return the moon?”

“The moon is for a one-time use only and has no value today. Nor do you have it. It was gone the morning after you hung it, right?”

“True. True.” He paced the store nervously. “Can you go down to twenty hugs per month?”

“I cannot. The best I can do is go down to fifty but then I end up with a loss. Unless…”

“Unless what?”

“Nothing, nothing,” she said.

“No, no. What?” he insisted.

“I can make it so that you owe me no more hugs and receive 500 hugs for the return of the memory. But you will have to pay one more thing.”

He was wary. “What?”

She looked at him. “Your youthful enthusiasm.”

Silence cloaked the room. He closed his eyes and thought.

She waited patiently.

“A five hundred hug refund?” he asked.

“Yes,” she said quietly.

He extended his hand. “Deal.”

The door opened slowly and shook the little bell.

“Hello,” he said, his eyes dull.

“Good afternoon,” she said. “How are you?”

“My wife wants a divorce,” he confessed, his eyes filled with tears. “Since I gave up my youthful enthusiasm four years ago, she says that I’m not the same person I once was. We started fighting, and since I also returned the memory, she only remembers our bad times. To this day she remembers that I did not want to hug her. I did not want?” he muttered, lifting his hands in surrender. “I did not want?”

“I’m sorry,” the old woman whispered.

“Everything I gave her…I love her so much, and now she hates me.” He smiled three-quarters of a bitter smile. “Ironic, isn’t it? I literally gave her the moon.”

The old woman was silent. “I’m sorry,” she repeated.

He paused, his head bowed.

“Anyway,” he said, “I came to buy.”

“What?”

“I’m going for broke. I have nothing to lose. I want to buy true love, please. I want my wife to love me again.”

“True love is…”

“Very expensive, I can guess. I have nothing to lose, like I’ve said. No matter how much I pay, if she will love me again, everything will be worth it.” A small tear rolled from a lackluster eye and slid exactly to the edge of his mouth, where a quarter of his smile was conspicuously absent.

“I see,” the old woman said, “I see.”

“How much?” he finally asked, looking straight at her.

“Your full attention,” she said, looking back at him. “You must give me your attention.”

“You got it.”

Bell rattled.

“You again,” she said. “What more could you want?”

“I cannot go on like this,” he said. “I went home after the last time I was here and my wife loved me again. She loved me so much, more than ever before, I think. But I’m not sure. I could not focus on her or what she said, nothing. Everything has become a blur of images and feelings and words. I can hardly understand what is going on around me. I can’t completely focus on anything. And my wife, she kept trying to talk to me and be with me, and I kept thinking of other things. I could not concentrate on her. I couldn’t concentrate on anything. So now she thinks I’m not thinking about her. I broke her heart. She cries all day. She loves me, gets disappointed, and cries. I can’t take it any longer.”

He collapsed on the floor. “All gone. All gone. All twisted and mixed up and I am just causing her sorrow. All the time. I can’t live with it.”

The old woman walked over and sat down beside him on the floor.

“I warned you,” she said quietly. “I told you, you would regret it. Expensive gifts cost dearly. And the really valuable things are always better to get at home, not buy outside.”

He rose a bit and looked at her, not quite understanding.

“It wasn’t for you. From the start it was not for you,” she said.

He lay down on the floor once more, crying. “Help me. Help me, please. Don’t you have anything to give me?”

She looked at him.

“There is something,” she said.

“What?”

“A second chance.”

“How much?”

“Several thousand memories. In your case it will be about eight years’ worth.”

“It’s expensive.”

“No, it’s free,” she said. “It usually costs a lot more. In fact, everything I have in the shop is not worth a single second chance. I’m doing you a big favor here. If I were not the owner, I’d be killed me for giving you something like this.”

“What should I do?” he asked.

“Just close your eyes…”

A small bell attached to the door rang when he came into the shop.

It was a small shop lined with solid wood shelves, on which lay porcelain plates, bowls and fragile dolls depicting small, furry animals. It was the kind of shop you might find in any reputable pedestrian street.

Behind the U-shaped counter lining the shop on all sides stood an old woman. The moment he entered, she conspicuously lowered a shiny object she had been holding and put it behind the counter, on the floor. She rose quickly and turned back to him. “Hello,” she said crisply, “Can I help you?”

“Oh…I’m not sure,” he said. “You see, I’ve been to so many places and no place had what I’m looking for.”

She looked at him. “It’s just a china shop, lad. And we are closed. Good night!”

He left. The old woman stayed behind the counter, smiling to herself a one-and-a-quarter smile of satisfaction.