by James Lo <jsmtlo@tm.net.my>

As I park the car, Calypso describes how she watched Odysseus struggle from the sea. Reluctantly, I stop the tape, and let her go.

Cigarettes. Matches. On the beach, the sky is blandly lightning-free. Even the normally magnificent stars are hidden by dense grey clouds. I suppose I have no right to expect magic everytime I come here. I turn around. Oh.


Look at the.


The clouds have formed a perfect, perfect circle around the moon. I tilt my head this way and that to dispel the optical effect, but I can't. It's really real. My heart soars at the omen. I lie down on the damp sand and light two cigarettes simultaneously, one for me and one for the mosquitoes. I stare transfixed at the moon for the longest time, both afraid and hopeful that she will lift me into her embrace.

Are you looking at the sky? Do you see the same moon, so far away from me? I'm thinking that parallax means the apparent displacement of an object caused by a change in the point of observation. I'm thinking of other enchanted evenings. I'm thinking of us chasing lightning storms and of the full circle rainbow I once saw from the 33rd floor. I'm thinking of the gravity
of the moon. The gravity of this whole situation.

Far out in the water, a woman is struggling to drag a chain of stars home. Like Jesus, she's walking on the waves. Hunched by the effort or by despair, long wet hair dripping like a mourning veil. Her clear black reflection in the water keeps perfect time with her progress across the sea. Cue Fairground Attraction:

"I go out walkin' after midnight, out in the moonlight, just like we used to do. I'm only walkin', after midnight, searching for yooooou ..."

Further along the beach and closer to shore, a broken skull swims determinedly towards me.
All action and reaction, for every two paces forward it kicks, it draws a pace back. One plaintive socket is filled with tears, flickery in the dark, like one of Dream's eyes. Frightened, I pick the skull up (itisgrotesquelyhairy), and cast it out as far as I can. It disappears in the dark foam without a trace.


I feel. Somehow ... relieved.

As if, by returning the skull, I have freed myself of some terrible and ill-fathomed burden.

Suddenly, very far away, a lightning bolt, for a split-second, rejoins heaven and earth. Punching the air, I shout a triumphant laugh, and I thank you for ordering the lightning for me. The timing is perfect, my love.

I feel something, some kind of tension, ebbing away. I look at the moon. The cloud ring has become fuzzy, is breaking up in sections. Witching hour's nearly over. Time to go home, before
I turn into a pumpkin.

I'm still tingly from the quiet weirdness that had engulfed me. I realise, of course, the broken skull was not an old coconut shell. The girl in the water was not a buoy, and her stars were not white plastic floats tied on a rope by the beach attendants.  I realise all that, but there is one final spell to perform: I get down on one knee and stare at myself in a scrying puddle. The moon peers curiously over my shoulder. Cupping my hands, I carefully scoop up the dancing lady, and I drink. She is as salty as regret.

© James Lo, 2000

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