By Melissa Kandel
There was no way around it: Luna had lost the moon. The revelation was quick but biting and it happened last night around dusk. She had been sitting with her cat, Marama, on the hill overlooking a town fading to pale, evening blue and there assumed her usual moon-watching position: Luna tucked her legs behind her, adjusted her shoulders, craned her neck and looked up to the sky with the confidence of a professional used to this sort of thing.
Why wouldn’t she be confident? Luna had spent half her twenty-years-long life sitting on the hill, searching for a moon she was meant to watch. And on every night except the last one, she had found it. But yesterday, when Luna hunted the sky for that familiar celestial orb, she found nothing.
Luna wouldn’t have immediately thought this meant trouble, if not for Marama placing a paw on her arm and whispering in foreboding purr, “I have it on good authority that the moon is gone.”
For the next twelve hours, until the sky went from burnt-toasted to light as day, Luna and Marama scoured the town. They checked under garbage cans and on rooftops, between rose bushes and below window sills, inside chimneys and outside doorsteps. They even investigated the sticky space beneath the tongue of a green iguana named Patrick—“I told yas I ain’t see nuthin!”—but couldn’t find a single trace of the moon.
“No moon, you say?” Mayor Wedgeworth asked, with a scratch of his bearded chin. Mayor Wedgeworth oversaw town business and was rewarded not with money but with food. Ice-cream-topped coffees, breads, pot pies and fruitcakes had turned him over the years from a tall, relatively handsome man into a fat, oily one with bits of food always stuck between his large front teeth.
Secretly, Luna thought he more resembled a stupid, overweight rabbit than a serious person of Mayor-like rank.
“Luna, you know this is your job,” Mayor Wedgeworth said. “We all have jobs here and moon-watching is yours alone. You do your part, we do ours. Do I have to remind you about how this town works?”
“No, I understand. Really, I do.” Luna said, her voice a desperate whimper. She knew it didn’t matter if she told him she understood. Mayor Wedgeworth would run through the list of town duties anyway. Next to eating, it was his second-favorite activity.
“Let’s recall that Simon handles rain falling in the direction it should, Monica oversees the rain turning to snow,” he began, counting on his chubby fingers.
“Harold keeps the wind from getting too windy, Cecilia tracks the rising of the sun, Nestor makes sure the clouds are the right amount of fluffy, Barb is director of the seas, and ten years ago when you said you were ready, we put you in charge of the moon. It seemed like a good, sound decision at the time. Yes, you were young—the youngest of us by far—but you had the right spirit for the job and certainly the right name.”
“I remember and I’m still the right person—”
“We simply ask that you keep the moon appearing each night in our sky. That’s it, Luna. Nothing more. Now you come to me today and tell me you’ve failed?”
“I wouldn’t say failed, exactly. Marama and I haven’t checked everywhere yet—”
“Oh good. Leave a missing moon to the cat. Get serious, Luna! A town without a moon is no town at all. It’s like a cherry pie with no cherries. Or a chicken dinner with no drumstick,” Mayor Wedgeworth snarled. Then he issued a final, Mayorly warning: “Luna, do not dare come back to me until you find that moon.”
They stood on the corner of a street called Ghister and Luna could only watch the townspeople walk by, letting her eyes fall everywhere but Mayor Wedgeworth’s own. She had failed. She knew it. Unless the moon decided to appear tonight …
But it didn’t.
“Maybe if you tried singing to it, the moon would come back again?” Marama asked from the spot next to Luna on their hill. “Do you know any nice moonlight serenades?”
“I don’t,” said Luna. “Do you?”
“Not a one.”
Sometimes Marama was helpful, a creature intelligent and wise, and sometimes he was just a cat.
The next afternoon, which followed another night and morning of iguana interrogations and the examination of every corner in town that could possibly hide a moon, Luna conceded defeat. She walked with Marama to Mayor Wedgeworth’s office, prepared to be banished. Or worse.
Luna knocked on the Mayor’s door in the one-roomed, one-floored building at the end of Harping Lane. The door was unlocked, the office empty.
Inside, Mayor Wedgeworth’s office was clean and organized with not a paper out of place.
“Hello?” Luna called out. “Mayor? Are you here?”
“He’s probably at a dinner,” Marama said. “But look!” The cat jumped with one graceful motion onto the Mayor’s desk and pointed to a large plate of sugar cookies with a note on top:
The neat handwriting wasn’t anything like Mayor Wedgeworth’s indecipherable scribble, so Luna could only guess word got out that she lost the moon and someone, in an act of pity, had made her cookies.
Luna picked up the plate and the note, noticing for the first time something else written much smaller, barely noticeable, just below her name:
Bring these to the hill and the sky will eat until it’s full.
As confused as she was curious, Luna ran with the plate of cookies, Marama scampering right behind her, until they reached the top of the hill. They barely stood there a minute when the cookies, one by one, floated off the plate, twirling up toward the night sky. High above the hill, Marama watched the dancing trail of cookies as they began to form into a heavenly, sugary ball that soon took the shape of a full moon.
“Oh, Marama,” Luna cried. “Isn’t our world magical?”
“It is,” the cat said, sounding wiser than he ever had before. “And so very sweet.”