New Moon

“Why didn’t they like old moon, and why’d they wanna kill ‘em?”  Jonah asked.  He and Sissy were on the couch with their heads hanging towards the floor and their legs and feet up where their heads ought to be.

“It wasn’t alive, silly.  It was a big dead rock.  They wanted to build something better, something more like here. “

“Here ain’t so good,”  he said turning right side up.  His face was blossoming to scarlet.

“I beat you again.”  Sissy said, not getting up.  I can hang this way forever.

“Can not.”

“Can.”

Jonah crossed his arms next to his chest and bounced his head and shoulders against the back of the couch like it was a trampoline.

“Here was good.  It was real good before they messed with it.”

“How do you know?”

“Mama told me.”

“What are you kids up to?”  A tall well-built man with salted dark hair and intense blue eyes asked as he stepped into the room.  

“Uncle John!”  Sissy shouted and turned right side up.  She stood on the couch and jumped off.  Jonah tried to do the same but thought better of it.  He stepped off and then jumped up and down on the floor.  

Sissy grabbed on and tightly hugged one of the man’s legs.  Her little brother followed suit and did the same to the other.  

Uncle John put down his suitcase and snugged both children’s heads to his thighs and did a zombie walk around the room with them riding his shoes.

When he was able to peel them off and sit down, Sissy crawled onto his lap.

“You kids are certainly getting big.”

“How long ya stayin’ this time?”  she asked.

“I think I’m going to be here for a while, little mouse.”

“Yay!”  She wrapped her arms around his neck and squeezed.

Uncle John tickled under her arms.  She released him and giggled uncontrollably.

“Tell the story, Uncle John.”  

“Aren’t you tired of that story.  It’s a sad one; don’t you think?”

“Jonah ain’t never heard it,”  Sissy said.

He hasn’t ever heard it.”

“Yeah, he hasn’t never heard it.”  she repeated.

“All right.  Let me get settled in.  My old room still available?”

“Of course it is.”  Sissy responded, sounding much like her mother.  She looked at him like he just said the silliest thing.

“Ask your mama to make me some of her delicious sweet tea while I change into my play clothes.

“Mama!”  Sissy bounced into the kitchen where her mother was busy making dinner. She soon returned to the living room with a plastic jug of tea and a glass decorated with tiny yellow flowers.  She filled the glass with lukewarm tea and waited for him to return.  Jonah was sprawled on the floor like a puppy.  Next to him were a handful of broken crayons and scraps of paper.  Sissy didn’t like to color.  She went back to the hanging upside down position on the couch.   Uncle John came down the stairs dressed in dark shorts and a short-sleeve light blue cotton shirt.

“Sissy, you’re going to pass out if you stay like that.”  he said and sat down next to her on the couch.  He grabbed her arms and pulled her right side up.  

“Jonah, come on over here and tell me what you and Sissy have been up too since I was last here.”

“Nuh-uh, Uncle John.  You gotta tell us the story first.”

“Do you want to hear the story, Jonah?”

“He does.”  Sissy answered for her brother.  John pulled Jonah up on the couch and set him down next to him.  

He took a deep breath and let the word okay slipped out with his exhale. It was in the year 2016, a fresh June morning, when the Earth stopped spinning for just a split second.  The whys and hows…well, I guess you could say it was Murphy’s Law.  

“That’s the year you was born, Jonah.”  Sissy declared and starting singing “Happy Birthday.”.

Jonah smiled.  

Sissy quieted so Uncle John would start talking again.  Jonah had a puzzled look on his face.

“Whose Murray’s Law?”  he asked.

“He’s a bad guy, I bet.”  Sissy interjected.

“Murphy’s Law.  That’s the law that says if something can go wrong it most certainly will.” Uncle John continued.  “There was a group of scientists.”

Sissy turned to Jonah and said.  “They was a bunch of well meaners mama told me.”  Then she turned back to Uncle John.  “You were a scientist too; right?  

“I was and still am.  I haven’t heard it put quite that way before, but I guess you could say that they meant well.”

“But you wasn’t no well meaner; right?  You was a thinker.”  She pointed to her head with her index finger.  

Uncle John kissed the top of her head.  

“The well-meaning scientists were the kind of smart folks that thought it was best to do something rather than nothing, and I was more the kind that liked to think things through a bit longer.  It was a belief back then that we were destroying the planet, using up all the resources, just not taking care of things adequately.”

Sissy shook her head.  “Just too many folks in them days eating up all the food.”

Uncle John chuckled at the seriousness with which she spoke.  “So they came up with a plan.  They gave that plan to the President of the United States.  He met with leaders from all the other countries around the world.  Everyone said, “Why, this is a great plan.””

Sissy interjected again.  “You didn’t think it was a great plan; didja?”

“It wasn’t what I considered a good plan, no. You’re right about that. There were others like me who weren’t so sure this would work and thought that we should explore other ideas for a bit before jumping into something we couldn’t undo.  We tried to warn everybody, but we were just shushed.  The well meaning scientists said we’d have the new moon in its place before the Earth would even notice it was missing.”

“Was they right?” Jonah asked.

“He’s gettin’ to that part, Jonah.”  Sissy said.

“Their theory was that since the old moon was originally formed when some other planet banged into the earth and a chunk of that planet melted into a chunk of earth then why we shouldn’t we be able to do the same thing.  It was after all just this big ol’ rock stuck between the sun’s pull and the earth’s pull.  Round and round everybody went, smooth as marbles in the universe.”

“I like playing with marbles,”  Jonah said.

“I do too,”  Uncle John agreed. “Anyway, the plan sounded good to everybody who made those types of big decisions, and they went to work building a new moon.  It was sort of like a bunch of satellites that when launched into space would be able to join together.“

“I showed him all the pictures in that book you gave me. They had to blow up old moon first.  Remember, Jonah?  Remember I showed you the picture of that?”

“Yeah.  It was a big KABOOM,”  he said and swung his arms wild.

“Yes, indeed, Kaboom.  Nuclear detonations they called them.  That was their plan for old Mr. Moon, kaboom.  It was to be the biggest nuclear bomb ever detonated. When I say blow up, I  don’t just mean slightly blow up.  They wanted to have that old  Moon in puzzle pieces.  Then the new moon would come around and grab up as many of those pieces as it could, and Wallah, we’d have us a new improved moon that had all the right stuff for us to live there.”

“That does sound like a good plan,” Jonah agreed.

“Well, not to everybody, including me.”  Uncle John pretended protested.

“Yeah, Jonah, not to everybody.”  Sissy added.

“There were a few of us who thought better of the situation.  We started warning people, saying it might not be such a good idea, saying that such a big explosion that close to the Earth could cause terrible things to happen to our atmosphere, to our orbiting around the sun.  Why the planet could jump out of its path and fly off into space, get burned up by the sun. We warned that the Earth may start wiggling crazy-like and become like one of the other planets out there in the sky, Mars, which wobbles terrible.  We told them that any problems we were experiencing before would be nothing compared to what would be coming if that happened.”

“I can wiggle crazy,”  Jonah said.  He jerked and flailed his arms, making a silly face with his tongue hanging out and his eyeballs looking upward.

“Wiggling is bad; right?”  Sissy said, and gave Jonah a punch in the thigh.

“Ouch,”  he said and rubbed at the spot.

“We can wiggle a little, but not too much.  It would be sort of like when you throw a rock into water, those ripples and rings that move outward from the point where it hits the water, that’s  pretty much what the kaboom would be like when they blew up the moon.  We called it the ripple effect, and those ripples we felt would do some unexpected things to good old Earth.

“And you was right too, huh?”  

“I’m afraid so, Sissy.   Initially, the Earth just stopped spinning, but that was just so it could start spinning in the opposite direction.  Boy, did it spin fast.  The faster it went, the shorter the days were.  It was a pretty frightening time.  One of the most important things old moon did for us was keep us spinning in a nice smooth direction.  When we were between moons for that brief period, the Earth wobbled back and forth and back and forth, like a ship at sea in a storm.  There were all sorts of changes to the weather, the temperature, the seasons.  Clouds of dust and rocky debris caught up in our gravity.  They’d blocked out the sun for days, weeks even.  But when I got a glimpse of that new moon up there, it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen.  

“It is a good lookin’ moon.”  Jonah piped in.

“Everything seemed to settled down once they got it in place.   Those remaining moon bits continue to be a problem.  They began to form a ring around Earth, sort of like that planet Saturn I told you about.  

“I showed him in the book, Uncle John.”  Sissy said.  “Read him all about it.”

“S ome of the moon bits would break off and slam into the ground when you’d least expect it, leaving giant holes.  All the rapid changes caused life to change.  Did you show him the animal books I gave you, Sissy.”

“Did all them animals really live here?”  Jonah asked.

“They did.”  Sissy retorted.

“The Earth was spinning a full turn quicker for quite some time, and many of the animals couldn’t survive with the climate changing so fast.  The winds blew hard.  There were changes to plants and animals immediately, because of the temperatures changes.  They were swapping, what was once hot was now cold and what was cold was now hot. The ice of the coldest regions had started melting and soon the oceans were rising and swallowing up the coastlines all around the world.  After that, it was the lowlands and smaller islands, and then entire countries were buried under water.  The four seasons have turned to two, each warmer than the next.  Soon it was just always hot and growing hotter.  Many species of animals and plants could not survive the rapid changes to their ecosystems. The ones still alive couldn’t find food sources.  The same started happening for us, growing seasons had changed and forced us to learn to make food indoors where we could keep the temperatures stable.  Many foods were just gone, and the rest were rationed.”

They sat on the couch in silence, each lost in their own thoughts.

Believe it or not, we were lucky we had all those extra moon pieces falling to Earth.  We needed the extra weight to slow us back down.  The new moon’s gravity was also dragging and pulling on the Earth, sort of like an anchor. This helped slow down Earth’s rotation too.  The sun’s atmosphere was dragging against the moon and slowing it up.”  

“Slowing things down was good; right?”  Sissy asked.

“It turns out that it was.  The Earth and the moon and sun were all playing catch me if you can, just like they used to with old moon.

“I like playing that.”  Jonah said.

“You’re it.”  Sissy tapped him on the head and jumped over the back of the couch.  Jonah got up and chased her around the room until she slowed so he could tag her.  

“I let ya.”  She said breathless.

Jonah ignored her and went back to sit next to Uncle John.  

He continued.  “Now, if the Earth had stayed stopped in its moving, not even doing its little wobbly spinning thing and rotating on its axis, it would have crashed into the sun.  That’s how hard the sun pulls at us.   

“That ain’t gonna happen; is it?”  Jonah asked wide-eyed.

“No, it’s not.  For a while there, I was real worried about how fast we were spinning around, though.  They did create a terrific new moon with almost the same geologic composition as the Earth. They hoped it wouldn’t be long before they’d be able to bring life there.  We scientists  use something called computer models to explore different scenarios of how this could be accomplished, trying to separate would bes and could bes from pure science fiction hookie.  Space stations were set up to keep checking on new moon, analyzing the differences between it and here.

Jonah went to the window and wrinkled his eyes as he looked up.  

“It’s time for dinner.”  Mama said, leaning over the doorway from the kitchen.

They sat down and grabbed each other’s hand and bowed heads, giving a prayer of thanks.

“Dig in,”  Mama said spreading her napkin on her lap.

“So how do you all want to spend your last two weeks of your life here on Earth?”  Uncle John asked.