The Eyes of the Father

An excerpt from
The Eyes of the Father
The front yard had turned to silver. All of it—thick grass between the driveway and the Martins’ fence, the towering palm tree near the sidewalk, the roofs across the street, garbage cans, cars. Even Daddy’s yellow hair.

Moon magic, he called it. But Camilla wondered just what that was. Moon milk somehow spilled onto everything? Or just the moon itself hanging lower? Like a balloon losing air. So that the face, the man in the moon, was almost close enough to touch. Bigger and cooler than the sun; so you could look at him hard without squinting. Scary and exciting at once. How wonderful but wild his gold face smiled!

“I want that moon!” Camilla shrieked, as swelled up with excitement as the gold ball itself.

Daddy’s arms were excited, too. They squeezed her tight as he kissed her nose. Then the bristles of his beard tickled her neck before he shifted her to the tower of his shoulders where her legs straddled his head. Up there dizziness swirled round her, and the thrill of the cool darkness pushed her to cry even more greedily, wobbling with outstretched arms, “Here, Moon, here!”

Daddy laughed out loud at that and pulled her down for a hug. In the moonshine Camilla could see his eyes go sparkly like the sapphire in Marion’s ring. The light across his nose and cheeks reminded her that men were white like the moon while girls like her and Marion were brown like dirt.

“Please, Daddy,” she squealed again. “I want that moon.”

Laughing so hard that his hairy belly shook against her arm, Daddy turned her toward him again so his lemon hair tickled her face. Then Lily had the special glowing feeling of being loved best of all. Its echo was the steady thump of Daddy’s heartbeat.

“Lily, you shall have it,” he announced, using her special love name and holding her face-to-face so their noses almost touched. “Isn’t that the least a daddy can do for such a beautiful daughter?” Then the dark, the cool wind, and the tickly hair spun the two of them off together like a shooting star.

This became their game. Every night that he was home, which was seldom enough to be special in itself. Most nights Lily stayed with Trina, the sitter, who didn’t know about the moon and made Lily go to bed before the night even started. Trina came because Lily’s mama, Marion, went off with Daddy to make music at rich clubs in Santa Monica and Bel Air and Beverly Hills and other places too hard to remember.

Nor was every night with Daddy the same. Sometimes they couldn’t even find the moon; sometimes it shrank to a banana peel. Seeing it like that gave Lily the sick feeling of turning to water. Daddy didn’t care. He kept wanting her to call that twisted rag, “Moon.” But she refused to go along with the trick. And when he insisted, she got mad and yelled, “No! No!” One night she slapped his arm.

Daddy laughed at that, too, surprising her that he wasn’t mad back. Not furious and yelling like he got sometimes. No. He just laughed. Then he turned serious and tried to persuade her again that the rag and the ball were both the moon, and that it only looked like a rag because a shadow hid the other part, a shadow like they sometimes saw walking in the sunshine. Lily was not fooled, though. Whoever heard of a shadow in the sky? Besides, the night was pitch black around that scrap . . . Like a cookie that was half eat-up. “But, Daddy,” she pleaded, “I want the whole thing!”

“I know,” he said, carrying her indoors.
In the kitchen, setting her down on the floor beside the sink while he reached up in the cabinet to get a saucer for his white powder, he said, “Tell me Lily. Why do you want the moon so much?”
“I want the whole thing,” she answered determinedly, with her hands on her hips the way Marion did when she sang “Hey Good Looking.”

“Yes, but why?” he asked, pouring the white powder from the saucer to a paper.
She tried to think. For Lily, wanting didn’t always have a reason. “To be rich,” she said at last. “To have big money.”
Daddy was using the paper to put that white powder up his nose. But after the sniffing, he stopped and looked down at her as he said, “You know, Lily, we’re already rich. Because of the money Mama and Daddy make with music, you may not need the moon.”

“But I still want it,” she declared to him straight, eye-to-eye. “And you promised to get it for me.”

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