The sky is the mirror of the sea. The clouds will tell you what lies before you in the day. Just as the moon reflects the sun around the tilted twisting of the earth. Only fishermen and hunters know that.
Right now the full moon is enormous outside the cafe. My wicked, wicked moon. It leers at the six, squeaky-blonde women stuffed in the blood-red leather booth. It glints off wedding rings as they hold their hands high. It looks down their silk blouses with its buttery stare. It shines at us all so boldly I am amazed they do not see it. I could stand here forever and they would not see me.
"We're off to Paris for the holidays." one woman says to her friend. "All the little birdies have left the nest and we're really alone for the first time since we were married. John's taking major time off so we can travel to Burgundy, taste really fine pinots." She taps the wine list with a perfect nail.
"She can bend forward and lay her chest on the floor," seat two says. “Our yoga teacher is so limber she melts into positions."
"I know, everyone complains about the help," another one of them begins. "But it's so true. Once you have them trained just perfectly and they speak English, they want more money or leave!"
"Oh, look, the waitress! What are you all having? I don't know yet, ask them first."
She flicks her hand at her friends, an ice-cube diamond winking at the moon. I move my engagement ring around my finger, into position around the order pad. Seat five sees it and elbows her friend.
"I want the Chop-chop salad," seat six begins, "no nuts, dressing on the side, no chicken, no salt. Do you have fresh shrimp, not frozen? Could you heat this bread, or bring us something fresher, and butter? Oh!" She reaches into her purse, the same beige, logo-printed purse they almost all carry but in different styles, and hands me a tea bag. "And some hot water with this. You don't charge for that do you?"
Seat one eyes my ring.
"We'll split the cabbage salad," seat four says. "Leave off the dressing on mine, bring me some lemon. Just plain olive oil. No bacon, no cheese. And an order of French fries. The Rombauer Chardonnay for the table, separate checks, put the wine on mine - remember!"
Seat three nudges her and her eyes swing to my left hand. Now they will spend even more time sitting at my table talking.
A month ago I would have gone in the back and moaned. Six women squeezed in a booth on a full moon Saturday night is a great loss of money. They sit for hours gossiping, eating only salad and bread, waving me over every opportunity. Their six checks combined will total about one hundred dollars. Women tip worse the wealthier they are. Six men with one check will spend four hundred dollars, more, leave a big tip, never sit for long, and not change anything on the menu, or send it back.
So what! This is my last shift. I look down at the uncut emerald Richard gave me, like the sea, but smoothed by time and ringed with rubies. It's bigger than the width of my finger. And I smile at the moon.
The first day Richard asked me out the clouds were like fish-scales. I knew that perfect waves would be rolling in on the sands, like perfect good fortune. The night he asked me to marry him the new moon was a gold crescent door in the heavens. He said, "I know there will be many difficult moments with my family and children and the wives of my friends. But they will grow to love you like I do. You are so sweet and loving. Who could not want to be with you?"
That is true. And I didn't burden him with stories of people who wanted to be with me.
That was then, but the moon smiled down the night we escaped. I knew when I stole the boat with Fernando and Julio it wouldn't be easy for them, I pushed them to do it. The sky was clear, rains were past, and the winds were with us. The United States coast was too close for a daughter of fishermen to disregard. So when they took the fathers, killed the families, and shot at us, Fernando, Julio and I ran to the beach.
I loved my father. But many times we fished out to sea until he fell asleep on rum and I brought the boat back. The worst time, I was almost ten and the horizon was ringed in gray. I threw the catch overboard to make it back in the storm and he beat me when he woke the next day. My brothers all ran away except for one who drank and beat his wife.
When the sharks came it was morning, not a cloud in the sky. Julio and I gave them Fernando's body. He must have died at dawn from his wounds. We didn't notice until the sharks were bumping the boat and he didn't move. I hit sharks on the head with the oar and they left. Julio started crying, angry at me for talking him into leaving. He grabbed me and shook me so hard my head hurt. He calmed down, but later he suddenly jumped up, screaming so loud at me I kicked him with my foot like my father used to do to us when we didn't want to stay out to sea and fish with him and watch him drink. Julio fell off the boat. But a shark grabbed him so quick I lay down, still, in shock for a long time. Then it was just me and the wicked, wicked moon.
:: top ::