<FWG> "Grapefruit Moon"

  • From: Jason Ziredac <ziredac@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: fwgalaxy@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 21 Feb 2009 10:19:40 -0800 (PST)

Grapefruit Moon

by Ensign Cannon Everett


Speaking on
the subject of planetary color, Grapefruit Moon was not aptly named—unless the
grapefruit in question had been dropped in a corrosive acidic compound, rolled
around in the dirt, and left out to mold in the densest humidity one could
find. The little white shuttle came to the world night-side, and from orbit the
shuttle’s pilot, our Cannon Everett , could see the fingerprints of city lights
dappling the shadowed surface of the moon. 


Moon, which was sometimes called G-Moon (G-Moon, G-Moon, G-Moon is she)
by its jester-like inhabitants, was a non-rotational satellite to the gas giant
Forda III, its day-side flooding with a nearly tangible orange light. This was
an altogether unattractive aspect to the smoky denizens of the world, so nearly
all civilization rested in the night-side, where that all-too-cheery sunlight
would only bother them during those pesky eclipses. 


The little
white shuttle docked successfully in a greasy garage-like spaceport in a bad
part of a bad town. To be honest, every metropolitan area on Grapefruit Moon
looked a lot like Detroit. When Cannon walked out of the spaceport, he found
himself on the corner of Ninth and Hennepin, peering down bending city streets
that just as well may have been tunnels. Feather boa-laden ladies of the night
traipsed proudly over the gum-stained sidewalks, brazenly cat-calling potential


Even Randy,
the invisible and inaudible celestial custodian, felt like he oughtn’t speak
for fear of a stooge popping out of an alley with a switchblade asking very
politely for cash. The neon lights of Ninth Street kept changing the colors of
everyone’s face that passed by, the diseasing interest in their expressions
painted Easter-yellow one second, Valentine-pink the next, and Christmas-green
after that. 


This place was
full of oddities. Places like London chose the old-fashioned out of comfort,
pining for ease and simplicity and reminiscence; the people here probably aimed
for this lifestyle, aimed for the casinos and the bars, for the slick streets
and cigarette butts. Grapefruit Moon was probably once just as barren and
lifeless as any old moon, and could have been green and shiny had different
settlers dropped by. 


But no.


Instead there
were a thousand alcoholic dives, all named something clever. To the left was a
barber shop called Trouble’s Braids, and to the right was a diner called
The Nighthawk, which advertised “Dangerous Veal Cutlets,” aside from
breakfast platters of eggs, sausage, side of toast, coffee and a roll, hash
browns over easy, chili in a bowl. Out the door of some vast warehouse market
came the harassing call of, “Step right up! Step right up! Bargains, bargains!
How do we do it?! How do we do it?!”


Stapled real
estate flyers beckoned, “Come On Up To The House, The House Where Nobody
Lives!…Yet!” At the bottom, the real estate company flashed its logo and
its name: In the Neighborhood.


On the corner
of Ninth and Vermouth was a gambling/strip joint called Straight to the Top
/ Temptation, advertising some emaciated overly made up girl in pasties and
a g-string. 


mechanic/junkyard: What’s He Building In There?


A foreign
fashion shop: Big In Japan.


Honking loudly
two blocks back was a large-haul carrier shuttle. Apparently, some hoodlums had
crossed right in front of him, causing him to stop abruptly. Drunken shouts
were exchanged, and the carrier driver drove past as Cannon and Randy watched
with wide eyes. In chrome branding on the grille of the carrier was “Phantom
309,” and stamped on the passenger door in quotes and a curly script was “Big


“Hey Randy?”




“Where are


“That’s a
really excellent question.”


“Where’s the
path go?”


“That way.”


“Oh. Good.
Ah’ll follow you.” 


Cannon, he of
the short attention span, lost count of how many cheap bars they passed. There
was a bar catered to Starfleet officers called Shore Leave, another more
trendy place (for G-Moon’s standards) called The Heart of Saturday Night,
a jazz bar called The Drinking Piano, and a rugged little place simply
called Uncle Vernon’s. The list went on. To Cannon, it was like an
amusement park that he’d been dragged to; tons of attractions, but absolutely
zero interest. A purely unnatural sentient thought zapped through his brain,
saying, Ah think Ah’d need ta be bout ten tahmes drunker than av-ridge ta
even start lahkin’ this place.


“Ah wonder
whut kahnd a gah lives in a place lahk this if e’s a Revorena,” said Cannon.
“Ah mean, place seems harmless enough, but Ah wouldn’t spect an angel a sorts
to hang round here too much. More lahk a devil who lahks to have too much fun.”


A husky
whisper spat out from their left, from the cultivated shadows of a
laundry-laden alley. “Devil?” it said. “Naw, brother, there ain’t no devil.
It’s just God when He drinks.” Out from the nearly palpable handful of darkness
came a baggy-eyed little man who looked like he could have been in his
mid-twenties had he not smoked and drank all of his life. Especially in this
lack of light, he looked like he could have been fifty. He was human, but had
the diminutive stature of a Ferengi, not reckoning the smell. A plain black
jacket, thin and pocketed, draped over his narrow bony shoulders. 


Randy hissed, “I think it would better the situation if we don’t stop to color
the locals…” But he was ignored.


“Gawd when e
drinks, huh? Ah guess that makes sense.”


The short man
stabbed out a stained hand. “Name’s Romeo, but my friends call me Small Change.
On account of my height no doubt. In case you didn’t notice, I’m short.”


“Oh Ah
noticed. Ain’t no prob’m with it, Ah reckon.”


“Yeah, but you
ain’t been referred to as ‘Kid’ when someone addresses you from behind down at
the arcade. You don’t get warily carded every time you go to buy a pack of
cigarettes. I’m twenty-three, and my poor luck ain’t given me the grace of face
to grow a beard.”


Ah, the drunk.
They always imagine you as their new best friend. Small Change was the type who
didn’t really have a social net. Strangers were this guy’s best friends, the
scratched anonymity being the deepest wound he’d ever inflict or sustain. It
was an every-night happenstance for Small Change: go to the bar, lose your
mind, stick around and hang on the newest person you can recognize. Once you
get to know a man like Small Change, the tendency is to stop knowing them as
quickly as you can, because nothing dulls life more than being well-acquainted
with a person who hasn’t been well-acquainted to sobriety for thirteen years.


“You new to
G-Moon, brother?” asked Small Change.


“Yessum, jes
visitin fer a couple days.” Cannon failed to notice that Randy had his face
firmly planted in his palm without any sign that he’d ever emerge.


“Gettin away
from the wife, huh?” Small Change guessed. “Comin down to get a taste of the
free life? Well I know all the good places to lose your mind, and I know all
the ladies who won’t give you nothin you can’t swipe away with an im-kit.” He
began to saunter down the sidewalk, back the way from which Cannon and Randy
had come.


Cannon interrupted, pointing the way he was originally headed—pointing the way
of Randy’s path, “whut’s up this way?”


there ain’t nothin up that way ‘cept for old St. Christopher’s place, and he
don’t take to me too much. Anything else up there that ain’t a bunch of houses
is just Virginia Avenue. Parliament of the Moon, really. Nothin too fun.”


“Well, uh,
mahnd showin me round up there? Ah wanna get ta knowin it ‘fore Ah get too
drunk to reckonize it.”


Small Change
zombie-walked up to Cannon, accidentally stepping lightly on one of his toes. A
steadying hand fell against the cracking old cement structure next to them, and
a streetlight clicked off on the corner. “You know, my friend? You got an
excellent point. An excellent fuckin’ point. Yeah, sure, I’ll show you
the place, brother. Virginia Avenue don’t look too bad anyway. Maybe we’ll grab
a couple a drinks at St. Chris, if you pay.” And away he went, singing an
old-sounding tune—the way his voice had suffered the burning of smoke and
booze, it sounded like it was played on an old gramophone, warbling with the
warp of the record and the unsteady pace of the turntable. 


It was a
train that took me away from here,
he sang. But a train can’t bring me home.




The first
thing that happened in the bar called the Gin Soaked Boy was a
heavy-handed accosting on account of the bartender and owner. “Small Change,
you better have that twenty-nine dollars you owe me, else you’re leaving here
just as damp you come in, not a drop wetter!”


“It’s all
gravy, baby,” Small Change slurred as he tumbled onto the bar seat. “I ain’t
got your twenty-nine, but I assure you, Saint, drinks’ll be paid for tonight.
Got my friend Trace Von Tenen here who’s treatin me before we take a stroll up
to Virginia Avenue.”


The bartender
discerned Cannon without a whiff of trust. “Well I sure hope Small Change is
right, Mr. Von Tenen, else I got sixteen shells for my thirty-ought-six that’ll
scare you right outta comin back unless it’s to pay me off.”


“Oh no
worries, sir, Ah got money.”


“Good. Name’s
Christopher Johns, people call me Saint Christopher. Only cause I got
the cheapest booze and the most lenient of policies when concerning lice like
your company this evening.”


Cannon smiled
and nodded his head. “Pleasure ta meetcha. Ah won’t trouble you fer too much
drink, Ah got a long evening ahead a me that Ah need ta be straight for.”


“As for me,”
Small Change said, putting more emphasis on the word me than could ever
be expected from a man who hated himself so much, “I’ll take a double jitterbug
boy. Might as well get another one goin right after it.”


“Small Change,
you already seem soused enough. I think I’ll make you a single and see how you
handle that, huh?”


“Now hang on,
St. Christopher, I know how much I can do, and so can you.” Small Change
swerved around a table and spotted a bathroom. “Be right back, cats,” he
announced, mostly to himself, before vanishing into a cloud of cigarette smoke.


“How’d a
respectable simpleton like yourself manage to get scrounged up with the likes
of him?” asked St. Christopher.


“Met im on the
street, said e’d show me arahnd. Ah’m not here fer very long, an e seems ta
know the place pretty well.”


“Well you just
watch that which you sit on around that guy. He’s always pulling on trouble’s


Lahk that
barber shop back there. Whut kahnd a vocabulary these people studyin’ up on?


transaction here at the Gin Soaked Boy didn’t take too long. Once Small
Change relieved himself of his drinks from an hour ago, he filled himself right
up again in under ten minutes. Cannon paid for the drinks and listened with
modest fright as St. Christopher admonished the little drunk that he’d better
have that money next time he comes in.


Again, almost
in response, Small Change sang to himself as he and Cannon (and Randy) left the
bar. We’re all gonna be just dirt in the ground. I said we’re all gonna be
just dirt in the ground.




Avenue was surprisingly well-kept. There were actually green-painted trash cans
in which to place what little waste was produced in this little pocket of
Grapefruit Moon. Deep orange street lights spotted the gray streets and
sidewalks, and the houses and government buildings looked surprisingly


“This was the
first place the colonists put up,” Small Change narrated. “Ain’t along the
standards of the rest of the Moon, but the law won’t let anybody change it. Too
pretty for the likes of me.” He grumbled some more, wallowing in his
inebriation like a jester without a court.


Virginia Avenue, it looked as if no light could be born. While Small Change
went dancing with lampposts, Cannon heard Randy direct his attention to it,
saying that the path led out that way. There was no glow reaching into the sky;
no city, no life. But there was at least one.


“Whut’s out
that-a-way?” Cannon asked.


Small Change
looked in the direction of Cannon’s point, squinted, and had a momentary lapse
of drunkenness. A grave visage pervaded the young man’s face for a bare, pallid
second that even the likes of Cannon could notice. Then, immediately, he
reverted back to his stumbling demeanor. “Aw, nothin, my man, nothin. Ain’t
nothin out that way ‘cause nothin was built out that way. That’s the edge of
the city right there, and, uh, no one really goes out there. So, you done here,
or you wanna see more hoity toity areas of the town?”


“Nah, Ah
kahnda wanna see whut’s out there.”


“Trace, no you




“’Cause, uh,
you just don’t.”


“Small Change,
is there sum’m out there you don’t wanna tell me ‘bout?”


“Look, there’s
just an old red barn out there, all that’s left of the Chandler farm. First
settlers, you know, uh…”


“Anyone still
live out there?” Cannon asked.


“Not anymore.
It’s just creepy out there, ever since there was the murder in the barn. ‘Bout
twenty years ago. People say that the woman’s ghost still walks around in
there. Ghosts ain’t real, a course, but it’s enough to make the superstitious
stay away. And it’s not all that interesting when you get up there anyway, it’s
just a…it’s just an old red barn, for crying out.”


“Well if there
ain’t any ghosts and there ain’t nothin truly scary out there, then whut’s the
worry? You don’t have ta go, but Ah’ll go see it. Ah, uh…Ah love haunted houses
an things lahk that.”


Cannon put his
hands in his pockets, told Small Change he’d see him later, and then moseyed on
down Virginia Avenue toward the nothingness. Small Change didn’t like it out in
the dark fringes; when he was a kid, he and the older kids would go out there
on dares, and he didn’t like it a bit, oh no. There was just something wrong
with it. 


His new
friend, though, this Trace Von Tenen, was heading out there all by himself.
When Small Change was drunk, strangers were his best friends indeed. Would you
let your best friend go into the dark alone? Sure as shinola, you would
not. So, singing again, Small Change followed after.


Don’t go
into that barn, yeah,
he sang. Don’t go into that barn, yeah. Everett Lee broke loose again. It’s
worse than the time before…




Somehow, the
old barn still smelled like paint.


It stood destitute
of life out amidst the dead orange trees that prickled the moon’s naked
landscape. An old sign that might have said Chandler once poked out of
the ground. The vivid orange light of Forda III crested over the horizon, like
city lamplight through a snowstorm. 


Beside Cannon,
Randy pointed the way, directly into the old barn itself. The paint wrestled
itself from the wood in long, bony strips, exposing knotholes and scars from
burrowers. Walls seemed to be held up by weeds. Stepping inside through the
flapless door, Cannon found nothing but darkness and silence, save for the
moaning wind from atop the roost. 


“The path goes
no further,” said Randy. “There’s someone here.”


Small Change
caught up, visibly shaking, twisting his head in all directions, ready for some
bolt of lightning to come give him a bit of its juice. “Trace,” he said to
Cannon, “you sure you wanna be here? It’s givin me sandpaper skin.”


“Who goes


Cannon and
Small Change (and Randy, if any had seen him) leapt in surprise, starting back
toward the door. Small Change made to flee, but found his night’s best friend
staying his ground, and he thought him a grand old fool.


“Mah name’s
Can… Trace. Just at fer a walk, don’t mean ta bother ya.” The speaker was
unseen, and from the one wind-riding sentence, Cannon couldn’t tell from which
direction it had come from. It was booming, but sad and morosely complacent,
raspy like a million cigarettes and harsh liquor. Cannon could almost smell it.


bothers me nowadays,” said the voice.


Small Change
muttered, “It’s a ghost,” several times, incoherently, unable to abandon his
friend to some gruesome spectral ending. He had his .38; if he had to, he’d
blow six holes through the ghost if he needed to. Did that work? Had it ever?


“Well,” said
Cannon, “what’s yer name?”


“Ain’t got a
name no more,” said the voice, whose location was triangulating itself amidst
the gloom. “Traded it for a debt, tossed it to the sharks so they wouldn’t feed
on me. But for the sake of addressin me for the time bein, you can call me
Frank.” Frank’s image came out of the shadows. He was thirty years younger than
he sounded, placing his age roughly around Cannon’s. Grime lined his cheeks,
making his bones look twice as sharp. He made no furtive motions, no sudden
lurches; he just stood there outside of his shadowed veil, looking on at
nothing, a nothing which happened to be in Cannon’s general direction.


Randy whispered, “that’s him.”


“Pleased ta
meetcha, Frank. Whatcha doin in this barn all bah yerself?”


“I live here
at the moment,” said Frank. “Been on the run for twelve years now.”


“On the run?
Lahk from the police er sum’m?”


“From my own
name, from the things I done. Don’t even think the police are involved, don’t
think they ever were. I’m the kinda guy who couldn’t get the world’s attention
for killing his wife, nailin through her head, torchin the house with her and
the dog inside. Have some wild years behind me, and I think they’re gainin.”


Small Change,
relieved of his haunting fears, stepped forward and said, “You really off yer
wife, Frank, or you just mixin a metaphor?”


Frank put his
hands in his pockets. “I’ll tell you all my secrets, but I lie about my past,”
he said. “She is doing the obituary mambo. Tried to dance with her on
that one myself, but…well, I don’t think I’d even get attention for that one.
Think I’d just be gone, just like that leaf on the sidewalk, blowing away in
spring’s wind, and you forget it, because there’re so many other leaves like
it, some growing on trees, some resting in piles…” He drifted, scratching his


“Ya trahd ta
kill yerself?”


“Go dancing,”
he answered.


Cannon looked
as hard as his stony eyes could at the man who wasn’t originally called Frank.
He looked at Randy, who said something, and looked past him at Small Change,
who couldn’t at all, save for twiddling his switchblade. Now that the thrill of
a ghost was gone, he looked favorably bored. 


“Hey Small
Change, you can take off nah, if’n ya want.”


“Why? What are
you gonna do? Stay here and chat it up with long-n-tall here?”




Frank sang
something to himself.


“Nah,” said
Small Change. “I’ll wait until you’re done.”


Frank still
sang: Hell doesn’t want me. And Heaven’s full. Blow, wind, blow. Blow me


The wind sang
an opera through the weathervanes to the applause of the bare trees. Everything
closed around them. Cannon stared at Frank, at the saddest face he’d ever seen.
He was a living ghost, just like himself; a man with a heartbeat and no name.
So, Cannon drew his phaser, leveled it on Frank’s chest, and fired. Frank’s
duet with the wind stopped forevermore as he crumpled in the corner.




Small Change
shrieked, falling out of the barn to his back, crawling away like a scrambling
crab. His .38 was in his hand in case the Texan wacko decided to come after him
as well, but he never did, not through Virginia Avenue, not through the rest of
the streets leading to Small Change’s tiny apartment. He blathered to himself
the entire way home, frightening even the most pale-faced denizens of
Grapefruit Moon, spinning around every two steps to make sure Trace Von Tenen
wasn’t following him, losing his balance as he spun, careening into trash cans,
tumbling to the sidewalk. 


Once he was
inside his apartment door, Small Change threw all of the old-fashioned
deadbolts and chain-locks into place, and even activated the electro-magnetic
lock, those of which nobody on G-Moon ever used. The .38 still clamped in his
sweaty mitt, Small Change stumbled back into his chair, faced the door, and fell
asleep there with his gun between his thighs after six whole hours of watching.


When he awoke
in the middle of the afternoon, there was a brass band marching in the
neighborhood, a kooky bandleader in the front, serenading nobody but the
sweepers of the alleys. Small Change crashed into his desk, retrieved a bottle
of bourbon, took a humungous pull, and went to his windowsill to rest his head
on his crossed forearms. He finally let go of his gun.


poured in like junk scraps, circulating the mystery of Trace Von Tenen, killer.
But how so? He could have killed Small Change at any time, especially if he was
looking for out-of-luck nobodies like himself, but why Frank? Why did he kill
some guy without a name? What black angel was this man, to rid a broken man of
himself? Perhaps he was law enforcement, looking for Frank for the murder of
his wife, or maybe a contract killer for the same reason. How would anybody
know to look for a vagrant at the old Chandler barn anyway? What the hell was
going on? What does it mean if you can’t even escape the evils of man by being
a greasy shadow behind the diner, behind the liquor store, behind the jazz
clubs and the burlesque revues?


Change got rained on with his own .38,
recited Small Change, giving his .38 a hard, keen look. Maybe it was worth it
to skip on out of this world while the chips were in the positive, while there
was still a tiny chance of being found by some soulless creeper looking to
cause a little maelstrom. Romeo is bleeding, he added.


Small Change
Romeo instead listened to the marching band as they paraded through the alleys,
their crazed bandleader growling out some sort of poem, looking like he had
lollipops in his eyes. He listened to the sounds of the children playing
stickball, trying to be grownups, sneaking swigs of their parents’ liquor from
juice boxes. Newsboys cried, policemen called, the world fell into its pieces
like the disjointed efforts of a child with his toys. 


himself up, Small Change looked into the starry morning sky, and began
convincing himself that it never happened.




The little
white shuttle screamed across the void, followed by no one.


“What in the
name of Eternity were you thinking, Cannon?” Randy scolded. More than scolded.
Reprimanded. Berated. None of these words felt fitting for his emotions. He’d
just witnessed a plainly unnecessary murder at the hands of what he had once
thought was the universe’s most harmless simpleton. “You shot him. No warning,
nothing, you just shot him. You didn’t have to; you may remember that
these Revorena people don’t have to die. We just perform the chanting,
extract the Revorena’s soul, replace it with a mortal soul, and the person
doesn’t even know the difference once it’s done. What…what the hell were
you thinking? Are you even capable of rational thought? Are you even
listening to me?”


listenin,” said Cannon, evenly, his voice diluted with air. “Sorry, Ah’m not
real talkative.”


“You shouldn’t
be! You killed a man!”


“Ah know,
Randy. You think Ah lahk it er sum’m?”


“Why’d you do
it, Cannon? Why didn’t you just shoo that Small Change character away, sit
Frank down, and send him a fresh new mortal soul?”


“Cause Ah
don’t reckon it’d change anything for im. You told me that it don’t make a
difference ta them once their soul’s replaced. That means that ol’ Frank’d jes
go back to what e was: an empty gah with nothin ta look forward to, jes sleepin
in a barn, scared, confused, lonely… Ah guess at the tahme Ah figgered it’d be
best if e jes didn’t have ta suffer no more, seein as how killin a Revorena
will release the soul anyway. Give im a little relief, ya know what Ah’m


Randy leaned
back in the passenger seat of the shuttle, watching Cannon’s mouth try to form
the next words. It made an absolutist sort of sense, but as far as the morality
of the subject went, he was still having metal conniptions. “Cannon,” he said,
“you can’t decide who lives and who dies. Heavens, I never thought… That was
severely uncharacteristic of you.”


“He’s lahk
me,” said Cannon. “Frank’s lahk me, er was. Alahve, but dead at the same
tahme. Ah can barely stand not bein able to tell someone who Ah really am, doin
all this weird stuff for Eternity as this sorta lone ranger out doin a job et
no one can help me on. Ah’m sorry, Randy, Ah won’t do it again. All these other
Revorena are goin out the right way.”


Sated by the
response as much as he could foresee, Randy sighed and hunched in the chair,
watching the immovable portrait of space before him. “If we can find them
before this other person does.”


“What other


“Your memory
is like foam on a creak,” Randy spat. “Bill Torres mentioned another person who
was seeking the Revorena. Harvesting was his term.”


“Well, too bad
fer that gah, because e can’t kill im or e’ll be doin our job for us.”


“So it’ll turn
into a rescue mission.”


“Oh boy!” 


As always,
Cannon Everett wasn’t sarcastic with this utterance. The little white shuttle
sprung to warp, headed along a very faint path in Randy’s perception. Computer
coordinates designated their destination as Starbase 47. Behind them,
Grapefruit Moon deliquesced in the dark distance, eclipsed by the light of its


They left just
like a bullet leaves a gun.




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  • » <FWG> "Grapefruit Moon" - Jason Ziredac