Surprisingly good for a modern novel. The characters beg for observation, not empathy. Oedipa Maas’ quest to figure out the Thurn and Taxis sub rosa postal empire ends with the auctioning off of the stamp collection. No closure, and yet it needs none. The reader does not wonder what happens next, does not care what becomes of Mucho Maas, does not question who is the mysterious bidder for Lot 49. It simply ends. The middle and early sections give a clear picture of the muddled state of late 20th century life in America. Everything is aptly named, from Dr. Hilarius (Oedipa’s shrink) to the Paranoids (the American British rock group), from San Narciso and the Echo Courts hotel to Genghis Cohen the stamp expert. This book dizzies you as you read, but not nauseatingly so. Just enough to make the 6 o’clock cocktails unnecessary.
I moved into this house full of howling lunatics in mid June. It is now well nigh July and I am (almost) as crazy as them. They think my madness stems from too much reading. I think it’s from living in close proximity to them, with their noxious breath and vapors steaming into my pores whenever I shower. To safeguard from germs, I cover every inch of my body with a combination of mosquito netting and linen. But every once in awhile I must strip myself down to the bare essentials and wash. They get me every time. I figure on four injections of their lunacy so far. But between the ingestion of their flimsy germs and my nighttime visitor, I am nearing madness.
You see, the full moon keeps creeping into my room at night.
You might find it odd, but it is nevertheless quite true that, no matter what day of the month it happens to be, the full moon crawls into my bed, into my head almost, every night of the week. I’ve even hammered an extra layer of boards onto the window to try and keep it out. It seems to slide in through a slat in the Venetian blinds, wriggle in beside a splinter and pop out full sized, snuggling under the covers with me.
You would think the moon to be an interesting bed mate, I’m sure, all cool and smooth and full of delightful bedtime stories. But no, this moon is wrinkled and covered in coarse, stiff hair and grunts as it slithers into bed, a tad too chilly and gritty for my taste as I nibble on a crater here and there. And once it’s in bed, it just lays there, gaping, like it expects to be entertained by me as a guest, instead of explaining itself or doing any twirling of its own.
Worst of all, I wake up with a gravelly taste in my mouth and must uncrumple myself from that sliver of space left to me once the moon (bigger than you’d think) slips into bed. In the morning, it’s long gone before I can dash out to announce the tidings of its sleepover. Only a deep indentation and a scattering of moon rocks remain.
But I have a plan. I will trap it. Tonight.
I stretch my way out of bed and shake out the sheets. Meanwhile, I can hear them jabbering away behind my door. I turn up the volume of the song inside my head and drown them out while busying myself straightening out the room, pulling the sheets to the head of the bed, taut enough now to bounce halves on. I am quite finicky about the tidiness of my room, especially the bed, which is why the moon rocks and other remnants of the evening visits grate on me so.
I spend most of my day lying on my back in the short grass, minus one quick thieving mission at the playground. I’d be safe in tall grass, too, because of the mosquito netting, but there’s none to be seen. Someone around here has a thing about cutting the grass.
After dinner, amidst laughing cries of “Catch all your zzzzs tonight, there’s a new moon!” and “”Stop mooning about this place all day,” I proceed to my room. I fasten the last lock on the door and sit on the bed to wait.
Time weighs heavy on hands that hang on the windowsill in anticipation. The moon is late. Or maybe it knows I lie in wait for it, and, like a watched turkey, decides not to pop. At some point, my eyelids weigh heavier than time and droop. I slip under the covers and into a light sleep.
I dream I am walking through the desert, covered in pink gauze, searching for something. I can hardly breathe, the air heavier than lead. I stumble toward a patch of cacti that resemble a tea party. The closer I approach, the further away they seem. I begin to fall to the ground and feel something watching me.
Cautiously, I open one eye and see a moon beam struggling through the board. I close the eye and tightly clutch the round cage held in my hands under the covers.
“Oof! I’m getting too big for this,” grumbles the moon as it smashes through the splintered slit.
It shoves me over onto my slice of bed against the wall and proceeds to snore. I slide my hand over its prickly surface, petting it gently. I search for the ticklish spot in its largest crater and wiggle my fingers deviously.
The moon roars awake and gasps as it squirms in my grasp. In its greatest moment of ecstatic torture, I pounce and slide the hula hoop around its body. When the tickling stops, the moon settles back into a comfortable wheeze of steady breathing.
Morning breaks and I scratch my leg against a rocky surface. The moon is still in bed! And it is peering over its rim at me, quite dismayed. I leap from the bed, clapping my hands together.
“Oh yes! Now to show the others!”
I lift the moon carefully, trying not to jostle off the hoop. This proves no easy task, because the moon weighs much more than, say, an ordinary crate of lemons.
Stumbling into the kitchen, I place the moon onto the table before everyone’s mildly surprised eyes.
“What is that? Some boulder dug up from the yard?”
The moon is unresponsive to my pokes.
“Nooo…” I’m indignant and poke harder. “It’s the very moon that keeps slipping into my room at night.”
“Oh, right,” someone winks and nods around the room. “But why-ever isn’t it lurking in the sky over Tokyo right now?”
He pushes a finger into the moon’s side. “Hey buddy, what gives?”
The moon slowly opens one eye, tired. It is none too pleased to have been trapped and tricked and, to top it all off, teased.
“Well, I’ll tell you,” starts the moon in its gravelly voice, stopping to clear its throat, “I would be over Tokyo right now but for the connivery of your friend here.” He nods toward me.
I shuffle and mentally pat myself on the back.
“But why are you here at all?” another prod from the peanut gallery.
The moon rolls back on its haunches and warms up to all the attention.
“Why am I here? Why am I here? Well, a long time ago when the earth was spinning away from the epicenter of the…”
“Stop,” I snap, realizing the moon is on the verge of weaving an eon-long tale, “We mean, why are you here in this house?”
“Oh.” The dejected look of a thwarted storyteller shades softly to a look of sheepishness. “This house has lunatic written all over it. I thought I’d be more than welcome to take a load off here; you know, scratch that psychological itch with people who can relate. I’ve found myself quite jumpy in my orbit lately, with sudden spasms that hop me across the sky… kind of like hiccups.”
“Or tics, ” I add, the situation suddenly dawning on me.
I brush the dew from my arms and point at the moon, “You’re a luna with a tic. You’re even crazier than us.”
I yank the hula hoop off and the moon drifts up and away.
Someone behind me yells, “Get a flea collar!” and collapses into giggles.
I begin to smile.