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  • Mr. Moon
  • Mary Mullen (bio)

His mother said someone bought another star in his memory from the International Star Registry. Another, because he already had one. My friend Elizabeth says it's just a scam. Under her breath. As if his mother can hear us, a thousand miles away.

Did you buy the star? I didn't buy a star. Did you buy the star? She didn't buy the star. There wasn't a name on it, the special star-naming certificate that arrived. Maybe it was his first-grade teacher, the one who delivered his handmade ornament to his mother the year after he died. Mrs. First-Grade-Teacher was 91 then; she probably isn't ordering stars on the internet now. It could have been that girl he dated but never admitted he was dating in high school. Maybe it was a lover none of us ever knew about. Or a friend who was too drunk to write their name in the message box on the online purchase form. Whoever it was, they knew the anniversary of his death was coming up, and they were thinking about him, six years later, and they wanted to do something, say something, send something, give something.

The impulse to act.

It doesn't really matter if it's a scam.


Last year after the fifth deathiversary dinner, my son got into three fights at school. He doesn't fight. He just had low blood sugar, he just needed more snacks. But for a couple of months I thought it was the dinner. I thought it was my fault, for talking and reminiscing about the father he can't remember. I wondered if I made all the wrong decisions, if I put him through too much. [End Page 5]

I scheduled this year's dinner for a Sunday anyway. Because it is scary to imagine doing things differently.


The yard is frozen mud because there was a January thaw. "There is always a January thaw," someone told me the other day, when my shoes were covered in mud and the sun was drying the sidewalks. I wanted to tell them, "There is not always a January thaw." There was not a January thaw six years ago when my son's father died, and there wasn't a January thaw three years ago when we pulled on winter boots to go to another family dinner to remember him, and I can assure you there has not always been, nor is there any guarantee there will be, a January thaw. Sometimes the weather is unrelenting. Sometimes the spring comes late. Sometimes we are left suspended, unthawed, like a leaf caught in the ice.


There is an empty bottle of L'Étoile du Nord Vodka on the stairs. Another one behind the metal grate. I repeat the words over again as I walk carefully through the attic. The star of the north. A small shooter of Hot 100 empty in the closet. An empty bottle of red wine on the cabinet. I have always lived with people who throw away the evidence. The rest of us can find the recycling bin. How hard it is? I can't figure out why he leaves these around. Except. Maybe he can't see them. Maybe his landscape looks like something entirely different from my own.

I look for a doctor who can manage his blood sugar, my thyroid, the city's collective insomnia. A doctor who can fix broken hearts. It couldn't hurt to try?


My cousin told me that when I was a toddler and she would babysit me, she would tell me about the Man in the Moon. What I can remember is the old rusted swing set, painted—poorly—a deep purple, and a small wooden box swing I would sit on, and a large black rubber seat the big kids would sit on. She said she would tell me about the Man in the Moon and point to the face.

She said I liked to believe that there was a man in the moon, and I would [End Page 6] ask very practical, very specific questions about...


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