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Moon and Julie
“I am calling Henry Mooney,” Julie said to the sleep filled voice that rumbled “Yeah,” when it answered.
“Who are you? What time is it? Hmm, shit it’s only six a.m.” The voice was not strident or plaintive, just straightforward in that rumbling male baritone.
“Are you Henry Mooney, sir?” Julie persisted nervously. “I am trying to reach Henry Mooney whose mother lives in Oakton. That’s Joyce Mooney, the mother I mean.”
The sleep disappeared from the rumbler’s voice when he answered.
“Nobody calls me Henry. At least nobody I know does. But yeah, I’m Henry. But I go by Moon. Are you the cops? Is something wrong with my Ma?”
“Mr. Moon, I mean Mr. Mooney, I’m Julie Fortney. I live next door to your mother. She is sick Mr. Mooney. She’s in the hospital. I called 911 when I found her this morning and they took her to the hospital. I called Maureen, isn’t that your sister in Rockport? But she was, well unavailable.”
“Yeah, that would be Maureen. She broke off contact with our Ma. As far as I know they haven’t spoken or seen each other for ten years. I guess I’m not much better.”
“Is there anybody else? You’re so far away. Where is this area code I called, somewhere out West?
“Yeah, this number is in Washington about 50 miles from Spokane. Look, what’s your name again?”
“Julie, Julie Fortney.”
“Julie how bad is my Ma? Do you know?”
“They wouldn’t tell me anything official because I’m not on her “who to notify” HIPA document. You are.”
“What does that mean,” he asked. “I mean HIPA. What is that Julie?”
“It is a privacy document Mr. Mooney. It means the hospital staff will only provide patient information to you because your mother listed you on her hospital records. And they will only consult with you about patient diagnosis or care and any procedures they determine to be necessary.”
“Uh huh,” Moon grunted. He knew this day would roll around eventually if he did not beat Ma to the grave. At 68 he did not relish the thought of a long ride back to the Midwest, not that he did not love long rides. But the time of year was likely to lead to weather delays. He understood that he would have to get to her bedside as soon as he could. Moreover he had no way to know how long he might have to remain in Oakton. So he would drive the Hummer and trailer the Harley; close up the place here. Life changed just that quickly. Ironically his personal decks had tragically cleared only a few months earlier when Laura, with him for the past 15 years had been diagnosed with cancer in December and died in January, her lungs shot. Just that quick he thought your whole life gets turned upside down.
“Mr. Mooney,” Julie’s voice now in his ear. “Are you there? What shall I tell the hospital?”
“Gimme the number Julie and I’ll try to call and see if anybody will tell me anything over the phone. Will you tell ‘em not to let the old lady die before I get there at least? I’ll be in by Tuesday afternoon.”
It was Sunday when he said it.
Moon called the hospital. After swearing an oath that he was who he said he was and reciting his social security number, date of birth, and other bullshit he finally got to talk to a Doctor.
“Your mother, Mr. Mooney, has had a stroke. We don’t yet know the extent of the damage to her brain. Her vital signs are stable at present and she is resting comfortably. You’re the next of kin on her papers. Are you coming here?”
“Yes,” he said.
He called Hank Thornton of Thornton Timber Co. Hell, Hank was Thornton Timber Co.
“Hank, its Moon. My Ma is sick in the hospital back in Illinois. She don’t have nobody else. My sister and her don’t talk. I don’t know how long I’m gonna be gone. But I got to go. It was a good ride with you Hank. You treated me fair. But you better get somebody else to be foreman. If I was you Hank, I’d pick Randy Bourgeois. He’s a little young but he’s a leader and the men respect him. Them that don’t, he’s strong enough and can be mean enough to kick the shit out of ‘em.
“Oh yeah, about the truck; send somebody to pick it up will you Hank? I’ll leave the keys under the floor mat, right rear door.”
He made one other call; this to his AA sponsor.
“Jimbo, I got to go back to Illinois. Somebody just called me, a neighbor lady, said my Ma is in the hospital. She had a stroke I think, and they don’t yet know how serious it is. Yeah she’s going to be 90 this year. I got to back and look after her for I don’t know how long. I’ll be okay Jimbo. I been sober for 30 years, this ain’t going to change me. I’ll call you, yes. Yes I’ll find a meeting to attend and I will get you all the details. Jimbo, you’ve been good for me. Thanks for everything. Yes, understood. I can call you if I need to or just to talk.”
He spent the rest of the day getting the place ready to be away, loading and securing the Harley, loading his tools, packing the Hummer.
Tuesday just after 4 p.m., Julie heard a vehicle pull into Mrs. Mooney’s driveway. She looked out and saw the Hummer and the big motorcycle on its trailer. The driver’s door opened and Julie had her first look at Moon as he stepped out.
Sometimes the chemistry of female and male relationships is inexplicable. Nature can be remarkably capricious about sexual attraction. Julie found herself warmly fascinated by the sight of the elderly, bearded man getting out of the Hummer. He was big, maybe six one or two, she thought. Despite the years that showed in his face he looked strong and fit. It made her tremble she was so taken merely on seeing him. Mother Mooney had shown her pictures of the same man, much younger, clean shaved, handsome in the Class A uniform of the Army Special Forces. But she’d not been affected by them in the way she was looking at the much older actual man now physically before her. She was no better prepared for the thought unbidden that arose in her but there it was; that man is going to change my life.
She hurried to put on lipstick and quickly combed her hair; then, with a warm feeling in her groin, she went out to meet him, her pulse quickening. By that simple and outwardly innocuous act she set in motion a sea-change in her life, one that she would have found incredible if she had not subsequently lived it. Hitherto faithful wife for 15 years, mother of three, homemaker, God fearing and church-going, Julie was about to plumb a subterranean stream of sensuality previously undiscovered in her libido; a sensuality that would eventually erupt to the surface with this man.
“Hi there,” she called to him as she crossed the yard, “Are you Mr. Mooney?” This although she knew it was he already.
He turned toward her. She became self-conscious under his steady gaze as she approached. I must look like a frump, she thought. “I’m Julie, the one who called about Mrs. Mooney on Sunday.”
“Julie Fortney, right? He smiled showing wrinkles at the corners of his very blue eyes and a flash of bright white teeth. “Just call me Moon. ‘Mr. Mooney’ makes me nervous, like I was a defendant in a suit or criminal case.” More of that big Burt Lancaster smile.
“Have you been to the hospital yet?” she asked. He towered over her and he had thick arms that looked very solid and tanned and big powerful looking hands. He wore an old tattoo on his left arm, high up, that said “Special Forces,” and beneath it “Airborne” and beneath that a shield with a sword and diagonal lighting flashes. He wore jeans low on slender hips and a sleeveless chambray shirt that did not conceal a slight paunch; cowboy boots and POW/MIA logo cap. HIs white beard was full but neatly trimmed and when she approached moments before, he doffed his cap to her. She was charmed by that quaint gesture, noting he still had a full head of thick white hair that matched his beard. She liked the laugh wrinkles at the corners of his eyes and had a powerful urge to reach up and feel of his beard.
“No, I just pulled in when you came out. I’m going to unload the motorcycle and go on over. But I guess it’s not the one that was on Jefferson St., I’d heard there’s a new one.”
“Yes,” Julie said, “The new hospital is Grant County General on Century Way out past the Gibney plant, or what used to be Gibney.” Then, impulsively, before she could stop herself, she said, “I’d like to go with you.” And immediately she blushed. Then she became chagrined because she could feel she wss excited and she knew that he had noticed by the way his appreciative gaze swept across her full breasts.
Moon looked at her thoughtfully for several beats, long enough that she felt compelled to fill the silence.
“Well, I don’t know where that came from,” she said. “I’ve never even been on one of these big bikes. And the children, I can’t really leave them.”
“It’s easy to ride. That there with the back and rail; that’s the passenger seat. Your feet go right here, there’s one of these on each side. Otherwise you just hold onto me and when I lean you just follow my movement.”
“Don’t go yet,” she said. “I’ll be right back.”
She hurried to Maxine Trembley’s house on the other side of her from Mrs. Mooney’s. “Maxine its Julie,” she called into the house. When Maxine came to her from the kitchen she readily agreed to watch the Fortney children while Julie went to the hospital with Moon Mooney.
“Maxie,” Julie was flushed with excitement. “We’re going there on his big motorcycle!”
Maxine peered out her window where she could see Moon. “That’s Grandma Mooney’s son? He is a big one isn’t he? I’d ride his motorcycle if he asked me,” she remarked wistfully.
They giggled together and Julie said, “I don’t know what got into me. He said he was going to ride out to the hospital and I just blurted out that I’d like to go too. “
She stopped at her house and told the kids to mind Maxie; that she was going to the hospital with Grandma Mooney’s son. The children were impressed and excited when she told them she was going to ride his big motorcycle.
“Mom,” Josh said, “that is awesome.”
Debbie said, “How could he be a son when he looked like a big old grandpa?”
Nell said, “Momma you have to wear a helmet you know.” That little stickler for detail she thought, as the wind went out of her sails. She’s right.
“You’re right Nell,” she said. "I better tell him so he can be on his way.”
She trudged back over to Moon in the driveway but brightened when he opened a locker on the trailer and took out a pink helmet. “Let’s see if this fits.”
End of Chapter One