At a convenience store somewhere on the Olympic Peninsula, the cashier suppresses her caffeine jitters long enough to punch up two sodas. As soon as we’ve paid up, she pokes her head out the window and looks around. She squeezes back inside to explain herself. “I was looking for the moon, but couldn’t find it. I found Mars though.”
We walk outside and I look in the direction she was checking and locate the bright unflickering star. “There it is.”
Without looking, Samantha says, “That’s not Mars. It’s not red.”
We’re slipping through a midnight-black evening on Hwy 101. I flick the brights off every minute or two, when the headlights of an approaching car come into view, and I flick them on again when the car has passed. We read signs out loud and a rhythm emerges.
<click> “Nisqually/Old Nisqually” </click> “Big Cedar” <click></click> “Prairie Inn” <click> “. . . Did that say ‘prairie’?” “Yes, ‘Prairie'” </click> <click> . . .
We pass out of the National Forest and a clearcut provides us with our first view of the moon, off to the left of the highway. The moon is a warm gray, with an angled sliver of white chipped into its underside.
“That must be why the cashier was looking for it.”
It disappears behind the forest canopy and reappears, a few headlight clicks later, on the other side of the highway. We’re doubting our senses. “It must be an eclipse, right? But I’m sure I would’ve read about it somewhere.”
The CD player has been going for awhile. I found a satisfying song somewhere along the way and switched off the random play function so that the album could play itself out. It looks like the moon has contracted a little more.
The last time we saw the moon, it had almost shed the Earth’s shadow entirely and was shining brightly away. Then it passed behind a cloud, or we passed beneath one, and it was gone. We’re back in built up areas, back to low-beam headlights. My fingers have a coating of McDonald’s french fry salt that I wipe off on my shirt.
The sign says: “Ft. Lewis/No. Ft. Lewis/Next Exit”
“Fort Lewis or no Fort Lewis?”
We’re still reading signs.