THE MAN WHO LIVED ON THE MOON
Chapter 1 Eva Verity Briggs
The man on the moon, does he whistle a tune,
when he eats the cheese, that rests on his knees?
I wonder what sort, and how is it caught?
Why are there no taters, among the moon’s craters,
baked by the sun, now that would be fun,
with lashings of cheese, how that would please.
It’s made from the milk, smooth as silk,
obtained from the cow, I wonder how,
as it leaps overhead. Is it well fed?
It must be a boon, for the man who lives on the moon.
Eva Verity Briggs was five years old and tall for her age. One of her most favourite things was listening to the soft, singsong tones of her mother’s voice, as it spoke her favourite story; the one about the man who lived on the moon. The flow of her mother’s words settled into a rhythm, which matched the brushstrokes, as she brushed Eva’s nut-brown hair.
It was a story that Eva never tired of hearing.
‘Mummy,’ she said, interrupting her mother; ‘what happens to the rest of the moon? You know, when it’s that cresss...thingy.’
‘Well, my little Evie...’ began her mother, thinking fast. Joy Briggs always called her daughter, Evie, except when she was naughty, and then it would be, ‘Eva Verity Briggs,’ in the quiet, firm voice she reserved for such occasions. ‘...you know I told you that the moon is a ball of cheese, made from the milk of the cow who jumped over it. Well, just like you at teatime, the man gets hungry too, and all he has to eat is cheese, which is good for him. So, you see, the moon gets smaller every day, and when he’s eaten it all he has to make some more. If you look carefully, from the corner of your eye, you can sometimes catch a glimpse of him dancing on the moonlit surface of a lake, or the sea, or even a puddle; but only when he’s finished making his next batch of cheese, and the moon is full again.
Eva kept her mouth shut while she digested this new information. Her bright blue eyes swivelled in the direction of the window, looking past the half-closed dark blue curtains, dotted with colourful stars, out into the night sky, searching for a glimpse of the crescent moon; but it had disappeared behind a thick cloud. The pitter-patter on the glass, told her it had begun to rain.
Her mother, sensing another but, forming on Eva’s lips, quickly continued with her explanation. ‘You know I showed you that caterpillar, the one who eats the cabbage leaves on the vegetable patch; the way it starts eating at the edge and nibbles...’
‘In a round way,’ Eva cut in, her finger tracing a crescent in the air, her mouth mimicking a nibbling action, as she pretended to be a caterpillar.
‘That’s right. Well the man on the moon eats the cheese in the same way.’
‘Is he a caterpillar?’
Joy Briggs chuckled loudly. ‘No, no, a caterpillar is one step away from becoming a butterfly. The man on the moon is...like you and me.’
‘Don’t be silly, mummy. He’s a man; we’re girls.’
Her mother smiled in agreement and not for the first time, and definitely not the last, marvelled at the way her daughter’s mind worked. She supposed that even for a five-year-old, Eva’s imagination was extremely active; something she positively encouraged. She remembered her own mother telling her that she was the same at that age.
‘How does the cow jump over the moon?’ Eva suddenly asked. ‘Daddy said it’s a long way away.’
‘Evie, I think it time you settled down and went to sleep,’ her mother said. ‘It’s a big day tomorrow; first day at school.’
Eva pulled a face, which transformed into a sleepy yawn, as she climbed under the bedclothes.
Her mother leaned over and kissed her on the cheek, before whispering in her ear, ‘it’s the cat who plays the fiddle that makes the cow jump over the moon.’
‘It must be magic music,’ Eva said sleepily.
‘Oh no, it isn’t, quite the contrary. Every month, the cat sneaks up on a cow and starts playing his fiddle. He plays it really badly; the screeching, scraping sound he makes hardly resembles a tune. It makes the cow jump as high as high can be. That’s how the man gets the milk to make his cheese.’
Eva yawned, saying, ‘cheese is good. I like cheese, mummy; it’s got calci…something in it; you said it’s good for my bones, because I’m only five and need to grow. Mummy, will I grow as big as daddy? He’s stopped growing, even though he still eats lots of cheese. You’re still growing, mummy, so you’d better eat more cheese.’
Her mother laughed, as she patted the small bump that was beginning to show on her stomach. ‘Go to sleep, my little Evie,’ she said, ‘you’ll grow bigger soon enough.’
Eva glanced at the window. The moon was trying desperately to shine its light through a gap in the thickening cloud, and for an instant, before her mother drew the curtains, she thought she saw the man snuggling into the curve of the crescent moon. A silver and gold moonbeam squeezed through a chink in the curtains, settling on her forehead, and melting into her mind, to skip and play on the ocean of her imagination. She closed her eyes and drifted into a deep sleep, full of dreams about a white and black cow, a mischievous cat, a badly played fiddle, but most of all about her best imaginary friend, the man who lived on the moon; with twinkling stars of red and gold, green and silver, peppering the sky above his tall stovepipe hat.
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