Author : Mark Tremble

‘No moon, no stars,’ she used to tell him. She had been about two years old then and he used to carry her in his arms down their front path.

They had been a little sad on those nights because the cloud cover meant there was no chance they could see the moon and the stars, only pictures of them in her stories.

In the distance, the city lights twinkled.

He guessed, and his wife told him, that he should have been happy that he didn’t have to drive to work anymore. He had to agree. Her quip about having his dream job as a landscape gardener was funny because it was true.

Now, in their new life, he gardened every day. He had to. The vegetables and fruit had to be tended constantly. Water became his obsession. The grass grew long in the summer and he and the boy, Jacob, began their mowing days with the standard, eye-rolling ‘dad’ joke about whether there was enough fuel.

When the other streets had gone quiet too, the kids in their cul-de-sac had played in the cars, making the engine noises and turning the steering wheels. The tanks were long empty.

They rode bikes left behind by families who had gone to the city. It hadn’t seemed like stealing. No one had come back for them, or anything else for that matter. They took only what might be useful, leaving behind televisions, iPads and money.

‘Do they have money in the city?’ Jacob asked him one morning.

‘No old money I guess,’ he replied. Jacob nodded and continued sweeping his blade through the grass.

In the distance, the city lights grew brighter.

They planted more trees and watched them grow.

Occasionally, the children, older now, crept off near the end of the day to inspect the garbage bags that were sometimes thrown from the Lightrail’s end-cars. Packaged food for the city-bound passengers. They liked hamburgers heated over the fire. Parents shook their heads and watched them eat and giggle, scolding gently when tummies ached later.

There was no need for phones and no way of re-charging anyhow. The electricity had been cut off when the bills weren’t paid. Those bills, and the rest of the mail, had stopped coming long ago.

That was okay, a blessing, Steve, his neighbor, had remarked. Steve helped to build and repair, maintaining the cul-de-sac village as it was now, eating heartily at meal times, even the ‘organic’ vegetables from the garden.

“Never touched ‘em before,” he admitted.

Steve also spoke with quiet authority late one night as the older ones gathered around a lamp, the children safely in bed, to talk about protection – guns, locked away but kept close enough if needed.

But there had never been a need. Even the wildlife, dogs mostly, could be discouraged without a shot being fired. The only times their peace was ever disturbed was when the Lightrail passed and even that had become a whisper now.

They lived peacefully, undisturbed, so far from the city but so close inside their little place.

Now, he and his daughter walked out into the front yard in the evening. The sky was clear. Far beyond the trees, the city lights blinked.

‘Will the city ever come out this way, dad?’ she asked.

‘No, they only build higher now,’ he said.

She nodded and looked up.

‘Dad,’ she said, ‘Look.’ She glanced back at him to see if he would.

‘I see,’ he replied.

‘Moon and stars,’ she said.

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