Once in a Blue Moon


Today I received another bid for the Blue Moon, or what's left of it.
That makes it sound like someone comes in here
every day asking to buy the site and knock the shell of that old bar
to the ground, but it's not the case. Hell, I can count on my thumbs
the number of inquiries I've had about that place over the last ten
years from businessmen looking to build something in its place that
nobody wants or needs: another roadside restaurant that won't last
because it'll just do the same old food as the places nearby, except
it won't do it as well; an office development that will never be more
than half-occupied because all the other office developments are half-
empty already, and are likely to be three-quarters empty before the
economy bottoms out; or a strip mall with a charity store as the
anchor tenant, like that's going to make the lights of the Maine Mall
look dim.

Nobody ever suggests building another bar in its place
even though its hard not to make money on a bar. The history of the
Blue Moon is still too recent for that, and anybody who decided to
knock down those walls and start afresh would find that certain
memories can't be erased simply by getting rid of any physical traces
of them that might remain. It's not just people that become ghosts:
old places, dead places, they haunt the new as well. It might be
that you'd knock down the Moon and put up a nice new bar in its
place, with clean floors, and shiny taps, and one of those fancy
modern jukeboxes that don't even have records inside.

It might even be that it would seem like you'd put the memory of the
Moon to rest for a time, and you'd be wrong: people would come by, but not as many
as you'd hoped; that new smell would start to fade, and instead you'd
catch the stink of stale beer, and rancid grease, and the sweat of
old rummies. The beer would start to taste bad, and the jukebox,
well, the jukebox would start to play music that wasn't even on its
fancy database, music from a decade before, music from the night that
Sally Cleaver died. And you'd wonder how that could be, even as
those who didn't know what had happened here in the past would drift
away, until eventually there'd just be you and a bartender that you
didn't need.

And maybe you'd step out into the parking lot at the back to have a
cigarette and wonder at how you could have come to make such a
mistake, and there'd be a big bright moon high in the sky, and it
would shine on a puddle beside you even though it hadn't rained in a
month, and you'd look down and the puddle would be red, red like
blood, and you'd see yourself reflected, yourself and someone else: a
girl, a girl with a ruined face. The ghost of Sally Cleaver would
reach out and touch your face, and you'd feel all of her pain, and
all of her rage.

And then you'd know just how big a mistake you'd made.

It's late, and these are just an old man's ramblings. I
should have said yes to the offer. I should have let the place go.
But I can't.

I can't, because Sally Cleaver won't let me.


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