When I First Touched Ernie’s Moon Rock

— Mary Lou Taylor

We were at a party.
Eighth grade reunion.
Ernie was married to Pat.
I had married Jack. The party
was at Hector’s. We all brought food.

Ernie, Hector, Ben and Paul
let Jack join the group. Because
he was quiet. And listened.
We talked about eyelashes,
Charismatic Christianity, glossolalia,
the last too much for Jack.

He was out on the porch for a breath
of air when Ernie brought out a rock
from the moon. He passed it around.
All of us held it tight, felt its roughness,
its battered surface.

Billions of years old, Ernie told us.
Gathered on one of the Apollo missions,
considered priceless, smuggled out
in the lab coat he wore. But the rest of us
weren’t impressed. Looked like any old rock.

Moon rocks should be stored in nitrogen
to keep them moisture-free. We’d had
wine and beer and started to toss the rock
from hand to hand, all of us laughing.

I wonder what happened to that fragment
taken off the moon’s surface. Ernie
is gone now, setting himself on fire
in a mental ward. Hector visited him often.
I’ve lost track of Pat.

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