Cyrilo Goes to the Moon

A long time ago, back in seventeen-hundred and fifty-three, there lived a Portuguese man, textiles merchant by trade. This man was Cyrilo Silveira-Rios Mata Moreno. He was blue-eyed but swarthy; a unique combination which always set the young ladies’ hearts aflame. Cyrilo was thus, from a young age, already well known for his rakish good looks. But his uniqueness and the attention it garnered went beyond appearance – he was a fellow constantly taken by outlandish ideas. His reputation stretched throughout the land. It spread as a thick net of stories: neighbors gossiping joyously over fences, men and women accenting their chatter with mug wine-flung gestures at the town halls, and so on. The people of the town had a special name for him.  They called him o arlequim, “the harlequin”, known in theatre as a devilish but comically vibrant character. He played the part; not for them, but because he was so easily bored that he found it impossible to do otherwise.

As a child Cyrilo had been a joker, a troublemaker, a bit wild. It was at the age of eighteen, however, that he had truly set himself apart. It was at that age that he was released from his parents’ constant supervision, and was free, in a certain manner, to do as he wished. He had decided, because of his extreme antipathy to boredom, and because perhaps his brain circuitry had always been a pinch tweaky, to sew a jester’s one-piece suit in the harlequin style – colorful diamonds from head to toe. As soon as the suit was finished, he had traipsed about the town wearing it. People had looked in astonishment from their windows and across cobblestone squares to see a flash of green- blue- red- yellow- shimmying from one street to the next, skipping here and there like a fiend possessed, and rap-tap-tapping on all the doors. This behavior was so unexpected for a textiles merchant of the period, and in fact so unexpected for anyone at all, that the townspeople could have easily concluded that the young man was bewitched. Only his rational conversation and charisma convinced them otherwise.

Another of his antics had involved all the boys of the village. Without much trouble (for the lads idolized him in secret), Cyrilo had persuaded them to paint their faces with a blue pigment which he had concocted from the crushing and mixing of a special hillside flower. Upon completion the little boys had surrounded him, seeming aliens from another world. Their faces glowed, scattering fragments of blue light. Eyes twinkled with excitement and mischief. Cyrilo had then sent them back to their homes to hide. Since all the mothers returned from their daily washing at the same time, every boy was to jump from his cubby or corner, growling and capering madly, just as his mother entered the room. The plot had been a success; screams resounded across town, simultaneous and splendid. Forever after, it was referred to as the Great Blue Scare.

One spring, Cyrilo Silveira-Rios Mata Moreno was dying of boredom. He had not been able to imagine a single new scheme in weeks. He was tired of pranks, of intrigues that involved others. The man had grown slightly older, fancied himself more mature. He thought that he would like to do something by and for himself only. Then one full-mooned evening, he hit upon it. He had traveled to Lisbon to pick up a shipment of textiles, and was thinking absent-mindedly of the merchant ships that sailed around the oceans to exotic ports. He had seen those far-away places many times, so that their exoticism had slowly seeped away, disappearing down narrow and dirty streets. The spices, the colors, the noises and people of those cities no longer held much interest for him. But now Cyrilo began thinking about how the ships only ever journeyed across the oceans – that is, elliptically over the earth, and never leaving its surface. Why didn’t anyone ever travel vertically, up into the air? Why didn’t anyone ever journey to the moon?

There was the problem of method, but o arlequim wasn’t about to let that interfere; he had made up his mind. After a day of juggling ideas, Cyrilo determined that the most effective plan would also be the simplest. He went a ways into the yellow countryside, stopping when he came to an open field. The field was a lovely shallow bowl filled with waving grasses. From above, their tips (lit by crackling sunset yellows and reds) looked like tiny eyes, blinking. The merchant, who was clad in his old one-piece suit (in truth, it was the attire in which he felt most comfortable), walked to the very center of the field to set up his instruments. He had brought two long metal poles, a long knife, and a long cord made of twisted rope. There was a picnic basket too, fastened to his back. The metal rods he forced, one next to the other, into the thick damp earth. He inhaled deeply, letting the odors of fungus and soil-decay sift through his nostrils. It was good to be out of the city, among nature, and for once, alone. When the rods were anchored firmly in the ground, Cyrilo maneuvered so that one foot balanced on each pole, like stilts. He pointed the long blade of his knife toward the heavens… And there he stood: arms thrust into the evening breeze (muscle contours covered in cloth diamonds), and dark fingers wrapped resolutely around the handle. Waiting.

Deep greys of approaching night, and greener, moodier shadows of an impending storm brought a double darkening to the sky. The yellow field was fading, closing one by one its thousand shiny eyes under the swath of opaque green-grey. Balancing impatiently, the Portuguese merchant silently summoned his conductor. He knew it would come – he had read the weather-teller’s graphs, listened to his predictions. Besides, he could feel the rumbling, and see flashes cutting through the dark soup of the distance. It was just a matter of holding on until then. A quiet quarter-hour passed, during which more and more clouds rolled in. They weaved a high, tight-fitting lid over the bowl of the field. Then, very near: the booming thunder, the white zips jagging in downward fury. Finally, finally, just as Cyrilo’s limbs were about to buckle and collapse, his shot of lightening came. It tore down blade, body, poles, into the ground. Its reverse path brought a powerful blast under the man’s feet that propelled him swiftly upward through the dark sky, through the atmosphere, straight up into the moon’s glowing face.

The young merchant stepped a bit unsteadily onto its surface. He had landed quite close to the left crook of the moon’s great white smile. The ground was soft and spongy, with clouds of powder rising upon contact, like the rind of a bloomy-rind cheese. Cyrilo lost both shoes – first the right, then the left – to its sucking clay crust. He found a large rock and sat, bringing out from his basket cheese, wine, bread. Already thoroughly enjoying himself, he looked around. A clustering of bizarre formations in the near-distance captured his attention. They could have been little huts, but he wasn’t sure. As he chewed the cheese and bread, his curiosity grew and became chewable too. Soon Cyrilo spied something moving toward him from the strange mounds. As it got closer, he could see there were separate entities. These entities came closer and grew larger not gradually, but in bursts. Suddenly they were only a few meters away. What creatures! Resembling earth men, but with blazing blue skin! And only waist-tall! And noses long and flared, veritable trumpet-horns of olfaction! Cyrilo had never, despite all his voyaging, despite predilections for the extraordinary, expected to come across such marvelous oddities. He stared at them in wonder. They were jabbering to each other, and even though they had mouths shaped exactly like human mouths, their speech issued instead from the elongated blue flesh-trumpets hanging over their lips. He wanted to learn more. Sadly, destiny would prohibit any further investigation. It had become rapidly apparent that these weird little men were not at all keen on their intruder.

“Whooot-oot wa!

“Llaoush wiki schlleep bee wa!”

“Illiyum whoo-at schliki ti wa!”

Before he knew what was happening, all five moon creatures were pushing him with frenzied strength up from the rock, then pushing him with frenzied strength toward the moon’s edge. In vain he tried to fight them off, to grab hold of something rooted to the surface. Luckily, the rope cord was still within reach. Straining against a collective, noisy blue rage, Cyrilo had just enough time to wrap the rope around his middle and hook the other end to a pointed tooth in the moon’s grin. They gave the final shove, and he was falling, falling, falling…

He swung down toward the earth in a great arc. When he was close enough to see the lidded eyes of the grass tips in the yellow field dressed in night, he realized that the cord would be a dash too short. In another ten seconds, he had stopped swinging, and hung a few meters above the ground. It was then that the really unfortunate event occurred. Cyrilo Silveira-Rios Mata Moreno was dangling from the rope attached high above, and, because the particular chunk he had chosen for his rope-hook had been rotting and already slightly loose, his weight caused the whole thing to fall out. The young man tumbled to the earth. A minute later, the moon’s tooth dropped into the field near him. It was big as a carriage.

Now and forevermore, because of Cyrilo and his lunar picnic, the moon will grin a somewhat silly, gap-y grin. And if one happens to pass by the house of o arlequim, one is sure to see the charming, bone-white sculpture that dominates his front yard. It is hard to miss.

~ by kingzoko on June 28, 2010.

One Response to “Cyrilo Goes to the Moon”

  1. I like this story, esp some of the descriptions, like his brain circuitry being a pinch tweaky, hah! This is kind of like a science fiction myth, past & future.

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