Sun and Moon
Sun and Moon
Otto sighed to himself as he sat in the old rocking chair in his grandfather’s small home. The cancer was starting to spread. He could sense the old man loosing his mind, could feel the pain in his chest each time he coughed and wheezed. His frail, thin body was skeletal, his eyes sunken in and he refused to eat. The pain was just too much to bear. The morphine no longer helped.
Otto looked out the window. The sun hadn’t come up yet but Mr. Reynolds wanted him at the ranch early today to help load the cedar posts and wire. They were to be “riding fence”, as his employer put it. With another heavy sigh, he lifted himself out of the chair, his knees and back popping as if he were decades older than his twenty one years. As he opened the door of the cluttered home, the cold of winter sank into his bones and the chilly wind blew through his chestnut hair. They sent him a promise of the day ahead.
Nathaniel groaned as the blaring of his alarm clock cut through his dreams like a razor. How annoying to have to be woken up by that noisy thing. The blinking green numbers pulsed light through the darkness and he sat up, scowling at the clock at the other end of his small, barely furnished bedroom. With only his boxers on, he walked across the room to the clock, punching the off button to silence the boisterous thing and turned the light on, battling the sleep that dared to claim him once again. Six p.m. was horrid time to have to wake up.
He pulled on his pants and shirt lying at the foot of the bed and walked into the kitchen. He pulled open the refrigerator door and grabbed the last egg from the door and put it on to boil. He then sat at the counter and began to read a two-day old newspaper, skipping over the comics he’d read at least three times and the already completed crossword puzzle. A single ad caught his eye.
Willing to do
Any job for any price.
Call Otto Mooney
Nathaniel smiled to himself. Short, sweet, and to the point. The boy must be in a worse situation than him. He pulled the egg out of the water and began to shell it, ignoring the burning sensation in his fingers. It would serve the hotel manager right if he couldn’t play the piano tonight. The man barely sent him home a few hours ago from his last shift and he demanded that Nathaniel returned at eight to entertain the guests until two the next morning. Unable to contain his anger, he grabbed his jacket and stormed out of his apartment, leaving the only thing he’d have gotten to eat for the day on a paper towel full of shells.
Otto breathed into his ungloved hands, vigorously rubbing them together. The wind picked up and sliced through his thin jacket, chillingly laughing at him. He ignored the biting cold and continued to pick up trash from the hotel grounds. The manager saw his ad in the paper a few days ago and decided to give him a call, promising that, if Otto did a descent job, he might offer him a job on the night staff, maybe as a waiter in the lobby during the evening shows.
With that promise in mind, Otto conducted a thorough search of the grounds, picking up everything from a McDonald’s cup to the smallest piece of paper. He needed the extra money to help pay for his grandfather’s medicine. The old man refused chemo but accepted pain killers when he could.
Otto walked by the lobby window and couldn’t deny himself a small peek inside to see where his future employment might be. Inside, men and women were dressed in formal attire while waiters in white suits served them champagne. At the front of the room, with a single spot light shining on him, was a young man playing the piano and signing. He sat tall and erect, his long blue-black hair tied at the nape of his neck in a loose ponytail. His cold blue eyes wandered from person to person as he sang and Otto thought he saw a small smirk form on his lips.
He turned away from the window and walked the hotel grounds once more, making sure he’d grabbed every piece of trash, and then reported back to the manager. With a clap on the shoulder, he led Otto to the lobby and asked him to wait, offering him a glass of champagne. Otto took the glass gratefully, happy just to be inside out of the cold. As the melody reached his ears, Otto turned to watch the dark stranger play the piano, his voice weaving a spell over the audience and him.
Nathaniel watched the boy at the counter with interest. He was wearing dirty jeans, a thin brown jacket, and old work boots. Even in the dim lighting, he could tell the stranger was tanned and had a swipe of dirt across his nose. He certainly wasn’t the usual audience that came to listen to him. With another little smile, he delved into his music, putting the boy and everyone else out of his mind. For those few moments, there was nothing but him and the notes he played. The music entrapped him so that he nearly forgot to open his mouth and sing. As he sang the last note, he allowed his eyes to wander back over to his special guest and remain there, fully aware that he was staring back.
By the time Nathaniel finished his song, the manager returned and told Otto that he could find a place for him in his hotel, as long as he washed up, of course. Nathaniel stood and bowed, allowing the audience to gently applaud him, and then walked over to the counter, just next to Otto. The bartender handed him a glass of wine, allowing him to moisten his parched throat. When the manager left, Otto turned and asked for another glass of champagne, knowing he didn’t have enough to pay for it.
Behind the counter, an unusual object caught his attention. It was metal, flat at one end and thick at the other. It looked like a distorted crow bar without the curve. It was rusted now but Otto could see where black paint was peeling and at one end, it looked broken. He wondered why such an old, ugly thing would be in a place like this. As if he read his thoughts, Nathaniel quelled his curiosity.
“It’s the manager’s.” he said, not even looking at Otto.
“What is it?” Otto asked, awed by how melodious the man’s voice sounded when he wasn't singing.
“No one really knows. All we know is that it is precious to the manager. He has never told us why. Has never told us a particular story. We just know that, after he built this hotel, he wouldn’t allow this piece of metal to be discarded of. That was years and years ago, you see, so we just don’t know.” He took another sip of his wine and shrugged his shoulders. Holding out his hand, he turned and looked at Otto. “I’m Nathaniel Harper.”
Otto grasped his hand. “Otto. Otto Mooney.”
Nathaniel frowned. “Otto Mooney? You’re the one who put out the ad.”
“Yes, I am. My grandfather has cancer and we need the extra money.” Otto explained, looking anywhere but at Nathaniel’s blue eyes. They were exquisite, shining even in the dark and reminded him of the color of frozen loneliness.
“You live with him?” Nathaniel asked after a few minutes, taking another sip of his champagne.
“Yes. My parents left me with him when I was young. They decided to see the world. They never came back for me. I’ve been with him since I was five.”
Nathaniel nodded in understanding. “I never met my mother. She died during childbirth and my father…my father disowned me years ago.”
“For pursuing music. My mother was American but my father is Japanese. His family owns a huge textile company in Japan. As his only son, I was the heir to the company. But I wanted to play and sing and so I gave up my inheritance, took my mother’s American name, and moved to the United States. I haven’t spoken to my old man since I was sixteen.”
“How old are you now.”
They finished their drinks in silence until Nathaniel paid for his drink and went back to the piano to play. It was only then that Otto noticed that he had left enough money on the counter to pay for both drinks. He turned to watch Nathaniel’s performance, amazed at the pure quality of his voice. He had never heard anyone sing like him and he could easily see this tall, cold man walk out on his father for something he seemed so passionate about. Not even he could’ve done something like that. There’s no way he would’ve given up the comfortable lifestyle of the wealthy to try and live it out as a poor person.
The hours flew by as Nathaniel played and Otto listened. Every now and then, Nathaniel would take a break, passing the minutes away by talking to Otto. They found that, except for not having great parents, they really had nothing in common. They were as different as night and day and fit together like the sun and the moon.
Otto had grown up in the country, sometimes having to rely on what he had caught that day for supper but Nathaniel was truly a wealthy man’s son and had never been in want of anything while he lived in Japan. He had been taught the skills of a Japanese aristocrat. His father was hard on him, never showing emotion of any sort, and trained him day and night. Otto’s grandfather offered love daily, had no problem showing disappointment but used Otto’s mistakes as a way to teach him.
In the end, they secretly concluded that opposites attract, and, while Otto was unused to the peculiar feeling inside him, he found he was a bit excited when Nathaniel handed him his phone number. In return, Otto gave him his cell phone number and it was only when Nathaniel told him he had to be getting home that he realized that it was already three in the morning.
Otto turned to him. “Guess I’ll see ya later.”
“You’ll see me every night since you work here now.” Nathaniel reminded him.
He let another ten minutes slip by in silence before Nathaniel stood up and placed a hand on Otto’s shoulder. “Kooun, Otto.”
Otto frowned. “Bless you.”
Nathaniel laughed. “In Japanese, ‘kooun’ means ‘good luck’.”
Otto smiled. “Then…the same to you.”
Otto could feel his shoulder burn where Nathaniel’s hand lay. The fire spread down his arm and across his chest, making it hard for him to breathe. Nathaniel stared at him, realizing that, underneath the dirt, there was a splash of freckles on Otto’s nose and he found himself memorizing their pattern, not wanting to forget any detail of his newfound friend or the special evening they had shared.
With a final smile, he walked out of the hotel and headed for his apartment three blocks away. Otto finished the last of his champagne before making his way to his beaten up truck and heading home.
Nathaniel threw himself down on the bed, exhausted from the lack of sleep earlier. He barely even felt the sting of winter during his walk home as he thought of Otto Mooney. He knew that Otto would be taking up most of his thoughts from now and he began to will the clock to move faster, counting down the hours until he could go to work again. On the floor next to his bed, the red light on his phone was blinking, signaling that he had a message.
Otto sat back in his truck and sighed, trying to stay awake during the long ride home. He hadn’t even made it out of the city yet. He nearly jumped out of his skin as “Livin’ Our Love Song” sounded off of his phone.
“Otto? It’s Nathaniel. Have you left the city yet?”
Nathaniel gave him the directions to his apartment and told him to get there as soon as he could. The excitement in his voice was contagious and Otto actually found himself smiling, even though he had no idea what was going on.
When he reached Nathaniel’s apartment, he didn’t even get a chance to knock on the door before it opened and Nathaniel’s cold blue eyes were looking down into his warm brown ones.
“I have to show you something.” Nathaniel said, pulling him inside the small apartment.
Otto couldn’t believe the state of the apartment. There was nothing in it except what came with it. Not even a television or a couch. He followed Nathaniel back into his room and sat on the futon.
“What did you need to tell me?” he asked.
“Listen to this.”
Nathaniel pressed play on his answering machine and let Otto listen to it.
“Nathaniel, I don’t understand Japanese,” he said, a bit irritated. It was late and the foreign language only hurt his head.
“Otto, my father died. He didn’t have any sons after me and, on his deathbed, forgave me and accepted me as his son. Do you understand what this means?”
“Not really.” Otto replied, unable to suppress a yawn. He stood up and leaned back against a wall, waiting for an explanation.
“It means that I am now the rightful owner of my family’s textile company. I am now, once again, wealthy.”
Nathaniel walked over to Otto and placed his hands on either side of his head. His eyes blazed down into Otto’s and his lips hung just inches above his. Otto’s heart beat so loudly, he was afraid Nathaniel could hear it but, try as he might, he could not tear his gaze away from him.
“And now, Otto Mooney...”
Otto closed his eyes as Nathaniel ducked his head and closed the last bit of space between them.