I was staying in a worn-out motel in Montmagny, a small town on the St. Lawrence River downstream from Quebec City. Vents a serieux, the TV weather channel warned me grimly about tomorrow. I was interested because I was scheduled to take a small car ferry out to L’Isle Aux Grues in the morning. I wondered if the ferry — le bateau to the locals — would sail. This was the iffy part of Quebec autumn, with bitter winter sneaking closer day by day.
It seemed as if I was never going to get any sleep. I keep starting awake out of strange dreams, with the echoes of my own snores loud in my ears. At some point I must have changed channels, because the next time I noticed the TV before going back to sleep, there was an international beauty contest wrapping up, won by an American brunette. I switched back to the muted weather channel and listened to the serious wind prowl outside.
For some reason, the blood-red moon on the St. Lawrence the night before, seen from Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, weighed on my mind. I told my companions on the Chateau promenade, high above the river, about my Georgia grandmother’s old superstition: blood on the moon, somebody will die.
Carol, from Washington State said, wryly: “Well of course somebody will die somewhere tonight. Somebody dies every night somewhere.”
Maryanne, from Iowa, as if she knew my grandmother — or the superstition: “She meant someone you know.”
Now in my sleep-deprived state, I remembered the first time I saw blood on the moon, plainly and unmistakably, above the Atlantic Ocean when I was a teenager. My grandmother mouthed the incantation in the eerie voice she used for ghost stories. I remember the chill that coursed up my spine.
It turned out to be the night a seafood cook shot a Beaches cab driver to death for insulting my mother, with whom the cook was probably in love. I told that story last night on the promenade.
“See?” Maryanne said. “I knew it! I hope not tonight, though. Not here. And not in Tijuana, where your buddies are shopping for a new leather flight jacket for you, like the one you backed out of buying for fifty bucks when we were down there last year.” Maryanne, the bargain shopper sans pareil was never going to let me forget that.
I wished she hadn’t mentioned that about my friends from the California Highway Patrol. Tijuana was a dangerous place. But the next day went by without any bad news from the CHP. (Or good news; they couldn’t find a jacket big enough for me.)