I thought it would be interesting to share the below excerpt from A Year Inside the Moon. I think this section from the second chapter sets the tone for the story.
Those Crazy Girls
It was just past cocktail hour midweek in late September as the sun’s reflections blanketed St. Petersburg in a temporary warm, auburn haze. Hugged by a calming breeze, I walked alone under laurel oaks and coconut palm trees. I strolled past a large hotel construction project and then down the street toward The Moon. The uneven brick alleyway was paralleled to the main roads that the city fathers had smoothed over with blacktop, or nice Portland cement concrete. I typically avoided those clean roads that were lined with fancy shops for art or clothes, or busy restaurants with guests who dined outside under colorful umbrellas.
Earlier in the day, an all-to-typical tropical storm popped open, and the black battle clouds treated the roads and alleys the same. The deluge cycled down the street’s six-inch-high curbs toward the harbor, or quickly disappeared within the sandy soil supported by sections with dense green St. Augustine grass. The only hint that a storm had passed by were the coffee-with-cream puddles left behind within the concave sections where the alleyway bricks descended from loose sand and natural decay.
St. Petersburg was built to last, I thought. It was covered with enough hidden alleyways from neighborhood to neighborhood that even a London taxi driver would have considered it deep knowledge to successfully navigate them. As I walked and biked Old Northeast, I realized those meandering alleyways were the town’s soul. Its hidden truths. It was where modern progress abutted original granite curbs and baked in place like an old-world history. The silent history was left within the Augusta Blocks or Baltimore Blocks or the bricks from the Southern Clay Manufacturing Company. Over time, the alleyways and the brick streets were protected by a healthy oak tree shade. The bricks had different colors of reds, oranges, and browns. They had imperfect repairs, but they nonjudgmentally circuited behind expensive homes, modest apartment dwellings, and in front of the preserved 1920s bungalows. The streets were wrinkled, flawed, but they were defiant. And the blacktopped downtown streets ceased at the old neighborhood entryways, but for the areas where the concrete or blacktop hopped past and invaded sections when short-sighted zoning laws ruled. But if you inspected those older blacktopped roads that were deteriorating, the bricks were still there, just temporarily hidden underneath like ugly 1970’s shag carpet over quarter-sawn oak flooring.
It was along the downtown bricked alleyways, held together by sand, time, and developer disinterest, that was the location where the restaurants’ waiters, cooks, and worker bees hid to take their breaks. They smoked cigarettes. They leaned against the pungent metal trash bins and expressed their angst. After a while, they seemed to recognize me. They acknowledged my existence as I passed by them and walked toward The Moon.
“Your usual, dear?” Edwina asked. She was the youngest bartender. She was a bit larger than Jane or Kate, but with a decidedly direct personality behind fashionable, thick, black eyeglass frames.
“Thank you,” I said. I looked over at the couple to my right. “Cheers.”
“You look a little like Andy Dufresne,” she said. She had an androgynous appearance, but a perky countenance. She sat next to another heavier-set woman near the bar’s center section. “It’s the hair. Yeah, it’s the hair, you know, the Tim Robbins character from Shawshank Redemption.”
“Hmm, sorry,” I said, sipping my Guinness. “Not sure I know Andy.”
“Careful with these two,” Edwina said. “Top off your drinks?”
“Oh, you are the devil,” she said. But she quickly downed her clear liquid cocktail with a significant gulp. “If you insist . . .”
The closer woman, a bit older with salt-and-pepper hair cut just above her shoulders, gripped my left forearm.
“I’m Annie,” she told me and nodded to her right. “My wife’s name is Constance.”
“Hey there,” I said. “Call me Rob.”
“Rob,” Annie said as she closely examined my face, “I don’t know why, but I like you.”
“Would you perhaps blame it on the alcohol?” I asked, grinning. “I have that effect on women, but I don’t think I’m on your team, or am I?”
“Good point. We both like girls,” Constance said as she put her arm around Annie. “You have kind eyes, a calm vibe. Have a girl?”
“She’s being honest,” Annie said. She leaned over toward me, her head shot forward like a skinny snapping turtle emerging from its shell. “She lacks a filter, but I love her just that way.”
“He’s good,” Edwina said with a wink at me. “You crazy girls hungry?”
“We love The Moon,” Constance said. She opened her arms wide and held up her hands like a televangelist. “Everybody gets treated the same.”
“We’re just drinking, babe,” Annie said to Edwina. She blew her a kiss.
We sat quietly for a few minutes to admire the busy bar scene. The television had zero volume as it displayed a hard-fought rugby match. Beneath, Edwina opened a chilled wine cabinet. She retrieved a bottle with red wine, pulled out the cork, and filled a cabernet glass. I thought Annie and Constance appeared content to be together. I thought it was what I missed the most, the simple moments to merely exist with the one you love as time swept past.