Season's Greetings from the Moon

            Dad has been dead for at least fifteen minutes, and all I have done during this time is sit on the other side of the room from his chilling corpse, repeating to myself, at least with him gone, no one can call me Junior. Excuse the vanity, but pain brings out the worst in me, like the pulsating acne I can already feel swelling around my lips. As a child I often tumbled unexpectedly, leaving my thin body covered in bruises, with magenta pimples to arrive within minutes of the accident. While I have less experience with direct emotional pain, I can only assume that in trying moments of the heart, my skin will blossom as expected.

            I bend forward to embrace Dad’s body, reminding myself why our relationship featured few hugs and kisses. Two guys in wheelchairs don’t make for the easiest peck on the cheek. We embraced sometimes, on special occasions, leaning against our chairs and hoping that our seven-foot bodies wouldn’t come tumbling out. The person celebrating remained still, while the other went in for the hug, which I just did for the last time, I guess. He was lukewarm. I hold him again, and he is several degrees cooler, still humanly warm, though, like a ragdoll left out for a day in spring.

            I lived alone with Dad for twenty-one years. My mother died during childbirth, and my image of her comes partially from my dad’s word, but mostly from archival footage shot during her time on The Bachelor. Camilla was clearly beautiful, although average by the standards of her season, at least according to the producer’s commentary. As a small child, I used to imagine what I would look like with Christina, Angelique, or Brittany as my mother; if they birthed me and survived, would our lives be as filled with laughter as their scenes on the show? They were the contestants I liked the most, but none of them made it past the midway point in the season. Dad seemed to appreciate Mom’s quiet laugh over the boisterous noises made by others. In certain episodes she can be seen writing in a diary, one that I have spent many years pestering NBC to locate, to little avail, other than profuse apologies from Network Executive for his inability to please a valuable brand ambassador. I could never make out the content of Mom’s writing in the shots. She was left-handed, a trait passed down to me.

            I make a note to call NBC over the weekend. They’ve been on me since my 18th birthday to set up my season of The Bachelor. I think they’re afraid I’ll take my talents to another network. In our correspondence, they always include a potential tagline. The best thus far: for the first time in a generation, the moon’s most eligible bachelor is single. A bit tacky, but effective.

            It might be nice, though, at least for some time, to be alone.

 

            This morning I requested that professional services collect and cremate Dad’s body. They responded with an estimate of two days, and suggested that I stay elsewhere during the process. I call the LunaLuna J.W. Marriott, and book the usual room.

            The path from my house to the LunaLuna runs underground, lit by wide fluorescent lights. At intervals along the tunnel, paths jut off toward other lunar attractions, including the Museum of Lunar Travel, the Astrophysical Dome of Science, and my house. The center of the complex is a cavernous gift shop, with a vaulted ceiling that visitors can touch if they jump high enough, aided by the moon’s decreased gravity. Many visitors have problems adjusting to the tunnels on the moon, as shown by the number of head-shaped dents on the ceiling.

            An announcement was released yesterday regarding the closing of my home for the next few days, so the tunnels seem empty until I reach the gift shop. Here, a few travelers spot me. They point at my face on each of their t-shirts, and notice the older face next to me on their chests. They pause, express their condolences, then ask for a picture. I pose, they smile, and we part ways.

            The tunnel ends at an elevator that deposits me into the lobby of the LunaLuna. Dad and I spent most of our vacation days here, and they know exactly how to prepare the room for our arrival: two piña coladas, virgin with straw, regular without. The hotel manager expressed his condolences, but the system must be lagging on celebrity news, considering I find two prepared piñas waiting in the room. I don’t make a fuss, though. I ignore the straw in my piña and drink it with wide, open lips, and take the second out onto the terrace. From the balcony, I can see the entire valley, and if I let my eyes lose focus for a few seconds, the black sky drips onto the grey surface. Everything becomes wild. The transparent dome around the LunaLuna dates to the earliest days of lunar development, and its crisp, clean glass provides the best views on the moon, albeit with a few extra UV rays.

            Dad insisted that the only time of year we examine our Wikipedia pages occur during our vacations, and part of the tradition includes spending one afternoon editing and critiquing our articles. I decide to indulge the urge today, along with ordering two more alcoholic piñas to the suite.

            According to Wikipedia, I, Jason Coleman Dreyer (II), was the second person born on the moon. My dad, Jason Coleman-Dreyer (I) is the first, it says. I change it to “was the first.” I continue.

            He is was the son of Dr. Alexander Dreyer and Dr. Lydia Coleman. He is was best known as the creator of the catchphrase “Season’s Greetings, from the Moon,” as well as the face internationally associated with lunar travel. He resides resided with his son, Jason Coleman-Dreyer (better known as Junior) (II) on their model lunar homestead in the Sea of Tranquility as a part of the larger Lunarland complex. He holds the World Record for appearances in most family Christmas cards. He is considered by many to be the greatest living lunar celebrity.

            And here I sit, two fresh piña coladas beside my chair, sipping on the spoils of my family history.

           

            NBC called this morning, as expected, offering twenty of the finest beauties on Earth to me for one season. While I plan to accept eventually, I countered by saying I will only commit if my mother’s diary could be found and returned to me, a request that incited an audible clacking on the other line as Network Executive sent out emails before our call even ended.

            “You know Junior, you drive your bargains hard. You negotiate tough. You’re like a cookie that won’t just crumble. I love it. I love you. I’ve seen you in these tabloid pictures, and boy do you need some Proactiv for those zits, but I still love you. Just like your old man. That must be where you get that negotiating touch. You know he got us to guarantee all merchandising rights for you guys in his contract, right? We laughed it off at the time, but who would have thought girls around the world would go gaga for a wheelchair-bound Ken doll?”

            In other news, the overseers called an emergency meeting to discuss Dad’s passing. I am cordially invited to attend a late-morning meeting tomorrow, once they all have the chance to arrive on the moon. I have never met the men who sustain my house, life, and wheels, although the wheels did arrive three weeks later than expected. The story Dad told me entailed a labor strike at the wheelchair factory, but I always imagined a circle of near-embalmed geriatrics considering the issue of a twelve-year-old’s wheelchair, each taking a moment to espouse on the merits of his own model, blowing such wind for so long that once show-and-tell ended, the gathering forgot its purpose, forgot my wheelchair, and left me to rest in bed for three weeks, like a polio-ridden child, a supine entrance into teendom, until they recalled their obligation and delivered a standard chair, two wheels, leather seat and back.

            For the remainder of the day, I decide to rest by the pool, and watch construction of the latest dome in the valley. The project has been proposed for years as a final, one-stop enclosure that will seal the entirety of the Sea of Tranquility in a single sheet of glass. Most of the structural supports have been erected, meaning it’s up to the discretion of the board of overseers when the sheet can be placed.

            From Earth, the Sea of Tranquility looks like the man on the moon sprouted a cluster of moles. Years ago, the overseers covered the original transparent domes with purple shellac, to polarize the glass and prevent any future cases of skin cancer after both my grandparents passed away. The coating casts a slight tone on the lunar surface. At one point the LunaLuna had a polarized layer, but guests complained of ruined views, so it was stripped away. Shortly after, the gift shop added a rotating display of sunscreen.

            A boy walks up to me. He asks if I am the man from the commercials.

            “No,” I say, “Actually, I’m his son.”

            His swim trunks drip as he wags his hips from side to side.

            “You’re Junior? Will you say the phrase, will you?”

            I sigh.

            “Season’s Greetings,” I say, “from the moon.”

            He screams and waddles off, returning to a group of children in the pool. They look at me for a moment, giggle, then shout the saying themselves, season’s greetings, from the moon! as they flop onto their backs in the shallows.

            An email arrives in my inbox. My edits to Wikipedia have been rejected, on grounds of unverifiable sources. So, I open up a few webpages, to read more about my dad’s death, for citation purposes. I find that the Internet believes my state of mourning to be particularly devastating, and see a picture of myself by the hotel bar, surrounded by six empty piñas. Even from far away, the acne around my mouth appears ready to explode. Someone has started a rumor that my season of The Bachelor will last five years, with an estimated haul of two trillion dollars in sponsorships.

            I go to Wikipedia, and edit the article again. Jason Coleman-Dreyer Sr. I is was the first man born on the moon. He is was the son of Dr. Alexander Dreyer and Dr. Lydia Coleman, pioneers in the field of lunar studies. He is was best known as the creator of the catchphrase “Season’s Greetings, from the Moon,” along with his son Jason Coleman-Dreyer II, as well as the face internationally associated with lunar travel. He resides resided with his son, Jason (better known as Junior) on their model lunar homestead in the Sea of Tranquility as a part of the larger Lunarland complex. He holds the World Record for appearances in most family Christmas cards. He is considered by many to be the greatest living lunar celebrity of all time.

 

            The official account of my family history begins months before my dad’s conception, when the first exploratory team landed on the moon. Dad descended from two lunar scientists, one, Dr. Dreyer, a biologist dedicated to the study of grass propagation on lunar soil, the other, Dr. Coleman, an environmental engineer tasked with terraforming the lunar atmosphere into hospitable, friendly, air. They performed experiments side-by-side, which I’ve always imagined as grandpa breathing deeply onto grass, with Grandma standing beside him, monitoring the levels of atmospheric O2 with an erect index finger. Dad said it was the boredom of watching grass grow that drove them closer together, as one day, after months of chattering, polite, small talk, they stopped speaking, dropped their instruments, and stripped. For hours they rolled on the grass, never touching each other, instead enjoying the forgotten terrestrial sensation of tickled skin.

            Once the rolling stopped, they ignored the strict regulations against lying with the opposite sex (it should be noted that there were no prohibitions among the lunar scientists inhibiting same-gender copulation). It was only months later, during a quarterly research presentation, that the effects of that afternoon were discovered. Before Grandma could begin discussing the dismal prospects of lunar terraforming, a senior official asked her to explain the bulge attempting to burst through her pantsuit.

            Any informal narrative of their lives skips the scene of their credential stripping, the returning of their lab coats, and the weeks stuck in scientific purgatory as the overseers debated their fate. It was during this time, as Grandma’s belly inflated, that my grandparent’s discussed their desire to keep the child, a detail of course I am certain the overseers noted in the surveillance video. When they were recalled to the observation deck of the lunar outpost, the director of the board waved his arm across the lunar landscape, pointing at a small, transparent dome. Inside was a one-story home, with a porch, pink façade, and a white picket fence surrounding a patch of grass. Here, Grandma Coleman and Grandpa Dreyer would live as the Coleman-Dreyers, the test subjects of extraterrestrial human life.

            Once, a guest asked if it was true, as he had read online, that my grandparents were high school sweethearts, descended from rival gangs, who came together against all odds in a triumphant moment of all-conquering love, as if their narrative was a rewritten West Side Story. Genuine, official accounts of their arrangement did appear below the fold of several national newspapers, and the president adjusted his speech introductions to address all American families at home, abroad, and on the moon.

            At the same time, however, other researchers began projecting centuries, rather than decades, for genuine lunar colonization. The powers-at-be, as Dad enjoyed reminding me, did not invest in the moon to fund a future man’s world, and groaned at the thought of watching their money wither during their lifetimes. Few plants were taking in the laboratories, and the only patch of grass that grew above the height of a fingernail was the square plot surrounding the Coleman-Dreyer homestead, where my grandparents quietly prepared for the first at-home birth in outer space. Just as their grass grew straight, visitors noted that their air tasted pure, as if it had developed over millennia.

            Once again, the overseers shut the doors to their conference room, convening, this time, for more than a few minutes. When they opened the doors, they called on the Coleman-Dreyers, with the Mr. wheeling in the Mrs., Grandma flush in the face and ready to give birth at any moment.

            A decision had been made, and the project would pivot from a colony to a vacation destination, and the prime attraction would be spending an afternoon with the first person born off Earth. My father, Jason Coleman-Dryer (I) was born on a Monday. On Tuesday, the first visitors landed on the moon, all potential investors from Texas descended from oil money, who sneered at science, scoffed at the ozone layer, but swaddled and cradled Dad to the tune of several billion-dollar angel investments. Dad would never pay for anything in his life.

 

            NBC called again this morning. They increased their offer to thirty Amazonian beauties bred specifically to aesthetically please, along with a producer credit and the option to appear on the show again if I do not find a satisfactory match. When I brought up my mother’s diary, Network Executive stammered, like I could hear sweat pooling in the mouthpiece of his phone. They were trying, he said, but props like that are often just tossed, and in the case they didn’t find it, I needed to remember I was a valuable star, the brightest one they had.

            “Things aren’t looking too great for the fall line up. Our sitcoms stars demanded dramas, the drama geeks all got plucked up by theatres, and here I am left with an overwhelming amount of pale writers who I can’t send out in front of a camera other than to get a pie to the face. We’ve got nobody, I’ve got no one except you. You need me. I’ve got teams of make up artists that could fix up that face of yours in days, well, maybe weeks. Don’t take offense! It’s just the truth. You know me, I always tell it like it is. You’re all I’ve got left, Junior, please help me. My wife is basically gone. She’ll leave me if I don’t make this deal. Not because of you, explicitly, but she wants me spending more time with the kids, but I can only take time off if I put something on the air people will watch, so I’m stuck between you and my wife. Never get between a man and his wife, Junior. Hey! That can be a line of yours from the show. Please consider the offer. I’ve been in the office for three days. Please?”

            Even if half of what he says is true, I say, I need the diary, or no deal, and hang up.

            Before meeting with the overseers, I visit the buffet. I ask for a waiter to carry my tray, a task I could perform myself, but one that would require more strain than I want to expend. When he points at food items, I either say yes, receive a scoop of the portion, or shake my head no, and proceed down the line.

             With the tray filled, the waiter escorts me to my table, makes room for me by removing a chair, and places my tray between a fork, knife, and spoon. He lingers for a moment.

            “You know, sir,” he says, “your grandparents were like grandparents to me.”

            “Really?” I say. “Thank you.”

            “At least if you go by our Christmas cards, they’re in more of them than any of my actual relatives.”

            I smile, but force my lips back into neutral when I feel the tips of two pimples colliding above my upper lip.

            “Season’s Greetings, from the moon!” He says, and leaves.

            If I conducted a survey, the majority of responders would claim my dad invented the phrase, a truth he spread by creating a fictitious eureka moment where he looked up at the black sky, on a cold December Day, and supposedly longed to send his regards to Earth. The actual story is that I was attempting to make our first Christmas card, but never managed to get past the cursive G. I would write season’s reetings from the moon, but could not remember where to turn, when to maintain the line, and was altogether uncertain as to why a G should look like a malformed wishbone. I practiced across the bottom of a series of blank Polaroids, placing my failures to the side after every trial, and beginning again. After many frustrating hours, I threw all my attempts on the porch, where Dad presumably found then. He had the slogan printed on t-shirts, temporary tattoos, and along the bottom of every Polaroid sold on the moon.

            On most days, my dad could wear any item of clothing, as long as he smiled and posed pretty with the kids. But on Christmas Eve, he dressed up as Santa Claus. When I was little, I pretended to be his elf, prancing about, leading families forward to take a photograph. After my wheelchair arrived in my early teens (a byproduct of unforeseeable growth brought about by the light lunar gravity), the overseers claimed a seated elf was unrealistic, and asked my dad to tell me to remain inside on Christmas Eve. Other days I mingled with the guests, making small talk, but on December 24th I sat in my bedroom, pulling aside the window slats, watching with one eye as families approached my dad. When they posed with Dad, he would count down from three, holding in his right hand the button connected to the camera in the middle of our yard. In the three seconds of preceding a shouted “season’s greeting,” I held my eyes open, so that a close examination of the window in some photograph might catch me staring. Just before the photograph though, I would let the slat slip through my fingers, leaving myself alone in the room, the only reminder of the exterior world coming with the small flash that crept through the corner of the blinds, and the chatter as the next family filed onto the porch.

            Our house is consistently the most visited attraction on the moon, and one of the most photographed locations in the solar system. With every visit, each guest receives a Polaroid picture, with our slogan written across the bottom: Season’s Greetings, from the Moon.

            My dad has been in millions of other Christmas cards, but we never got around to sending our own.

 

            I wait for the overseers in a square-shaped room outside a set of large double doors. I settle next to the picked-over spread of leftover bagel bottoms and fat-free yogurt. The only fruit left are grapes. I plop them into my mouth, like royalty.

            The doors to the conference room open without warning, released presumably by a button pushed somewhere in the room, one of the greying gentlemen seated at the table, only some of whom use wheelchairs. I assume they all see me sucking at the vine like a teat. I drop the bunch on to the floor, and stick out my hand to shake, even though they’re all behind a table thirty-feet away.

            “Hello!” I say, entering the room.

            “Welcome Junior,” the man in the middle says.

            “What a pleasure to meet all of you.”

            “Likewise,” the man in the middle says, “we all feel like we know you, intimately, like our own son, just as we did with your father.”

            He leaves a silence for me to fill. After three seconds, I sweat. Two more, and words burst from my lips.

            “I’m sorry for your loss,” I say.

            “Yes, your father’s death has been felt around the globe. The Earth weeps for him these past few days.”

            The acne along the rim of my mouth throbs, begging me to pinch each pimple into oblivion.

            “How is everything down there?” I ask.

            “Oh you know how it is, well, I guess you don’t know actually. Ha ha. It’s what you’d imagine.”

            I imagine their Earth as Victorian, with maids draping large napkins across the overseers’ breasts as the men gnaw on mutton at suppertime.

            “Alas, we are not here to discuss the Earth, but you, Junior. We would like the transition from your father to you to proceed as smoothly as possible. How does that sound?”

            “Splendid,” I say, “As long as I can go by Jason now.”

            Chuckles. “Yes, of course Jason, of course. First things first, we’d like to rerecord the jingle with your voice.”

            “Season’s greetings,” I say, “from the moon.”

            Hearty laughter. “Yes, yes! My boy, you’ve grown quite so over the years.”

            “Thank you,” I say, “I’ve actually tried to stop growing, but that’s something I’m not good at.”

            A mild response. I admit, it’s not my best work.

            “Yes, there’s not much that can be done about this lunar gravity. You’ve turned into the spitting image of your father.”

            I smile. Yes, yes I have.

            “And one more thing. The suit. We’d like for you to dress as Santa Claus year round. As a rebranding measure.”

            “Ah.”

            “Your home’s façade will be redone once you return to be less retro, and more, ah, festive.”

            “Wouldn’t it be silly for me to dress as Santa in July?”

            “The data says otherwise,” the man in the middle says. “Try not to think of it as pretend, but that you are actually Santa Claus.”  The others nod. “When you return home tomorrow, try on the suit, let us know, we’d like to get it started by next week”

            He smiles at me. I look at the other six men, who each sport identical, curved lips. “Have a good day.”

            The doors open automatically again, letting me know there is to be no more talking, that I am to leave and accept the decision that has been made.

            At the door, I pause, and shut my eyes for a moment. I see this grouping of men, seated at a round table, with the man in the middle giving a toast. He flourishes a champagne flute. He says, “Men like us should live for one thousand years.”

            “Oh,” someone says behind me, who I know to be the man in the middle without looking, “before you go, we’re finishing the dome tomorrow, considering we’re all here, and we’d love to have you in attendance at our viewing party.”

            “Of course,” I said, “may I leave now.”

            “Yes.”

            The door shuts behind me, and I am alone again, in a square room, with a grape vine on the floor, and piles of bagels and fat-free yogurt.

            On my way back to the room, I open up Wikipedia.

            Jason Coleman-Dreyer I was the first man born on the moon. He was the son of Dr. Alexander Dreyer and Dr. Lydia Coleman, pioneers in the field of lunar studies, who controversially had their careers ended through bureaucratic excess [citation needed]. He was best known as the creator of the catchphrase “Season’s Greetings, from the Moon,” which was actually created by his son Jason Coleman-Dreyer II [citation needed]. Jason I is also known as the face internationally associated with lunar travel. He resided with his son, Jason, on their model lunar homestead in the Sea of Tranquility as a part of the larger Lunarland complex, a ridiculous underutilized waste of space. It looks like a fucking purple mole. Like the moon has caught cancer. Your moon has fucking cancer, what are you going to do about it, buy a fucking t-shirt [citation needed]? He holds the World Record for appearances in most family Christmas cards. He is considered by many to be the greatest lunar celebrity of all time.

 

            Another missed call from NBC this morning.

            “Junior, Junior, Juuuuuuuuuuunior, let me tell you how much we continue to love you here, how much Earth loves you and how we need you, buddy, our son, the prodigal son of man. Time to step up to the plate. If you don’t take this show, television ends. Over. No more viewers. Finished. Dead, Axe-murdered, drop it in a shallow grave and cover it with cement. But you can stop all that, bring it back, bring me another paycheck. Cash it in at the bank, bring home the dough and some bacon. The kids will call me dad, not fucking dad, not deadbeat dad, not douchbag dad, not who-the-fuck-are-you-dad, just daddy. Please. Please. You can have fifty women, heiresses, no one will be allowed to have a more attractive wife than you, believe me, I will annihilate anyone who claims otherwise. You need to do this. Call me back. Love ya.

            “Oh. Annnnnnnnd that. The diary. Listen. Listen. Listen to me here. Are you listening? Reality TV went though a sorry time at the end of the last century. ‘The scripted era.’ So, whatever you saw, or think you saw on the show, was just a prop. Nothing more, just pages of nonsense. I asked around, and found a producer from the show, who says he remembers your mom. Nice lady. Real nice. Apparently just wrote ABC’s all day, something about practicing with her left hand to become ambidextrous. My thought is since they selected her to marry your father before filming started, she must have been bored out of her mind. Old television, how droll. Not like ours now. It’s exciting!

            “Real nice lady. Really, really nice I was told.

            “Anyway, call me. Please. If I can’t close this deal, why even bother?”

            That was unexpected.

            I rise from bed, and approach the mirror in the room. I lean in toward the glass, taking a moment to examine my red face, when a pimple explodes, releasing a white jet that spreads across the mirror. I recoil, an action that only stretches my skin more, popping at least two other whiteheads. This time, however, they do not burst, but instead dribble out, as I feel the puss slide down my face. I wipe the back of my hand across my mouth, and look at the smeared goo standing still on the back of it.

            I return to bed, and lie there. I listen to my phone buzz, my door pound, but I remain still. Supine.

           

            Dark light comes through the window. I approach, exit on to the balcony, and look up at the new sheet of glass. It’s only a few feet from the top of the hotel. I feel trapped, as if an ocean has been relocated over my head, placing me forever underwater.

            I return inside, and find a note by the door.

            Missed you. Your house should be ready. Season’s Greetings!

                        Yours, the Overseers.

            I check out of the suite. With the new dome overhead, I can return home above ground on a freshly poured concrete path. Other tourists have left the hotel, and point their cameras up at the purple sky. A child jumps, trying to reach for the top of the dome, but only rises thirty feet. No one minds me. I pass by, muttering “excuse me” when a family clumps along the center of the path.

            My acne pulses with every heart beat.

            I receive another email from Wikipedia.

Dear Mr. Coleman-Dreyer,

            We write to inform you that a recent edit of yours has once again been rejected, under the url lu.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason_Coleman_Dreyer_Sr. In addition to this rejection, we regret to inform you that the page has been deleted in its entirety, under section six of the deletion guidelines: content or other spam without any relevant or encyclopedic merit. If you have any concerns about an error or misfiled claim, please consult our consumer guidelines, or feel free to create a new wiki for submission! Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia anyone can edit!

            I archive the email, and approach the new red façade of my home. The grass has been replaced with faux snow. The white picket fence is candy cane. And over the foyer, a giant painted sign says season’s greetings, from the moon.

            I roll down the new candy path to the porch. The route winds through the front yard, past a camera. On the front porch an urn with a note labeled Junior waits for me. But before I reach for Dad’s ashes, I see a figure seated on the corner of the porch, in front of a second Polaroid camera. I approach, and see the figure is wax, taut, with a face glazed, smiling. It looks like me. It has a plaque.

            Jason Coleman-Dreyer Sr. First man born on the moon. Survived by his son, Junior.

            I lunge at the dummy, but push too hard against the seat of my chair. I slip forward, fall, and accidentally slap a large button on his hand.

            A flash goes off. Face down, plastic snow entering my mouth, I hear the motor turn, the Polaroid eject from the slot. I don’t move to pick it up.