I think I was probably not much older than you when my best friend Pete moved to the Moon. We getting to the end our first year at big school. The Summer stretched ahead of us along with the knowledge that
even when it was time to go back to school, we would no longer be at the bottom of the academic food chain.
Our projects for the Summer included painting my tortoise Jeff with day glow colours and seeing how long it would take to wear off, finding out how mad Pete’s mum would be if we made another flour bomb
inside the house, ignoring all of our homework for the new term and working out ways to set toy planes on fire for a more realistic re-enactment of various and assorted wars. We had plenty to do. One more warm week where neither pupils nor teachers seemed to be too bothered by lessons.
We walked home having worn the jibes of the older boys and girls as usual and finally turned off to our street. We had been neighbours for as long as I could remember, Pete always lived next door.
That afternoon we decided to draw plans for the cardboard tank to be assembled at the weekend.
Pete’s mum greeted us with cold drinks and a snack while calling my mother to let her know. I always forgot to tell her – but I would always be at Pete’s. We took our papers and felt tip pens outside to
Following an excitable discussion about camouflage, Pete looked thoughtful as he took the tip off a pen and started to colour in shapes. He always did this, a kind of pause when something big was coming up – like being grounded or going on holiday.
“I don’t think I’m going to be able to build this tank,” he said.
I stopped colouring and looked at him, he kept colouring, didn’t meet my gaze.
Sometimes Pete had to spend the weekend at his Grandmother’s, but he always came back and there were other times to catch up on our projects. Not building the tank at all, that was an extreme statement.
He coloured in more slowly, concentrating on not going over the lines.
“We’re moving to the Moon,” he said.
“We have to move house and we’re going to live on the Moon.”
“The Moon?” It didn’t sound right to me, but sometimes Pete knew best.
“How do you know you’ll be going to the Moon?”
“My Uncle told me.”
There it was. No hesitation, no time to make something up. Pete’s Uncle told him and he and his family were moving to the Moon.
“I’ll show you,” said Pete putting the cap on his felt tip pen. “I have a map.”
We abandoned the tank plans and went up to Pete’s room. I wondered if Pete went to the Moon if I could spend all Summer there and the new things we could work on.
On the wall, next to posters of Spiderman, Wolverine and Marty McFly was a new picture. It was a map, of the Moon.
In fact, it was more than just a map. Pinned on the wall next to it was a certificate of land ownership. Many acres of land on the Moon had been purchased by Pete’s Uncle and given to Pete as a present.
“Wow,” I said softly, nodding in appreciation. “You have your own land on the Moon.”
“Yeah,” said Pete causally. He flopped on the bed and picked up a small replica of the Millennium Falcon. “I don’t know what we will do with it yet, maybe get a dome and have a farm or something.”
“A farm? Like with cows and chickens?”
“Yeah,” Pete grinned. “Cows in space!”
“Zero gravity milkshakes!”
We collapsed into giggles and spent the next hour impersonating cows floating about on Pete’s Moon farm until it was time for me to go home again.
Over dinner, Dad asked how school was going as usual. My sister Marie rolled her eyes, “How come you has him about school when I’m the one with the exams coming up.”
“We know honey,” said my Mum smiling. “We don’t want to pressure you is all.”
Marie rolled her eyes again and huffed.
“Pete’s moving to the Moon,” I said, pushing unwanted cold peas around my plate. Marie snorted. “You’re such an idiot,” she laughed.
“Don’t call your brother an idiot,” said my Dad. “Pete’s moving to the Moon huh? When’s that happening?”
“Next weekend,” I replied. Realising that I was suddenly not hungry at all. Next weekend was going to be bad.
Mum and Dad looked at each other.
“You know sometimes people move to a new house and a new school,” explained my Mum.
I nodded into my chest. I didn’t want to think about it any more.
“Yeah, but not on the Moon, you dork,” added my sister. Mum gave her a look.
“Can I be excused?” I asked. Suddenly sitting at the table with Mum and Dad looking at me that way, I felt exposed.
I went upstairs and lay on my Muppet Show bedspread staring up at the planes that hung from my light. I wondered who would make tanks and paint tortoises with me if Pete was on the Moon. Maybe we could talk on a video link, like in the movies, that would be cooler. But then I wondered if Pete would have cooler space friends who would know all about Astronaut Food and silver space suits. Would he still
want to be friends with me back here on Earth with all of our normal boring things?
My walkie talkie buzzed, Pete was trying to hail me, “Foxtrot Charlie this is Papa Sierra, are you receiving? Over.”
My mind was full of big important thinking. I didn’t feel like talking to Pete. I turned the walkie talkie down and hid it under my sports kit. At some point, speculating upon my big thoughts, I must have
fallen asleep. I woke up worried and it was time for school again.
We walked into the playground and there was some sort of event about to happen. You get a sense of the atmosphere when you get to school and this didn’t feel too good. Pete and I walked in through the gates and a group of girls near us started laughing.
Not good at all. We looked around for Seb and Sam, the other boys that made our usual school day quartet, but they were standing further away, apparently reluctant to greet us as usual. I turned to look at Pete but instead realised we were face to face with James Sixsmith, the biggest boy in my sister’s year and not a nice guy at all.
He leans over Pete who scowls up at him. “You’re moving to the Moon?” he sneers.
“Yes,” says Pete. Somewhat confused by the attitude.
The playground starts to laugh in unison. Girls point and even our closest friends are grinning. The bell rang, providing a temporary reprieve.
Thus began a week of endless jibes and tricks. Not the final week at school you might expect. We were nicknamed space-cadets, kids told us we were mad and made rude comments in the corridor. I started to
wonder if they had a point. I couldn’t think of anyone else who had gone to live on the Moon.
As we walked home on the last Friday of term, Pete kicking his football in a bag in front of him, I had to ask. “Are you really moving to the Moon?”
Pete stopped and looked hurt. “Don’t you believe me either?”
I looked into my best friend’s face, his expression questioned my trust, our friendship. Our last day before he went away.
I couldn’t betray him. “Of course I do,” I said. “I just wondered if I needed to take a proper address to write to you there, or if I could just put, ‘Pete, The Moon.’”
Pete smiled, reassured and started to kick the ball again. “That should be fine,” he said.
That Saturday I watched Pete’s mum and dad working with removal men to take things out of the house. I didn’t much feel like coming out of my room to say goodbye. I watched the move happening from my bedroom window ignoring mum and dad’s attempts to distract me.
Late in the afternoon, they put Pete in the car, carrying his Millennium Falcon. He looked up at my window and took his walkie talkie out of his pocket.
I grabbed my unit and turned it up.
“Foxtrot Charlie, this is Papa Sierra, do you read me?”
“I read you Papa Sierra.”
We paused. Looking at each other.
“See you Felix.”
The car drove away and I wondered if our walkie talkies would work all the way to the Moon.
Your Aunt Marie still reminds me of Pete’s move from time to time. We did our best to drive her nuts every time it occurred to us, so she must have been relieved. A girl about her age moved in the following
week, so now the neighbours were her friends instead.
But when she laughs at the idea the Pete moved to the Moon. I remind her that the range on those walkie talkie toys wouldn’t make it all the way to the Moon and well, I never did see Pete again.