I left Earth without telling you the truth.

I told you it was for the money, and that was partly it.

Shitty, I know.

And the irony of this moment — my recording this message, and never knowing when you’ll receive it, tomorrow, next week, when you’re 70, or if you ever will.

I had my chances, and I folded my hand every time.

I’d have always chosen this path. Flying off Earth, helping to build the Moonbase. I don’t know much, but I know what I know.

And I’d always choose to jump in stupid holes like the one I’m in. I’ve done it too many times, despite the warnings, despite the rules.

Won every gamble before, right?

One of my many flaws, looking to roll the dice.

Roll enough times, it’s bound not to go your way.

*****

Let me start by telling you what I love about you.

Charlie — your athleticism isn’t what makes you special. It’s your attitude with others. People enjoy being around you. Lean into that.

Georgie-boy — your mind leads you to imagine fantastical worlds. You’re a dreamer, too much like me. Oh, what some people wouldn’t give to tap into your thoughts for a day, an hour.

I’ve seen you boys grow from little hellions into fine young men. I’m sorry not to see how you rise above the rest of life’s challenges.

I love you both. Tell your mother that I still think fondly of her, still regret that I didn’t make it work between us. Not that it’ll matter to her.

*****

You’d think I’d be honoured to be the first to die on the Moon. Hope they’re not stupid enough to put up a plaque: “Here died JT for being a dumbass.”

I’m on a two-day inspection of crunchers and miners. I tell you, travelling around the Moon never gets old. Other people pay me to take their shifts — money I send to you. They don’t like its otherworldliness, the loneliness of sitting in the Moon crawler as it rolls through the landscape.

I’ve cherished these moments.

Usually, the trip is routine, but sometimes you find something stuck, not working right.

One of the miners was pinned. The drones couldn’t nudge it.

I cabled up, belayed down. Kicked the bot twice.

Then the tunnel fell in, pinned my leg. Somehow, my suit’s intact. The pain, it’s incredible, but subsiding. Can’t be a good thing.

You think I’d have taken the emergency beacon with me, but no.

They’ll eventually track the crawler, but it’ll be too late. I’ve called the bots to dig me out, but those beasts are slow. Only have an hour or so of air, if the sensor’s to be trusted.

All bets are off.

Could be worse. Lucky to be tucked under an overhang. Damned lucky not to have my head pinned.

Blessed to have a chance to record this message.

*****

Boys, let me give you two bits of advice I should have shared before.

First, betting as a vocation is for suckers. Might have a good night, a good week. In the long run, the house always wins. Put your money elsewhere. Probably don’t need to say it. You’ve learnt that watching me.

Second, do what you love. Life is short, shorter than you expect. Find your passion and go all in. Just know, at some point, you’ll hurt those around you.

*****

The Moon needed electricians and plumbers and mechanics and a hundred other labourers. I applied and passed the tests.

In secret, of course. Didn’t allow you to weigh in, to stop me. That’d be too much of a gamble.

Kept the odds in my favour.

They took me.

You laughed and thought I was crazy. And I didn’t deny it. But when your humour turned to anger, I didn’t deny that, either. You wanted me in your lives. I wanted to be there, too.

But something larger called me.

*****

I always thought of myself as wild and free.

Here, on the Moon, I’m tamed and trapped.

Haven’t minded, not one bit.

I’ve bounced around like a kangaroo, stood on a hostile, alien world, marvelled at Earth in its entirety and the number of stars I can see, been a part of something greater, howled naked on the Moon, imagined the Moon howling back at me.

I’ve slapped a full house down, beating three aces, the cards drifting on the table as I scrambled to collect the chips.

Sent that money back to you on top of my regular pay. That was the promise. Me coming here, you’d have better lives, cover the cost of houses and education. You wouldn’t want for anything material.

When I wasn’t playing poker, I mostly watched the Moonscape and the stars and Earth and thought: “Goddamn, the Universe is beautiful.”

Too often, I wondered why I couldn’t feel that back home, with you.

I don’t regret coming here, even now, trapped in this hole. It’s been a dream.

But I am sorry that what I had with you couldn’t fill me.

I don’t expect or want your forgiveness. That’s not what I’m after.

Just wanted you to understand, and know that I loved you, best I could.

The story behind the story

Todd Honeycutt reveals the inspiration behind Howling naked on the Moon.

Three threads intertwined with the writing of Howling naked on the Moon. First, my writing group had a prompt about howling at the Moon (with a bonus for being naked), which naturally caused me to consider, “Why not howl on the Moon?” Second, I enjoy neighbourly games of poker, and so I’d been looking for a way to incorporate a gambling edge into a story. Finally, I had been thinking about how people — when faced with the tension between the desires of the self and the desires of the self in relation to others — make decisions and justify their choices.