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Moonlight Sonata

A watchful moon hung low over the steeple, bathing the Idaho Falls LDS temple in silver light and thin shadows. Keane checked the carabiner at his waist, tightened the straps that circled his waist and thighs, and made sure they were placed properly. Even if he plummeted to the roof of the first level beneath him, he probably wouldn’t break anything but his pride, but a slip of the strap and he might end up facing his future sex life at half-power.

“Where the hell are you?” Lupe stage-whispered from the front of the building. They were maybe thirty feet apart, but in eastern Idaho, messing with an LDS temple wasn’t recommended, even for harmless fun like getting your climbing gear and hoisting your way to the top. Neither one was positive they were breaking a law—it seemed unlikely the City Council had ever gotten together to discuss the legal consequences of free-climbing a building— but they had their suspicions. Even if it wasn’t necessarily forbidden, it surely wasn’t encouraged.

“I’m right below you, checking out your ass,” Keane whispered back, feeling around for a handhold. Sweat beaded in his climbing shoes, making the knobs of his toes slick. Why couldn’t this all be brick, he wondered as his fingers explored a sliver of a ledge. Chalk dust puffed around his grip.

“Good. You can break my fall when I slip and pitch off this mother,” she said, a little louder. Her voice seemed to be at the same level he was, about twenty-five feet up the central tower. “Got a route?”

“Sort of.” Keane looked around quickly and placed his right foot against a cornice for better traction. “Give me a minute.”

The temple was low-traffic this time of night, but not isolated by any means. Keane looked over his shoulder, out across the front grounds, and thought it was a good thing Idaho Falls didn’t feel the need to light up the night from all sides like Boise.

“Got one, too.” The only sign of her movement was the soft scrape of canvas and rubber against stone. Cool night air brushed against Keane, drying the sweat on his back. He braced his left foot against a barely visible seam and pushed, left hand scrabbling for the square edge he knew was just above him.

His fingers brushed against a flat surface, clamped down. Right hand, Keane thought, left foot, right. Dr. Seuss explains climbing. Lupe was sitting on the ledge, checking out the city from a couple of stories up, when he heaved his wiry body over the top, swinging his leg and pivoting almost before his chest touched the roof. A long black ponytail swung behind her.

“I gave up a movie date for this, Keane,” she said. “Could have had Friday night at the multiplex.”

“The date was with me anyway,” he said. The main spire rose above them, several stories of hewn rock and bird shit topped with a gold-colored statue of the angel Moroni, the most unfortunately named angel Keane could think of. There were four ledges to reach yet, but only two serious climbs; they could almost jump and pull themselves up the two after the next one.

“There is that,” Lupe agreed. Keane knew she was putting him on, trying to be coy about the whole deal. Climbing the temple had thrilled her the moment he suggested it; he would have just done it by himself if he wasn’t sure she’d go for it.

Stop for dinner afterward and it’s a real date, Keane thought.

“Mormons build these things tough,” Lupe said, running her hand along the building’s face. There weren’t many cracks or seams where a blade might fit, just enough to make going on possible. “Should have brought a hammer.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Keane said, pushing her shoulder a little. Her skin felt warm to the touch, not clammy like his. “Don’t you sweat?”

“Only when I exert myself.” Lupe placed her feet, leaned up against the stone looking for a fingerhold. She looked over her shoulder at him.

“I’m going.” He looked at her, lean muscle and curves stretched along the wall, and realized he was going to have difficulty staying flat against the wall for a minute or two.

“Enjoy the show.” Her fingers, chalked and scraped rough, wedged themselves into a purchase Keane couldn’t see from where he stood. She pulled herself up and began scaling the wall again.

As they got closer to the top, the stone became harder to climb. Less cracks, more uniform, even fewer places to grab hold. Keane wondered if he’d brought enough chalk. He had more experience as a climber than Lupe; he’d started scaling the rock walls in Ross Park in Pocatello when he was in grade school. Keane knew he was good, but Lupe was a natural. She had climber’s hands: small but strong, and able to cram her fist into a crevice and hang by it until she found a way to go on. Very cool.

The last two ledges were so close to each other they could chin themselves up, and just after 11:00, they pulled themselves up over the last stone edge and stood atop the temple, the wind picking up a chill as the desert’s heat finally began to wane. Moroni’s gilded likeness was planted in a copper dome that topped the temple like a wart on the tower’s magnificence. The dome was surprisingly smooth where it wasn’t spattered with bird droppings, and a cramped walkway ran the length of the dome’s circumference, leaving plenty of ledge to sit on and enjoy the view.

“Looks like a real city up from up here,” Lupe said quietly. Around them, in a sodium-vapor grid of streetlights and neon, Idaho Falls stretched outward in all directions, blocks of patchy darkness blending into blazes of light. Keane thought of places he’d read about and dreamed about seeing, and how they might look like what he saw now. He never expected to see it here, in the city he’d grown up in, thinking of it only as a village with better roads.

Looking out over the blocks and trees of Idaho Falls, it didn’t seem so small anymore to Keane. For the first time he could recall, maybe the first in his life, it seemed like a place someone might not mind thinking of as home.

“Thanks for coming with me,” Keane said. Honesty surprised him; he’d intended something witty and charming to come tumbling out. “I’m glad I didn’t see this alone.”

“Me too,” Lupe said. She leaned over suddenly and kissed him, soft and sure, right on the lips. Keane thought it lasted for minutes, possibly days; maybe the moon rose and set, turned phase and came back, all in a kiss. It wasn’t their first kiss, but in a good way, it seemed like it.

After a short time, Keane realized he was staring out over the temple’s parking lot, and there was a car in it. Two, actually. Both were police cars, and as Keane and Lupe watched, doors opened, and uniformed people stepped out and began walking toward the temple. From what they could see, all eyes were on them.

“Somebody reported us,” Keane said, surprised he felt surprised.

“Slow Friday night, I guess,” Lupe said. She laughed. “We live in a sad city, Keane.”

Keane nodded. He shifted his weight and checked his harness, ready to begin his descent. “Shall we go meet the Man? We’re not going to get too far dressed like this, and if we don’t get going, they’ll start yelling and calling the fire department to get us, wake up everybody.”

Lupe nodded, her eyes flashing. “We’ve already missed the late show.”

Together, they slipped off the ledge and began lowering themselves down the side, Keane wishing he’d thought to place some ropes so they could rappelle down to their arrest in style. They came down slowly and carefully, but Keane knew they were flying, skipping across a floor perpendicular to gravity, dancing to a moonlight sonata the people below couldn’t hear.


Brandon Nolta is a freelance writer and editor who has been published in New Myths, Strong Verse and a handful of other publications, including upcoming issues of Digital Science Fiction, The Edge of Propinquity and Every Day Fiction. Thanks for your time.


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