The event had caused a scandal. Even Edith had her qualms about its quasi impropriety; one should not condone reunion parties staged among the dead. It was a stunt, of sorts, in dubious taste, "a sacrilegious travesty," as denounced by one reporter in the New Peoria Times. And yet, it also proved a boon for local charities and research funds, to which proceeds from the evening's 'roast' were philanthropically paid. Nor were accounts in all the media disapproving.




... on his rise. Our own Graham Doubletree, native son, and posthumous holder of this year's Oscar for his role as Barnaby Lathrop, watched, if anywhere, from on high, as he was toasted in absentia by a boisterous band of 'jockeys' who had ridden "C.O.C." themselves to, count 'em, six awards: best cinematography, best original score, best screenplay, best director, best male actor—credit Doubletree—and BEST PICTURE; win, place, show, and more. Perfecta Players cashed in big time. What an entry!




Edith slowly, reverentially, turns her scrapbook's final page, the covers closing with a quiet whoosh and culminating clap. Her eyes refocus, from the album to the calendar, past to future, as she notes its numbered, unmarked boxes stockpiled onto emptiness. Dates un-circled, rows and rows of blanks hold not one note inside, a fate of nothing to look forward to beyond the anniversaries that already seem abandoned by their subject. Graham has died? A year of mourning has dragged on and yet the fact feels inconclusive. What are ashes in a sepulcher, when compared to living memories? How can loved ones simply vanish from the hearts in which they dwell? So much of Edith's uneventful life was bolstered by Graham's exploits that his actual inexistence leaves a hole she cannot fill. Or will not fill. He has not gone, is her persistent intuition. Souls departed, called to God, release their ties to Mother Earth. Yet Graham's, she can't quite shake the feeling, has not strayed from native soil. In fact, she thinks of him as lingering on the continent of her ancestors, as if, finally, something hers, with something his, has been rejoined: her roots, his deathbed; Edith's long-forgotten homeland, Graham's recalled one.

No more publications, clippings, scraps for a scrapbook are in store, for though the film remains a smash hit, news of Graham himself has lapsed—as if the media has accepted what, to Edith, is anathema. Do the living have no interest in the lives that are no longer? (Recollection is a luxury for advancing age, it seems.) Does sweet nostalgia serve no useful purpose? (Backward looks look 'backward' to a culture bent on progress irrespective of the means, the cost, the wisdom of progressing in the first place.)

Edith mulls, compares the loss of Graham in body to the gain of Graham in spirit, feeling closer to his essence, in its absence, than before... her vision shifting from the days, weeks, months defined by words and numerals to the frame-confined horizon with its tree and cloudless sky, awakening inklings; Edith yearns to trespass boundaries, overcome walls, defy restrictions placed by clock and setting (borders stretch, disbanding), disregard the rules, the laws (a breeze now stir's the photo's fix), and take a leap of Faith (the picture's content, suddenly three dimensional, causes lips to desiccate, pores to dilate, sweat to bead; eyes squint, a taste of dust pervades the mouth, the nose inhales an arid fragrance, and a flute enchants the ear with its mellifluous tuneall vagaries, yet conceivable in the form of thoughts-projected, thoughts-received, imagination feeding one who dreams, another fed by gratitude, her whom patience has rewarded glimpsed by her whose abject grief has turned to sixth-sense understanding where Graham dwells, with whom, and why, perceives departure as contiguous with return.


My little man, my little marvel has come home! My heart is healed! The doubts that rent my troubled soul have been repaired by one glad smile, a single nod of recognition. Did he know me? Yes, he did! And does! I watched his nostrils flare to breathe my scent in, unobstructed by the gulf of Time dividing sniff from sniff. Child knew its source! His eyes though blue, his hair though blond, his skin though fair as two-toned ivory still acknowledged Engeraloi as their wellspring. I am blessed. My vindication is complete, the prophesy kept, all sins forgiven, those of brethren in their ignorance, those of parent in her heartache.

What a son, indeed, have I! At once considerate and compassionate; how he waits upon his mother; how he frets about our lack of medications! Loving! Loyal! One needs but witness his devotion to Yasmeena for the proof that there is depth to every tenderness, lasting care in every touch. They speak a language born of fingertips, graced with such exquisite fondling that they need not give it voice. It is uncanny. Silent verse. For theirs is surely a poetic discourse.

Not so his and mine; we are at variance, often. Strange sound his ideas; strange sound mine when we would square what was, with what will be, with what is now this moment. Insecure about the true and false, our minds explore extremes, until I weary of the effort.

I retreat beneath my tree, this place of exile now my haven from the questions seeking answers. I am aged, tired, and happystates at odds with disagreements over rights and wrongs that crease the brows of people charged to think, to feel, to act on choices made without the benefit of Omniscience.

Even foresight paired with hindsight breeds not insight guaranteed. And thus I own my disillusionmentin the selfsame breath rejoicing. He is not a panacea, he who leads our humble tribe, my son the Chief, the Recreated One, the Ashen Man of Ashes recombined to give a species hope, to love one old, one blind, and, in so loving, light the darkness as the stars ignite the firmament, as the dawn relieves the dusk, as life itself brings death to lifein which all endings, with beginnings, find reunion.



*     Farewell    *


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