Puppy Love 27

toofam10

I’ve begun to suspect that Lucas has become too familiar with Death.

Living here, he’s endured too many visits by the Hooded One, and now Old Bones is taking liberties.

I keep track of the Dark Shepherd. I want to be there whenever he stops by for one of the old dogs. So I’ve come to develop a type of second sense to alert me of when Lucas is in his proximity.

But I never expected to see what I witnessed at the Yacht Club. Sulfur, smoke, rags, and all, Mr. Old Bones was flirting with our boy.

I shared the view of Lucas’s friend–best look away. This is not something easily forgot.

toofam09

But Lucas didn’t seem to mind. “I guess you were waving at me?” he said.

“Why, yes, good-looking!” Mr. Bones rattled. “It’s me! Your old chum.”

toofam12

Lucas actually smiled in response.

“You’re looking mighty fine!” Mr. Bones said.

toofam11

“Thanks?” Lucas said. “I’ve been keeping fit? The dogs keep me busy?”

“But not too busy for an old sack of bone, eh? If you catch my drift…”

toofam08

Do I look away, do I not look away? I didn’t look away. I can’t help feel protective of Lucas. I circled around him, whispering, “Isn’t it time to go? It’s time to go.”

“I guess I should be going,” Lucas said.

“What? So soon? But I haven’t even done what I’ve come for!”

toofam07

“You mean you’re here on business?” Lucas asked.

“Actually, yes. But you know me. I never mind mixing business with pleasure.”

If the Bones had eyes, he’d have winked.

toofam05

“Everything all right, sir?” The maître d’ asked.

“Fine, fine?” said Lucas.

“Couldn’t be better!” said Mr. B.

toofam03

“Smells like sulfur,” said the maître d’.

toofam04

And then ensued the commotion. A vendor staggered in, gasped, grabbed his throat, his chest, and collapsed.

“Show time!” said the faceless Hood.

toofam01

It was Don, a vendor I’d known from the fish stall on the docks. He’d been a young man when I met him, back when we adopted Otter, all those years and decades ago.

How strange that now he’d be collapsed at Lucas’s feet!

I suppose the world is small, just as they say, and we are all connected. When one goes, whether we’ve met that soul or not, it’s only a few degrees that separates us from someone who knew them. We are all connected, and the passing of one affects us all.

toofam02

“You won’t take him with you, will you?” asked Lucas when it was all over.

“Well, yes, that was the plan,” the Shepherd said.

“But you’ve done the reaping, now let him stay with me?”

I felt a tremor. What had Lucas learned, watching me collect the dogs’ spirits all these years? Had he learned that Death was one to be bargained with? That a soul could remain, after the body were reaped?

“If you insist,” Mr. Bones replied. “I’ve done what I came to do. The rest is immaterial.”

He handed Lucas the small ball of light, Don Lothario’s spirit. “Be sure to erect a headstone,” the Reaper instructed. “It’s a necessary portal.”

Then thunder rumbled and smoked swirled.

“Leaving so soon?” asked Lucas’s friend. “Don’t hurry back!”

toofam13

Lucas added another tombstone to the long row. I swirled around, and Don, when he saw me, let out a hearty laugh.

“I always heard we’d meet old acquaintances!” his spirit said. “Guess what they say is true!”

I showed him around. “You aren’t really supposed to be here,” I said. “Lucas overstepped his bounds.”

“And a good thing he did,” said Don. “I may be ready to try something less corporal, but I am not yet ready for a final farewell.”

Oh, what will Tanvi say when she sees who’s tagging along with me! We surely are a motley crew.

Let the tombstones shine in the setting sun! We spirits have clouds to caper through!

toofam14

<< Previous | Next >>

 

Puppy Love 25

movingon01

Grief aged Miss Molly. Maybe she wanted to hurry time so she could join her mate sooner. Her sad eyes drew me in.

“You won’t always be apart,” I said, “and when you’re together again, it will be in a place with no time, for all time.”

Lucas knew Crackers’ turn would be soon. He and Caleb were litter-mates, after all.

movingon02

Since Bartholomew, we’ve always had at least one dog who liked to sing. Emery’s keeping the choral tradition going.

movingon03

While the household mourned Caleb, he sang soulful songs. Have you heard a dog sing “Swing Low?” It’s enough to make you long for that chariot to come soon.

movingon04

Dustin tried to cheer up his uncle. I could see that Crackers’ old joints weren’t up for  a game of pounce, and neither was his spirit.

movingon05

I wonder sometimes what Lucas learns about form and formlessness, about the slow grinding passage of time, about the quiet stillness of the timeless moments. Watching so many of his four-legged friends move on has got to be changing him in some way.

The crack of thunder–the smell of sulfur–the rising column of ash: Does Lucas think, Here we go again? Or does the out-of-time profundity still make him stop in his tracks?

movingon06

A passing is both sacred and everyday. But, no matter how often it happens, it is in no way mundane.

movingon07

I never tire of the rising of spirit. Something in me rises, too.

movingon08

I never weary of the silent witnessing. Somehow, this sacred duty makes us stronger. It quickens the living to the passing moments. It reminds those passed of what they’ve left.

movingon09

I don’t know why sadness accompanies this–at least for those of us who come from the After. I understand the sorrow of those left behind, for they don’t know what waits, what lasts.

movingon10

I understand their anger, too.

movingon11

Emery and Dustin, like two white sentinels, flanked Nibbler, the beagle who, with Bobie, started this long line.

movingon12

The flash! The light. Emery and Dustin shared a glance.

movingon13

They watched the greedy shepherd to ensure he handed Crackers’ light-sphere to me.

movingon14

I received him, to set him free. Where we are, there is no time. There is all time. There is no space. There is infinite space.

movingon15

We roam through no dimensions. We wander all dimensions. This is all true, simultaneously. We can’t keep dichotomy, and that’s why we have no form but the memory of who we once were.

Dustin doesn’t understand, but Emery, I suspect, does.

movingon16

And Chloe doesn’t care. She’s seen the robed one often enough to have lost all fear. While he lingered to watch the old movies on the TV, she joined him. I don’t suppose he understands dog. But if he did, he’d know that she was asking him whose turn was next, and when it would be her turn.

movingon17

She offered him friendship. And, as few are brave or cheerful enough to befriend Death, he accepted.

I’ve stolen a glance at his ledger. I know he’ll visit a few more times before he comes for her.

How can it be that the divide between form and formlessness becomes such a barrier, such an ultimate separation?

For Chloe, it’s nothing to fear.

For Emery, I suspect, it’s not a barrier that’s real. And there between the sadness, bravery, and wisdom, extends Emery’s view, which, I suspect, lies closest to the truth.

movingon18

<< Previous | Next >>

 

Puppy Love 21

mochibye01

We’d been expecting it. And I was sure to be there. But it didn’t make it easier. The visits of the hooded one were always hard to bear.

She’d been the best mom to Crackers.

mochibye02

And to Caleb, too.

mochibye03

She’d taught Dustin well, and she welcomed Chloe into the family.

mochibye04

Mochi’s acquaintance with the hooded one went way back, to her first day here, when he came for Majora, Nibbler, and Babe, all three taken on the same day. And now, he was here for her.

mochibye05

With a start like that, it’s no wonder she had great depth of feeling.

puppy501

She was no bigger than Lucas’s hand when she first arrived!

puppy435

She knew Tanvi, though–and how happy they would be to be reunited in the After!

puppy403

After Tanvi let, she consoled Lucas, becoming his next best friend.

puppy604

She was always there, watching over her pups, encouraging Otter.

puppy803

She and Otter were such good friends.

puppy622

Well, they’ll be together now, too, so they can play on the breeze, like we all do.

mochibye06

“Looks like I’ll be here pretty frequently, then,” the Shepherd said, consulting his log.

“You don’t have to stick to the schedule,” I told him.

“Yeah, I do,” he said. “Some things can’t be fudged.”

Emery was at his hem, trying to grasp his cloak, growling like the fearless Twister he is.

mochibye07

“I’m not exactly corporeal, you know,” the Gray Bones mumbled.

mochibye08

It was too much for the pup.

mochibye09

It was too much for all of us.

Bones prolonged the show.

mochibye10

And then, the flash of light! The quickening of my own spark!

mochibye11

Stay! Stay! I will deliver you to Tanvi!

mochibye12

With reluctance, the hooded one handed over her spark.

mochibye13

“I always leave empty-handed,” he grumbled. “Hardly seems fair!”

mochibye14

“A bargain is a bargain!” I reminded him.

“If ever there’s a time when you’re not here!” He warned.

But there won’t be. I will be here each and every time, and the spark will be delivered to me for the short journey home.

<< Previous | Next >>

 

Puppy Love 16

ordinary01

On any ordinary day, the fabric can be torn to let in the extraordinary and stark reality that lies in wait behind every daily moment.

The sun shines over the bay, and in the little houses, the kettle sings for the morning tea pot, and the sleepy eyes rub open, and the toast pops up, and the clouds whisper that rain is simply a memory, on this and every fair morning.

ordinary02

We think of what we might buy that day–maybe dinosaur candies! Whatever put that into our mind? And the hum of the airplane draws other eyes upwards. Dinosaur Yums! Of course!

ordinary03

It’s an ordinary day, and we can buy what we like, for we have all day, every day, to earn our coin and spend it howsoever we choose, and sweets to drink and sweets to suck are as good as anything we might work for.

ordinary04

But not really. For in any house, on any day, it might not be an ordinary day.

ordinary05

The crash of thunder. The black smoke. Through the veil, the ghastly hand of death.

ordinary06

On an ordinary day, the maid sweeps the dog hair from the kitchen floor. The dogs wait by the supper bowl.

But for the cat, it’s no ordinary day. It’s the last corporeal day, and the body falls beside the forgotten toy.

ordinary07

“I’m so very or-di-nary,” drawls Thunder Voice. But only so, if one is like me, on the other side already.

“We don’t have time for you,” I tell the ordinary shepherd.

He would give me a raspberry, if he had an ordinary tongue.

ordinary08

Once the fabric tears, the shock sets in. The tears, the heart leaping from throat to gut. The whimpers. The long droop of dog ears.

ordinary09

Lucas feigns shock. Surely he knew, after Bartholomew left, that the other old ones would have to follow. Otter today, perhaps Mochi tomorrow. Or if not then, soon enough. The young ones stay, to mend the tear.

“Let’s seeee,” drawls the ghastly one. “Quite a long list here for the coming fortnight! Guess I’ll be racking up the frequent flier miles!”

“Can it,” I tell him. “This isn’t the the time.”

He chuckles, anyway. It is his ordinary day, for his ordinary type of humor, though for Lucas, everything has taken on a strange and halting quality.

ordinary10

I wait. Otter will come with me. The shepherd hands over the brilliant shine.

ordinary11

“Thank you,” and she is in my pocket, for safekeeping through the gaping tear, to the other side, where she will find the extraordinary of the After.

The fool hangs around, watching ordinary television. Caleb stands beside, keeping him well in sight.

ordinary12

We wait, hoping he won’t make himself too at home. But he lingers for the second feature. When Frogman devours the princess, he chuckles, and turns off the set.

ordinary13

“Later, dudes and dudettes!” The thunder, the smoke, and his scythe is the last to fade.

ordinary14

It is no ordinary day when the tear reaches from the sky through your heart. Everything stops.

ordinary15

Could it be that in a house across the bay the kettle boils for another pot of tea? And does someone sit down with the evening paper, to work a crossword puzzle?

Hasn’t the foundation cracked and crumbled? Nothing will ever be ordinary again, for Otter, our cat of cats, is in the After, and Lucas and the pups are left behind.

ordinary16

<< Previous | Next >>

 

Puppy Love 14

morepups01

How was it that the next time I returned, Lucas had grown into a man?

Broad shoulders, full beard–I hardly recognized him, until I saw his goofy eyes and elvish grin. Of course, one look at him with the dogs, and it was clear this was their favorite companion, same as he’d always been, only grown up.

morepups02

He played violin as terribly as ever.

morepups03

Mochi, Miss Molly, and Dustin cowered in the corner.

morepups05

But Bartholomew sang along in his tuneful tenor.

morepups04

I made it a point to come around more often. It’s hard to know what “more often” is. I’ve always tried to keep in touch. But I realized that it’s when I do something, anything, even sit and meditate, that I enter the timeless stream and drift out of the fabric of the every day.

I discovered a way to watch–to keep my focus keen–which kept me floating down the same time-stream as my beloveds.

morepups06

And when I watched, I saw so much. I saw moments.

morepups07

And these moments brought me a cat’s smile. Is this how you experienced time, Otter?

morepups08

Lucas hadn’t improved in painting.

Maybe he didn’t paint to improve.

Maybe he simply painted because he loved it.

morepups09

Tanvi and I had been asking each other who Lucas would choose to help him. Maybe no one, I guessed. Or maybe he would wait, like I did, until he was very old.

Tanvi said that he would likely ask the cleaning guy from the maid service. “A beard for a beard,” she joked.

morepups10

And then, without warning, I felt the pull. I would have felt this regardless, whether I was watching or whether I was drifting, for the gaunt one and I had an agreement.

I was to be present every time he called.

morepups11

The sorrow comes, mostly, in thinking of those left behind. For Bartholomew, it was only his old creaky bones, whitened muzzle, tired eyes, and coiled tail that he would leave. Those old parts were ready to be discarded.

morepups12

He would be back, like Bobie, Nibbler, Babe, and Bosko. It was way past his time.

But staying longer doesn’t make it easier for those left behind. It might make it harder.

morepups13

Mr. Bones came in through bedroom, a grand entrance, with the drama of thunder and smoke.

morepups14

And then, he laughed.

The nerve.

“Knock it off,” I said. “Just get it over with.”

morepups15

It was quick, if flashy.

morepups17

Stay?

Of course Bartholomew chose to stay!

I grabbed his spirit and held it close. “Bartholomew, I have waited for you!”

morepups18

I’m next, said Mochi, but it won’t be soon enough.

Oh, pup! Don’t rush it! You still have years left in you! And I want to watch your old white paws pounce through the meadows again. Don’t be in a hurry!

She was ready to go with her mate. But the shepherd doesn’t listen to what we wish. He has own timetable that he’s sworn to keep.

morepups20

<< Previous | Next >>

 

Puppy Love 3

puppy439

Lucas was such a good kid. Tanvi made the right decision in choosing him. He walked the dogs every day, and, unseen, I rode the breeze behind him.

Bartholomew seemed lonely, clinging to Lucas and looking up at him with sad eyes.

Get a puppy, I whispered to Lucas. I hid in the bright sunlight, but he must have heard my voice, for a few days later, he browsed the Dog Haven website and filled out the adoption application.

The next day, Mochi was dropped off.

puppy438

She was no bigger than Lucas’s hand.

puppy435

I don’t think he had any idea how intimidating he looked from puppy perspective, with his lion mane, wild eyes, and crack of a grin.

puppy436

But Mochi must have like the way he smelled, for she let him pick her up for hugs.

puppy434

I expected the day would be spent settling in the pup, helping her get to know the house and garden, the other dogs, and Majora.

But her first day brought heartbreak.

Majora collapsed.

puppy433

Bosko, Bartholomew, and Babe watched with moist eyes and drooping heads. This was their third tour through this tired routine.

puppy432

I thought we might catch a break when the Reaper’s scythe stuck in the pergola. Give it up, Shepherd! I called.

puppy431

But he swung it free.

Stay or go? I asked Majora quickly.

Stay! Stay! And, reluctantly, the Reaper handed her light to me.

“One of these days, one of them is coming with me,” he said from his black maw.

puppy430

“That’s not the deal,” I replied. “The choice is theirs, and if they choose to stay, I’m here to receive them.”

Before the sun set, my stone stood flanked with those of my two companions.

puppy429

I wished that evening, as I have wished every time, that I could offer comfort to the family left behind. It feels so final, so wrenching. If they only knew we were here, we were with them, always, until they come to join us.

puppy428

The grief proved to much for Nibbler. At nightfall, she lay down and let her light escape.

puppy427

Mochi looked away in terror.

puppy426

But Bartholomew and Babe kept their eyes on their dam’s rising light.

I looked around for Bosko. He’d wandered off. Just as well–let him roam. He’d seen enough passings for a lifetime.

puppy425

Poor Tanvi recoiled when the Shepherd returned. She seemed to be more afraid each time she saw him.

puppy424

I suppose that Death isn’t a sight that the eyes of the living become accustomed to, even when they see this dark form twice in a day.

I have nothing to fear from him, nor would Nibbler when this was done.

puppy423

Her light was so bright.

Come on, girl! Good dog!

puppy422

Begrudgingly, he handed her to me.

puppy421

I watched behind the growing line of tombstones. Soon the procession would come.

puppy420

But Babe, usually the first to come and the last to leave in the line of mourners, stopped at the garden arch.

I heard her whimper once before I saw her purple light.

puppy419

The Shepherd, who hadn’t left from the work of Nibbler, drooped tiredly around the house to the back garden.

“Just leave her,” I said. “You’ve done enough for one day.”

“She wants to be with you,” he said, “and her sire and dam.”

puppy417

But I worried it would be too much for those left behind.

puppy416

Poor Mochi! To have come to the House of Death!

puppy409

A bright spot trotted towards us, Bobie! Of all the nights to make his first appearance. I wanted to prepare him, but he came upon us before I had a chance to say a word.

puppy415

We watched her light rise.

puppy414

We saw the shadow fall.

puppy413

In a blinding blaze, we turned away.

puppy410

Babe’s spirit lit the universe.

puppy411

And then, he pulled her into the tight ball. She chose to stay, and he handed her to me.

puppy412

“She’s with us now,” I said to Bobie.

But he felt the emptiness of her form.

puppy408

My grave stands in a long line. They say death is lonely. But the After isn’t lonely.

puppy407

Loneliness is for those who’ve stayed behind.

puppy406

The old dogs, who’ve seen this happen before, and the young pups, who witness the sweep of the scythe too soon, these are the ones who crumble beneath the weight.

puppy405

Bobie sat in his old favorite place.

“So much to think about, eh, pup?” I asked him. He whimpered in reply.

puppy402

I didn’t show myself that night. I knew my color would be blue, and the feelings that I carried would make the burden heavier. I remained formless, and I watched and whispered.

Tanvi found Bobie and picked him up. He shone with the green of happiness to be near her again.

Go to Mochi, I whispered. She needs you. And you need her.

puppy401

Mochi sat at the end of the long line, lifting her head in a long, slow howl.  It was enough to break my heart ten times over.

puppy404

And in just the same way, the sight of Tanvi holding her was enough to heal all the wounds of the long, weary day.

puppy403

<< Previous | Next >>

 

Forgotten Art: Gee-Jay – Tad 1

tad107

Dear Tad,

We want to be your pen pal. We are me–you can call me Gee–and him. You can call him Jay. Together we’re Gee-Jay.

tad122

We have a very good reason for wanting to be your pen pal.

Actually we have five.

One is that we like to get hand-written letters! We think that too much technology is stupid. We like technology, sure, because video games. But we also think it’s stupid because we like books and pipe organs.

tad121

I also like rocks. When I say I, I mean me, Giuliana or Gee. And when I say he, I mean him, Jasper or Jay. And so when I say we, I mean us, Gee-Jay.

OK. Reason number 2.

I, that would be me, Giuliana or Gee, was very sad.

tad101

I mean really super sad.

tad103

And he, that would be Jasper or Jay, asked me what was wrong. Why was I so sad?

It’s because I miss one of my pen pals. I had this really great pen pal. His name was Dusk. Maybe you know him? Anyway, he can’t write me anymore.

tad106

It’s not that he doesn’t exactly exist anymore. He does. Or maybe not. I can’t really tell. I think maybe he died.

I’m still writing to him, but I don’t think he’ll ever write me again. He says that where he is now, time doesn’t exist, and I figure that you need time in order to be able to write. What do you think?

We, that would be me and Jasper, or Gee-Jay, like to read about time.

Right now, Jasper is reading me a book called The Fabric of the Cosmos, and we’re thinking about, “Can the universe exist without space and time?”

I, that would be me, Giuliana, think yes. And he, that would be Jasper, thinks no.

tad120

What do you think?

So maybe that’s the third reason we want you to be a pen pal, because we want a pen pal who can write to us about questions we don’t have answers for.

But back to reason #2.

When he (Jasper or Jay) found out that I (Giuliana or Gee) was sad because my (that would be Giuliana’s) pen pal wasn’t writing anymore, and was, maybe, possibly, probably dead, or at least existing someplace without time, then he (Jasper or Jay) thought that I (Giuliana or Gee–OK, you get the picture now, right?) would be happier if I (you know, me) had a new pen pal.

tad109

So we (Gee-Jay) looked through the pen pal profiles and we found yours.

And Jasper said, “A spiritual guide!”

And I said, “A gardener!”

And Jasper said, “A gardener!”

And we both said, “That’s the one!”

tad110

So reason #4: A spiritual guide.

And reason #5: A gardener.

Back to why do we (well, really him, Jasper or Jay) want a spiritual guide?

tad125

Well, he (Jasper or Jay–you know) says that at his age, he’s seen a lot of coming and going. Mostly going.

He told me that his wife passed. (That’s what he says instead of “dead.”) And his brother. And his mom and dad. And his grandparents. And his uncles and aunts. And five cousins. And his brother’s wife. And his great-niece’s mom. And about twelve friends. And wow. That’s a lot of passing.

tad102

I felt surprised because he isn’t often sad. But sometimes he is sad. And he says I should write that sometimes we’re all sad, and when you get to be his age, it’s time to make peace with comings and goings, and that’s where a spiritual guide can come in handy.

tad115

Do you know anything about Buddhism? He (that would be Jasper, also known as Jay) talks about Buddhism a lot.

It seems like a lot for a kid like me to think about.

But he says that we will do this together, and it will be OK because I (that would be me, Giuliana or Gee) will get what I need out of it, and he (that would be Jasper or Jay) will get what he needs out of it, and together, we will both be able to learn and share, and then we started to wonder, what will we be able to give you?

tad124

Jasper says that I can give you funniness, because he doesn’t know anyone who’s funnier than me. He also says that I am fun. Both fun and funny.

I say that Jasper can give you smartness because he is very smart and he has read everything. Or if he hasn’t read it, he will. And he will even read it aloud to you.

tad108

That is really nice, to sit next to someone and have them read. It’s like the voice is the connection.

Jasper says that if you write, the energy of the voice somehow enters the words, and then the connection forms that way. I think it’s true because I felt connection to Dusk, my pen pal who is now where time’s not.

Jasper says that you said that you are asking for connection. And that is something that we (that would be Gee-Jay) can give you.

tad105

Because Gee-Jay is all about connection.

But we’re also all about mystery. Especially those mysteries that can’t ever be solved. It’s because we (that would be Jasper or Jay and Giuliana or Gee) are very curious. You might say that we live for curiosity.

tad111

We hope you choose us for a pen pal!

And if not, it was fun to write you anyway. (This means we both had fun, me–that would Giuliana–and him–that would be Jasper.)

tad123

Adios, amigo!

–Gee-Jay

p.s. Jasper told me what your name–not Tad, but the other one–really means, and I think it’s cool! (This is from me, Giuliana or Gee.)

Gee-Jay’s Next Letter >>

My Digital Life: Death’s Tears

00302

I had a lot to think about in the early days. I wondered about wish-fulfillment: I would desire something, a bubble-blower, for example. I’d hear a few clicks, and then never-used items (mirrors, extra chairs, end tables, and lamps) would disappear. Life would freeze for an instant, and when the freeze thawed, the object I desired waited somewhere in my apartment. I hadn’t mastered manifestation: Sometimes it worked, more often not. Sometimes, even the wish itself disappeared with a click.

I encountered Death within the first week. As luck would have it, I was in a bar, ordering my first drink, when it happened.

Lilith Vatore caught fire.

00415

Spontaneously combusted is more accurate. She collapsed a mere few feet from the entrance to the bar. It was too late for help.

00414

Grim Reaper materialized through the mirror, stuck half-in, half-out.

I sipped my Dim and Gusty. Music played.We waited. And we experienced the first glitch this world had seen. I didn’t realize it was a glitch. It felt rather like the frozen pause during manifestation. Except not all was frozen. Time still ticked. We could talk. I could drink my Dim and Gusty. But Grim was stuck, and I couldn’t leave the lot. Death was in progress.

00413

We waited suspended. I finished my drink.

A series of rapid clicks, and the sombre chord sounded again. Grim materialized before Lilith’s urn and wept.

00412

“Excuse me?” I said. “Mr. Grim? I hate to intrude, but… you see. I’ve always wanted to meet you.”

“Damn,” he said. “Be right back. There’s her brother. Wasn’t expecting a two-fer. This really sucks.”

00411

Sure enough, just as the sun set, Caleb Vatore collapsed a few yards away, right before our eyes.

00410

“Please, Mr. Grim!” I pleaded. “It’s nearly night! The sun’s set! He’s so close. Don’t take him. Spare him, please.”

Grim refused. “Can’t be done.” He wasn’t angry, only resigned to his task.

00409

We gathered in a circle, all the Sims I’d met that day, and we wept. Some cried for a sister and brother departing within minutes of each other. Some cried for unspent youth. Some cried from dread. I wept at irony–so close to shelter from the sun, yet so far.

“Oh, hi, everyone!” said the bartender, joining our circle too late to be a witness. “Drinks on the house!”

00408

Grim and I remained outside while the others filed in.

00407

He wept before Caleb’s urn.

00406

“It’s not your fault,” I told him. “You were just doing your job. It was just a tragic mistake, or something.”

At the time, I felt even sadder to see Grim’s tears. I realize now that this was his first reaping, too. The first time has to be hard, especially when it’s siblings, and it seems so needless.

“I’ll be OK,” he said, as his tears continued to fall.

“If anything,” I said, “it was my fault. If I hadn’t come here, they wouldn’t have showed up, right? They’d still be safe and sound wherever they were before they popped up here.”

00405

“Don’t be so sure,” he said. “Even when you stay inside your apartment, others materialize on the sidewalks, in the square. You can’t stop it. With your arrival, we get life, and with life, we get me, part and parcel.”

Grim left with smoke. I felt too sad for company. I headed home.

That night, I opened my blog and wrote. Here’s an excerpt from my entry from that day:

I learned Death’s name today, and he learned mine.

I thought that witnessing death would make me sad. And it did. But what made me sadder was seeing Death’s tears.

00404

I felt better after writing.

The next morning, Salim dropped by as I was finishing up breakfast. I told him what had happened.

00403

“I have never seen a dead body,” he said.

“Or an urn?” I asked.

“Or an urn!”

“These ones had bat-tops,” I said “Little cast-iron carvings of bats on the top? Kinda cute, if it wasn’t so sad.”

“But the undead cannot die!” he exclaimed. “It is an impossibility!”

00401

Pondering the death of the undead led us through the esoteric.

“What do you think happens when a person dies?” I asked Salim. “Do you think they end up back in the Blue-Green Density?”

“The where?” he asked.

“You know. Where we all started.”

00402

He didn’t know what I was talking about. I described the blue of the sky and the green of the ocean and the merging in light. I talked about the single point in space and the timelessness and the complete absence of wish or desire that can only be called bliss.

He looked at me like I’d been smoking bubbles.

“I have no memory of this place,” he said.

“No, no,” I insisted. “You must! Before you came here. What’s your earliest memory?”

“Fruit cake,” he said.

“You mean your grandma’s fruit cake? When she used to make it for you?”

“Not that,” he said. He squinted his eyes, looking back into the past. “When I stood in the hallway, right before we met, and held the plate of fruitcake in my right hand while I knocked on the door with my left.”

“That is your very first memory?” I asked.

He nodded.

When I thought about it later, I explained it to myself by figuring that he must have experienced traumatic memory loss. I could understand that. The experience in the Blue-Green Density, without time, or space, or desire, is so close to paradise–such total, complete oneness. Leaving that and finding oneself here in a world that makes even Death cry, that would be trauma enough to block the sweetest of memories.

00301

My theory brought me a sense of gratitude. I would do everything I could to keep my memory intact. Little did I realize then that the memory of that bliss was mine alone.

<< Previous Chapter | Next Chapter >>

Whisper 2.25

whisbi22301

Dear me,

I’m still shaky inside. I’m hoping that writing will help me calm down. But it won’t make things right. Nothing can right what happened tonight.

The evening started so happy. Shannon called after the lecture to ask if I wanted to come to her bonfire. It had started to snow that afternoon, and the idea of a blazing fire while snowflakes fell had me feeling excited. Maybe we’d roast marshmallows or build snowmen–away from the flames, of course!

I was so excited I smiled the whole ride over.

whisbi22302

Shannon was just lighting the fire when I arrived, and the heat was already melting the snow along the slope.

whisbi22303

We played our guitars. Shannon taught me the riff to an old protest song she loved. The chord changes were challenging, and all of our attention was engaged. I loved playing with her.

whisbi22305

I kept playing the riff, and Shannon began to improvise. The snowfall, our rapt attention, the way our music combined, I didn’t think I could get happier. And how is it that the moments of extreme happiness usher in extreme danger?

whisbi22306

Corrinne’s screaming broke through our music. But by the time we reached the flames, we heard only the fire’s roar through the silence of snow.

whisbi22307

I felt Death’s shadow.

whisbi22308

So many times, I’ve seen this figure.

whisbi22309

One of the zombies that had gathered around the fire began cackling madly.

whisbi22310

She said horrible things–jokes I can’t bear to repeat, and she laughed until she grew hoarse.

whisbi22311

Corrinne’s ghost smiled.

whisbi22312

I’ll never get over the way she approached Death so gracefully, with full acceptance.

whisbi22313

Had she done this on purpose?

Then, I heard Shannon weeping.

whisbi22314

I snapped out of it as quickly as I could. Maybe that’s why I still feel so shook up, because I tried to be brave for Shannon.

“It was my fault,” Shannon was saying, over and over.

“It wasn’t,” I told her.

“It was. I shouldn’t have built the fire. I shouldn’t have added the extra logs. I should’ve stayed with Corrinne. I knew she was overtired and stressed out. She’d been wearing herself down all semester. I shouldn’t have bought the keg. Do you think she was drinking?”

I tried to comfort her as best I could. What could I say? We didn’t even know exactly how it had happened.

“It was an accident.” That was all I could think of. “It wasn’t your fault.”

whisbi22315

I stayed most the night. The cops came. There were forms to fill out. There was talk of investigations and insurance stuff and whispers that the sorority would be disbanded. Shannon sat numb on the couch through it all. Eventually, she went upstairs to sleep, and I came back to the dorm.

I keep going over it… how we were so happy, and then–tragedy.

I’ve been googling “Happiness Tragedy.” “Happiness Leads to Tragedy.” “Joy Danger.” It hasn’t helped. Or maybe a little. I’m less jumpy. But I don’t have any answers. I don’t know what I can say to Shannon tomorrow to help her feel better. I don’t know why this had to happen.

This is one of those times when I could use that quiet voice that Mom said was always there, waiting to whisper to us. But when I listen, I just hear the silence and the flames.

Hang in there,

Me

<< Previous | Next >>

Whisper 1.43

The morning after Marigold’s graduation, Bobobo asks me to make another one of those orange solutions.

“Another dichromate cocktail?” I ask. “Who for?”

“For Mari and Riley, of course!” he replies.

I hand him the mixture after it’s done and follow him downstairs.

“Are you sure this is going to work?” Marigold asks him.

whisbi4701

“Positive,” he says. “And I didn’t put in as much of the you-know-what, so it shouldn’t even burn going down.”

We see the same explosion of purple fumes.

whisbi4702

And when they dissipate, standing there, facing Marigold, is a beautifully adorable young woman.

whisbi4703

“That’s Riley,” Bobobo says.

Marigold and Riley share a soulful look. I feel grateful that this is my daughter’s friend.

whisbi4704

Wanting to give them space to become acquainted in this new aspect of reality, I head back to the garden, followed by Zoey. We play tug of war.

And then, I begin to feel light.

This is different.

I experience my own transformation, as if I’d guzzled the dichromate cocktail.

whisbi4705

When I see the Reaper, I understand.

I feel lighter and clear. This is nothing to fear! This is the removal of fear! This is freedom.

whisbi4706

The aches in my knuckles are gone. That steel band wrapped tight around my chest since Frank’s passing has been unshackled. I feel no constriction, no restraint.

Now I understand the smiles on Chauncey’s and Frank’s faces!

whisbi4707

“Thank you!” I say to the Reaper. “You let me see my daughter’s graduation.”

The Reaper clears his throat. “Like I said, Timing is not up to me. But also like I said, sometimes I have a certain influence. Very Influential.”

whisbi4708

I shake his hand.

“Thank you,” I say again.

I am ready. My friends wait for me. This new form feels so much more “me” than that old stooping crickety body of knobby joints and stringy sinew.

I was given the gift of raising my daughter to adulthood, and I am ready to pass over, knowing that my son will be cared for, too.

“You could have come a lot earlier,” I say to the Reaper, “but you didn’t. And I thank you.”

He merely clears his throat again.

whisbi4709

I notice that the sun is shining. How sweet, I think, to leave on a crisp autumn day, with frost on the ground, and the sun shining on the orange leaves.

Some say that Death is cruel. Others, that He acts impersonally. But through his influence, He made my wish come true for some reason of His own. Maybe, simply, so that my orphaned daughter might not be orphaned again until childhood’s end.

whisbi4710

Before my senses fade to black, I hear Zoey howl. When I look at her, I see she’s calling for me. If I had a heart still within me, that keening yowl would wrap around it and twist it in two. But in this new form, the cries move through me, and I witness, as if from a distance until the blackness comes and all is silent.

whisbi4711

<< Previous | Next >>