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.

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“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.

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

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“That’s Riley,” Bobobo says.

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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“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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Whisper 1.41

I’ve been spending the days while the kids are at school fooling around with this old chemistry set we’ve got. It’s fascinating!

One day, Bobobo asks me if I’d make him a solution that glowed orange.

“Like Tang,” he says, “but not really tang. You know. Chemicals.”

I add dichromate to a saline solution, and it’s a beautiful sunrise color.

“Perfect!” Bobobo says as he grabs it from me.

He goes into the kitchen, gets something from the fridge, and stirs it in. I hear him humming his Toxic Ray-de-ay-shon song.

“Here, Patches,” he says. “It’ll burn going down. But don’t worry. That’s the price of reality.”

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Suddenly, purple explosions and bubbles burst out.

“Bobobo! Look out!” I call.

“‘S’okay, Mom,” he says. “Got it all under control.”

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The purple smoke clears, and there, amidst the bubbles, is a little girl.

“Bobobo?” I ask.

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“I feel funny,” says the girl.

“Oh, crum,” says Bobobo. “I think I mixed in too much.”

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She shakes her head, jumps around a little bit, and then starts to giggle.

“I feel great!”

“But who ARE you?” I ask.

“MOM!” says Bobobo. “It’s Patches. Duh.”

I spend the evening getting to know this little blue-haired girl. She has amazing, long, convoluted stories to tell about the price of admission, but admission to where, I could never figure out.

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I’m not able to enroll her in school for the next day, since we’re missing some of the needed paperwork–I figure I’ll call a friend in City Hall and see what kind of special dispensation we can get–so, after the other kids go to school, we spend the next day alone, just the two of us and Zoey.

She is a lovely companion and a fierce opponent over the chess board.

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That evening, shortly after the other kids get home, while Patches is still at the chess board, I get that ominous feeling again, and it’s the paparazzi this time. This is the third visit by the Reaper in as many days. It doesn’t get easier.

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When it’s over, He turns to me and says, “Mind if I come inside? It’s a bit drizzly out.”

I dare not refuse, though I feel the pit of my stomach grow hollow.

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He settles into the rocking chair and waits, while we have supper, while I help the kids with their homework, while I tuck them in. He’s still sitting there when I return.

“I’ve been wanting to talk with you,” He says.

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I find this disconcerting.

“You’ve seen a lot of me,” He says. “That means, of course, I’ve seen a lot of you. Yes, we’ve been seeing a lot of each other!

And His laugh is terrifying.

“Do you know that Timing is everything?” He asks. “And Timing is not up to me.”

I listen.

“I can sometimes influence Timing, however,” He says. “Especially when I sense Purity of Intention. Is your Intention Pure?”

I don’t know how to answer.

He waves a bony hand my way.  “No need to speak a word. We understand each other. We have an understanding.

And he laughs again.

He stops rocking and looks at me. “I know what you want,” He says. “I know your deepest wish. You need to know that not All is in my Control. But what I can Influence, I will. All right? Comprende? We are simpatico? Don’t fear.”

And with that, He is gone in a cyclone of sulfur and smoke.

When the smoke clears, I discover that gone, too, is my own fear and dread. I don’t know, exactly, what He has offered me, but somehow, my worry seems to have cleared with the moonlight.

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Whisper 1.30

I’ve always loved birthday parties. We mark our years by them.

But this party leaves me shredded to the core.

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In addition to the party crashers, everyone I invited came: the Nixes, Faith and Felicity, Frank, Arkvoodle, and, of course, Chauncey. This is Chauncey’s last party.

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I knew he was getting old. He’s a little older than me, and he’d been complaining lately of feeling tired and not having much energy. But we had no idea that tonight, his time was up.

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Mike Nix, who’s known him even longer than I have, looked like his heart would break.

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Faith and Felicity tried to comfort Marigold, who had never witnessed a passing before, but they were so sad themselves, they hardly knew what to say.

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Poor Mara, with her gentle heart, looked like the world was ending.

Hetal, who never could stand her mom’s boyfriend, was untouched.

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While Annie wept, and Frank and Arkvoodle looked on with remorse, Chauncey smiled. He looked more at peace than I’d ever seen him in life.

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And that’s when I lost it. Chauncey. My oldest friend! My first crush. My first best friend. My first roommate. Chauncey. What will we do without you?

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Was it the grief, the overwhelming emotions? Something touches my friends and transforms them.

Annie looks like she’s been zombified.

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And Frank! I have never seen him like this! If it weren’t for his same golden eyes, I wouldn’t recognize him with what long, pointy ears he has, what long pointy fingernails, what long pointy teeth!

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And the strange robed figure in black curdles my stomach and sends chills up my spine. All the grief is shocked out of me for that brief moment.

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Marigold soldiers on and prepares to make her wish and blow out the candles, and I let out what is meant to be a cheer, but what becomes the longest, saddest, yowling keen. It’s a broken heart keening, a fear-inspired keening, the keen of one who sees her place in the line, with all her closest friends standing before her, knowing that, one by one, there is a single direction in which we head. It’s the keen of a mother who doesn’t want to leave her child. Oh, you in the black robe! Listen well! And give me time! And let my friends linger, too.

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