Saturday, May 16, 2015

A Great Perhaps (A short Novel)

Dr. Dennis L. Siluk’s short story war writings on: World War I and World War II, were part of, the: Gifted Learning Links Program Course ((fall, 2010: an eighteen-week course study, of ‘man against man’) (activities & reading assignments)): “100 Years of Conflict in Literature & Popular Culture” (Center for Talent Development), given by: Professor and Journalist, Joy Nehr, MS, Ed.

Revised Edition

A Great Perhaps
 (A short Novel)

by Dennis L. Siluk, Dr. h.c.

  International Latin Poet Laureate, and Poet Laureate in Peru
(Recipient of the Gran Cross of San Jeronimo)

With Illustrations by the Author/Parts based on actual events (historical fiction)

A Great Perhaps
(A Short Novel)
 Copyright © April, 2015 by Dennis L. Siluk, Dr. H.c

Revised Edition


The Guesthouse
(Or, ‘A Bitter Herb’)

Chapter One: The Guesthouse (Marge) I

Subchapter: The Attack

Chapter Two:  The Hotel

Subchapter: Lee’s Disturbing Night of Sleep

Chapter Three: The Apartment

Subchapter: Ecole St. Louis

Chapter Four: Old Man Beck

Chapter Five: The Bus

Chapter Six: The Rings, John and Jay

Chapter Seven: Marge (Guesthouse II)

Chapter Eight:  Lee’s Last Glance

Chapter Nine:  JL’s Confirmation

Chapter Ten:   The Arrival

Chapter Eleven the Mantaro Valley

A Great Perhaps
(9-years later)


The Guesthouse
(Meeting Marge)  

“Inventions of one’s fancy, simply to prevent himself from being deceived, thus he does a new shifting of data that is necessary, and before it is ended, the culprit and before his prey has thought out something new he’s won the argument. He’s very versatile no doubt, it goes you know with the stupidity. This is just one peculiar characteristic of his way of thinking and doing things. And above all he is very sensitive as well. In a flash of a decision he comes out with some unexpected gesture, a decision that for him settles the matter, right or wrong and in most cases unjustly and by far nearly always randomly.  It is as if his mind was or is unable to—any longer that is—unable to bear the stress and strain. A brain blizzard caused by some grievance, in most cases of little concern for most folk. And he takes only into consideration his family and his father and his father’s relatives, and hits upon whatever decision transverses his mind first. Of course it was more often than not that he was provoked certainly in many cases by his wife, or extended family member like his father G., perhaps his father who hit upon some trivial notion with no solution or decision beforehand, like to like. But it, in any case, was discovered by me, no, by us: my wife and my mother to a certain degree, my mother.   —I can tell you right here and now, and have it supported by one of his friends who befriended me, told me, on what flimsy and envious grounds he made his cases against me. Of course all this has been discovered, thought-out, throughout a number of years by him. And now we will never learn his mindset, and perhaps it would scarcely interest me anyhow, or anybody anymore, anyhow, being dead going on twenty-six days.
       “It is of no use learning too late. His enmity toward me and my mother and my sons were things decided long ago, a decade and a half ago, if not longer. They were married twenty-one years, Jay and JL. And time has passed and in the meantime we all have went our own ways. While he, until the day he died, worked in the same hatred enclosure he built himself; worked until he was exhausted with the abhorrence he had for us. So yes, I stepped back, nine years ago, it would have plagued me to stay, there was no possibility of molding our lives together: nonetheless, the fact is: I had sent messages and letters and made phone calls to my daughter without having received a reply, never a reply, up to the day I left the city, the state, the country, even the continent. What good would a new enquiry do? So for me the whole business was cleared up, until now.
        “Might I add, we were to him, made by him to reflect through his family, very unimportant, —you might even conclude the least important among the unimportant? So when I left I could breathe freely again.  Fancy for him, for now even he could breathe freer I would presume, with me out of the way. I felt, in a phrase, much like Franz Kafka’s huge and monstrous looking, metamorphosis insect who obtained no respect after his usefulness was diminished by the transformation, and by the hard facts of life. What did he get but giggling to where at such an amiable moment by Jay or JL or for that matter his boys—just this: ‘…how to get rid of the thing next door.’ That thing being me, Franz Kafka’s metamorphosis insect.
       “My mother grumbled now and then, not knowing their reason for the alienation from us, which was seemingly ridiculous, and not knowing, nor would they not give a reason for their antisocial behavior—she died, my mother died, of old age complications, and pneumonia, at age eighty-three; can you imagine my dismay at this unfortunate kind of abnormal behavior. Yes a great deal of time has passed by—and here I appear again and does the whole thing start all over again? You do understand I myself am firmly resolved. So far as I’m concerned, firmly resolved, meaning, I’m not about to let that happen again, if indeed fences can be repaired—since he is no more, he is gone, and I remain for the time being, let’s mend fences.”
       “Of course,” said Marge, “but I would think better still that a terrible abuse of some kind of friction Jay has put into his two boys and your daughter is still being carried on, perhaps imprinted in their memories, and now part of their character, if not oddity? Know how to protect yourself Lee, is all I can say. How will you go about it?”
       “For now let it remain a secret, I’m still kind of processing this tight spot, lest you get a wild tongue and lo, can’t resist like most women, and go to gossip, for it’s not really clear you know, I could change my mind.”
       “I don’t wish to bother you on the subject only that you have—I would I say, a friend in me, for are we not, High School Alumni?  And to some extent friends? Friendly to the extent of my listening powers, and nonjudgmental mawkishness!”
       They both laughed a sigh of relief, things were getting intense.  Marge sat back now in her chair, tired: for listening takes a lot of energy, it drains the soul.
       As she sat nearer the edge of the table leaning an elbow on its ridge, in the overhead the light cast down into a kind of bright liberation to her austere lines and her softness and age showed in her face. Said Marge—now more comfortable—in a low tone to Lee, “It doesn’t surprise me in the least, generally speaking a lot of young men and women nowadays break with their family ties, although for the parents, it’s taken seriously, quite the opposite—ere, before the new generation of course, and of course their generation will be: ‘monkey see monkey do.’ And they’ll ask ‘why?’ And they’ll manufacture some dumb reason.”
       “Perhaps, I’m old fashioned and I’m misconstruing the meaning of family loyalty or ties, but it seems to be, one sided in my case, apart from it is all on his family side doing the grinning. On the other hand, Jay has—I do believe A.D.H.D., to go along with antisocial behavior, his hyperactivity perhaps increased his odds for an early death, lo he was only forty-one.”
       “Precisely,” said Marge, “it is the kind of significance that you attach to it. If it’s a big deal mentally, it is also a big strain mentally. If you make little of it, it is of little significance; but I predict mending fences will be a little difficult now, contrary to what I presuppose you are thinking. As Robert Frost has inferred in his poem ‘The Mending Wall’: why do we need fences? We don’t but people build them all the same, out of fear, anguish, revenge, to keep you at a distance, I suppose there are many reasons.”
       “Right,” commented Lee, “but ay, to get an answer in any form from my grandchildren and daughter is now merely a practical joke, yet if I don’t try, I’ll have to live with some secret sorrow for not trying, even with JL’s rancor against me, JL’s boys have not even allowed me on their Facebook, that is to say, accepted me as a friend, can you beat that! And as you have mentioned, Jay has left walls, and that is very understandable too, for who would take the responsibility of attempting, or interrupting, or breaking down those walls he built  to keep his family in and our family out, for him this was extremely important work he had done and transferred to his wife and sons before he died; forthwith, there is no reason to think otherwise, otherwise I would have receive notification of his death with an apology for past wrongs; furthermore, this is proof, he wanted his family to maintain the distance he created, to maintain those invisible walls! If I could contact my daughter, say by accident by way of a phone call, it would be in a blue moon, she’d answer and most likely she’d hang-up the telephone before the second word was complete, knowing it’s my voice.”
       “I didn’t conceive it was quite like that,” replied Marge. “I of course couldn’t know all those peculiarities of this lamentable situation in which so much animosity has incurred, for is it not the child even though adult, looks in the our hour of need, to his or her parents, if not outright, then in secret! Of course child and parent owe no allegiance to either one after a certain age, except respect, and honor. I know for a fact Lee, you’ve given unflinchingly  financially all one can for their protection, safety and well-being, I sense it is better to drawback from any loss or hardship enjoined by some unwarranted duty or stress of need that will come out of this, lest a great misfortune fall on you. They have sought the sword of freedom from you. Nay, she will remain far afield, under her new sad circumstances, and she will lay in the land she has lived, within her husband’s family hatful circle. You might even encourage them to further aggression, for among Jay’s family was it not so, suspending hostilities when you departed, only to arise again upon your return? Thinking you have some deep dark plot. Thinking you a menace, now or hereafter, to their independence. She still lives in a kind of trance, or catalepsy after her husband’s death, and will for months, there has not been ample time for healing. In our secret chambers in the mind we have many meetings, and she is perhaps terribly frightened now that she found herself next to her husband’s tomb. Should you awaken her to your presence, she might become unseated!”   
       “You see,” said Lee holding firmly, “all this animosity has really no significance but when you attach it to Jay it gains official significance, to them grown up boys and his widow—for  him they’ll go astray.”
       “So,” said Marge, “your remaining conclusion is that everything is uncertain with your family and most likely the situation is insoluble and if you approach them you’ll simply be thrown aside? As I’ve somewhat already bravely said, regrettably.”
       “I suppose nothing keeps me here, and the risk of being thrown out is based on their sensitivity at the moment of contract, by all appearances! On the other hand,  I’ll enumerate for your benefit a few things that are keeping me here besides seeing my daughter: I have traveled six-thousand miles, a long journey, with the well-guarded hopes on seeing old friends, like you, my brother, an interview on my new book by a cultural magazine, a lecture I am supposed to give, or said I’d give, and a trip down south—which I think is now out of the question, because of time, plus a class reunion, and last but not least, my daughter and perhaps sons, but I find myself entangled with my daughter only, and may cut everything quite short, if not out!”
       “So there is some hope to integrate with your unwilling family members?”
       “I don’t think I said that. No, absolutely not, I don’t want favors, I just want respect due. I mean it doesn’t matter, but that second part matters.”

       To an onlooker, perhaps even to Marge, Lee’s robust pride was preventing him from experiencing any discouragement, but he was irritated all the same, if one could be, and not be at the same time in a state of exaltation and condemnation, at the same time I say, factitious in nature as it may be or sound, is by all means, characteristic of many comedians, he was all of that, and perhaps a little more; thus, tormented by the desire to love and be loved, which was according to Marge a plaster-cast he had created on their behalf, for him. He blamed the bad weather his family brought on him, his fault. His children were like three paintings on a wall, hard to point out with a finger or thumb the portions that were lacking. If there was to be a comparison, or analogy, Marge would have quoted ‘The Madness of Nebuchadnezzar, or “The burning of Rome by Nero.”  She saw them as disheveled minds. Twisted by the storms in life, and imitations from memories. She would have said, ‘Only Goya could paint a picture of their heats.’

The Attack

The Guesthouse was really a small inn which both Marge and Lee knew was very private, that was merely a last little eating-house for those who liked German food, music and beer, and so very seldom used by the general public, and way-out of the way, in the woods. On the windowsills within the inn were German mugs, all curiously designed, encircling the two big rooms?
       “Now Marge,” said Lee, “let me update you in how this separation took place between, Jay, and his wife and me, it was an attack on his part,  a sharp moment I left my mouth open by the surprised spasm of Jay’s one afternoon. In short, I had not expected it, it was the one thing unneeded… (Lee had to catch his breath with his advanced age, he had lost his vivacity to a near silent moroseness for a moment or two, perhaps turning over in his mind the event; perhaps trying to relive it and feel it to explain it, —than at length he continued to explain, as if all of a sudden an idea had taken possession him of the full account): My wife was still standing by the wall behind me, JL to the far corner wall on my left, Jay had grabbed me, put me into a bear-hug and was quick to take to pressing his arms inward around my complete body, my arms folded inside his attack—like bird wings—trying to break my ribs— he bradded his fingers together into a strong grip.  I said: ‘What are you doing to me?’ Nothing easier than to make a mistake yet he continued. Then grabbing Jay’s shoulder my wife jumped on his back, but she was like a wet mosquito, I doubt Jay even felt her at all.  JL looked as if ‘Why bother’, and I knew then of course, they were both just like that.  Anyhow, she finally told Jay to stop, even trying to pry, wedge herself in, and separate his arms from around me. Luckily no damage had been done.
       “I see now, that I knew them so very little, this evidently was all over me having him fix the kitchen floor in the apartment next to my apartment, which I rented out, in that he did a sloppy job, yet got paid for. It needed to be corrected. He grumbled about this and took it as an insult. Anyone could see the tiles were not properly spaced, and positioned.
       “You see Marge, I didn’t try to protect myself, or combat Jay,  not that I couldn’t have, I have fought big men before, but my mind and eyes shifted over to JL in disbelief of what was taking place, as if to say: ‘How could you two hurt me so—aye!’ But they could, for indirectly she provoked it. It was her who I had asked to have Jay come back to fix the tiles he so unprofessionally positioned while the glue under them was still setting: perhaps saying to Jay, ‘My dad is really upset that you did such a bad job on those tiles you better get over there and fix them!’ and Jay stomping up the stairs as he did, to show his wife he was not going to take any guff from me. And I did not insist on spoiling his brief moment of ‘show and tell’ for it was a great discovery after all, it was in my house, my room, this was the kind of nature his nature was, now no longer hidden, I exposed it, and it was her nature too, and it wasn’t friendly towards me, then it mustn’t be anything else towards me. This told me how they would treat me later on.  And yet when they had wanted me to take them out of their poverty ridden apartment, and neighborhood, they ‘Thee’d and thou’d’ me, of course for personal interests.
       “At that time I had only suspicions of their electric animosity towards me. ‘Aha’, I said.  On the stairway on Jays leaving the house he turnabout said, ‘You’ll never see your grandchildren again,’ diabolically.  But he still wanted to use our washing machine in our basement. How can you beat that?  ‘What am I to do?’ I asked my wife, ‘call the police for assault?’ but that wouldn’t be good for the kids, had he not had any children, and that were grandchildren to me, I would have.  So my wife decided to take the keys away from Jay, saying: he could use the washing machine, but didn’t trust him to have the keys anymore, he would have to come to her to get them, and that was just too belittling for him I guess. She was afraid he’d cause more trouble. Although that was just a secondary fear, the real fear was what might cause me to have another heart attack. And that fear doesn’t go away so easily.”
       “Did he give you a reason why?” asked Marge, faintly. 
       “Such behavior is provoked, it is hither and thither in one’s dubious and frail mind, he said as if he was surprised himself, ‘When you put your hand on my shoulder,’ which I did, ‘I thought it was an attack on me’ but even that is too much to believe.  It was a mere gesture of friendship because his anger I had noticed was escalating, is why I put my hand on his shoulder, it was no more than a soft gesture.
       “All the same, I asked him to leave and I went quietly for a walk, I felt so forlorn and then back upstairs to my apartment, I went for a siesta. Should I have asked JL what objectionable things she finds in me, and what improvements I should make to fix those so called objectionable behaviors, or things, what would she have said? My best guess would be she has no interest in the matter, like Jay, but then why her perpetual resentment? Whatever the case may be, the question would never get the chance to be asked, I do believe. Contrary to Jay and JL, no one else finds me infinitely objectionable. And I have been under many a magnifying glass. I am not so all together, but I am not so all not together. The only persons she and her husband can convince, or have, are of their own clan.”
       Subconsciously, Lee believed Jay’s mind was honeycombed with secret passages and for him doomed to terrible woe, if he remained in the house across the street from his apartment. So to say that Lee was in a tumult over this matter nine years ago, would faintly express his condition. To Jay, Lee was no more than a sheep to be sheered, and he knew it, and when he couldn’t be sheered anymore, the next wise step was to kill him, so he felt. In that way he’d find no way to escape. And if not kill him, to condemn him to banishment, because Lee didn’t have the heart to hurt him.
       It did not take Marge long to establish the truth of the matter, and as a result, her eyes broadened, she let out a toot, kind of a sharp toot, and yelled, “Just look at this, poor man, is he done for?” Lee realized the nature of the expression, a kind of announcement that, he must overcome the shock of this flat and dry affair as could only now be seen by her light investigation, and throwing a shawl over her shoulders, Lee said: “Perhaps Jay and JL have learned the art of blaming others to avoid being blamed themselves, and a great perhaps that is! To be frank, I am pleased with my present self, and have been for thirty-some odd years, and I have honestly been trying to better myself, year by year. Lo! I cannot help being me, nor naturally will we ever come to terms on that. But JL and Jay are allowed to be whomever they wish, can they not do likewise? Do they not know the eyes of heaven are upon us?”
       There were several others sitting about, it was late, one fellow was pressed against another as if a tinge too limber and way too drunk, and another had fallen to sleep playing chess, and his opponent if indeed he had one, was gone.  Lee got up, stretched his arms, his back and his legs. “I’ll take my leave,” he said slowly.
       “Hmm,” said Marge, “his death seems to be like a bitter herb for you!” as Lee turned away heading towards the door, someone had left it ajar a moment before allowing the cool September breeze to rush in, refreshing the large room. The draught of cool air woke everyone up, as it had perhaps, allowed Lee to bring his discussion to finality:  Lee turned about to face Marge once more having heard her last comment, gave her a slight bow, —her face torn between pity for her friend, and a beseeching helpless glance which she cast to the side for his daughter, hoping his resolve to come sooner than later, thus, not having it  stretched out; then Lee walked deep into the night, with its more chipper but shivering cold air (deep in thought, with gesticulating hands, talking to himself in a monologue form):

       “They do gossip, but it is all trivial and personal matters, such matters the world takes no interest in; yet on the other hand, in the neighborhood, a gossiper is no better than a hooligan who drops a tripwire. Perhaps had I not left nine-years ago, something might have gotten developed between us, surely it can’t develop in a six-thousand mile separation, but it had something to do with sanity, not fear in particular. So the question arises, what needed to be fixed, let’s say attitude, never got fixed, and because of the separation may never get fixed: besides attitude, formal reasoning has to be changed.  One must remember, a person cannot endlessly endure being a continual target, which is why I left. One grows uneasy, he starts to flinch from impending crisis’, and more so with increasing age.  Perhaps Jay learned that when his child got ill, and he, himself died right there in the hospital nearby his child (the child lives and he dies, is that not, mindboggling). One can only take so much grief. And this, is this not more so with the increasing of age.  Those who have survived in old age are extravagances, why have we made it so far? Thus we are under scrutiny, much more than the young. And perhaps a little jealousy for those of us who have achieved!”  
       Then Lee got onto another thought: Jay lived and moved in and moved about within a certain space, one he could control, and for him that little space was his center, and that alone was the center he lived in. Whereas, he, Lee had traveled the world, and lived in Asia, Europe, and in Alabama, and Erie, and San Francisco: consequently, he left his center and discovered other things. So he always had new points of view, whereas, Jay, had but one point of view. And it is from that edge, —moving away from the center—we begin to discover other things. We see that reality is different. Hence, it is to see one thing from the center of gravity of one’s little space, and another from the edge of the highest mountain in the world, wherefore, one can see much more. This is the reality of people in general, thought Lee, and of Jay in particular. This has to do with Jay’s reality of thought. Well-developed thought, of which Jay was outside of. His mind was not able to deal with any kind of existence outside of that center of space that he lived in, his so called, personal, if not private, Plaza de Arms. So Lee’s mind, his second mind deliberated.

The Hotel

As Lee walked back to his hotel room he got thinking: if it hadn’t been for him, Jay wouldn’t have been allowed at sixteen-years old to date his daughter, and that would have made his daughter unhappy, a shy girl as she was, and she would never have ventured to speak to him beyond that day, and had it not been for him they would never have been allowed to marry at such a young age. And now this marriage had lasted twenty-one years. What then would life have had to offer her? And therefore would never have had her two boys. Now in all this there’s enough of me—thought Lee—to have received some kindness, respect, so it would appear. Instead of this hideous reality! I mean, what does it mean, reality? People see things different. To some, another’s reality is no more than a joke. Should I have argued this point with Jay, G, or JL, there would be no end. Words to some people are like metals falling into a furnace.
       By and large, Lee was always astonished at the cynicism of men, even his, whatever their occupation, or preoccupation. Jay was no exception. But to keep himself in countenance, he’d not show that side of his face, especially at the hotel—he told himself—and if possible not to Marge, or if possible, if he got to see JL, to her. He’d convinced himself he could put on a more homage expression toward JL; on the other hand, he knew hate and love and envy, those very seeds Jay had put into her, ‘Knowth no laws’ that would be the hurdle.
       But that’s not all. If Jays jealousy and envy and hate hadn’t gotten in his way, perhaps the root of his illness, for at one time he had begged him to take him and his family out of a certain eastside neighborhood and apartment he was living in, his landlord was taking advantage of his cerebral, and emotional disability, and he did, and he bought for them a four apartment complex, which Jay refused on the grounds it was too difficult to collect rents.
       But besides that I imagine he had hoped his children would show more of a higher opinion of him also, I mean they took, and never gave, not so unlike Jay and JL! Now a grandparent to their kids, made little difference—: for Jay would not allowed him to see them—in all earnest, why? Re-thought Lee.
       “Yes, of course” replied Lee in thought: I caused them some kind of vexation, but to keep utterly silent about something drives a person to believe there is  more symptoms of illness than I’ve previously recognized, especially for Jay, especially with such ungallant mannerisms who pretends to be the big and fare man of the house. He is more like an overgrown mouse!”

       Of course, Jay and JL were like two peas in a pod (in thought that is), like two sparrows counting on God, and Jay never believed in God, until two-days before his death, so his youngest boy volunteered. Above everything, the only thing that he succeeded in was their marriage. Better than Lee’s two boys who were on second and third marriages. In that sense, the least became the most profitable, but not without its makeshift dilemmas. Furthermore, he wasn’t independent, industrious, or manly, for some men keepsakes, but for Jay I don’t think so. The blessing was that Jay found Lee’s daughter, and they were like to like, and Lee recognized this. His daughter told him once, “He’ll never make anything of himself, I want to come back home and live with you!” And Lee said, “No, you’re going to have his child soon, and if it doesn’t work out, then okay, but you got to try to make it work out, it’s experimental at first.” And she adhered to his wishes, and made the best of it, and it did work out, but not for him.
       Now at the hotel, Lee found the dining room full, except for one table in the corner empty. He rushed to secure his seat, at once was seated, a dark-eyed, dark haired waitress, with an Andalusian look, perhaps from Seville, Granada, or Cordoba,  or along the Strait of Gibraltar, took his order, she was singing a Spanish song, in a soft tone of an old style. 

       The behavior Lee had to put up with, nine-years previous when he felt Jay had the upper hand using his daughter and grandchildren as if in blackmail, he did not intend to put up with now, if he was to meet his daughter, and try to set things right.
       “Should she ask the reason for my visit,” Lee asked himself, “when Jay was alive she was discourteous to me, it was at first his black nature that provoked it, and she was compliant with his nature, as she had a passive character it was easy for him to manipulate her, then her good nature turned into as calculated as his bad nature.”
       If anything, Lee was feeling he needed to give her his opinion, but why he wasn’t sure of. This why, still somewhat astounded him.
       Lee was now pondering in thought—as his bacon and eggs came, and coffee from that black-eyed beauty—still pondering in thought, the self-importance Jay placed upon himself having power to withdraw his right to see his grandchildren over a misunderstanding, no, no, over a reaction of his, to hurt him, and then to use that situation to actually alienate him from his children, Lee’s grandchildren, and his daughter, why, why? That was still to be thought-out.  But nonetheless, to create the chaos, then solve the chaos looking to the onlookers as having a tranquil triumph, now who’s the hero?
       Perhaps now with Jay’s death, Lee was thinking about it carelessly; he had never put so much thought into it before.
       “If I was to put,” he got thinking, “Jay’s view into action,” looking at those two yellow egg-eyes staring up at him—: “Jay relentlessly went forward in life without understanding the results of his actions, and his wife’s actions which he manifested in her, nor did he see the world outside of his little world.”
       Lee was looking, really looking at a man’s humanity ignoring the slightest glimpse of enlightenment. He didn’t fault Jay for his ignorance, but for his evil.
       “Are your eggs as you like them?” asked the pretty petite, dark-eyed waitress.
       “Fine,” said Lee.
       “I see you staring at them, I guessed you might have found them not to your liking!”
       “No, they’re fine,” said Lee.  She was young, as young as his daughter was when she got married, she reminded him of her, although JL had blond hair and bright blue eyes.
       “Well then, can I get you anything else, sir?”
       “Perhaps,” said Lee, “but not quite now.” And she left.
       He needed time to give vent to his resentment, or was it hidden anger, frozen anger, and at this very moment, irritation for not knowing why, the whys of this long charade: why Jay and JL were so very ill-pleased with him, even now that he had passed on. Lee wanted to know why he still annoy her. He tried to cut this irritant into the smallest of pieces inside his brain, —the incompatible natures they appeared to have. He scrapped it all into a pile, separating each piece, assessed every scrap, what was it?  
       What he didn’t ask was why now the obsession, was it possible the death of Jay contributed to his stress, and all this, whatever this was—searching or seeking or trying to put a closure to this passionate charade, this imminence of a crisis between them, that Jay himself had created with his endless up-welling of youthful energy, that went from his twenties to his forties! Was that what this was all about! And was it coming to a closing?  “Who’s to say,” thought Lee. But surely his daughter would find a new lover, sooner or later, and would this simply—if put back together— ricochet back?
       From Lee’s standpoint this was really considered a small affair, but Jay and JL stuck to it so long it became quite heavy, not light as it was when a simple argument took place, a decade before; well not so slight, but nonetheless a misunderstanding, as Jay tried to portray it.  Whereupon, Lee had after several times trying to put it back together, come to the conclusion, “I shall quietly continue to live my own life, untroubled by their world, despite all the outbursts of Jay, and by moving, who then can he blame for his degeneration and hateful condition.”
       For health reasons, Lee’s wife would express later on, when Lee and her made that move nine years ago, express:  “Selling your real-estate  and moving  was the greatest immediate improvement in your health condition (which comprised of two previous heart attacks, a stroke, and increasing symptoms of multiple sclerosis)

Lee’s Disturbing Night of Sleep

That Evening:

Obedient to his semi-subliminal mind’s eye (half-sleep, in REM sleep that is) his mind’s eye took a side-leap, glance at  Lee’s thinking, as if  he did not so much expect a sensible analyses of him and his family to take place much less to have thoughts come out, that have been hidden these past days, months perhaps years, and needed to be departmentalized,  where upon his awakening all would immediately vanish,  but as yet, he was now in the courtyard of dealing with the heavy doors of these analytic thoughts as if his mind had unyoked the horses of his cerebellum and someone was leading them to their private stalls, gravely with gravity this single side-glance took place as follows, in a REM state:

       ‘The older boy K, is more handsome than the younger, Wilt. He has the good looks of an actor—although thin lips, his dreamy eyes make up for the loss, a kind of head that needs no curtains, it stands out; a slightly deep orchard chest, hands that seem expressive, although when he leans against his mother his legs seem as his mind, less able to support a burden.
       ‘When K, was a little boy of ten, he had even then a voice that had a  tone round and full, he would pierce up his ears to his father’s rough voice and demands, and would not give in much of the time without a slap on the back of the head. But I knew then as I know now, he’ll never see the limelight, he is aware as his mother JL is, of her and his defects, both out of innocence.
       ‘As for Wilt, more on the mellow and thinking side, and nothing will stop him. He is, or will be the most companionable of the lot. A child of his age, he can be understood by everyone. He stands out and most all feel inclined to give him a nod, much like I was, am, —but that being  I guess  too prideful, perhaps I should rephrase it: he has a more universal approach because he has a more universal appreciation, but this is what makes his nature. He has light: and K, simplicity. Wilt’s edits his judgments and movements, not as free as K. And his Prosody will be worth quoting (not of common place): that is to say, as Darcy says in Pride and Prejudice: every savage can dance.  I say: that may be so, not far beyond the primitive rhythmic urge though, for they have not analyzed and systematized their words in the science of prosody. Let’s hope his take-off as a young man of eighteen does not fall from the air and get swallowed up by the earth and its deviants. How innocent you are today is no reflection on how innocent you will be tomorrow.
       ‘When I look at them, both of them, on the Internet and knowing them the first decade of their lives,  I see them together as good and have promise, more or less than they deserve perchance, who’s to say, but ever since their father’s death, inconsiderable more.  If you were to ask me how this all come about, this so call analysis, I could hardly tell you. Perchance I make them too innocent, or too friendly. I confess I don’t like making praises, —worthiness (I must be in a dream mode)… And at sixty-seven years old I am simply taking a glance anyhow, or my mind is
       ‘But, the most thoughtful of all, what has surprised me the most, is the strength of JL, she has not to my knowledge fallen into impenetrable melancholy, she was close to her husband for twenty-one years. Perhaps she hasn’t gotten into (yet into) the self-forgetful passionate absorption of loss, she is still fighting through the entanglement of the woods of her feelings and dreams, a phenomenon for the most part. When JL was young, like her mother she was remarkable lovely, face and figure, nothing too large, nothing ugly, skin and bone-formation well developed.
       ‘As for the twin boys which are not twin-twin like boys, not identical, but rather amicable, or fraternal, with their own personal looks and personality, I call one my child of sorrow. Why? I’m not sure but he I sent my wife a little a while ago, in response to a request by her, here I have it I’ll read it to you:


I wasn’t going to respond to your rude letter you sent my wife, with a touch of arrogance in it, but I will for the sake of cleaning up something’s, and then let it end there.
       First I’ll respond to the letter. You indicated in your response to my wife’s request: “Not sure what you are talking about…”  I don’t know if you’re drunk half the time or not, but what she is talking about is several years ago, I sent you a box of 8mm tapes, and a VCR, which was of you and your brother and sister when you were in Germany.  I asked you to put it on a CD, and send it to me.  I waited for three months for you to send it, you said you had many other things to do, for me to be patient. I waited for two years for the CD, then you sent me an ugly letter of how lonely you were as a boy, and I wasn’t there for you. That is what started this so called silence between me and you if I recall.  If not, what then is the issue?  Second thing, I wasn’t ‘reaching out’ out as you so indicated in your snappy letter, my wife was trying to get the 8mm I sent to you, which you acknowledged receiving years ago, perhaps some 9-years ago.  If you can’t remember, then you trashed them, or you’re a liar, or both, or you’re too drunk to remember what you did with them.
       Evidently you are also mad about books and other items you left with me when you were in the Army, to obviously find them as you say “missing or ripped in a paper bag,” etc. To be frank, all I remember is putting your belongings on a table by the furnace, at 1094 Albemarle Street. Not sure when you gave the items to me, but I never looked in your duffle bag, or whatever you had your items in, so I don’t know what you had, it of course is regrettable that you took such a huge loss, but if I caused the damage because of my carelessness, it wasn’t done on purpose, and if it was done by the mail system, well then that is another case.  I stored the items for you the best I could, and hopefully by me taking you on the few trips I did, like to Peru and Las Vegas, can account for some of that loss.  Funny, I kept my books in the basement and they never got waterlogged, RIPPED OR DESTROYED.
       Anyhow, you show no respect for me or my wife, and things you say are surely ‘backwards,’ as you’ve indicated. You are always so angry, as if you’ve suffered the most of anyone on planet earth. And this superciliousness, and pretense: “I’m glad to hear that he ((who is he) (lack of respect, I have a name, if you don’t like to say father, so be it, don’t expect the insult to go without God noticing it.)) And this “I’ll pray for you also” On one hand if it was sincere, then it was a good statement, but the way it is written is near to blasphemy.   And we have likewise prayed for your soul, a Christian cannot hold hate as long as you have.
       If you have something on your mind say it like a damn man, and get it over with, otherwise leave me alone, I’m not reaching out to you, I was reaching out to whom you use to be, those 8mm movies are as precious to me as whatever you had in those duffle bags was to you. It was when you were not so hateful. I’m 67-years old, there is no need for you to haunt me with your bad luck stories a decade or four decades ago.  I’ll be dead in due time, and you can think about me however you wish. I can face God with my decision making, I hope you can.
My wife says my letter sounds as arrogant as yours, I guess she is right. I hope God can forgive me, and it was not meant to be, sorry if it is. Rosa just wanted to straighten things out between us, but she sees this will simply go in circles.

No need to respond.

       “CG’s asset is that he listens.

       “The other boy, S Lee, he’s like his mother, always wanting to remain at a distance, although as a child he took a leap to hang on to me, and sorry to say, he broke his arm. So he goes his own way. Broken off all communications with me, the family. Stubborn as a mule, although his heart was frail when he was a boy! He could be a success if he so chooses, but has never done so. S Lee, by he his melting eyes, he could with his boyish look, on occasion’s cajole me with affection. Not subjunctive, but better, and he talks within narrow limits, if he oversteps them, which he cannot avoid, he finds life quite empty.
       “Both have their own personal black lists concerning me.
       “In both boys there is little pomposity, on the other hand I have enough for both, I would guess, but I’m nearly twice their age. Yes. Myself, who am I. I can look experience-less, expressionless, cavernous, with my face and eyes and posture, as not to show the light on the other side, satirical vivacity if need be.   Yet I have a neck that makes the body proud. Those who think they are very cleaver, and fancy themselves, dislike me, usually dislike me not always, because of this outward appearance, but dislike me all the same in some obstinate manner. On the other hand, those unaffected by this are usually one of two kinds of people, Godly, or hypocritical, that better word might be insincere (liken to the President of Huancayo, Angel; a President being the same as a governor in the province of Peru, Angel being of the latter type: funny name for a villain). I can see in their faces very well how they pronounce the verdict. Such folk think they are unreadable. JL has this ability to read people just as well as I if not better.
       ‘What they all don’t know is I am the frailest of them, but deceptive in this weakness. For I look and act, and act out of need, strength and resolute, yet even in this I can’t hide an underlying weakness. Let me rephrase all this, it is not a weakness as in feeling guilty, or shame, which it may appear, it is a readiness to fight or flight sort of thing, a kind of fluttering flaw. Mostly noticeable in my younger days. Not something to rejoice over, for it has obviously destroyed a family that might have been, yet might not have been (that is hard to say). But should you ask my boys and my daughter: they might refer to: “He is the last person to trust,” because of my old unsteadiness; when they were sixteen I asked if they wanted to come live with me but then they were much into their environment and refused, except for JL, when she turned sixteen. But on the other hand, I knew then and I know now the old Chinese saying: words cannot cook rice, and like it or not, I had more words back then, than I had money to buy rice to feed them I worked part time that’s all I could find, so one has to make choices, and you who make them for the betterment of your children or so I felt I did, and for those of course who make them,  have to live with them forever and a day, it is all in balancing the scales in one’s life. How easy it is to judge a course a person takes without absorbing the cause.’
       ‘It sounds like you don’t like them?’ came a voice inside his head.
      ‘Does it now!’
      I mean, what was it that he was trying to do? He asked himself.  Was he Hemmingway’s Old Man of the Sea, trying to catch his big fish at the end of his days, or Gustave Flaubert’s obsessed Frederick trying to understand his obsession with Mademoiselle Arnoux in his book: Sentimental Education, it was as if he was in a maze a dream like thought world, constructed by James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, and by all intent and purposes, he has taken his taken his daughter, as the abducted “Lady of the Shroud,” in Bram Stokers classic, and it was his job to do stirring deeds and be brave and strong for her. He never figured he’d be despised for his efforts. But was he being prudent? Whatever the case may be, his thoughts at this point were zigzag, eccentrically at all sorts of viewpoints, in all sorts of ways. In a way, Marge might be the interceptor to help Lee before he stepped over the main line. Another thought came to his mind, He was the Paladin of Old, pausing for no obstacle.


The Apartment

 Lee, having been back to his hometown now less than a week, Jay’s face, his contours were already beginning to dissipate, dissolve into a mist, hidden somewhere in his memory, he would need a picture to update him. Accordingly he searched endlessly in those back chambers of his mind.
       As if out of interstellar space, out of some dark matter, he pulled out available some dark notion to go to his daughter’s apartment, yet at this point he had not the slightest sign of what he’d say, if indeed they would meet face to face. And once there he stood quietly a distance away to contemplate his thoughts, to arrange them, if truly there was any order. His mind probed all the movements in and around the property, to which there were none. There leaning against a wooden telephone pole he got lost in his contemplations, oblivious to the old couple that used to live next door to him, who were for the most part, observing him: the Beck’s, Rita and her husband Raymond. And there he stood steadfast in his stance calm as a Lamb of God, concentrated on the complex his daughter lived in, a four apartment composite. He stood until twilight when everything became less, and then twilight fell deep into the deep dark.

       Lee didn’t’ want to admit what he didn’t want to admit, and in doing so, how could he notice that there was anything to admit. The point being, he was, had been, entirely out of his daughter’s mind, was out of his daughter’s thoughts, so it would appear, had it been to the contrary, she would have come out of her apartment and greeted him. So was this to be the end of his story?
       His daughter was looking out a peep-hole through the curtains all this time. She had no interest in seeing him, actually she was laughing triumphantly, with her two boys, although they were not laughing because they didn’t know what she was laughing about, and she had put her finger to her lips, without a word, so hastily had she done this,  one finger slipped into her right nostril hole of her nose, and indicated by her gestures, it hurt—luckily her fingernails were short; the boys, they couldn’t help but laugh, at the same time still knowing their grandfather was standing out in the cold, in the September chill, while JL was acting as if she was keeping some long hidden secret and understanding with her deceased husband. Although she didn’t say anything to this cause and effect. She didn’t have to it swerved all around her face.
       “What do you mean?” said the elder of the two boys, in a near whisper.
       Then JL taken somewhat aback, gave a feeble smile, while the two boys simply kept rubbing their heads, looking at each other in gleeful expectation of the silly predicament they were bound. Now JL nodded briefly once or twice with meaningful eyes as she heard the footsteps of her father pacing, giving more recognition to the older of the two boys, with a smile, whom was more like her than the younger, the younger, whom was involved with pastoral studies.  

       Thought Lee: Her ostensible dissatisfaction with me standing here and pacing and doing nothing about his vacancy was no more than showing off to her kids, like she did with Jay, but he knew she had, at forty-years old, had a childish mind, like her husband. Oh Yes, for Lee, all this was a difficult task. So why did he have to pursue it, that ‘why’ kept coming up time and again? He didn’t know why, not yet anyhow.
       JL now had to lower her eyes from the peep-hole, so greedily had she been staring at him, looking at her boys staring, looking. Lee did not give her fright, she thought only (out loud with a hesitant voice):
       “What do you want here really?”
       But how that could be answered with him standing outside, and she inside with her children, baffled the boys.
       “Did Dad forget something nine years ago?” she deliberated in a mere murmur, not even loud enough for her boys of eighteen and twenty-years of age, to distinguish clearly.
       “Perhaps he forgot a picture,” she again murmured in a low voice, and quickly looked in the mirror to see if her dyed black hair was all in place. Her father’s wife had black hair a Peruvian, as did her two twin brothers wives have black hair: one from the Philippines the other from another black eyed, black haired Asian race. Then she took a look how she was dressed, she was completely dressed as if she had not been to bed, and to be confirmed by the paleness of her face, perhaps from the long strenuous days preceding her husband’s death, and her two-month old child being hospitalized.

       Lee had now walked up to the fence that surrounded the house, the complex appeared even stiller close up, that from a distance. A less impressive appearance.
       JL lived on the ground floor, and there was two front entrances to the four apartment complex. The falling twilight had now completely fallen, total, – to where Lee had to guess at—rather than recognize—his next step, nobody was to be seen, and as for the apartment complex it was all dark, and the street arc light was a distance away, looking cautiously, feeling here and there to make his next move.
       Old man Beck, across the street stood staring out his window in the dark at Lee following his every move as if of a rat. From this, Lee remained completely detached. Matter of fact, he was too busy to have noticed what was behind him, he was becoming chilled to the bone, plus he hadn’t eaten for several hours.
       For JL, this perpetual silence and tension had become a burden, she told her boys not to talk loud once again, and if not necessary, not at all. They didn’t even turn the television on.

       Would he knock on the door once inside the hallway? He pondered. And he needed to slip inside quickly, lest he be frozen sooner than later, or become ill with pneumonia.  And so he took that leap up those few steps, and automatically the lights to the hallway went on, and the warmth was extraordinary, although he left the door to remain ajar a tinge, now completely surrounded by walls and steps and doors. The hallway stretched nearly the length of the apartment structure. As a result, there he stood as he had stood outside, stupefied by the warmth and trying to figure out what words would he say if for certain he got the opportunity to say them to his grieving daughter who didn’t look too grieving in her Internet snapshots, ‘but perhaps…’—so he pondered: ‘that very well may be her way of dealing with pain and strain of the tragic event’ moreover, it was part of her grieving process, it wouldn’t be considered uncommon just a bit strange, thought Lee.
       Lee wished his daughter would open her door soon, and then he was happy she didn’t.  Always there came that thought, he’d rather not, then after a moment, back to wanting it to be opened again. There was a faint comfort that was fading due to the great disturbance her husband had caused nine-years back. After all, did it really matter?
       “In this bewildering world” he supposed, “one has to decide what to believe and how to act on that,” and he felt he was doing just that (realizing what we choose to believe, doesn’t always come naturally to most of us. But rather by our nature…).
       “Wishes and desires,” clearly Lee alleged “does one really know what they are for! Can one not be happy in knowing in the knowledge that it is one’s daughter, and that—she is happy without you—should not this be enough?” Lee asked himself doubtfully? Was all this rigmarole being done out of perhaps a taste of curiosity (the notion to find out why, was like an invisible gas, such of the likes of carbon dioxide, slowly killing him). Why not leave well enough alone:  “Can it be,” Lee mumbled out loud, talking to himself reproachfully, adding: “We subconsciously cling to our intuitions, that which reaches our naïve beliefs.”

       It was on one hand, his brain craving for understanding, and logically he felt he could be deceiving himself, but where do you draw the line?  Lee also understand logic to his rational brain, was saying: ‘No contact for nine years, now what does it mean? And let’s not forget the Internet makes it easier than ever for skeptics and doubters, they would have contacted you if they wanted to contact you? And they never once responded to your call. And are not our beliefs motivated largely by emotion, and that is why you are where you are at this very moment.’  What Lee was really doing was giving himself a description of himself, while looking back at a gestating decade and a half of hate Jay had for him, with slow inevitability and his daughter who inadvertently—or at least he was hoping it was inadvertent—tumbled  into this ongoing overbearing pretense.

       The boys had a pet toucan, named Leyla! A good part of her lower body was black, her chest white, as were her wings, for the most part. And her forehead was a dark blue, leading into black and under her bill, a yellowish-green, with pinkish-red. A god-awful bird who’d make your hair raise if you were not part of the family. All about her cage were scattered feathers, and filth, along with a spattered bath-tub to boot. Wilt, the younger boy undertook to teach her speech; he would say at hearing names familiar that were spoken in duress, plus faces she didn’t like, she would laugh with all her might, and shrieks echoed, in a kind of ripple effect all around the house, into the hallway, and outside. And sometimes neighbors ended up looking out the windows to see who Leyla was laughing at. Thus, the when the name with its sound of ‘Grandpa Lee’ was made, Leyla did just that, and Lee outside froze in his spot, looking into the ditch where it was covered with slush-ice, to see what was lurking, and old man Beck was driven to the window to see  what amused the toucan. 
       The sound came like a shot from a catapult, the Toucan had started laughing wildly, slink along the wall JL hid, as if hugging it suspicious, thinking her father would have reason she was purposely hiding from him, which she was.  She remained even trying to hide her shadow from the window. And this is what drove her back from the curtains and her peephole. The glances JL bestowed on the toucan lacked any affection, and had the boys not been watching, the toucan very well might have received a blow from JL.  JL tried to shake the cage some to quiet the bird, and she tried to nip her.  Although this appeared cruel, despite this elusive moment, JL for the most part, loved the bird, it was that the bird was in a jovial mood for practicing her expletives, which was really just a kind of diabolical laugh. Even though JL was dismayed by these old manners, she quickly placed the bird and the cage in the far-off pantry beyond the kitchen.

       Then suddenly footsteps could be heard louder than ever on those old wooden panels, the hallway became alive, he continued pacing then he found his er to the door, not a breath was heard. He looked in through the key-hole and only saw read and green curtains, designs of flowers, and a picture of his daughter with her now deceased husband, taken 20-years ago, at Como Park while in the greenhouse, amongst a background of colorful flowers. He gave a timid little cough, and had a moments hallucination, a dream of sorts, where awful pictures flitted through his mind before his eyes: the door flew open and his daughter herself appeared on the threshold with her hair all in disorder her face crimson, and her features distorted by an expression of a she wolf, and in an abrupt tone: “Three is something you want of me my dear father!” Then Lee came back this senses. Thus Lee kept walking from the right to the left in the hallway, at that point he quickly stepped outside onto the open porch, as not to be looked at as a snoop, or peeping-tom. The man from the upper apartment was tall and slim, with a ski jump nose, loud with his footsteps too, noisily hitting the railing as he stepped from one step onto another, then out of the doorway. He looked at Lee suspiciously with a nasty air. Thought Lee: he could not have behaved more foolishly. “I’m waiting for my daughter JL,” he commented, in brief.
       “Sure you are,” said the young man as if disregarding his remarks as being little more than nonsense; then with his looks, a near double-take, he added in a low voice: ‘how preposterous.’ Evidently presupposing there might be some truth to it, but truth be told, it was being told incompletely, and all the same he went about his way up the street with an occasional turnabout, but never a complete U-turn.  For Lee it rather seemed unnatural, twisting that feeble thin frame of his in a half rotating turn, especially under the first broadening of light from the arc light at the street corner.  
       The real problem for Lee now was that he was startled because of the young man’s approach, perhaps he could have liked to have hidden, but where? Then again time did not allow. And now the peace he had in waiting for his daughter to appear had gone, dissipated, faded into nothingness as if into interstellar space. Exactly, he couldn’t know of course how he would react, not exactly, thinking it might have been JL herself whom was coming, in which case this drama would have come to its conclusion. Yes, there was much food for thought.

       Now again all the lights in the apartment complex went out, as Lee stood there holding his wondering gaze. The young man now out of sight. At this instant he was back to being as free and calm as he had been before, and at liberty to wait as he desired; that is, if no one dare drive him away. But his daughter’s conviction was equally strong in waiting.
       To old man Beck peeking out of his curtains across the street there was nothing more senseless, perhaps hapless, than this freedom to play as adults ‘Hide and seek’: the waiting, the hiding, the violability.

Ecole St. Louis

On Lee’s about-turn from JL’s apartment he had seen a number of women in cotton and wool caps, rush by him off Rice Street, he was on the North End Side of St. Paul, some embracing their men, the sluggish breeze brought to Lee’s nostrils the odor of pine, and carbon dioxide, it was a busy street behind the alleyway from where the bar was, and now Lee was in front of the bar were the rush of cars continued. Lee walked away and bravely bade, unconsciously, a farewell adieu. He was in a way will pleased to go back to his warm hotel room, and hence, resigned himself to the separation from his daughter because it was vital for his health, his peace of mind. He figured JL evidently felt less and less about him by his coming to the city. He regretted his coming on his way back to his apartment, regretted his coming to Minnesota, now nearby appeared his old school, and church location, Ecole St. Louis, off Tenth Street near Cedar Street, a school he had attended in the 1950s, a little French school built in 1886, the church built in 1873; he didn’t remember anyone speaking French there, but it was French—he got off the bus, stepped into the Catholic Church, it had been 40-years,  since his last opening of those heavy doors. Once inside he noticed the familiar alter, he was an altar boy in the makings, and then genuflecting, on forward to an open pew he seated himself. He looked at the beautiful stain glass windows, it had been so long, yet they gave old reflections of his boyhood: In a corner still the Holy Spirit painted on the wall as a dove hovered over the assemblage, and the tabernacle was the same, while the marble, white and polished as if it was set in place yesterday. The statue of the Virgin Mary was to the right, and the child Christ, had a crown of red and gold. No priest was present or available, and it all seemed to his mind, melodious.  Consequently, he sat and enjoyed the moment, the coolness of the quiet church.
       It was here, right here that he first learned his catechism, his religious education, Sister Caroline Ciatti would nudge him to be settled, for he was an anxious boy, a boy hard to make sit still, and the Sister knew he was like tea in hot water, that needed time for boiling, and she was not going to allow the tea to boil. He remembered his first Communion, his white shoes and prayer book. He looked like a field of snow. He would tell himself in silence, in those far-of days—now with a chuckle, reminiscing—his mind was always like a spider weaving a web, and sister Ciatti was always, as was all the nuns at the school always, seemingly always trying to destroy his web, before the mischief came, and they knew it was forthcoming: modesty forbids acknowledgement he pondered, thus, Lee shifted his thinking, he wondered if the organ was still in use, it was where it always was, on the second tier behind him, where the choirs was, he had sung in it,  it was one of the few things he could do devoutly.
       He had made sure his boys and daughter were baptized, read the bible to his daughter countless times. And now so unfeeling, how could they be so? He was baffled.


Old Man Beck

Lee tore himself free and went back to his hotel room—greatly disappointed. In the dining room he fetched a strong dark cup of Sumatra coffee, looked about musing. It was as if JL had said everything necessary by saying nothing. Being indifferent and not surprised at all. 
       “Our time is up,” he thought! Then turning to his left side, with a hand placed on the side of his neck, he could have easily fallen asleep right then and there. But he lifted his chin up, only to sit back deeper into his chair, his arm thrust out to the sides of the chair, wanting to stretch, but not wanting to get up, like an invalid. Outside the window the moon was over the Mississippi, “Come here!” he said, and a waitress returned.  “Not you, I was speaking to the moon.”  
       The young woman looked where he was looking now, “Oh! Yes,” she said, a bit uneasy, “of course, the moon, but some of it is hidden.”
       “Really,” replied Lee, his mind somewhere else (knowing all along it was a gibbous moon, that of which made it a slight mystic, and not all symmetrical or proportional, thus losing its beauty and balance to its full identity when at full moon, and along with its ash colored clouds creeping across it made it more stimulating): “it’s a remarkable piece of apparatus God made isn’t it?” added Lee.  And the young lady surveyed Lee a little longer, almost with a certain air of admiration, “Truly!” she commented, and walked away to take another order.

       The daughter’s two boys did not appear to notice much.   And unfortunately there was nothing left to be said. Lee had left, and she was now free to stop hiding.

       For the old man across the street, he said to his wife, now watching the ‘Lone Ranger’— “I can’t believe in the appalling insensitivity of JL, it looked as if her father was outside waiting for her, anxious about seeing her, and she left him freeze!”

       “That’s as it should be,” said his wife, Rita, “it’s certainly her will not to want to get involved.”
       “But how in reality do we know?” he asked her.
       “It can’t be proved one way or another because it will never come to the test.”
       “Perhaps, but what is done is done!”
       “Isn’t this a contradiction?”
       “No, it’s all clear for JL.”
       “Why are you looking at me that way” said the old woman, as if he was disgusted with her comment.
       ”I said all I’m going to say on the matter—can anything be clearer!” Then he hesitated, deliberated on what she said.
       “I suppose you’re right,” said Lee, leading into a statement-question, “why should JL become reacquainted with her father’s trivialities, even if it is just seeing her.”
       “I didn’t say that,” responded the old man’s wife, with a smirk that could have killed an owl.
       “Well then” said old man Beck, “then you wouldn’t consider it unreasonable for our children to think the same? I mean what Jay did to his father-in-law, he would never have done to his wife’s father-in-law, that being his father,” he whispered underhandedly—
       “Who on earth can respond to such a question?” said Rita.

       Was it that Jay could not stand, but dreaded and at the same time admired the father image of Lee, his solid strength, his well-balanced vitality? I mean, Lee was a man who had lived, a man for all seasons, and worldly, and spiritual, and he lived as a man should live—who had seemingly mastered life, whereas the son-in-law a failure in all matters that really counted except in the love of his wife, and the raising of his two boys!
       Perhaps Jay’s experience in a world that was unpredictable and tyranny for him, had provoked this attitude. He displayed it, better put: he displaced it,  on Lee, like moved anger—feeling he was the weakest link, and in doing so, added his critical contempt, he was so devoted to: it made him feel more powerful to lord over Lee whom he once called ‘The King Landlord of the Neighborhood.’
       “It was,” said Raymond to his wife, “Jay became more and more impudent with his father-in-law, I remember that when he was living next door. Lee gave him everything he wanted, and what did Jay’s father do, he gave him butts for cigarettes, and now and then took him grocery shopping because Jay never drove a car or for that matter never left the State of Minnesota to my understanding, but Lee put a roof over their heads, and gave them jobs, and vacations and just about anything Jay begged JL to squander out of her father.”
       “Maybe if Lee would not have treated them with such firmness,” said Rita.
       “Well, he needed firmness, he had too many lazy spells,” commented Mr. Beck. Then turned to listen to the radio program, since Rita had shut off the television, called: ‘Amos ‘n Andy’ as she stroked the back of his neck, and said artfully: “That is your opinion, but I will agree they both took Lee too serious, and caused a lot of mischief over it, I mean, it would have been more sensible to laugh at such little annoyances. But instead they treated him like a joke if I remember right.”
       “Rightly so,” said the old man, “also, Jay was not a far-seeing man, he misconstrued others, mostly in childish selfishness, even though he had this fault pointed out to him. His stubbornness refused to answer, not even seeing the embarrassment: even his eight and ten-year old boys could see, as now they are grown-up, overlook it, but back then, back when they were in their preadolescence, were incapable of doing anything about it, yet showing in their faces the foolishness he played, it all was so perplexing for the boys, surely, and he alone was only allowed to ask questions that made the kids silent! Especially about the grandparents he ostracized.” The old man now put some tobacco under his bottom lip.
       Rita Beck was somewhat charmed by her ninety-three year old husband’s recall. She had many times put to question this charade, now that Lee was back, her husband’s insight was sought, for better or worse, for enlightenment or ignorance, perhaps—for, if anything—it would evoke much alleged, rumored  and soul, long buried.
       “They said on the Internet, on Facebook I think it was Facebook,” supposed Rita, “that Jay was a very good man, especially to his wife, and a good father, and that he helped everyone out, like neighbors I suppose,  I think his father said all that, and they buried him twenty-eight days after his death, that’s a bit surprising.”
      “That might be true, he was good to his boys, and for the most part a disciplinarian to his boys not so unlike Lee was with his two boys, and JL herself, yet, Jay, kept on hitting them on the back of the head every other block as they’d walk down any street in the neighborhood; and so I thought that was a bit nervy,  but perchance that kept them shipshape, and he was noble I think  to his wife as long as she obeyed him. He liked to play the man in charge” said her husband, “but he never burned his soles off his feet to help Lee without charging him an arm and a leg! He never had a kind word to another neighbor or family member about him or for him, he was a big mouth, gossiper, and at every corner tried to get him in trouble with the house inspectors inspecting his several properties, trying to make himself look the big man while plaguing his employer, it cost Lee thousands of dollars for his mischief, and big mouth … and of course the father, they were like to like, like two peas in a pod, and you can’t allow yourself to bury your son in this frame of mind, so he got to  fancy him up a bit, I mean, falsify his legacy unless he was blind to his boy’s obnoxiousness.  Or perhaps Rita, Jay’s father, G, simply convinced himself that his son was all he said he was. It settles the mind, and therefore his life is firm, and life goes on, with an eyebrow high as his forehead can reach. He even uses the word Lord, I read it also on the Internet: at such times, everyone thinks everyone is going to heaven, even if living the devil’s lifestyle.  And to be up front, the father was not there to observe his dementia behavior; plainly he was unaware. Ask yourself this question, Rita, ‘Has the father, Jay’s father, notified JL’s father of his son’s death?’ No! He acts as if he is deficient of mind in this, preoccupied, absent minded of anything to do with JL’s natural family, is this Christian behavior? He, like his son, could not resist snapping their jaws at Mr. Lee! For what? Two attention-seekers.  Rita dear, if only they could take a backward look. To be frank dear, if I was Lee, and I am not, but if I was, I’d say ‘Shoo!’ to the whole lot of them, actually they are more like a clan, like a savage clique. Incidentally, his father was like a man that could not even control the direction he took. Keeping an anxious eye on his son all the time over his shoulder, he began to hate Lee just like his son hated Lee—imitating, although he did not interfere except every now and then.  Lee has to get into a mindset: come what may. Indeed it was with repulsion that he left in the wee hours of that wintry morning to escape all this salty behavior, and then someone trying to burn his house down while he and his wife were sleeping, and who might that be? And who had the key?  And whose footprints did the fire inspector find? They weren’t small feet that made those footprints; no by and by when they were measured they proved to be the size of a big man. Plus as Agatha Christie would say I believe, which I have learned from reading her novels:  the people you suspect you must inquire into the circumstances first, see who has nothing in common, and who has, and then find a connection between them, or an ominous pattern… (His wife thought for a flashing moment: how sinister yet ingenious his mind works.)  I saw him load all his suitcases into an auto van that morning, he and his wife crawled into the backseat, and I could see all this through the crack of the door. As you know, I make a habit of reading the newspaper at five in the morning, and he was loading that van then, and I am no peeping-tom, nor snoop, but as they loaded the van not a sound was to be made, or a moment lost, nor could any word be heard from the driver of the van likewise. And I do know for a fact Lee felt great pride in that he was in the position, and able to provide such a handsome life for his daughter, and her husband, and those two boys; especially when he offered by trying to give them that house, but Jay said no, nonetheless would consider it if it was paid for, and of course if the house burnt down, surely that house would have been paid for then, and one could bury Lee nicely and properly with his wife, side to side in a silver plated coffer. But I’m not inferring anybody I know did it, I’m just saying what I’m saying, you know something’s, and something’s you don’t know, and something’s you don’t know you really do know, but don’t come right out and say you know them, and then there are those things you will never know for sure, but you must prepare nonetheless for them, should you not, that will cost you.”
       Commented Rita, “It is amazing how Lee had plenty of time, or made plenty of time with all those houses he owned to sell them and to take the cash and to find leisure on how he was to arrange his life afresh elsewhere, way-off yonder somewhere, wherever it was he went to, say: South America or Europe or Asia, one guess is as good as the other I suppose, who’s to say? … and told no one about it, —well, not quite, he gave notification to JL only of those intentions, which she never took serious; still,  Lee told no one the day he would vanish, and I suppose that is because someone tried to burn down that house, and he had suspicions, not of that in particular, but some kind of malice forthcoming from across the street:  and as you said Raymond, it was someone with big feet, that left deep footprints in the snow, and would that same someone, that  same person try again, had he known the day and time?
       You can’t blame Lee I suppose, here they all lived across the street in his house, and no one was likely to visit him, not ever again, that was for certain, and without even a slight feeling of shame, as the old saying goes: ‘No blood in their faces.’ So why not up and leave. They drove him to it. They made his mind up for him. Like in the story of Kafka’s ‘Metamorphosis,’ his family Gregor’s family drove him to starve himself to death.”  
       The old man’s blubber lips, were now closely pressed together with his tobacco all curled up within them, with a finger crossing the center of his lips, he puckered lightly as if in a kiss form, then a second later, the sound came out in the formula of: ‘Oh, you read that story too,’ then a silent interlude, and ‘shoo’ (as if in, ‘be quiet’). It was all too much talk for him.

       Rita now only spoke when her husband didn’t occupy the conversation, because he wanted to watch on the tube, ‘Gun Smoke!
       “It’s funny,” said Rita, during a commercial, “everybody knew Jay’s mental comfort zone and tried to pacify him,—his father, mother, wife, children, we, everybody and everybody knew it wasn’t any real illness Jay was suffering from, just slowness of the brain, some stupidly, a braggart, indolence, manic at times in that he could not control his tongue, and sudden outbursts of frustration. Did they not really know, really not know, the cause of his mental state—father like son—that it was for the most part inherent and inherited by some backward gene in the family, again, I would think from his father, or grandfather, as for his mother, she was an invalid, or seemingly always sick, but much kinder, and easy going, but I suppose she had to put up with G, and that in itself was trying enough? And did they not talk to one another about it, before they prejudged Lee that whatever Jay said, or was saying, proclaiming, was to a high percentage: gobbledygook?” Here she let the power of thought, that visible power, loosely to roam at random inside her husband’s head, as the commercial ended, thus, ‘Gun Smoke’ resumed.
       “In the good cause of keeping Jay calm, they all contradicted their values if they had any, I suppose. Nevertheless, (the old man had to take a deep breath) Nevertheless…a” and he forgot what he was about to say.
       “You mean dear,” quickly added Rita, “his father shielded his son from any disturbance?”
       “Right on Rita, that’s exactly what I mean! And moreover, he knew the state of things, but he would never have thought venturing to speak to him about them. For that matter, make his apologies to Lee, because he was rude and primitive as his son. Just like Lee’s boys, the fraternal twins: like to like, shoulder to shoulder, like two bugs in a rug, all tangled up in hate and frustration. They all underestimated the malice in Jay. He’d not allow even one of them in his house. No one save, Jay’s nuclear family would have called him, called Jay after his death ‘A giant of a man’, as his father did, for on JL’s side he moreover made everyone ill-at-ease, walk on eggshells, as they say.”  Although Rita appeared a tinge unsure of herself, and was reduced to silence, as if to await her husband’s reply. But as bad luck would have it, he had fallen to sleep. She was bound to confess that all this gibber-jabber was all too draining.

       “They all purposely allowed themselves to underestimate the evil in all this,” Rita continued, after her husband’s snooze was over.
       “Yes, it became an illness for Jay. Sometimes the mentally retarded, or slower folk, can be clearer enough to use this weakness for mischievous doings, and for him it appeared he had very few restraints knowing everyone felt apologetic, if not downright bad luck for him. Even Lee—oh I suppose he had his ups and downs too, his moody behavior, and his strict Army way of doing things, and in the end the young man died. But nonetheless Rita, Lee’s family was treated by Jay’s family, and Jay, and by Lee’s daughter, as the enemy. His father said he was a ‘Giant of a man,’ as you implied, but I’d rephrase that, he was all of that: round and round, he was, a giant with a big belly!
       “Let me also add, that Lee I suppose outwardly treated Jay rather insignificant, but Lee was always busy, working, this was his nature, not playing around like Jay, which was his nature that paid many of Jay’s bills, Lee’s so called insignificance towards Jay. Yet although he loved him, as one can love a son-in-law, he did not rate him very highly, my guess is that Jay’s mental processes seemed to Lee to be too simple. So Lee always seemed to Jay and JL to be in the distance, —and Jay never leaving his own little circle of thoughts, didn’t help matters any.”
       Said Rita, “Old people and parents have this reduced strength to fight back when their children grow up.”
       “So right,” said her husband, “and that is when the old are past help. The Children come to a state of being unable to see things, to see the unreasonableness of it, as if blind to the   unreasonableness of it.”
       Said Rita, in reflection to her husband: “Lee, in an almost unimaginable future ends up excelling beyond everybody, and becomes wealthy at the farther end of his life. And it is this anomaly that distanced them from him, a glorious development for all because Lee wanted to share his abundance, but as we have seen dear, there was a consequence.  I think Lee hoped Jay’s future was that of his, but he turned out to be a man with a little boy’s propensities.  And by not taking the gift of the four apartment complex he was offered, he at last confessed, or confirmed these things for Lee.”

       Said Mr. Beck, now watching Ed Sullivan, “When Lee finally sees he has deceived himself in all of this, in his assumptions and in his hopes, then his time in limbo will be over about setting things right with those who set them crisscrossed.  It will be the only thing to fall back on, and possessiveness will prove to be worthless, and he’ll treat it accordingly, seeing that they have, nor did Jay have any feeling for him: but he still feels of some kind of guardianship, or kindred-ship.”
       “Yes,” said Rita “it is that he will continue trying to reach out to them, a kind of feeble endeavor,” she told her mind’s eye.
       “All redundant,” said the old man in a whisper.
       “The sooner the better,” said Rita, “it’s all in vain, but understandable.” Then added, “Was not the daughter the love of the father’s life, once upon a time?”
       “I think his twins were first, as for JL, she came third; on the other hand: love can betray itself involuntarily when demands are made upon another person when given an ultimatum, as I presuppose Jay did with JL, in some cunning gesture, lest she be disconnected by and by, from him for overlooking it. Sometimes the biggest giver is given the least of the lot, when it’s time to ration; in this case, room: room on the family tree, or in the family Bible. Jay at one point was nearly a vagrant when Lee took it upon himself to take him out of his old environment, and buy an apartment house for him, to give him and his daughter a job, and his daughter took the money, but seldom did the job, so Lee’s tenants complained. But Lee held no grudges.
       “You see dear, Lee is cleaver also—but has experience of the world, as well on his side—Jay didn’t. Lee has seen much, Jay hasn’t. I am sure that this is to Lee’s advantage, and a lot due to his travels. Yet too, not that alone—he has rather an attribute, an inimitable nature which is acknowledged by people wanting to copy him, in some—let us say, elegant high-drive, and Jay lacked this, and instead of trying to learn from Lee, and received Lee’s help, he felt he was the tutor, and so he sat down despite all this help available, lifts his arms up into the air, excuses himself, says ‘Big deal!’ figuratively speaking. I guess he was really saying, in all likelihood, ‘I’m a finished product, like it or not, I don’t need your damn help’ and you know as well as I, pride can be a destructive force, a fault with many of us. If the spirit is not there, it is kind of like having poison in the blood.  It is simply an unwillingness, not an inability I’m speaking of, an unwillingness to develop to the full potential of one’s nature, or character, or ability or full growth as a human being; which perhaps Lee always knew, and which it dawned on me just now. But that is what really makes him G’s own true son, a fault perhaps of the whole family.”


The Bus

The whole business of trying to contact his daughter, and make things right was a sore spot, now sitting on a bus heading for the Mississippi River, for rivers always calmed Lee, “Life moves fast,” he mumbled to himself on the bus, a young girl nearby him overheard him mumble… “But sore spots are bound to heal,” she says with a big smile, looking at him, from across the aisle.
       “And the worse,” he complained.
       “One never knows what this slowness means. It can mean they’re thinking about you, or they’ve forgotten all about you, or that it hasn’t surfaced yet, but might. Or for instance, it’s there but at midpoint, and in the long run it can mean, it is settled but we can’t on the other end see this potential, figuring it out is the puzzle, and if you can’t find all the pieces to the puzzle, one has to jam in whatever piece is left, and cancel out the presupposition.”
       “Yaw, isn’t it so,” comment Lee,  “one only finds out the truth  while on his death bed, that is when they come and ask you for absolution, forgiveness for being assholes because they don’t want to live with themselves. They want to clear the books up before you go, or they go, only to find out, they haven’t the time, nor do you.”
       “Perhaps,” said the young female student, “there may be other characteristics in common with your situation.”
       “The whole affair is not as simple as that. And I don’t wish to overstep my limitations so far as wanting to be stepped on again.”         
       “Right or wrong,” said the student, “you presently seem to be in a state of deceptive comfort.”
       “Perhaps rightly so, but I’m not sure what that all means:”
       “The person or persons you are talking about are of a more primitive or lower rank, less cultured than you, I sense some evidence of that.”
       “You’ve been reading Franz Boas, I bet,” said Lee.
       “Yes,” said the student, “his insight on the mind of primitive man, is a good study.”

       “Perhaps you should read, Daniel Defoe, ‘The History of the Devil’ bad as he is the Devil may be abused when he is next to the likes of Jay. I mean to say, isn’t he often falsely charged and causelessly accused of our crimes, when men willingly and privately trap themselves and others in their own shenanigans?”
       “I doubt I’ll read Mr. Defoe,” said the student, “I don’t care about the devil’s circumstances, and the various turns of his affairs.”
       “Yes,” thought Lee staring straight into her eyes, “she has marvelous insight, but lopsided.” Then he asked himself in the silence of his mind “How does she know all this! Being so young.” He felt a little odd taking advice from such a young lady, especially one who did not believe in the Devil, for it was a figure of speech he used, yet who else might be shifting off these crimes on him making believe they are his own, but she was right on one thing: when made to admit one’s wrong, they do, people do shift and are unwilling to be blamed alone, and thus, use the devil for escape, by adding madness or insane behavior at that very instant, to escape the penalty of their crimes, and should you ask the Devil if you can use him for one’s insanity plea, he is of course, more than willing.  And he was getting the sense, she was about to create a barrier, he was getting annoyed with her so called justice which was really to him injustice.
      “Perhaps sir, could it be” said the young woman, whom surely did not want to be called ‘young lady’,  now a little more cautious, watching her peas and cues getting a look of rebuff from Lee, “there are mental walls not being taken into consideration, between you and them?”
       Everyone started to clap for the young woman on the bus, as if she hit a top musical note. Everyone on the bus now was waiting for Lee’s response, he seemingly always had one.
       “If this was the case, their mental shrewdness was more devious than all the psychology courses I’ve ever taken, and I’ve took a lot.  So yes, mental walls are perhaps there, but with shrewdness and vindictiveness, which they’ve got, and are now more seasoned in—practice makes perfect—can be sufficient to overcome them walls, as they have, and I to suffer disappointment.”
       “Boo…booo!” said the crowd on the bus; Jay thought: ‘If only I was as pretty as the young woman, and not an old man, I’d have gotten that ‘Harrah,’ they gave her a moment ago.
       “Again, it is the primitive mind,” said the student, “the more cultured mind would not consider such perceptiveness, and peevishness—; the primitive mind, they would act from instinct, cold it may seem, but boiling are such creatures of our society. The primitive have different conceptions of their duties, and often too often, feel those who have more, are simply greedier than them and that is how they got more than them, and can’t reconcile their own hard work has not allowed them to have what you have, that they have to get it as gifts from folks like you. This can be demeaning, even if you are of goodwill. This is the laws of their understanding of successful people. They even have a hard time admitting their doubts are doubts, and refuse to admit that they cannot speak freely, for that too would be demeaning, so they don’t, in fear that they will be shunned by the giver. But out of some hidden and perhaps some frozen anger, it comes out sideways, somewhere along one’s lifeline.”
       Everyone clapped on the bus again, Lee figured at this point, no matter what he said, she’d have an answer, she was one of those she was talking about, in nature, not in mind.
       At the next stop Lee intended to get off the bus, but the young student blocked him, “I’m not finished,” she said with a bittersweet smile, “What happened?” she asked. “That’s what I’ve been asking my friend Marge, and myself for a long time, it is nothing, and we simply all want to belong.”
       “Ah!” said the young student, and with that Lee said to himself, “No one is aware of him. So what is this ‘Ah!’ stuff she’s producing?” but somehow she had entirely absorbed his emotions, body language, and it was as if she had the sheet music for his violin, said: “We all want to belong, we all need to belong, if you don’t feel you belong, you don’t feel loved, and by not being there: playing, giving, listening how could your kids feel they belonged to you, if you were not there.  I mean, you evidently left them, and put them someplace where they didn’t belong, and now they feel they don’t belong. Overall they don’t feel the gratefulness you demand from them now that they are adults, because they never experienced or felt free to express when they wanted to belong, is my best guess. And you may have been willing but you were not present, is that the case?”
       To be sure it was, thought Lee, with a down-beat head, ‘How can she read me so well,” Lee half-whispering to himself. And then just then, the bus stopped to let a few passengers off,  and Lee got off the bus  in a hurry, pretending to blow, and wave with his hands smoke away from his face, from a man’s cigar that had been in back of him, as if it caused him irritation, which it did, but that wasn’t the full reason, for he got off on a premature stop, and kind of hid in the throng so the young woman whom he’d not dare call a Lady would not see him, as she leaned forward against the bus window, intently and a bit sadly; her eyes following the crowd. Lee crawled, well not literately, but lowered his head to the ground so that it might be possible for him not to be seen by her.  He had had enough of her psychobabble, although he was sure she’d be a good cloud for Jay.


The Rings,
John and Jay

Every year Lee had given Jay, and one of his other workers, John, and their wives a vacation, paid in full: hotel, food and even transportation. And it always astounded him that he could afford to do it, but it didn’t’ phase, or amaze Jay and John’s family, they acted as if it was overdue. They belittled, yet accepted Lee’s heartfelt gifts with unimportance.  Matter of fact, after such a weekend, one could hardly tell it had been given at all. And both having access to the supplies Lee had in his garage for his six apartment buildings, very little got fixed, but those supplies dwindled faster than John could make up the receipts. John had indirectly admitted the thievery and Lee had told him he had always known, expected it, but it was getting to the point of becoming too expensive to overlook. In consequence, John left the company and when he wished to be rehired at a later date, it was on different terms, and the rehiring never took place; for Lee it was surely an escape from the devil’s advocate.
       Oh, yes: concerning JL on a number of occasions, a peculiar emphasis, each time Lee took a trip abroad, he’d bring back a gift for JL, as he’d do for his mother, but for JL, it was always in the form of a silver ring with a semiprecious stone, which he did on three or four occasions, as from Bali and Java  (along with a few occasions bringing JL a necklace from the Amazon, and Galapagos): in particular, once from his return from Turkey he had bought, and brought her a heavy silver ring  with a  large yellow stone embedded in it, and once from Greece a black stone set into a thinner model, or cast of silver, that formed into a nice looking ring: visiting them one afternoon, it occurred to Lee, she hadn’t been wearing any of that jewelry, especially the most recent, yellow stone ring, although he had his suspicions, and already knew the black stoned ring had been long lost a year prior, or misplaced or stolen from her, who’s to say,  so JL claimed, yet never to be spoken of or found thereafter.  This one afternoon, he asked again, the same question, he had asked time after time: how solidly they both sat there with arms crossed and closed tightly, he reminisced, “Well,” JL came out with, “you know, father, that I wanted not to tell you about it, that you’d just get upset, but I lost it, or it got stolen,” and Lee just standing there thinking to himself, ‘hardly likely.’ The better choice would be, Jay had her sell the rings for whatever purpose to buy whatever else their hearts desired. To them a lie was seemingly no more than a deletion, or perhaps a distortion, or generalization. Leaning over, and going back to what they were doing, slowly but surely the subject fading, waiting for Lee to vanish from their sight, and when he did, after a moment or so they looked at each other dwindled into a chuckle, merely nodded briefly once or twice with import eyes, and decided on how to spend the rest of the day, either resting or going with the boys for a stroll.

       That said, John, he too interfered with the family progress. One might even go as far as saying John: to see that nothing would change and remain in his favor, during those days when he was caretaker and handyman for Lee and his company (Lee Associates), and buddies with Jay, played double-spy, giving Lee information on Jay and JL’s activities in swopping partners (with bar, or neighborhood or clandestine acquaintances): true or false, who’s to say, Lee gave him a last glance, who was quite overcome by his remarks.  Well it turned out as you can see, Jay’s friend John was not all that loyal to either one, even though Jay let him live with him and his wife for months on end, in their two bedroom apartment. But Jay still had an in, when John was out, he was married to JL, the boss’ daughter.
       Thought Lee, during those years, what odd behavior, to take from your own, but evidently, now gone for nine years, and back, I guess—so he figured— ‘I was never part of that so called own…’ which was a circle made up of his family members, none on his daughter’s side were allowed in. So it was becoming clearer by the hour to his mind, this was a useless journey, what was the good of it?

       Breathless he stood looking about for a cab. Although this conservative city of cabs never picked up fares, you had to call them.  But once in a while an empty cab that just dropped off a customer would take you.  He was also coming to the point of not having much inclination to pursue the task he came for, or one of the main tasks he had expected to do. Trying to put back a disconnected family was trying enough. Should they take a moment to look about, would not his sons and daughter see the comparison? True, but the pain would gradually grow, and who likes eating rotting apples. For them it was better covered with soft dust, as not to trouble them.
       And so, this part, his family part, Jay and JL’s part, was the useless part of this journey? So he held. Or it would seem so. “Little could they have achieved on their own, those first years, those unremembered years; and once on their own, and once having gotten what they wanted, they went to the father that gave them the cigarette butts.  Doesn’t that beat all?”  


(Guesthouse II)

    “A bandaged man sees nothing until the bandage is removed,” said Marge to Lee, having met each other at the Guesthouse once again, for schnitzel and conversation. It was in the evening of the following day, the day after having his little run-in with the student on the bus.
       “Yes,” said Lee “with that family Jay stands pathetically alone. And as you may have noticed I have very little reverence for that side of my daughter’s husband’s primitiveness.” Now he caught himself mimicking that young student. “Yet I never dissuaded my daughter or tried to weaken her reverence for them, —quite the opposite on their behalf; although my daughter was actually imitating, acting out learned adverse behavior from her mother, so it wasn’t new.”
       “I see the straits you’re in, are very thin,” said Marge figuratively speaking while looking over her menu. Lee thinking, she’s full of impassive phraseology tonight as she continued fussing over one item then another:  comparing, selecting, and then changing her mind as if it was the biggest decision of the week, so such came to Lee’s mind.
       “What exactly are you trying to say, Marge?” questioned Lee.
       “Perhaps you are making more out of something that is really nothing, trying to show your second mind that it is something, allowing you not to let go of what is nothing.”
       “Again,” asked Lee, “what are you driving at, and drop the rhyme schema?”
       “In truth, you have a mere nothing to go by, unjust monstrous behavior yes, between you and them! And I mean all of them. Some things you cannot decide—in lieu of, they have been decided for you. Make life simple, as AA says: do what you can do, and let go of the things you have no control or power over, is that not plain enough for you?”
       “Rather badly developed, although to the point. Then again it is as you say, for JL who was never like that, is like that, and was like that also to her grandmother, for she asked once as now I have asked: ‘What wrong have I ever done them,’ and she died with that insult they placed on her as if she did them some wrong, as they shunned her, they now shun me.”
       “It is obvious they are out of place in your world, which I might agree is the ordinary world, and because of this, they have done the most beastly things to try and make you conform to their world, in other words, a one-way street.”
       “You give the impression today to have a kind of sympathy for them, but on the other hand you have a personal one for me too.”
       “I’m assuming Lee, that your daughter doing what she did those years you took her out of that malicious landlord’s house, and put her into the one you purchased for her and her husband,  she didn’t do anything to hurt you deliberately, with intent anyhow, fearless with malicious intent, she was betrayed into it by circumstances, impelled by the love she has for Jay— You perhaps made him look the fool to his children, a lazy fool, and he knew this, and all that poor people have is the love and respect of their wife and children; consequently, should it be given to the grandfather who can afford more and has more, well, then comes the seven deadly sins! Envy is a powerful tool the Devil uses.”
       “To me, it was all petty, cleaver and foolishness, and for Jay in particular cowardly, even if I should, and I do agree with your previous statement.”
       “How’s the schnitzel?”

       “Just like I used to have in Augsburg, Germany, way back when, to far back to remember! The gravy over it is superb, and the bread coating is marvelous.”
       “Now listen up Lee, you need only look at their actions to substantiate their heart, their motives, it leaves no room for love, only grief. You’ve said they are all Christians, how can this be. Is not a Christian one who is trying to live the lifestyle of Christ?   Ask yourself that question, and if it comes to their acts, if they are not like-minded to Christ, then they are incompatible with Christ, meaning unsuited and perhaps more centered on—I hate to say—a Christian only by name, not by  deed, and faith without actions is dead.  So they are dead Christians.  You have tried. You have done your duty, there is no way to get to them, leave it in the Lord’s hands, evidently his youngest son might have brought him to the Lord as you’ve indicted two days prior to his death, liken to the man on the cross who had only hours left and took that step, or should I call it: leap of faith. He is perchance saving you a lot of grief and long-life by keeping you a distance away from them.”
       “When they’d walk by me after that so called fight Jay and I had which started by JL provoking it, they’d walk by me from their apartment across the street, then walked across our lawn to go to the bar behind our house; they were all keyed-up with smiles and grins and laughing and never stopped to say hello, or great us: me, my wife, my mother, ‘what is laughable,’ I asked myself, if not the stupid injustice they threw at me, —why the stupid posing for us? If I made a motion to say hello, it only made them recoil with a snobby jerk of their heads, in length however my two boys were not much different, they both had their surreal behavior both living in different states: if not primitive behavior, or whatever group of mankind they represented: Hamitic or Mongol, Semitic or Aryan, it was all old world indifference all the same, all so inadequate to explain by the laws of chance, or sanity, For cultured and educated people.
       “As for the developmental obstruction of Jay’s and JL’s formative years, in that they were slow in learning in their psychological, sociological growth, these later years should have removed some of that unreasoning and existing dysfunctional, and distrustful behavior, especially for one’s grandparent to the other, yet Jay chose his father, and pushed  JL’s father in a most hatful way? Feeling one grandfather was all his kids needed. The deviations, the changes one takes to maintain a position within the family structure, when their virtual position is in question: let’s say, the great huge father image is tarnished with the lazy, fat, two-headed rat son-in-law comparison, and when it is given, when his respect is given to the grandfather from his wife’s side, that very same respect the father should be receiving, that he is not receiving, thus comes the harboring of resentment, and bouts of anger, that seem to come out sideways until it no longer can, it hence, comes out straightforward, as evidently, it did. 

       “And back to my boys, their anger cries, it was as if they had as children stepped into a canyon and promised one another, ‘In the future, when we get on top of the mountain, and can look down on our father, we shall,’ they would do this together, henceforth, they encouraged one another in response to their father’s betrayal, what they called betrayal, for the father was the gravity and the bridge and he allowed them to go into foster homes, homes they didn’t want to endure but the homes took his checks once a month, and they used his medical insurance at will, they never sent him back a check, not one, and that all fell into some fifth dimension—costing him 80% of his monthly income, for their love was given to the foster parents, those who got paid to love. And the bridge, they reduced to ruin. He didn’t abandon them, although he did leave them in different hands, while he was in great perplexity, a seriously ill alcohol problem, which he took care of and the house he first bought to take the boys back out of the foster homes, the family he rented it out to for a few months while he got prepared for the big move, their children burnt the whole house down. To the twin boys, it was a thick blizzard thrown upon them. They were all ready for a new journey in life.  And Lee simply stood there forlornly. Confused, distressed, a kick at the dilapidated door of the old burnt house, it flew open, hinges flapped to and fro, and the door collapsed.

       “And now Marge back to Jay, he would not stop to say hello, it was spite and what was left of that bridge he had decided as a lasting measure he would—not so unlike my boys—once and forever, for all mankind’s sake, he would destroy it. My importance, my giving reinforced his decision.
       “And he was so pleased with himself.  He would pass me like a peacock, and to an exaggerated performance. I can remember a few times I pleasantly nodded, —they were testing the water to see if I would stop them from trespassing and I never did, and I just knew things were not going to change when they threw back their shoulders and heads, playing the clown as if to scorn me.
       “They could have walked around the block and have gotten to the bar ten-minutes later, but my yard saved eight, and the malicious pleasure they had for me was irresistible, they had to display it.
       “Well this has been a mouthful Marge, but on another subject, it’s hard to sleep nowadays, not because of Jay or the boys, or JL, or G, rather the slightest noise or glimmer wakes me, disturbs my dreams. But it’s ironical, I need to have music on all night.”

       “What goes on in a mind like Jay’s?” asked Marge, as if it be a rhetorical question, then adding before he could answer “It was as if he needed a scapegoat, and used you to win the affection and pride of his kids, and then got paranoid of you and then of your whole family. Castro does that to America all the time, winning applause by his countrymen, phony as it is, it works.”
       “Perhaps so, but who can see around the corner? I mean, it was a failure of imagination, and that posed enormous wounds on us: not knowing why or when or what: my mother saying ‘What did I ever do to them for them to be so rude to me?’ It was as if he was always chasing the wrong rabbit.”
       “I guess, Lee, what comes to mind is that he didn’t have an agonizing reappraisal of the situation, he wanted to live and let live without you in his shadow!”

       “Being a soldier for a decade, I’ve learned, it’s what you do, when you don’t want peace, you create out of pretense a war! And perhaps he wanted somewhere along the line to get out of it, but it is easier to get into something, than out of it, and so he used my grandkids for blackmail, he even came out and said he had such intentions. Plus, his mind-obstruction, and life’s hardships conceivably caused some of his misfortunes, that’s true, but once he found a friend in John, his co-partner in the thievery of my supplies, he was thereafter never sparing of the tongue. From that time on I couldn’t understand his stand remotely. I had introduced him to John, one day when I needed both of them for repairs.”
       How odd Marge thought, saying but three words: “Ostracism and contradiction.”
       “Yes, a paradox! So Marge, what is your advice?”
       “Simple,” she remarked, “Buy a little oil lamp, hang it on a lamppost outside your house with a poem on it, you like poems so write one that fits the occasion, read it until you get tired of reading it as you walk by it, and then put a match to it.”
       And so right then and there, he wrote the following poem:


After endless exploring I fetched my heart
From the dusk—
Brought it back into the light!
One always takes a certain risk, in doing this:
For our sakes, I tried and missed!

No: 4710 (2-2-2015)     

          “I like the poem,” said Marge, then added furthermore: “When a person learns to condemn, he must learn to pardon as well.”
       “I am no longer famishing to hear anything about anybody anymore that have not stepped into my world out of kindness and respect.”  And he drank down his dark Sumatra cup of coffee with eagerness for more.
       Asked Marge, as if finalizing her curiosity: “If Jay was alive what would he say if I was to interrogate him on his relationship with you, according to how you see it?”
       “Things would surely get entangled, he would tell lies, and he would have backed them up with more lies and on and on, and so forth, as need be,” responded Lee, adding, “is that not obvious?” Lee wincing at the direct question, his friendly tone darkened somewhat, “He was, — you know quite dull-witted. That being so it was also hard to decipher his way of thinking, or reasoning. And I admit I had back then, been almost extravagant with Jay, and that may have given him a more stingy, or perhaps a better word might be, parsimonious approach with me.” 

       ((A long moment of silence took place…) (then thoughts filled his mind, and it was obvious no more could be done: thus, he deliberated, ‘One must follow in his own way,’ so he fabricated in his mind… ‘What can one do with puppyish people? Cobbling is much too menial work for me, I’m too old for the trial and error, to wait and see what works and what doesn’t work, to wait and see how things will turn out: hogwash! Life is now, and you must live it now.’))  

       It appeared to Lee, Jay grew old before his time, looking at his photographs on the Internet just before his death. His face grave and unaware, unlike most men, heavy and bald at forty-one. And then shortly after his death, his father trying to smile for the camera, white whiskers and all, disheveled, heavy looking spectacles bridging his nose, out of date by twenty-years, hands clasped, old before his time, and yet younger than Lee, whom was sixty-seven; his bandana around his forehead, his shirt and trousers, and thin jacket were as if they were from the Salvation Army or Goodwill, and as if he had slept in them. All ambition out of his face, no life or satisfaction, where once there was an arrogant ascendancy; — but he had the love of his grandsons side to side, on each side of him, as if holding him up: it was a pleasant, but sad picture.
       “Well, so much for that. Yet it is questionable if he will himself survive this tragedy,” pondered Lee. For G, Jay was a Giant of a man, not the mouse Lee knew, and I suppose that was not so unlike the memory every father would like to keep of their sons, especially if it is an only son, anything else would be too corrupt to live with: so one lives with the lie, like it or not, and everyone agrees to you how great he was, for your sake, not for truth’s sake, — but only to be remembered by a few, for only a few decades, if that long, and then tossed into the barrel of fragments to be burnt up like old dried out driftwood!
       “When you exit for long periods you create a void,” Lee expressed to Marge. “That’s what I did of course, our external as well as internal worlds we once had—good or bad—become blurred.  The mind seems to slow down concerning what really took place in that old world you once lived in, was it real?   One becomes sensitive to any change, even to the slightest shift in one’s daily routine, as JL has, or did. Figuratively speaking, the weather being my presence, evidently became too dramatic for her. Is this not how JL felt, perhaps?”
       “Do you want any more coffee,” asked Marge, she saw that his cup was empty, and was about to wave the waitress over for a refile herself, knowing Lee loved his coffee strong, and enduring, as she did. “No,” said Lee, then Marge, dropped the idea, seeing a party of tourists at the far-end table,  Cubans, she  contemplated, and Spanish was her second language, and it dawned on her Ernest Hemingway’s novel, “The Old Man and the Sea,” one could not hope to  explain what Lee was trying to achieve with  this last profound effort—like the old man who went out to sea and caught the biggest fish of his life, yet the sharks ate all its surface, skin, flesh, but it was an embodiment of what is noble, he had endured a great tragedy yes,  but she knew like the Old Fisherman, out of grief, sometimes come beauty, and at the end of many a person’s life, comes the greatest of  experiences. Although she didn’t say this to Lee, it was a drawn-out thought, and this was not the end of his story, and how it would turn out, she may never know, but she felt, it would be like the ‘Old Man of the Sea’ or similar.

Marge thought heavily, just how does Lee’s mind work? And she contemplated, having read one of his earlier poems, from one of his books:

With the Silence of Ghosts

When the lowering of all sound starts to dissipate!
When all living things no longer have a voice—
When all things that once did their work with the music of the bells disappear—
When not one single sound can reach the ear!
When all this is gone, and all living things must do their work another way,
This is when one works with the silence of ghosts to reproduce the tick-tack of the cabinet-maker, the shrill cry of the living;
This is when the mind and the ear search within the silence for a door to be opened, answering with words that do not need to be heard…
Like when black clouds gather, and one knows thunder is behind it.

No: 4753/4-14-2015

“Thus,” she concluded in thought, “this kind of thinking brought Lee back to see if the ghosts would produce the tick-tack, needed to open a door long closed!  And his presence, doesn’t look like it will.”

       “Incidentally,” asked Marge, “Have you tried to contact JL’s mother, weren’t they close?”
       Lee looked at her dogmatically, perhaps more on the untrustworthily side, perhaps the look was not meant for her, but it brought up a sore spot, for he got thinking:  what could one expect from such a woman as MJ, who had obviously gone off the rails of sober thinking, a woman one could be sorry for but could not help.  She had written him on the Internet, while in South America just before he left, as if to take up their old friendships again—then finding out he was in South America, and to rely on whatever help she was going to ask from him—she didn’t: perhaps to help JL’s ill son, the infant Jay had visited in the hospital up to the point of his death. Or possibly for burial fees, for Jay’s coffer. In any case, her evidently feeling unsuccessful, took Lee off her friendship list, perchance feeling he would not achieve her objective?  
       “No,” said Lee, taking all this into account, “I think she was embittered by me living in South America, so far away from being able to help her daughter, she disconnected me from her Facebook list, conceivably not out of malice of course, but circumstances; I did feel a little humiliated that she asked where I was, and when she found out I was 6000-miles from Minnesota, well, she had no reason to keep up the correspondence. I have no inkling to find out anymore of her strange thinking it only leads into potholes, I give her my condolence, if she is suffering over her grandson’s illness, but she has shrank from trying to be present for her own sons, and retrospectively, that certainly looks peculiar to me her running after her grandson’s wellbeing, but one can see in her greater determination for JL’s grief, she always had a thing for her daughter more so than her twin boys. And as for me, to her if I was not usable, than I was replaceable. So I’m not surprised, and to your question more directly I add: I have not tried one iota to contact her, and as a result, I have resigned myself to becoming a permanent detachment from her.”

       Lee knew, MJ was, or had been in several mental institutions, he didn’t like talking about it, or telling anyone his ex-wife had major themes dealing with fierce coercions, it had been thirty-five years since. A woman who had uninhibited her husband, children, with her tempestuous manic and depressive episodes, borderline that paralleled madness, and when Lee was helping the kids a decade ago, she had called him to find out whatever she could, he was a tentative hero of sorts; that is to say, when it came to information sought. But  one needed to be on guard, for at the slightest detail she could throw upon him—perhaps anybody—the stem of her ravages, worse than a flood, then run like a fugitive to her little apartment on Larpenter Street, a three-quarter house where there was a nurse twenty-four hours a day, a bed, a free meal once a day, a refuge of sorts, much like the Old Man, the convict in the book: “The Wild Palms”, by Faulkner, who had escaped the penitentiary during a flood, reported dead, and who had come back out of the flood, only to find his way back to his old prison walls where he felt safe, and to have long conversations with his old cellmates, who more often than not read Jessie James dime novels, and alike,  and hide from the rest of the world, thus the prison was a refuge.
        “Well, well,” Lee deliberated, as Marge purred like a cat, looking out the side window and then at the empty cracks in the table, finishing her Trapiche Malbec, from the vineyards of Argentina.  “I can say with surety Marge,” Lee looking at Marge with delight, “I think of MJ with disinterested devotion.” And Lee gave a deep breath of relief, straightening himself to his full height in the restaurant chair. “It’s really kind of an old game with her, the same old game, nothing else.” 
       Both Marge and Lee could hear the outside wind persistently buffeting the windows around the guesthouse, if not one, then another and then one after another, or many of them together, as the wind seemed to shift to and fro, and in the background the music of a harmonica.
       “Well,” said Marge, looking out the window to the side again, and at the forest that surrounded the guesthouse, “Come on! I’ll drive you back to your hotel, it’s getting late.”
       As they rode back to the city in her classic 1960-Chevy, automobile, one could see behind them, and to the sides of them clumps of trees in the dark distance, a railroad crossing they had to cross,  the streets lightly lit up, Lee had told himself sitting there looking about “Our time is up.”

Lee’s Last Glance

   “If he, no they, if they could understand,” said Lee, half questioningly, then in thin air waved his hands at nobody in particular, to show how unthinkable that was. “If he could have only understood me,” repeated the sixty-seven year old man. His eyes considering his daughter’s convictions. “Then we’d be able to come to some agreement on issues, but as it is—” a long pause came, “I must go,” he mumbled to himself, “that’s the only solution. We must rid ourselves of the idea that this is possible. The fact that I desired it for so long is the origin of all my thoughts, troubles, anyhow…” as if she had not come already to this conclusion, and his boys just the same.
        Yes, he was thinking this over, oh yes, to a friend: “If either one was a good friend of mine: Jay, JL, or my two boys,” he contemplated, “my being happily engaged as I wanted to remain with them, should have made them happy too.”  But it was nothing, no, it was worse than nothing, they hid the truth from Lee, and thus, to stir things up, he contemplated more:  “…since his death, Jay’s death, certain things are still being done that aren’t right. Maybe a time will come for mentioning them, — that is, in more detail, but it doesn’t seem like now. I haven’t a heart or eye, or mental stamina for so many things any longer, that’s the curse of time and nature, your natural surroundings become more exacting on you, more trying, they undermine one’s health, I’m just about ready to close this whole affair down, to close it down, to-morrow forever.  And will that do? As for the young, it’s a trivial affair, it’s hardly worth mentioning.  They don’t even notice the change, they think there is time for noticing later, and say with a smug tone, ‘I’m sure you need to rest, come, I’ll help you take off your shoes,’ as if I can’t do it yourself. Wanting to put you out to pasture like a worn out horse.  No, you have no friend on either side of the fence,” so he contemplated as being the most sensible thing.   

The next day, “I wanted to pursue my daughter but we will be able to go on living, living better in each other’s memory, perhaps in some kinder and more honorable way, by my letting go. As it is, we both seem to persecute one another,” talking as if she was next to him, saying ‘adios’ in the only way he knew.  Henceforward, the old man was panting with effort to step up and onto the floor of the plane, he paused to catch his breath…   A woman took his ticket, as if to confirm he knew where he was going.  He nodded his head, and as he searched for his seat, number sixty-seven, he thought about the valley and mountains and the ocean, and no harassment. He was left entirely to himself. In his seat he sat straight back. He was intent on leaving as fast as possible, so he could get back to his writings, and no one would interfere with his progress. Only when the plane was in the air did he turn his head to see his Midwestern hometown completely through the little heavy-duty glass or plastic porthole next to him. And then he rested his neck muscles with a thin pillow on the back of the seat, put in his earplugs, played his four battery durable little Panasonic model (No: RQ-341A), Japanese cassette player —his mother had given him before she passed on, a decade prior—with the old Rock and Roll music of his day. With his legs now stretched out, they had been getting stiff, Lee shifted his mind to how gracious the Lord was, and how damning the Devil could be.

       “Thank heaven, a father doesn’t need to be taught how to see through his daughter, his son-in-law, and his sons.” Lee alleged, descending Atlanta’s airport, where he’d make his next connection. “I would have loved Jay, had he not turned his back on me!” those words went heckling through his brain.  “They were all so innocent, not so long ago, and now all truly devilish human beings.” But nonetheless, the day before Lee had left for Minnesota, he and his wife paid for a mass at the local Catholic Church, for the repose of Jay’s soul; a last gift to a man Lee felt was lower than a stoker.

       Now sitting there on the outskirts of Atlanta, he got to thinking: ‘We strive all or lives to reach some kind of justice, for humanity’s sake, we are all given an open door, but often too often, there are obstacles in the way, like door-keepers that don’t want you to enter into the halls of justice, to prove you have been treated unjust. And when one grows old, and feeble, and too weak to challenge the door-keeper, he shuts and locks the door…  Then it dawns on him: it was never meant for man to get justice here on earth— but try as you will!’ Then with a second thought, ‘Too many people think the devil is merely a scarecrow,  a myth, an old idea, to replace evil, so he can place it on someone else’s back. The devil exists, as do his principalities, they rule forces in the air, and their roots are worldwide, they have a web better than Google, and yet people are blind to demonic activity. The world is in a state of emergency. The occult and the Ouija boards are everywhere, and its curiosity is increasing, perhaps Jay came to this understanding the last days of his life, let’s hope so.’
       And his last thought before he fell to sleep was: “I can’t blame Jay anymore!”


JL ’s Confirmation

Now, as Lee was in flight, JL was with her father-in-law, G, “I mean just what I said,” she told him, and immediately the two had started rubbing their hands, one over the other as if to warm them up, each to his own, or as if they had done something shrewd and crafty, who’s to say! For a long moment in the hallway of JL’s apartment joyfully this body language continued, although hard to read, Lee would have read it the latter of the two statement guesses. Then with a sly look at JL, he put on his hat and said his goodbyes with a suspiciousness unfounded, hearing and now pondering if  Lee was really in the air over perhaps Atlanta by now, and crisscrossing his toes as if it was, and if it was it was a blessing, a true blessing.

       JL decided this day to take a long stroll with her boys, feeling they deserved such a respite—even though her nose still hurt from the accidental sharp nudge it took a while back—during her and her boys’ hiding this past week from their grandpa, it was a nebulous trick, thought one of the boys, but necessary to keep his mother happy, and the ideology set forth by their father, and peace, someone or thing had to be sacrificed, taking the place of a lamb, it was grandpa.
       G. had told everyone how Great, how huge his son was, and she knew her father would simply have countered that with: ‘No, he was more the mouse than a giant, or a giant mouse!’ and that would not do nor help, so it was better this way, plus the boys needed a huge heroic figure to follow in his footsteps. In any case, the boys smiled and were for the most part silent, until properly questioned, at which time, JL started giggling so amiably she could not stop. When the boys both looked at her oddly, she said, “Let bygones be bygones.” The elder of the boys by two years, thought, “Just what does that mean?” but it was just a thought, not spoken. Then she brought up the future. The elder boy was twenty, and had a girlfriend: she thought, as if with her eyes staring at him: they will soon be promised to one another, and then married, how delightful. And she then started dreaming about her future and the grandchildren her two boys’ wives will have given her. Another journey in life she speculated.  And that was all she thought about for a long while, as they strolled up the sidewalk…


The Arrival

       ‘Now Jay is free from violent emotions, no longer is the air heavy from where he walked. He like my sons, were never very glad to know I was in a good position. Was all she thought about for a long while, as they strolled up the sidewalk… all Rice Christians? Of course they will get nothing upon my death— only too clearly can I state this. Even if they repented for their evil deeds, let them remain seated in their armchairs watch their favorite television shows, lips tightly pressed together, silent as they were when their grandmother died, my mother. As I remember to my recollection. My love for them has slipped into a mournful sweetness—
       ‘I have poured out my grief in thought and talk as I have done to Marge, and read. Given full vent to it. What have I discovered?  Only when you hear the rattle of the rattle snake, it’s too late!
       ‘As for me, the children are dead, whose tomb I know not where. Tranquil and resigned has my affection for them now become. The old will die—that’s the reality of life’s events, and when I do, they will hear of it, fling open the door, or the window wide open and say to themselves “Surely I have fallen in for an inheritance… I am his flesh and blood.” Yet the bum on the streets treat me with more respect. And they will stumble in the dark to hear the will but I will not leave them even a washtub to clean their murky bodies in. There can be nothing, anymore certain than this. If they think otherwise, they live with the vividness of a hallucination.
       ‘Peremptorily, I say this with a sad, deep earnestness.’

        This all of course was coming out of Lee as if in an intoxicating dream while on the plane from Atlanta to Peru, half asleep. Like an architect drawing up a plan he mapped out his life and part of theirs beforehand. And so deeply was he buried in the contemplation of these things that he lost sight of all external objects until the plane landed in Lima, at which time he heard from the intercom: directed to undue his seatbelt, the plane had landed, and everyone but him were standing up and departing.  He pulled up the coach window in order to get a view of the airport, and slowly regained his composure.
       As he stepped off the plane names and faces zoomed through his cerebellum, CG, G, Jay, JL, S Lee, the Becks, his two grandchildren, Marge, all clumped together, he was not fully awake.  He seemed to have bumped into several shoulders spontaneously, apologized to them, and moseyed about his way. So much had the old man’s heart been relieved by the feeling of letting go, as his mind had procured all this in REM sleep, happiness possessed him.
       The crowd of people caused an obstructing going through customs.
       The Pacific Ocean was of a black-dark-blue color. A cool breath of air come from it, once in the parking lot, Lee inhaled it, with utmost energy which to him contained the effluvia of love. His long dream of thinking this and that out on the plane was like a tepid wind, with a sensation of extreme relief. Lee was tired, more tired than a plant saturated with heat and moisture. His eyelids half closed.
       “Ah!” he cried out, “my wife” waving at him from afar in the parking lot. And as he got closer, there was a group of people with him, his Peruvian family: his three Godchildren, his three sister-in-laws, their husbands, and the two priests from the local church, and Sister Marleny, he had formed a new family and this was but half of it, and they all loved him deeply, they all kissed and hugged him. His nose a little retroussé, he must have looked to them in a disordered appearance. Their love was unconditional, they had no twisted old hates for him, unlike his Minnesota family.


Mantaro Valley
(Lee’s Return)

At long last Lee was back in South America among the many companions he had made in the past decade. He threw himself back into his old routine. And what had been so far away was all at once, seemingly so near—: bodies moving poetically here and there, as if at a cadence of bouncing syllables.  Behind him people were nudging him to pass right and left, back and forth, and his Peruvian wife clutching his hand, as to not lose him in the crowd?
       The Mantaro Valley is deep and wide, set against the pressing and towering Andes, and Lee, he found himself standing stone-still in the Plaza de Arms, near the old cathedral,  spoke to the overshadowing mountains, as often he had done in the past upon his return, —almost eye to eye with the sun…
       “I’m back,” he said.
       “That’s no surprise,” said the voice of the tallest mountain, inside Lee’s head, “It is not by pure chance you came back you know, it’s your home.”
       The Mountain’s voice was as if encouraged by his return, and quite friendly, because he wasn’t a big talker like most Wankas, and so when he did speak, it was a special occasion.
       Lee was panting from the thin air being up so high, always upon his return this distressed him, he had to readjust to Huancayo; it usually took a few days, that’s why his heart got enlarged, so the doctors proclaimed.
       “We know,” began a conversation by the oldest of the surrounding mountains, “that you and your Wanka wife, even though she likes Lima more than here, would come back.”
       “Yes,” said Lee, “mountain folk are more understanding, warmer than North Americans.”
       “I know,” said the smallest mountain of the group, “not a spark of understanding I bet!”
       Then Lee’s wife struck from her silence, “Tell them they kept you longer than I cared for you to be gone Lee, I bet they’ll understand.” And Lee did explain that they hadn’t been separated in fifteen years more than three days total, on three different occasions, making that twenty-four hours per separation.
       Said the oldest mountain, “Tell your wife, it is a misfortune even to be separated one day, save a week or more, I can’t imagine myself being gone for a second!” And Lee verbalized what the Old Mountain said.
       “You see Lee,” said Delilah, “he understands!”
       “The mountains in the valley here are cleaver, they always take the side of the Wanka women.” Said Lee.
       “Yes,” said Delilah, “they would agree with that I’m sure. And how about your daughter? How was the trip?”

       ((And Lee thought: ‘In less than half a century who will care, or give a damn, it will long be forgotten, and we who now live will all be dead and long forgotten by those then living, and all this will be of little consequence, and then perhaps we’ll all meet on some sunny beach of some paradise island in heaven, and have a good laugh, or scolding of how foolish and unforgiving we all acted once upon a time. On the other hand, by some unfortunate chance, perhaps we’ll all meet in some devil’s den, and have much to ponder on!’)(And Lee’s second thought was: ‘what little reading Jay did, he found time to read the ‘Devil’s Jest-book,’ but then, don’t us all. And his third thought was: ‘And so this is the end of my story, it now recedes into the unknown and endless depths beyond recall, or so it will, far at the end of ages to sort out, —this is all about: once about a time we lived on a huge ball in space: Jay, me, JL, G, the twins, my mother, MJ, Mr. and Mrs. Beck and all the characters in my story I haven’t mentioned. That’s how it will be looked at in a very short period. File closed.’))

In any case, Lee simply said out loud to his wife, “It was a chapter, one you might call a passage of no importance,” and she asked, with no more interest: “I’d like some helado!” And Lee looked around the plaza area for the ice-cream man; thereafter, in a sleeplike condition surrounded by the beautiful Andes, in the heart of the Mantaro Valley, Lee and his life lived to a ripe old age.

Written: 2-26-2015 thru  5-16-2015/10     (No1078)

End of the Novel

Note: Definition of Poet Laureate: A poet acclaimed (and appointed) as the most excellent and most representative of a locality (or group); and honored for his poetic excellence.
Dr. Dennis L. Siluk has received such acclaim, close to twenty times!

Back of Book

The Book, “A Great Perhaps,” is a bittersweet herb, the protagonist Lee, is seeking Divine Grace? —or perhaps it is absolution for something he is unaware of? Is he saying ‘I was not so good a father but I was a good Grandfather? Until it was taken away from me’; thus, is he yelling ‘injustice?’ It’s all questionable.  Lee makes passionate attempts to reach out which leads him into a series of encounters of extraordinary thought. There is no hero here, although there is trivial and continuous suspense. We have, Lee’s bewilderment and moments of purest humor, in this strange story, and Lee’s passionate attempts to reach out leads to a most interesting extraordinary character. That is, the novelette symbolizes the playing out of symbolic values of man. And, the powerful sweep of the narration holds the reader’s attention. There is a touch of magic realism, with a near comic dream or subconscious melodramatic ending. It is a story of mischance and injustice. Lee does not know the reason ‘why’, and all those he encounters are only observers with little more than ill-informed deductions.  Lee refuses to allow what he cannot control, have control over him; therefore, to disregard it.

This is Dr. Siluk’s 49th book; he is from St. Paul Minnesotan.