Wednesday, June 9, 2010

4 Is the Perfect Number?

As I said, this past weekend I went to Rockaway Beach with some friends. On Saturday, we spotted a picturesque French family wading in the waves.  I had initially spotted the wife, thinking she was a beautiful au pair for some rich Upper East Side family, but alas she was a Frenchman's French wife.  The perfection of this family can not be emphasized enough and luckily, my friend, the artist Janelle Sing, took this candid shot.

Speaking of groups of four, or something like that, I am seriously looking forward to Game 4 of the NBA Finals. Game 3 was rather frustrating due to the officiating as well as the sloppy level of play of both teams and the somewhat baffling coaching decisions by Doc Rivers at the end of the fourth quarter.  It seemed like both teams were effected by the short time between games and the hefty coast to coast travel.  However, they played their asses off.  It was one of the most hard fought basketball games I have seen in a very long time.  I have a feeling the Celtics are going to come out roaring next game. Garnett had a big game last night, but to win games, they don't need him to score big, they need Allen and Rondo to score big.  If those two are on, then the Celtics will win. They only need Garnett and Pierce for defense and to give them a little bit of scoring - that's it.  Trust me.  However, its hard to argue that they don't need help from Garnett or Pierce when Ray Allen goes 0-13 from the field (0-14 is you count the layup he missed after he was called for an offensive foul).

Since we are the subject of the number four, a third point I would like to make tonight is that you should check out this blog.  Very good stuff if you are a Bob Dylan fan.  Seek out some reviews from Self Portrait while you are there; best Dylan album of all-time.

This has been a hectic week at work, so I apologize for the lack of content.  We may not get a podcast up this week, but I am trying to get back on track.  In the meantime, while we are talking about perfection, here is the next installment of From Here to the Last Mound of Dirt.

“So, what do you make of that?” Ed Verlaine asked. “What do you make of him? I thought that was good.”

Jack Simmons nodded.

“After all your pointing, all you’re gonna do is nod?”

Jack Simmons nodded once more.

Ed Verlaine laughed.  He picked his shovel up and drove the spade into the grass.

“What do you want me to say?” Jack asked, raising his right eyebrow.

“I don’t know,” Ed said. “That you knew him or something.  That there was a reason you were pointing at him like he were an example of something.”   

“No,” Jack said. “There is no reason.  He’s just an old man.  I knew he would have something to say.”

Ed swung the shovel to his right shoulder.  His forearm felt damp. A faint chemical smell came to his nose and then quickly faded.

“You knew he would have something to say?” Ed smiled. “How did you know that?”

“I just did.”

“Why? Because it is a funeral?  Because he’s old? Because all of these people we watch putting coffins and urns into the ground have something to say? They all look sad and important.  This isn’t even a funeral in the cold and the rain where the people are wearing blowing trench coats. You know those look even more dramatic.”

Jack turned to the mourners, the casket and the mound of dirt they would soon be shovelling to fill in the hole, which they had dug the evening before in the fading drizzle and mist.

“Something in him reminded him of me.” Jack paused. “Are you happy with your questions?”

Ed locked his hands on top of the wood end of the shovel. “Do you want a cigarette?”

Jack shook his head.

Ed took the loose cigarette out of his pocket, raised it up, holding it by the filter, brought it close to his lips and then slid it out, up and behind his ear.

“It is damn hot,” Ed said.  “Where’d you get that haircut?”

Jack Simmons looked down. “Place by my house.”

“Yeah, I should cut mine short.”

Jack pulled his spade handle close to the break of his chest and faced the funeral.

Ed Verlaine exhaled smoke. The purple shine on the round edges of his father’s car came to him.  The orange and sepia that came through the windows of the car.  He remembered his father’s profile, the trapped heat in the car and the rolls of grey highway unfurling and shaking in front of them.

“What are you looking for out here, Jack?”

Jack Simmons held his posture straight, his legs spread slightly and poised.

“I don’t know what I’m doing out here,” Ed continued. “I don’t know what I’m looking for or if I’m even looking for anything.  But you, you’re trying for something out here.”

Jack remained silent.

Ed pulled on his cigarette and exhaled. “Alright. No more questions,” his words were softened and rounded by the tobacco smoke. “We’ll just keep on watching. We’ll just keep on watching and then fill in the hole.  Isn’t that right, partner?”

Jack Simmons rotated his shoulder blades back in a close circle. He did not respond.

Ed remembered the wheels of his father’s car and the feel of the leather.  The look of the green trees on the side of the highway as the yellowed and towering buildings of Queens began to rise through and around them, and further Manhattan lay like upside down icicles.  There were no girls then, no trails of snow and melted ice.  It was only sun, the heat like the heat on the legs of his uniform, and his father’s profile.

Ed looked over Jack’s shoulder to the casket.

“Look,” he said. “There’s the redhead.”

Jack Simmons turned his head to the side, giving one eye to Ed Verlaine.

The girl with the crimson hair stood at the casket, her hair curling down in two even fans on each of her slightly raised shoulders. The cars in the harbor parking lot would scrape sand under their tires as they pulled out of the parking lot and onto the road.  After summer rainstorms, the sand stuck and made a smoother sound against the tires before they hit the puddles in the road.  The clouds would slowly break purple and then the crimson came out behind the purple and over the green that edged the harbor water.

Jack breathed in deeply and clenched his hands into fists. The girl was more of a woman.

“I’ve been in heat and humidity this bad – maybe worse,” the redhead said.  “I was in Croatia in late August the summer after I graduated from college.  Mom actually paid for the whole trip to Europe.  I’m sure dad did as well, but she came to me and told me that the trip was from her.  She never did things like that, so I always figured that she meant it.”

The girl with the crimson hair stopped.  She breathed, folding her posture in slightly, her arms turning.  Her eyes were fertile.

“I took a picture of a girl there, in Croatia in Dubrovnik.  She was nine years old or ten.  She wore a faded purple dress and poked a little white flower into one of the white city walls.  With the light of the sun and the whites of the flower and the wall, the dress became more than purple – it became a new color I could only take a picture of. And I did immediately.  The first photo she didn’t notice and she was so curious of the flower and the way it hit the wall.  Then she saw me and started smiling and laughing.  I smiled and laughed with her and took the pictures and I even shook her little hand afterward and asked her in bad Croatian if she were my friend.  She nodded.”

The redhead shook her head and looked down.  Ed Verlaine knew of plenty of girls who had studied abroad.  They came back with short haircuts and different shoes and talked about men they had loved.  In the end, they still walked the same paths with him, still liked to get drunk and make love to boys instead.  But they knew something he didn’t know, maybe knew what they wanted better than him.  They did still talk to him and drink beers with him – but they moved away from him, just as they had moved to that other continent.  Their worlds unravelled around him and reformed.

Ed pulled towards the white freckled filter.

The girl with the crimson head shook her head once more, slowly and, slowly, lifted it again.  Tear streaks marked her cheeks.

“What this story has to do with mom, with her dying, or with her life with dad and with us, I don’t know.  I just remember that little girl and how I felt that must have been how mom always saw me: poking around in things, smiling, innocent, cute, but with something sinister behind it.  Maybe she just knew all that and loved me for some reason – because she was my mom. And I know that I loved her and I tried to show her.  But what do you do? Sometimes you just can’t show her.”

She raised her right hand, hinged, to her nose.  She shook the crimson.  Breathing out she smiled and put her hands at her side.  The clouds passed over the sun.  The afternoon was stretching and Jack noticed the cicadas for the first time.  He hoped the rain would not come.

“I’m sorry,” the redhead said. “That I am rambling on like this.  I can usually hold it together.”

Ed looked over and the priest was nodding at the redhead. He looked at her with some kind of empathy.

“This has been a long few days,” the redhead continued, her smile carrying into her voice. “I know that mom liked that picture of the little girl.  I know that she probably liked all my pictures, even with her discerning mind.  I’m a photographer and I think I love taking photos.  I’ve been to Dubrovnik in the heat and to Siberia the freezing cold and taken picture of a dog’s funeral.”

The girl with the crimson hair turned to the priest.  The priest nodded piously and held out both of his hands.  The girl turned, shaking the fans of her crimson. She smiled, her eyes wide and unfocused; intent on something unseen, but present. “I’ve taken a lot of pictures.   But I don’t think I will ever understand the rest.”

Her eyes became dark with focus once more.  The clouds moved past and the sun slanted down intermittently.  The world was a fishbowl.  The girl with the crimson hair began to cry and the tears fell in rolls and not in streaks.  Jack felt the heat inside each of his nostrils.  She moved from the casket with her hands folded in front of her by her waist and her hair swishing behind.  The priest took her place by the casket, keeping his hands outstretched.

“Some girl,” Ed Verlaine said.

Jack lifted his shovel to his shoulder and raised an eyebrow.

“Time, isn’t it?” Ed asked, bouncing his spade from one shoulder to the other across his body.

1 comment:

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