epilogue 

Chapter 44

            Like the kitsch statuary posed around Morris’s cash register—now

     including Mae West and her parasol, recent inductees—the chucks, as if statues

     themselves, perched on their haunches atop a simple dresser in a simple room.

     Light and breeze entered the room unevenly through windows on three sides of

     the rectangle. Both spirits passed through sheer curtains that seemed to

     shimmy and shake like the leaves and the crops outside. The light was

     buffered but shadowed and shined nonetheless.

            The attention of the chucks was the heaving mass of bedding in the

     middle of the room before them. It rose and fell like the leviathan. It made

     deep and guttural sounds, sometimes rhythmic and sometimes abrupt. The

     chucks might shift or twitch a bit but their wonder of this inexplicable beast

     remained focused.

            Its tempo accelerandoed as its volume crescendoed, and then it exploded

     like the clanging of an old firehouse bell with all the activity attendant such an

     event.

     Murmurs turned to howls, and light, breeze, the bed, and maybe all existence

     quaked for a time without measure.

            Scared the bejeezus out the chucks. By way of an open middle draw,

     they jumped from the dresser and skedaddled from the room, moving faster

     than one might think a groundhog could go. It looked like the final seconds

     of a Three Stooges short when the film is sped up for dramatic effect.

            Now the beast was still. Only the curtains moved and only the leaves

     murmured.

                                                       “Aw, Bo.”

                                                “Can I sleep now?”                                  

 

            Wouldn’t you know it. Miles cleaned up the trailer that the chucks had

     so terminally trashed. There was a component here or a doodad there which

     could not be resurrected, but Miles compiled a detailed list of such things

     and a few more, submitted them to Henry (the liaison for the crew) who

     slipped them into the breast pocket of his tailored sport coat with a half

     wink and a quarter bow. In two short weeks, a flock of boxes marked NASA

     showed up at the P.O. Miles and Henry (who Miles never called Hank)

     became more than friends. Henry had spent most of his adult life in what

     was too often referred to as intelligence, and now in the presence of Miles,

     the unkempt, malodorous, snorting dog-faced boy, Henry faced intelligence,

     real, formidable, and ferocious. And in the shape of a federal employee no less.

     To say they stuck to one another would only be a start.

            Henry’s extreme intelligence, realized as a child, though always

     providing advancement only served to isolate and alienate him. His current

     position as liaison for the witness protection program (WPP) – heartland

     division, provided Henry vast stretches of solitude which he treasured right

     up to his first interaction with Miles. For Miles, excepting the diversion of

     the past couple of months, his experience was as a mirror image to Henry’s.

     No one knew or understood exactly what they spoke about for hours without

     end, but it was in a way worrisome. If these two were planning to rule the

     world, it just might happen.

            With help from Butch from the filling station, and the addition of the

     care packages from NASA, and the loan whenever needed of one of Jesse’s

     flatbeds, the trailer became a mobile soundstage. How is that even possible?

     Butch also had an old school bus in perfect working order parked behind the

     filling station. This he contributed as well. Celia would now drive the freshly

     painted school bus back to NYC and pick up as much of the Great Ape Theater         Co as she could muster and bring free Shakespeare to the heartland. Henry               wrote some expeditious grants, so everyone was getting paid, Miles set up the         itinerary with the help of other similarly situated P.O.s and there we are: “Billy           Shakes the Prairie.” If you just speak a touch more slowly, there’s nothing                   antique or incomprehensible about Lear or Macbeth or Mid-Summer’s Night             Dream. Never was. Never will be. Folks ate it up. Something new, ’magine that.         What can’t become a wondrous place?

            A tear forms in the corner of an eye. Its path to freedom determined

     by the tear that went before. Down the side of the nose and on around the

     lips to Phil’s chin. The tears don’t hit the floor but instead land on his shoes.

     He sees no point in controlling their flow as Tosca’s aria has only just begun:

 

                                         Vissi d’arte, vissi d’amore,

                                 non feci mai male ad anima viva!

 

                                      I lived for my art, I lived for love,

                                     I never did harm a living soul!

 

            Harold knew the aria by heart and better than that. His accompaniment

     rose and fell with the breath of the inspired soprano who gave it life.

     Her life. Would the floorboards beneath the pews, full to capacity now,

     hold the stain of salt water or its mark of baptism.

            If Miles and Henry wrote a grant to get funding for a bowling alley on

     the side of a hill, bet your Daddy’s watch they would get it. Phil visited some

     colleges in range that had music programs and creamed them for singers as

     needed. If roles could not be filled, Phil or Celia or Jesse would fill in.

     Truth be told, Jesse believed himself born to be Marcello now that his

     voice dropped to a comfortable baritone.

            Celia provided intensive coaching in stage direction to Phil. Really

     the rules of that craft didn’t apply so much, since there barely was a stage,

     and you could only enter or exit from one direction, at least until the thing

     was renovated for “multi-purpose” use. Phil applied himself brilliantly and

     Harold addressed him as “Maestro.” The wives were not enthusiastic at first

     about the boys getting their opera company in Ardensville, but once they

     were doing hair and make-up for the productions, the shop was busier for

     the folks who were coming to town to see the opera shows. Win win win!

     Go ahead, guess who did costumes.

 

            Heavy coats and hats hanging on the backs of chairs tell us it is a

     cold night out there. But here in the bar, the production crew is warm and

     safe. The door is solid and the window to the outside is tip-toe height.

     Safe and warm. No TVs or jukebox wearing through the same 10 tunes.

     The undersized pool table is not in use. The light is on, but no one’s home.

     At this hour, no one could see straight enough to hit the cue ball let alone

     anything else.

            The bartender does not belt out “last call.” Slowly and in his fashion

     he busses the tables and tells patrons—some by name—in sotto voce, “Let’s

     get home before sun-up now.” Last drinks go back and down, and the empty

     bottles and glasses are placed on the bar in a kind of salute to Joseph, the

     host of this brick and panel corner of contentment.

            A last group of six or so get their coats on and head for the door. They

     call good night to Joe, who is already counting out facing the register.

            A damp wind blows back at them as they jump to hail cabs on

     Lower Broadway, New York City.

  "Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."