The sun rested behind the great green hills and left the sky as an open gaping wound, bleeding starlight unto the dimmed landscape. A cloak of fog enveloped a stone castle rising from the highlands. From his stone tower watched an old nobleman.
Waves wash upon its muddy banks like the incessant beating of the Crescent City’s heart. Like eternal applause for the drama, with all its shadowy plots and subplots unfolding in the decadent world of the French Quarter. No one escapes its influence, New Orleans. One might curse or spurn or dismiss it with the contempt of a religious zealot, but deny it—no. It floats like an island unto itself, a world shaped by half a millennium of vibrant tenancy.
There is no loneliness like a
gray park in autumn when you’re young,
in high school, with a history paper due Monday
and tests and SAT’s and girls
who won’t talk to you, girls
you want nothing more
than to hold in your arms.
It was December 2, 1948 and a Carroll County farmer led two visitors to the garden behind his house. He stopped when he got to a hollowed-out pumpkin. The farmer stooped down, reached inside the pumpkin and brought forth a small item wrapped in wax paper, handing it to one of the visitors.
The green summer apples litter the grass within the long U shaped driveway, all loose gravel, all dirt and stone. Off you go in the sun, four of you racing around the gravel driveway, cutting in and out, sliding the corners, pedaling fast. Gravel is flying; dust kicks up; slamming slapping spinning sliding wheels. Fast, faster. At once the wheels tangle; two bikes go over in the curve of the U. You’re thrown off; over the handlebars; your face hits the gravel; your face slides, slides. You stop, roll over and lie there.
Maggie Stuart crouched in a corner of the closet in her bedroom. She was six years old, so none of the hanging garments were long enough to cover her, to hide her. She bent her knees and pulled them close to her chin, inhaling and exhaling slowly and quietly. If she remained very still, he might not suspect that she was home from school.
The front door opened. Maggie could hear voices coming from the kitchen, her father shouting that he worked a long shift and why was it so much to ask to find a cold beer waiting for him.
The phone call came just after 4 AM. A few hours earlier, a few thousand miles away, Sergeant Daniel Halton had been killed in action.
Captain Stoss answered, already aware of what was coming.
“0500? I’ll be there.”
He quickly got out of bed and walked over to the closet, taking soft steps to avoid waking Sara. His dress uniform was ready, thankfully. Quietly, he took it out of the closet, gripping the hooked end of the coat hanger tightly to make sure the uniform stayed crisp and unwrinkled inside its protective jacket.
The summer sun beat down on the lawn of the house down the road and I can see my grey house up the road, and my neighborhood friends are here, and we are playing ball. And there is adult screaming coming from my house. First male, then female, then male, then female, and so forth. It is sounding down the road. It is sounding around the whole neighborhood. It is wound all around me. It has me tangled—all tangled. The screaming and sunlight wind together in a white hot dance.
The sound of the stones skipping along the water could only be heard by those who stood at the shore. Oliver Harmonie stood at the far end of the shore, skipping stones in the direction of his family’s private cabin – known simply to the members of the Harmonie family as The Cabin. After three or four or sometimes five skips, each stone fell into the water, never making it to the other side.
Bob Geldof, the often outspoken rock star from the Boomtown Rats, on a recent trip to his native Dublin related the story of a conversation he had with a taxi driver on the deplorable state of the domestic economy. The pair apparently chatted for a time before the taxi driver summed up the situation with a sigh of resignation grumbling that “we Irish were never meant to be rich”. Geldof was somewhat amused, but also clearly irked by this remark.