Hiram Fletcher had a seemingly impossible task. Even as the dust settled on the city of his birth after the unspeakable horror of two airplanes explosively hitting the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the Bureau of Information had assigned him to get an accounting of the victims.
Oh, there were people getting the names of the fallen and the First Responders who bravely went in to the buildings as other hurriedly rushed out. An easier task than befell Hiram.
He couldn’t figure out why the information he sought would have any bearing or historic significance on the tragedy. Fletcher needed to find out what political affiliation these people held.
When he hit the streets he saw the devastation. And the depression and the utter disbelief that something so illogical could befall New York City and reverberate throughout America. But he had an assignment and his duty to his superiors drove him onward.
“Excuse me, Sir?” Hiram approached a gentleman clutching a photograph of a woman with two children. “Have you lost someone?” he absent-mindedly asked.
“Are you with the government?” the man started holding out his portrait. “My wife? Have you seen my wife?”
His tears fell. His words coming in thick sobs.
His friend and partner. His wife; the mother of his two children. Nowhere to be found.
“No sir, no I haven’t seen her. Could you tell me something?” Hiram said almost afraid to ask. “What was you wife’s party affiliation?”
The man looked at Hiram incredulously.
“Wha… my wife’s par… YOU SON OF A BITCH! FUCK YOU!”
The man stormed off glancing back at Hiram briefly before continuing.
Hiram felt the piercing thrust of the man’s painful daggers gouge out a piece of his heart. He went in search of another survivor.
A woman stood motionless. A blank stare filled her eyes. Looking for the towers of that impressive landmark.
“They’re not there” she mumbled. “The towers… they’re… gone!” she turned to Hiram. The pain that resided upon her face made Hiram move on to find another person.
He found a firefighter, dust encrusted and composing himself for another foray into the mire.
“Can I help you sir?” the First Responder asked.
“I’m… um, with the Bureau of Information. Can I… um, ask you…” Hiram started as the young man rose to stand.
“Look, I’d love to answer your questions, but right now I have to get back there. My brother is missing. I have a lot of “brothers” missing here.”
“Just one question? Your brother was he affiliated with any political party?” Hiram blurted.
The Responder exhaled deeply. “Buddy, let me give you some information for free. Don’t go around asking that question of too many people. People have died here. Friends, and brothers and wives; husbands. Fine people all! Does it matter if they were Republican or Democrat or whatever? Leave it be!”
And he walked away.
Hiram proceeded to perform his job finding much truth in the firefighter’s words. He walked all afternoon meeting the same resistance. Fletcher’s report would be a surprise to his supervisor.
There were no Republicans killed in the tragedy. No democrats fell silent. The number of Conservatives and Liberals were equal. Zero.
His breakdown was very brief and spoke volumes.
The people who died were Americans.
Attached to the report, Hiram Fletcher included his resignation. What did it matter?
His eyes are tired. Bleary and bloodshot, not at all seeing clearly. His wife had forsaken him hours ago; she did not compete with his mangled muse.
Porchette was an artist of some renown who was found completely by accident. He had not meant to create. He meant to repair the damage he had inflicted upon the gallery piece he had fallen through in his drunken stupor. His repairs were futile. But his eye was remarkable.
His recompense came when he had been commissioned to paint a piece in its stead. His inspiration was a celebration; a gathering of friends to fete his accomplishment. But after he had completed himself and Azraella (his wife), Porchette ran out of models to reproduce.
His time ran short; a deadline approached. Porchette’s angular rendering of his corner of the empty room stirred many emotions. His absurdity expressed in oils with the charming title, was another piece that had been a master stroke. The corks flew and vintage poured.
Azraella did not like a sloppy drunk. But, she did not compete with his mangled muse.
So what that my umbrella overturned! There’s is something cleansing… purging about a good downpour. It washes my soul. It bouys my spirit. It seeps into the hole in my shoe and soaks my socks. And that makes me feel funny.
There she comes in her yellow rain slicker. The Gorton Fisherman in drag: Jane St. Claire. Every morning she approaches the bus stop precisely forty seconds before it appears. She grabs the seat behind the driver. Sweet Jane plants her nose into the next Great American Tome she has in her handbag. I nod hello; she curtly smiles. We go seperate ways.
But, the rain is heavy today. And this confounded umbrella amuses the fair lady. The smile that beams forth makes my heart sing. It makes my heart dance.
And Jane laughs as I struggle with my mishapened contraption. And I laugh with her, doing the only thing that comes to mind. I dance. Feet tapping a splashing rhythm through puddle and stream. Twirling around the lamp post. Tugging my cap over my ears. Spinning with umbrella thing extended. Running at the wall.
I hear her gasp, a fortunate breath held in her chest. Determination lacing my face, and I race; brick edifice nearing and I’m hearing her insist.
“NO!” Jane St. Claire shouts as my right foot plants upon the baked red blocks.
Propelling myself upward, I launch into a backflip and land firmly on the wet pavement.
“Bravo!” I hear softly from close behind. “But, you’ve made us miss our bus!” Jane concluded.
And so I had. The tail lights got smaller in the distance and muted by the precipitous haze. The least I could do was buy her breakfast. Jane St. Claire and I danced to the “Coffee Pot”. It just seemed the natural thing to do.
His father made it look so easy!
Push these up and down, and the music comes out there.
Nothing. Nathan watched his dad play in the otherwise silent night. Sweet fluid music; a brass lullaby could bring a tear to your eye. Someday, Nathan would play.
His audience was not captive. They could get up and leave at anytime Nathan wanted to pick them up and put them away. Someday, he’ll play.
His bears cheered a raucous silent applaud. They were awed by Nathan’s determination. The young musician stood and bowed, his father’s trumpet tucked securely under his arm. They knew in their fuzzy-wuzzy hearts that someday, Nathan will play.
Just not today!
Dr. Elizabeth Rossi was a caring soul. Recently retired from a prestigious career at the Sloan-Kettering Institute, she had been grounded in aiding humanity. She never did it for the recognition. She just felt good about it.
On a recent visit to one of the clinics her foundation had established, Dr. Rossi had met Anika,an orphaned victim of the civil war that had ravaged the countryside. The young girl brought the doctor to a special place.
“This is Peace Garden” Anika began. “People of my village have planted these flowers. The hope is that peace will flourish where flowers are allowed to grow.”
Elizabeth was touched by her dedication to the betterment of their interrupted lives. She walked with Anika, enjoying the site of such misplaced beauty, and the company the young girl provided. They walked to a point in the garden that caused Dr. Rossi and her friend to stop.
“What of these bells?” the doctor inquired.
“Those “spirit” bells. They ring to honor the spirits of the casualties of our people.” Anika explained.
The hour reached noon. A silent attendant came up the road and bowed in the solitude to the two women. He began to tap upon the bells. The sweetest sound emitted from his percussion. One tone for each life lost.
The young girl bowed her head out of respect. Dr. Rossi upon seeing this, did the same. The birds ceased their song. The breeze rustled the foliage. And the bells chimed in commemoration of the fallen. The feeling was indeed peaceful.
Dr. Rossi did not feel remorse. There was a placid sense to this “Peace Garden”. For obvious reasons, Dr. Rossi loved this place. She just felt good about it.
I stood in the center of what had been our kitchen. No refrigerator hummed. No lights flickered. The faucet in the sink still dripped and its tympani resounded in the otherwise silence. And the realization hit me like a bag of ice. This was the day. The last day.
I inhaled, taking in as much of this place as my lungs could hold. Making last ditch memories of the aromas that lingered. The grease and delectable edibles that mother had provided to fill and nurture us. With my eyes closed I could faintly hear her voice in the place that was her home for longer than I could ever have hoped.
The dog’s dish sat empty. Her toy peeking from beneath the stove. The cuckoo clock intoning the passing of time, reminded me to get along with it. I followed the sound into the dining room.
The rug had been crisply steamed looking out of sorts for a house that held my five brothers and sisters, a Grand-father, and my parents. Not the worst for wear, hungry for furniture to repossess their positions; all a bad joke. I could hear my breathing loudly; the rest of our former home sat silent.
I peeked into Mom and Dad’s bedroom. Hoping to find their memory replaced by their presence, but only the essence of them lingered. I fingered the wall sconce; too elegant for our humble homestead. Into the living room I wandered.
Dad’s mural continued to hang on the far wall, framed and illuminated, offering a sense of peace in this harried visit. Paneled on one wall; faux brick on the other. Dad had his peculiarities. I will miss these the most.
One last stop. Into the double rooms my brothers and I shared. These memories hung the thickest. Recollections of talks and adornments that meant the boys were home and the world was right. But sadly, not tonight. Another chime; had another hour passed so quickly?
Nothing else to see. All memories stored safely in my heart and head. I pull the door closed behind me one more time. The wood made a solid sound. It was secured. Down the three steps to the back door landing, I’m standing inches away from never seeing her again. This door settles softly against the jamb. My hand clutching a hearty refusal to release the knob. My key slides in too easily; it turns too quickly.
I remove the key for the last time out of the door of my father’s house. I drop the key through the mail slot and beat a hasty retreat down the drive. I don’t look back as tears flow.