"He saw very clearly how all his life led only to this moment and all after led to no where at all. He felt something cold and soulless enter him like another being and he imagined that it smiled malignly and he had no reason to believe that it would ever leave."-Cormac McCarthy
6 May 2009
"The world is grown so bad, that wrens make prey where eagles dare not perch."-Shakespeare
Scylla sits and waits. He hates waiting but years of professional necessity had taught him the lesson of doing nothing while appearing calm, innocent. He sits in the bar of the New Orleans airport early morning sipping slowly from a scotch, extra ice extra water. Those great hands on the bar as he watches through the mirror over the bottles waiting for his son to try and sneak up on him as the lad is want to do. No boy, no ride home yet.
He arrived at 0700hrs; no son. After some time and no answer from Alec's telephone Scylla decided to sit and wait and have a drink to keep his wild temper in check. Alec was probably sleeping off a late night, no worries as Scylla had a few of those in his past, not in the recent forever but he had them.
This weekend is a balls up and a bust by any measure. Scylla's daughter, Patri, is graduating college so the line up of pain goes thusly; his ex-wife who hates him and her snotty, spoiling for a fight boyfriend, his ex-inlaws who think even less of him, his parents with whom he has not spoken in some years; anyone from an Irish Catholic family would understand these internecine battles of blood that signify nothing. The saving grace was that Scylla would get to see and love all three of his children and then he would return to Oahu with his son.
Scylla begins calling his son's friends to no answer. Then his telephone rings, it is 0947hrs, Scylla takes note. The caller ID reads MS STATE. Now what? "Hello, Scylla?, Listen this is Butch and I have some bad news. You know I wouldn't do this over the telephone but the police are on their way to your Father's house so here it is: your boy was hurt last night, early this morning, hurt bad..."
"Is he dead?"
"Yes." A moment, a second, no time at all to anyone else.
Butch is the county coroner. They have worked together in the recent past. Scylla can not remember the rest of the conversation, only thinking later how strange it was to thank the man before he rang off.
His exclamation has drawn stares. Scylla looks around and then finds a booth against the wall to slide into. Any dark hole for the moment. He must pull himself together. At that moment he feels death enter his soul, never to relinquish its grip. His son...a loud plaintive wail escapes. His son. Another wail. Oh shit the girls...a loud moan. Oh fuck Sarah...another. Oh Soibhan (the ex)...another. As she should the barmaid rings up the airport police for this wailing fool in her bar so early. Three fine coppers arrive, Scylla flashes them the tin. They snap to. "What do you need sir?" Scylla explains and tells them a rental car and a quiet place to make some calls. "No problem Sir just follow us", says the one in charge and he reaches out a hand to Scylla's shoulder. In that second, that flash of a moment the rage and agony and grief and feeling of violence to come completely fills Scylla and runs electric through his body. The officer feels it and short jumps back from the shock looking at Scylla askance, then he motions for Scylla to follow keeping his distance.
Scylla makes the calls, a bad day all around. Sarah, Soibhan, the girls his parents, Brother Thomas. Scylla foreswears superlatives from this day forward. Who can say what is the worst? The hardest? The longest? His world has failed in its arc through space and time and Scylla's soul is pierced immeasurable.
Alec died. He was leaving Mississippi and coming to Hawaii. Some friends wanted to take him for a farewell blowout. They eat and they drink and they drink. A child, whom Alec has served with in Iraq is their designated driver, his girlfriend is a server at the bar. Leaving this child and his girl begin to argue, it turns physical. Alec intervenes and his comrade is hurt, embarrassed. He has the keys so he runs to Alec's car and retrieves a pistol, my pistol, that Alec has put under the seat for the comfort of a gun. He runs back, they struggle for the gun. He shoots Alec through his hand into his hip, Alec steps back, the next shot rips through Alec's aorta and he falls mortally wounded. My son dies.
The false dawn of now.
As they say, that was that. The problem for Scylla is that from the first moment it was all about everyone else. He had work to do, people to comfort, a wake and requiem Mass, a burial to plan a thousand things to do. First to get home. His house in Mississippi is 3 hours away, he wants to get there before his daughters arrive from Oxford, MS. Scylla beats the rental like a one off, a throw down piece, use it and throw it away. As he hits 98mph across the long causeway bridge he is working the cellphone. His Priest is arriving home from Ireland and calls Scylla from Atlanta Airport. They plan to meet the next day. His wife calls, his ex-wife calls, the girls call, his parents call. Everyone calls yet he can only put them off with, "Just get here the rest I do not know."
Home now, alone. Scylla takes a shotgun, a box of shells, wraps it all in plastic then he paces off a distance in the woods behind his house. He buries the package. A soldier is so much the better for a weapon, read the manual, ask anyone.
The next day Scylla meets the Coroner and tells him what he wants. "Now Scylla yer boy ain't cleaned up...they just finished the autops...the examination...he ain't presentable as yet. I say wait."
"No", says Scylla, "I want my son and I want him now." It's a simple statement of fact stated low and quiet. Butch shrugs and motions Scylla into his abattoir. Alec is covered in blood yet Scylla grabs his son, knowing in an instant that his son is gone. This is the husk the hull. After some tears Scylla thanks Butch and whispers, "You were right, sorry."
The rest of the days pass in a fast shadow. The Irish wake at his home with the disbelief that this beir holds his son, the Requiem Mass with tears and "Ava Maria", the burial with that dark hole for his boy, the soldiers who fold the flag whilst Taps rings out and then the bagpipes wailing "Amazing Grace." All the while Scylla holding up wives past and present, daughters, in-laws and assorted girl friends of his son. A soldier presents the folded flag, "Sir, a grateful nation mourns..."
All through these days I am shadowed by my children. They need me and in fact I need them. Yet I can not seem to slip off to the cemetary for some time alone with Alec. This bothers me more then it should as every morning to this day I say a Rosary for Alec and then spend some time talking with him. It is not enough. I want to visit my son's grave, alone with no one else, just some time with my son.
"Oh this is the poison of deep grief."-Shakespeare
Suddenly the moment arrives, the window is open. Sarah, living seperate for the moment is off to the big island for two weeks of training. Scylla covers Brother Thomas with a few easy lies. Done and done. To fly Scylla uses a tame bank account he opened with an on-line trading company. It is time.
Alec rests on the lee side of a hill running down to a swamp, a water oak shades his grave under which sits a bench that Scylla made. He sits there now. Alec comes to sit with Scylla. They speak. Scylla cries. The day grows late. Alec offers his father, "You're tired Dad, why don't you lie your head on my shoulder and rest?" Scylla does and he sleeps.
Early next morning Scylla tells Alec how sorry he is that he was not there to protect his son. Alec grins, "Remember climbing Mt. Washington? While we rested at Lake-in-the-Clouds? That ranger came in and said that a snow storm had closed the summit. Then after a while you rose and told me, Juice, Patri, Uncle Thomas and Grandfather to follow you, how the ranger protested, how we walked out into the snow? I never doubted, I never felt fear. Remember what you said?, "Did you come here to talk to a park ranger or did you come here to climb a mountain?" None of us ever felt unsafe within the reach of your arm and then later, beyond. We know that you are there for us. Not then not ever with you as my father in my entire life did I worry. Remember at the summit how you told me to look around? How you told the girls and I that from this day forward no matter what ever happened no one could ever take this moment away? I love you Dad. You are with me, you are always with the three of us. We all love you for that."
Scylla spends the day again with his son. Then it is time to leave, to fly before anyone discovers he's gone. So Scylla stands as does Alec. At six five Alec taller then his father, leans in for the kiss. Cheek, forehead, cheek. "I love you dad." Scylla falters, "I love you, oh God do I love you son. I want to stay..."
Such ghosts as these.
A pain without end.
"Anyone who is anyone has the same dream,
were you falling, were you flying
were you calling out, or were you dying?"-E.P.