ZimmerWoman

Well of Tears (All Four Parts)

part of: The Wanderers

by The Archives of Raynah

Well of Tears (all 4 parts). Originally published on Tree1 in 3 parts + Epilogue.

Part 1

related by Joseph Windwalker, Nightwandering Deznahdorean of the First Generation

“You are an idealist, Jo,” Paulie said.

“I might have said he is a feelist,” Eduardo countered with a soft laugh.

“He feels ideas like others feel water running through their fingers,” Azuridian said, stoking the dying fire, then she turned to stare at me. They were all staring at
me, waiting.

Why do they want me to speak, I wondered. They always want me to speak.

I have nothing much to say.

The afternoon was waning. It was cold outside. We had gathered here at the cabin on the occasion of Eduardo’s 69th birthday. We were the first to arrive. Perhaps
the others would come tomorrow or the next day – U’Jzur of the tender heart, J’zitoh always laughing, Constance quiet and firm, Hector her lover for years never
in one place for more than a moment or two, Al and Jeremiah if they could tear themselves free from the pursuit of their dreams, T’zirth—tireless mother to us all
—Sariah, Jason, and the children now grown – E’Lora, White Wolf and the dragon we called Jade.

Azuridian had seemed to think it was important for all of us to be here.

I wondered why. I sensed something arising, something coming, something that would change things for us all, maybe far more than we wanted them to.

“These are my failings. In the sea of the body many things stir the soul to action,” I finally said aloud. “Do any of us really know what stirs us?”

They all nodded, smiled, sat back, apparently satisfied.

Paulie stroked my hand. We had been friends and lovers for so long I knew her hand almost as well as I know my own. It is here I find the true nature of the
Divine in life.

“Souls?” she asked simply, raising her shoulders, cocking her head to the side, raising her left eyebrow in curiosity.

“Souls,” Eduardo laughed. “I have my soul right here, in my back pocket,” he continued, slapping his ass.

I had to laugh. “Of course you do, and in the curve of your nose, the light in your eyes, the many thousand strands of your hair tangled in Azuridian’s hands right
now,” I said.

It occurred to me at that very moment this was really what I meant when I said soul – yes, every moment of an entire life constantly adding itself up, becoming
something different yet the same with each breath, weighty, yet without substance.

Who could run a calculation on such a thing?

Perhaps someday Jeremiah and the epic computer circuits he was dreaming into reality.

Perhaps the hand of someone who really knows us, touching us in just the right way in just the right place so everything suddenly makes sense, we find our place
and yet feel continually freed.

Maybe.

Looking up, I saw they were staring at me again….waiting.

I shrugged. What else could I do, then I kissed the index finger of Paulie’s left hand.

That seemed to satisfy them.

Outside the sun faded. Night came. It was so late fall here! The pines scratched against each other and the night sky as the wind came up. The air spoke of
hoarfrost in the morning. I wondered if there would be a fine sheet of ice on the stream at dawn, resolved to rise early or stay up all night and be sure to find out.

Eduardo and Paulie got up and went to make something for us all to eat, interrupting my evening dreaming.

Azuridian and I sat staring into the fire.

Finally, I said, “Why are we here, Az?”

She asked, “Literally or metaphysically?”

“Both,” I laughed.

“Does anyone really know what time it is?” she sang in answer, playfully.

“So, we are here because it is time for something,” I laughed even harder, “and we don’t know what it is or why it is coming?”

“That would be it,” she laughed in answer, then said, “but really, we are here for Eduardo.”

“But not because of his birthday.” I said, suddenly feeling a wave of seriousness wash through me.

“Yeah,” Az said simply. “He’s far worse off than you, you know?”

“Worse than me?” I laughed, “Poor guy!”

But, I knew what she meant. Ed feels everything, like I do, but he is damaged by the way things are. I am not. I don’t know why, what the difference is that lets
me see things and not be hurt by them. Maybe Ed is three shades of grey more of the idealist than I am. Things don’t have to work out to match my ideals. They
do for Ed, or he is damaged…or maybe he damages, sacrifices some part of himself. I don’t know.

Azuridian was staring into the fire, a fine filigree of pain etched all over her brow. She loved Eduardo with every cell in her body.

“Oh, by the way, some people think they really know what time it is,” I quipped, trying to lighten things up. “Those who follow the thoughts of Bishop Usher, and
of course, those who run the atomic clocks.”

“Of course,” she said softly. “Comforting.”

“Well, there actually is time in an absolute sense, isn’t there, even if we never figure out the relationships between things enough to wrap our brains accurately
around it?”

“Right,” she drawled, poking at the fire. Her breathing impressed itself into me. I found myself taking on her rhythm. I wondered why. A question leapt sharply up
out of me.

I let it out. “Does it matter if the earth began in 4004 BC or 4 billion years ago?” Suddenly time seemed a yawning chasm all around me.

“It what sense?” Az asked carefully, setting the poker down and turning to stare at me.

“Does it matter to me or you or Ed or Jeremiah or anyone else alive right now when time actually began, or for that matter, why we are here, who put us here or
not, whose design we are living amidst or not?”

“Does any of that matter? Not to me. It does to some people, enough that they kill each over their differing explanations of those things,” Az sighed.

“What matters to you Az?”

“You know that better than I do probably,” she said, looking at me sharply.

She was right.

“What matters to you is what you create inside yourself, what you create from moment to moment between yourself and those you encounter,” I said.

She sighed. “Yes. That is it exactly.”

There was a long silence. The sound of dishes rattling wavered in from the kitchen.

“That is why all of us come here to be with each other,” I finally said. “That is what matters to all of us too.”

She nodded, smiled, dabbed her finger in some ashes that had drifted out onto the floor in front of the fire grate.

“All the explanations about why we are here and because of whom that people seem to think we must all agree on before we can be good to each other are killing
Ed,” she sighed. Tears were forming in her eyes.

“Ed is killing Ed because of those things,” I finally said.

She choked. I was sorry to cause her more pain, but I had to say what I felt.

“Right,” she finally managed to say.

I sighed. I had chosen to hold these people’s hands for the duration of my life. It felt right to me.

I reached out and held her hand while she cried.

to be continued…

Part2

related by E’Lora,TwilitMajz of the Second Generation

The threat of snow had been in the news. We were not disappointed. We got two feet!

J’zitoh is trapped by the snow in Denver. Mother was going to take a bus in from Seattle, but there is little point in her getting trapped somewhere in the mountains
between here and there. U’Jzur is with his daughter, Tana, in Ontario. She has pneumonia. He will not stray from her side so long as she is ill. Al and Jeremiah are
wrapped up in projects they cannot get away from. Jason and Sariah were on their way in from Greece, but their plane is grounded now in Spain – some kind of
engine trouble. Constance and Hector are driving in from Dallas, but the plains of west Texas are blocked by the same massive weather system that has us all
socked in. My brothers and I made it here on snowmobiles two days ago. We borrowed them from the friends we were staying with in Evergreen. It was an
amazing adventure.

Azuridian said, “Global warming doesn’t mean the snow will stop falling…it just means it will fall differently than it did before.”

So it would seem, though who knows. The weather is the mood of the planet unfolding over billions of years, not just a century. We are not powerful enough intellectually to predict or understand it yet.

Then again, are we even powerful enough to predict or understand ourselves?

The days since we got here have been stark as the glowering weather—wind whistling, temperature dropping, snow falling as Eduardo continues to sink deep into himself. Azuridian watches him like a mother watches a sick child. He seems healthy enough, for a man of 69 who has drank heavily for fifty years, which means he walks slowly with a limp because of the place in his left knee that was broken during a fall onto a curb during a rainstorm when he was 25 and too drunk to do more than just fall anyway. Which means the tremors in his hands that come and go, the sallow skin and sagging shoulders. Still, his eyes hold an inferno of passion
at all times.

I have never said this to anyone, but I really think he would have exploded long ago without drink. Somehow it keeps him tranquil enough to exist in a civilized
setting. He was born to be a nomad riding the steppes of Russia, or a shaman hunting mammoths in the days of Ice. He was born to live and die quickly, testing
himself against some immutable force or other, become an intimate of pain and blood before being torn apart serving some greater purpose than just himself. Some
of us are that way.

In many ways he has done just that – except it is himself with which he has clashed – himself and the civilization of these times, which he sees as hopelessly trivial
and superficial.

Nothing is trivial with Eduardo…somehow every topic, every breath of wind, every laugh of a child or cry of a bird in the distance leads him on a vision quest into
Eternity for meaning. I must confess I find him tiring after awhile for this reason, must go and rest from Eduardo in nothingness…yes, where nothing matters and meaning is no more than superstition created to assuage our actual haplessness in the face of a Universe we did not make and will never really understand.

I must confess there are times I enjoy not understanding. It is relaxing to just admit I don’t know jack and probably never will.

Perhaps this is an abdication of responsibility.

Eduardo once told me that. I don’t know about that. I know I can and will do what must be done. That is all the responsibility I can handle, all I think it is rational to burden oneself with.

He has asked all of us to join him tomorrow morning at dawn. He says he wants to tell us something of importance.

It is like Eduardo to set the scenario, frame his words, perhaps with a brisk dash through the snow, a tumble down the hill, a splashing through ice into the stream, a run naked back to the cabin, panting for warmth and comprehension.

Eduardo is nothing if not dramatic, elemental.

What elemental lesson does he want us to learn? I find I am impatient with it all, wish I were somewhere else, feel almost angry with him, with his excesses, except I have learned so much already from him about living…about starkness, looking at things whether I want to or not.

Not everything can be poetic, pleasant, polite, under control. Maybe our attempts to make things easy have been the source of the superficialities over which Eduardo despairs.

Whatever the case may be, I’m sure whatever Eduardo has in store for us tomorrow will be neither superficial nor easy! I’d best get ready. I’d best get some sleep.

to be continued…

Part 3

related by Paulie, Nightwandering Ez Perjezlah of the First Generation

Yeah, so there we all were—4 a.m.

The weirdest and worst times of my life all seem to coagulate around 4 a.m.

What is it about that time?

You know, I’ve started to think it should be like the 13th floor is for most high rises – they just skip it altogether! Yes, that’s right, worldwide—clocks with no 4 a.m allowed!

It is a measure of my love for Ed that I was there at all, particularly with two feet of snow outside and a temperature in the teens.

There he was perched on the edge of the sofa, his hair adrift around his shoulders, his eyes staring at all of us like beacons from the twilight zone. I felt the creeps begin to shiver up from the bottom of my spine.

Azuridian was crouched by the fire. I swear resignation was written all over her.

That gave me the creeps too…what was she resigned to?

Jo wasn’t up yet. Getting up is always a problem for Jo. Oh, he wakes up, but then he lingers between waking and sleeping for what seems like forever – sipping he says, sipping at the remnants of dreams before they slip away, unattended.

Well, we can’t have that, now can we?

I presumed Jo was upstairs sipping, attending.

White Wolf, Jade and E’Lora were in the kitchen clattering around.

“Do you plan on telling us what this is all about anytime soon, Ed?” I asked.

“Let’s go help make breakfast,” he replied, his eyes soft on mine.

I was going to make a smart-ass retort, but something about his eyes stopped me. I felt myself acquiescing easily.

Creepy!

The kitchen was brightly lit, warm. The kids were cooking up a storm – eggs, bacon, cinnamon toast the Bavarian way, coffee, orange juice – Ed’s favorite Ozzie and Harriet breakfast!

Ed went over and helped Jade pour melted butter over a pan full of bread thickly covered with cinnamon sugar. Then he put the pan under the broiler. “Watch those close,” he instructed sternly. “Take them out just when they start to bubble.”

“Right-o,” Jade smiled. He knew the routine well. Ed could tell the difference between toast broiled 2 seconds before, right on, and 2 seconds after first bubble! The position of cinnamon toast baker was an important one if breakfast harmony was to be preserved.

I wanted to ask Ed if we had come here to have the perfect breakfast experience, but I couldn’t. My lips wouldn’t work. My heart grew heavy in my chest. I plunked down in my accustomed chair. My butt felt like lead.

My body is telling me something, I thought. Dammit, but it always knows best.

I kept my mouth shut.

Jo came in dreamily. He had apparently finished sipping. He draped himself over Ed like a fluffy blanket.

Ed let him.

Creepy!

Sometimes I can feel the earth turning beneath me, the stars receding back through time to the beginning, or what passes for the beginning in our limited perspective. I think Ed and Jo almost always feel those things. I don’t all that often, but when I do, I know it’s time to pay attention, real attention, not just my usual ‘heh-I’m annoying’ kind of attention. This was one of those times.

Ed was sitting at the table, his hands laying in front of him, palms up. His once-black hair, now laced with silver, cascaded all around him, fell in rivulets all along his arms, collected at his shoulders, then plunged down his back. Jo’s face was pressed against Ed’s left cheek, his chest against Ed’s shoulders, his arms were cradling Ed’s like a lover might. They seemed to be breathing together.

Across the room Azuridian was watching. It felt like she was etching this moment into her brain indelibly, so that no matter what span of years passed, these moments would never fade.

Something in the pit of my gut suddenly knew why we were here. It hit me so hard I couldn’t breathe.

Just then the back door burst open. T’zirth and a blast of arctic air swirled into the room.

“I see you made it,” Ed commented casually.

T’zirth looked from Az to Ed, then back again. What she deduced from that encounter was written all over her face – a mixture of prior knowledge and present evidence clashing. It totally brought my gut’s assessment up into complete knowing. I suppressed an urge to sob.

“Apparently,” T’zirth replied softly.

“How did you manage that, Mom?” Wolf asked between bites of egg.

“It wasn’t easy,” was all she said, then went over and sat down next to Ed, took his hands in hers.

“Aren’t you going to have some breakfast, Ed?” she asked softly. “I see the toast is perfect.”

Jade had sat a plate of food down in front of her as soon as she sat down.

“Sure, babe,” he said, just as softly. Then he took a few bites of Jade’s perfect Bavarian cinnamon toast.
“Fantastic,” he commented.

Jade, sensing what I sensed just looked at Ed, his eyes becoming dense wells of sadness that fell out across the table, which suddenly seemed two inches deep in salty water.

E’Lora snapped off the stove, stared at Ed. “Well, pseudo-uncle, out with it properly!” she insisted. Bless her for her courage, I thought. I still didn’t have the will to admit out loud in any way whatsoever to knowing what I already knew.

The earth kept moving, the stars kept receding. Damn them for their infernal consistency, I thought.

Ed just chuckled. E’Lora had always called him “pseudo-uncle,” because he was like an uncle, but not of her blood.

“I require extreme unction,” he finally said, really quite out loud, yet softly.

“You aren’t a religious man,” Jo, still draped over Ed’s shoulders said, just as softly, though each word spoken seemed to fall like steel weights against the floor,nbloodying my ears.

Ed laughed out loud raucously, shaking Jo.

It suddenly occurred to me that Eduardo Dominguez Dias de Arias was the most religious man I had ever known.

For some reason I said those words out loud, and then these as well:

When have you not held the suffering of even the sparrows of the field above the sufferings of your own heart? When have you not cried for each life you heard of or witnessed that was robbed of joy or meaning by a stranger’s cruelty of thought, deed or intention? Have you not spent your entire life atoning for wrongs you never committed nor thought to commit, simply because you were human and you felt you had to bear responsibility for them, for finding a way to set them right?

A silence fell in the room obliquely.

Everything seemed suddenly out of the corner of our minds.

“Perhaps I am no more than a fool,” Eduardo said. “What have I accomplished? A drunken poet – that is all that I am, that is all the good I have ever done!” His voice was harsh, a parliament of ravens croaking.

Azuridian sank into a chair by the door, tears running down her face. E’Lora clutched the handle of her skillet full of bacon like it was her only line to life.

I could barely breathe and watch.

God or whatever force it is that buoys us up in the face of the impossible be thanked, Jo knew exactly what to say.

“You have changed all of us, mon beautiful master of words and hearts beating. You have saved my life many times. You know this to be true, don’t you?” And with this, Jo knelt beside Ed, took his face between his hands, made Ed look deep into his timeless eyes.

“Perhaps you are right,” Ed finally mumbled, then he said, “It is time.”

For everyone who has ever touched, for everyone who has ever seen, for everyone who will ever know, I mark these events in words so that the passing of time and souls does not occur without proper honor, reverence, or the opportunity for the living to have them in the halls of everyday reason for the use of generations now present and those yet unborn.

We pulled on skin parkas, boots, and gloves, donned snowshoes. We were dressed for the arctic, not metaphorically, not metaphysically, but quite literally.

We followed Ed out into the day which had just dawned. During the night the clouds had faded over the eastern horizon, where the sun rose among their remnants in orange and purple splendor.

He cut a path slowly through the deep snow, up along the stream where we had so often splashed in days gone by. He led us to a secret place only he had been wont to visit, up high above the cabin among a dense stand of lodge pole pines. He led us among them to a place where an island of aspen grew. Right at the center of this island up against a sudden rock wall jutting down from the mountain’s summit towering thousands of feet above us were two trees—a lodge pole and an aspen that had somehow grown together. They were interlaced – the blackness of the pine, the stark white of the aspen.

The sky peeking in from above was bright blue now. The wind had died down to a light breeze tickling the pines.

Eduardo removed his parka, his boots, his gloves. He laid them down over the snow at the foot of the twined trees, then he sat down right there, where their ancient trunks met, leaned back, as though reclining in an easy chair, looked up at the sky, said, “It is a good day to die.”

E’Lora looked at T’zirth pleadingly, whispered, “What are we supposed to do?”

“Sit here with him and let him go,” she whispered back, her face haggard.

“No, no,” White Wolf, shouted, the woods rang with his voice. “No!”

“Why not?” Ed shouted, sitting up. “I have lived not because I asked to but because I was deposited here. I have done what I could. May I not now, at its end, order the manner of my own passing?”

“Why, why,” E’Lora stammered. “Why.”

The kids seemed capable of one word communications only.

“I am 69! I have terminal liver cancer,” Ed shouted. “I don’t want to end up a vegetable simmering in my own juices while someone I’ve never met wipes my butt for me!”

“Transplant, Ed, transplant,” Jade shouted.

“Chemo, Ed, chemo,” Wolf added.

They had managed two words.

“Doesn’t your life mean anything to you?” E’Lora over-articulated.

“My life is over children. It is at an end. This has nothing to do with my despair over humanity’s cruelty or lack of grace. It has to do with my grace, my lack of cruelty. I want to die with some kind of dignity. I don’t want to cost our community a fortune and still die anyway, but horribly. I want to go in peace, fall asleep and never wake up. I want to die among those who love me in the time and place of my choosing. Is that so hard to understand?”

The oblique silence that had held us captive vanished.

We sank to our knees around him.

“Can we at least touch you?” Jo asked.

“Not if you keep me warm,” Ed laughed.

“I promise to touch you without keeping you warm,” Jo whispered. The woods came to life as he too laughed. The sun moved in the sky, the earth turned, the stars continued receding.

Azuridian drew out a copy of “The Seashell on the Mountaintop,” and began reading.

She read on implacably as Eduardo Dominguez Dias de Arias listened, then went through all the stages of hypothermia I had once read about when preparing to go for my first solo hike in the Rockies.

When the evening had come, as well as literal silence among Eduardo’s bones, we arose.

I would say there were tears, but why? We had known him, had the gift of him in our lives, some of us for more than thirty years, had we not?

I would say we felt sanctified, even high at the end, because we had served one we loved in the way he required, which is why we left him there for the woods to reclaim in the way woods reclaim the dead, then we went home together, yet alone, so alone, for many days to come.

to be continued…

Part 4. Rite of 10,000 Wishes

related by E’Lora, Twilit Majz of the Second Generation

10,000 days have passed since Eduardo’s death.

Wolf, Jade and I agreed long ago to return to his place of resting when this amount of time had passed, say hello to the mosses where his body once lay, the root of the mountain rising high above, whatever sky we could see through the trees that surely must have grown even taller since.

10,000 is the magic number of almost too much to get a grip on, but if you work really hard for a very long time you can actually get there. Ed’s life had been like that.

For over 27 years we let Ed’s place of rest, hidden in the forest above the cabin, speak to us solely in our dreams. Azuridian went up there often. I think she spoke to the place like she used to speak with Eduardo.

We never asked her what she saw, if she got answers in return. Her eyes when she returned from these visits gave us all the information we could bear to receive.

It has been ten years since Az died. She died in a little motel off the interstate between Santa Rosa and Albuquerque. She was alone. I don’t know why. The maid who found her also found a list of phone numbers in her backpack. Mine was on it. I was the first one the police called.

My mom, U’Jzur and Constance went to fetch her body. We had her cremated after a lovely farewell ceremony, as she had requested. We put some of her ashes in a special box – one she had selected – made of black ironwood bound with silver. It has a burgundy velvet interior in which Az had placed a fire opal, a broken snow-colored sea shell, and three rings. I don’t know what these things meant to her.

This box was buried at the place of Az’s birth – Tyler, Texas. The rest of her ashes were given, also in ironwood boxes, to me, Paulie, my mom, Constance, U’jzur, and Al. She wanted us to scatter the ashes from time to time as we saw fit—and to make a wish each time we did.

For some superstitious reason known only to the neurons in my deepest regions, I decided to dole out 10,000 pinches of Az.

I have thrown some into the water of the Grand River that runs through the Bush each spring when the last ice fades. I tossed some to the wind during one blazing winter storm off Cape Cod. I put a tiny pinch into the soil of my garden every year when I turn the soil for winter rest. I place a pinch on the front tires of my car each time I set out on a long journey. I have actually kept a log of each pinch I have scattered and the wish made for each one.

If you had 10,000 wishes to make, for what kinds of things would you wish?
I can tell you after a time all the wishes fade away, become words uttered in curse or benediction – feel like a rush of wings swooshing past that when looked back on out of context make you blush or cringe.

How could they have seemed so pertinent, so important at the time?

You might end up, as I have, being grateful almost none of them came true, find your life was not shaped by them at all except as it is shaped by sweat, excrement, laughter, tears, the touch of a hand to the forehead of a child or a lover, the sob of a moment you cannot bear to forget but then do.

So it is time and wishes have passed. Wolf, Jade and I will go scatter the 10,000th bit of Az left to me over the spot where Ed passed. We will make our final wishes of Az.

Yes, here they are – my brothers. We are almost as old now as Ed was when he died….I am 54. Wolf is 52, Jade 50. It is a fine, summer morning. The snow still lies deep above treeline here in the Colorado Rockies. It will not melt until early July. No matter. Ed is at 9,012 feet. We can get to him with no trouble other than that none of us have hiked above sea level in six months. We’ll go slow, sip fresh water, nibble power bars.

We set out at 9:00am. None of us are early risers. It has been 27 years since that 4 a.m. breakfast. I have forgotten almost everything about it, except it was early, I was tired, it was so cold in the kitchen when we first entered and started cooking.

The birds are singing. The scent of moss and pine carry me along happily. The stream is free of ice, crashing blithely among stones rolled down out of the high mountains. They have been worn smooth into hand shapes, shapes to refresh the limbs when heated and applied soothingly. We have often done that on cold evenings here over the many years for each other, friends, lovers.

We splash through, head up the way marked by Az over the years. She nailed carved wooden sculptures on trees all along the trail up…which is quite overgrown because members of our Clan are the only people to venture up through the bush that far. She had collected them from near and far. It took her the 17 years between his death and hers to find and install all of them.

U’Jzur and T’zirth have followed her trail many times, so have Constance and Hector, Al and Jeremiah….especially Sariah. When her death came she finally forgave herself for not being there when Ed passed.

We are so funny sometimes about the things we can’t control. Regret is so often more powerful than reason.

How often have I wished the reverse were true.

We sweat, we strain through the unfamiliar forest. Only Az’s markers keep us on the right trail. Suddenly it seems, we see a long, steep slope up, thickly covered with brush and trees. Moss springs moistly under our feet. I don’t remember this part at all. Jade says he does, because it was so hard in snowshoes. “We are almost there,” he says. “This is where I had to pull myself along by hanging onto the trees.”

We do that now, and suddenly, we are here, in the long clearing with the aspen and the lodgepole intertwined at the foot of the mountain – the place where Ed chose to leave this world.

The trees are indeed lots bigger, the space between them, where Ed had laid his head is now closed, filled in with baby trees, and a bush of some kind.

I don’t know what I expected to see really. It has been so long. I guess I thought I would see a bush, baby trees, moss, the sky, anything but Ed’s skull, vertebrae, shoulder bones, leg bones scattered about, apparently gnawed on by somebody.

The bush it turned out, upon close observation, was some kind of high mountain raspberry. Its long trailing vines were curled about the last of Ed like ancient monks used to draw vines about holy symbols of their religion in illuminated manuscripts, implying everything is intertwined, held together forever by divine providence.

Az used to say it was not legal at all to leave a human body just lying about in the wilderness. It was unsanitary, contaminated the water table, presented a health hazard in general.

I’m sure she was right, except, somehow, in the case of Ed, it seemed right to let the animals eat him, the bugs burrow into his brain until nothing but bones were left to be polished by wind, rain, ice, snow, the ages gently dancing through him, plants twining around him.

Right now, his skull had rolled—the eyes faced the ground. Someone had gnawed at it, probably for the minerals, until the entire back was mostly off and it looked like some kind of cup into which the sun was presently shining, reflecting off its whiteness in a really blinding kind of way – “Ed as cup of light,” I said.

For some reason then we all just sat down. All at once. All together.

The ground was moist, penetrated our jeans.

“My butt is wet,” Jade finally said.

“Yeah,” Wolf commented casually, “Mine too.”

“Yeah,” was all I could say. My eyes were as moist as my butt. My throat cloggy, boggy, becoming tight.

I got up, pulled out my last bit of Az. The guys stood up too. We shuffled, coughed, shook, smoothed, gathered ourselves.

I took a deep breath and opened the black ironwood box of Az. I didn’t know if any of the other clan members with bits of Az had done this too. It didn’t matter. This was my wish.

For some reason, I had to cry as I released the last bit of Az, let her drift down into the cup of light that was all that was left of Ed. I had to think my wish because my vocal chords, all bound up tight in my boggy throat would not vibrate on command.

I had told the guys earlier they could make a wish too…I’m sure Az would have approved of the generosity. I guess they did. I don’t know. I didn’t look at their faces, the sky through the trees, I didn’t imagine the stars invisible in the sky above because the sun was too bright for me to see them. I just watched the last bits of Az float down, coat the sun shining in Ed as the world turned, the sun sank, and we left before evening came full on because we aren’t canny enough to navigate the wild woods by night, still need light and the marks of Az to return to the world where we must do our living.

It was enough.

Dedication: For Bill, though I didn’t know that when I wrote this.