My father, the General, is ill. He is unaware of the pestilence but I can see it clearly. I’ve watched his eyes sink into his skull held to his face only by dark circles that appeared this winter. And his back is curling under the weight of his sickness. His hands are unsteady, awkward and unsure of themselves. I smell crying on his breath. His sorrow is deep. He mourns for something, a thing that he holds as a secret deep in some recess of his psychology. It is not mother he mourns. She’s been gone for some time. No it’s not my mother he mourns. It’s the loss of a star, a beacon in the sky of a chaotic universe, a star he wore on his shoulder, a star that was the source of pride for a man who came from little and scratched his way to freedom. It was a freedom that he fought for on beaches, in ice laden hibernal forests where the dead lay frozen to glass and in sweaty jungles in remote zones of the world.
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A CHILDREN’S STORY
Horatio lives in my backyard. Up in the trees somewhere. I watch him and his family every day from Papa’s window. Horatio has a mother and a father. They can’t run as fast as Horatio or his older brother Jacob. Horatio is smaller than his brother but he’s very strong and fast and most of all he’s handsome. He has red hair and small black eyes. His nose sometimes twitches and his front teeth are long and snow white. On the end of his front legs are hands with fingers that he uses to pick nut from the trees. Sometimes he stands on his hind legs and looks at me like a friend. I wish he could talk. Papa says that Horatio is the handsomest squirrel in the trees but he’ll never speak. At first this made me sad but then Papa said that Horatio and I could still be friends. Like everything Papa says, this is true.
Living with Horatio and his family in the trees with colored leaves were the birds. They had many colors and each had a song that only their family could understand. On many days the birds and squirrels would play in the branches. Jacob had a special friend. She was the prettiest bird in the trees. Her name was Clara. Clara was blue like the sky and her head was gold like a crown for a princess. The song she sang was the most beautiful of all the birds. Other birds stopped singing and listened when she sang. She and Jacob always played together like best friends.
The seasons were always changing and when winter came Clara would have to leave until spring returned. When she went away Jacob would be sad. He wouldn’t play with anybody even Horatio. When Clara came back Jacob would be happy again. Horatio told me all of this with his eyes. It was like they were a mouth with words. This is the way we talked.
This year, Horatio told me, Clara didn’t come back after she left for the winter. Jacob waited for her but she never came. He became very sad. So sad he wouldn’t eat and he began to get smaller. Horatio felt bad for him. He wanted to help his brother but he didn’t know how. One day sitting on an elm branch he thought about it. Jacob loved Clara. Horatio wondered whether he could help Jacob by telling his older brother that he loved him. Maybe Jacob just needed somebody to love, thought Horatio.
Horatio told me that one day Jacob wouldn’t come out of the nest. Horatio went to him to help. He told his brother that he loved him. He had never said this before. Jacob started to cry because he was happy. Then he asked Horatio,
“Brother, will you play in the trees with me?”
Horatio said yes. They played and had fun. Jacob started to eat and he got stronger. Now they play every day and both Horatio and Jacob are happy.
When I told Papa what Horatio had told me, he stopped making tea and looked at me. I could tell by his eyes that he was going to say something nice. He then said,
“You and Jacob are more than brothers. You are friends. Brothers eat and sleep together. Friends play together.”