In the final moments of his life, Amos Barber remembered. He saw his father open the car door for
his mother. Her neat, prim exit in a pink pillbox hat. She disappeared into the
house inside a silvery eight-millimeter haze. He saw himself tucked away in the
little blue room beside the television, and knew at last how that blankness had
been the pre-curser to this bright heave, and death.
His mother had always been there.
A presence and a comfort, even to the last. She was forever baking cookies. Even after he had learned to
make them for himself, even after
he had found the way to the grocery store, walking two miles there and two
miles back. After he would buy the butter and the brown sugar and the chocolate
chips. After he would mix them in the silver bowl . His mother there beside
him, baking all his favorites. and he would eat them until the sun came up and
it was time to get dressed. Time for school.
His father would drive the same route as the school bus to drop him off .
He would go in and sit down and be very quiet. His father was not the bus driver but dropped him off in the emptiness. It had been so good in the little red
schoolhouse. Where the kids were joyful ,bright and glad.
What could he do? Only relax and breathe. Like blowing out a birthday
cake--the endless rows of flaming candles, the torrents of flame infecting the
sky, smoke rushing through the vents and the brightly lit windows, stick
figures falling from the orange and black sky. Because a birthday was as if
beauty itself were burning, his motherÕs pink waist and Jackie O haircut. The
blankness inside him, the confusion inside him. . . .
It was a lovely day anyway.The February sun aroused the great river. The
windows on his house were a cathedral without a savior, their high arching
panes filled with the shadows of his childhood friends. There was Tommy and
Scoot and little scrawny Bob. The
frizzy blond hair he always kept in a pony tail. Or was that later—was
that in high school? He thought it must have been because it was high school
when the hurricane came and they
went out to the canal and saw the gouge in the canal bank, and heard the
darkness howl and gurgle.
It was Joan that was love. She bent over and kissed him. He could see her
leaving and coming back. He could see her destroying him. How he walked out of
the room, the door, the house. And disappeared and did not come back. The house
a plastic icon to the joy he had known. It had been beautiful. She had been
beautiful. His melting had been beautiful. the sky had been beautiful.
And work had been beautiful: A
gray slate clock against a gray slate wall. The pettiness and the burden.
The times he had been murdered and
then brought back. The sucking economies that loved him as he loved
How long it takes for death! A lifetime it seemed--- half a day in the principalÕs office.
The waiting like guilt and like discernment. He was wondering about that. He
was looking down into the vortex where the silence opens inside the sky. He
could see his mother there. Her pink pillbox hat. She was beautiful and she
loved him, or was that someone else? Yes someone else. Exactly who was that. He
stayed in the little room beside the television. He could hear the murmuring .
He could feel the distance. From the roof he looked down on everything that had
been, and it unfolded in a loop, again and again . He saw himself and his
family and everyone else, endlessly repeating their actions inside silence.
Until the silence closed over him and the form of things was like a river that
would never end, and the whole of his life swept by without him --work and love and family and their