Death Becomes Us

Requiem for Jimmy

The Community Choir of the Community

birds on a wireBY TIM KREIDER

The news spread quickly that he was gone. And while nobody could deny that a vast emptiness now laid claim to some part of the world, some later would suggest that he had been disappearing for a long time.

Now this needs to be qualified. Nobody really noticed this gradual and subtle disappearance until after he had died. Only then did a contingent led by Hank Mortibund, Old Man Mortibund’s youngest, put forth the claim that he had been gradually disappearing over a length of time, as if to prepare the rest us for the time when he would no longer be with us. Little Ginny Peepholtz, bless her heart, wondered if we don’t start dying the day we are born.

If Hank meant that Jimmy had been such a part of the Community that he had become almost invisible to us most of the time, then maybe they were onto something. Nowadays, it is pretty much consensus throughout the Community that he was the bedrock. That’s much easier to say in hindsight. The fact of the matter is, he was just one of those things that was always there but without special notice, which I guess you could argue is what a bedrock really is.

The Task Force assigned to uncover and report what it was about Jimmy that had such an effect on the Community produced only insignificant data and eventually succumbed to internal squabbling and disbanded. Perhaps Gwen Wolfington, a former colleague of Jimmy’s, put it best in her interview for the Documentary. “When we were around Jimmy, he somehow just made us more than we otherwise could’ve been. But it’s only now that he’s gone that we realize it.” Nobody could really explain exactly what Gwen was talking about, especially in light of her severe stutter, but we all had an idea of what she meant.

A few members of the Community- Mr. and Mrs. Pianissimo, Reverend Hodges’ mother, Old Man Mortibund, remembered the time before he was there. But most of us didn’t know life without Jimmy until now. This is what caused Junior the most trouble.

You see, one of the lobes of Junior’s brain had been measured as abnormally large. It was put forth by some that this oversized lobe housed Junior’s extraordinary imaginative capacity. Junior used his imagination to prepare himself for any and all possibilities that could beset us. Junior had imagined numerous scenarios prior to Jimmy’s passing. He had pictured every possible scene of life with Jimmy in it. Junior could just as easily envision Jimmy’s smile as he gazed upon his future grandchild, Junior’s little niece or nephew, now just a newly fertilized egg in Junior’s sister’s womb, as he could remember the glint in Jimmy’s eyes when Junior ran off the field after catching his very first Little League fly ball. He could just as easily smell the new seats of Jimmy’s next car as he could recollect the fresh mint of Jimmy’s breath as he tucked him into bed each night. He could just as easily hear Jimmy’s voice going over retirement figures as he could recall the advice he had been given concerning any of a number of miscellany- how to tie a Windsor knot, whether to sacrifice the knight or the rook, what type of weather a “flock of sheep” cloud formation preceded. All of these scenarios Junior had foreseen. But what Junior had failed to imagine was a life without Jimmy.

This caused major problems for Junior. Like most people, Junior only thought of the future he imagined for himself, and that future always contained Jimmy right where he always was. There was no other way to think about it. Junior could’ve prepared himself, could’ve envisioned a future without Jimmy just once during his daily musings, just once. But why would he? A future without Jimmy certainly wouldn’t make for pleasant daily musing. Junior was accustomed to only experiencing what he had first imagined. This allowed Junior to react to anything in what Dr. Jenkins referred to as a “staid” manner. But when Junior was informed that Jimmy was gone, his lack of imaginative preparation for the situation caused this staid manner to be thrown out the window, along with the telephone, the Brahms record, the spider plant, and anything else he could get his hands on before being restrained by his companion. Much later, in a journal article that was largely ignored by most in his field due to its redundancy, Dr. Jenkins wrote that Junior was dead until this moment, in which he became alive for the first time. And nothing would prepare Junior for what was to follow.

Junior left the Community (voluntarily) long before Jimmy passed. He needed to find his own community, or have a community find him, or find that he didn’t need any community, or have all communities find they didn’t need him. He wasn’t quite sure.

Of course Junior remembered his lessons at the Center about Emily Dickinson, and how she lived her whole adult life without leaving the grounds of her childhood home. And of course he didn’t get the lesson at the time, but sometime later he realized the merits of this- the heightened attentiveness to one’s immediate surroundings, the intimate knowledge of detail, and how this could benefit the imagery of his own poetry. But Junior didn’t write poetry.

He returned to our Community periodically, feeling at home in the way he felt at home as a child but also feeling alienated in the way an adult visiting a community not his own might feel. His visits were brief, stopping by on his way to or from some other place. But a community needs time to really penetrate an individual. Junior showed up from time to time but never really stayed long enough to remember the muted sound of the pine forest covered in fresh snow, or how Mrs. Danticoat would wave to the children at the bus stop from the end of her lane every morning as she picked up the paper, or how the bark of the trees turned a magical red in the fading sun, the brownness momentarily transformed into some brand new color amidst the orange glow of everything else, or where the twists in a conversation with Mr. Sauers might end up by the time Mrs. Sauers called him back to the house. The Community is an embroidered quilt. The complexity and substance are in the details, and Junior had ceased to look very closely since he had moved on.

So Junior wouldn’t necessarily know what was going on with Cher Atlas. He wouldn’t necessarily know that Cher was feeling the loss of Jimmy more strongly than some. Cher felt an actual physical emptiness inside of her. She felt incomplete, like a part of her was now missing as well. She went to the Clinic, underwent a battery of tests- MRI, CAT scan, and the like, but the experts couldn’t find anything missing. It all seemed to be there, right where it should.

With the medical assurance, Cher began not to notice the emptiness as much. But as this sensation dissipated, it was replaced by an unbelievable burden. Cher soon felt a tremendous responsibility, for whom or for what she could not quite identify (nor could the specialists at the Clinic quantify), which only added to the discomfort of this new feeling. Whenever Cher closed her eyes to try to go to sleep, this burden would creep from her shoulders into her gut. But sometimes, when her eyes were open, she saw things, things that were always there. But in ways she had never before seen them.

Although also unbeknownst to Junior, this too was especially true for Juanny Waxman. Some days the rays of sun shot magically down through the clouds like spears and it was like he was seeing the whole world through polarized sunglasses. But it all started when the sun began to go down that first day after Jimmy had gone. The sun that evening looked as if it had been hurled by God at the canvas of the sky, splatting against it in a form of divine abstract expressionism and spraying colors everywhere. Now of course Juanny had seen sunsets before, and even a Willem de Kooning exhibit once on a class trip to the Museum, but in the days after Jimmy’s passing he somehow didn’t seem so far away from them. He was no longer looking at these sunsets as much as they were happening to him. It was like he stepped outside of time, even though the spectacle he was witnessing was one of constant change, of time itself.

The days following the disappearance of Jimmy had a similar effect on Peng. Since the age of eleven, Peng’s tiny forearm hairs, on rare occasions, would rise during certain moments of certain songs. Other times, Peng could listen to these same songs without any reaction. Sometimes she would even have to force herself just to keep listening, forbidding her mind to drift from the music, in order to try to recapture the arm hair-raising experience she found so desirable. But Peng quickly found she couldn’t seek out these moments. She would play the pieces that triggered these moments over and over again, even turning the volume up at times, and although it was the same music, she could never seem to replicate the experience she sought, leaving her forearm hairs lying limply on her skin. What Peng didn’t realize was that it wasn’t the music in itself, but that the music struck a chord with something in her. So while she still played her records, she became resigned to the notion that most of the time, short of these sporadic transcendental experiences, she wasn’t really listening. And she couldn’t help but wonder, if she wasn’t really listening most of the time, what else was she missing?

So she was taken by surprise when, in the days immediately after Jimmy’s passing, while feeling that loss, she again heard the music the way she had in those fleeting moments. It first happened during a Lauridsen Chorale, a chorale she had heard hundreds of times. But for the first time, she was hearing what she could only imagine the Chorale had aspired to be. If Peng were not so self-conscious to speak in such terms, she might have said the music transported her. And this happened again and again and again in those days after Jimmy’s passing. Not only with the Lauridsen Chorale, but with the Roches and Abbey Road and Bach and Rosemary Clooney. The forearm hairs had risen.

In the void of this place in Junior’s brain, the place unaccounted for in Junior’s imagination- life without Jimmy; Junior’s mind literally went blank. He forgot how to get back home, back to the Community, to where he was now called. When he reached for his map, it was not there. How does one go about finding a lost map? A desperate perplexity replaced the initial rage Junior had experienced. Dr. Jenkins did not comment on this particular stage.

Jimmy had gained some renown amongst the amateur cartographers in the region with his savvy topographical skills, his extremely accurate relief renderings in particular. And although Junior didn’t know it until this very moment, Jimmy himself had served as a kind of relief map for Junior, guiding him through life’s peaks and valleys. But now as Junior futilely searched for the map in the shadowed corners of his apartment, it became apparent that he would need to be guided in some other way.

With Junior unable to reliably recall this journey, perhaps no one will ever know exactly how Junior found his way back to the Community on this fateful night. We do know from the series of firsthand interviews with Junior conducted by Strom Jackman and his team in the months following Jimmy’s passing that at some time between leaving his apartment and reaching the limits of the Community, Junior decided he no longer wished to find the Community. It has been widely speculated that it was this change of mind that actually put Junior on the right path to the Community.

And so Junior paused for the first time just outside the Community. He paused because he was scared to enter, because of what he might find, or more aptly, because of what he knew he wouldn’t find. The Community could not be the same without Jimmy. He paused because he needed to pause. He wasn’t ready for this. He wasn’t ready for Jimmy to leave and he wasn’t ready to continue without Jimmy. So he paused.

He thought again of the photo that had shown up in the mail just days before from an aunt or a cousin once removed, somebody he did not remember from the family Christmas parties of his youth. The envelope contained no note, only a photo of Junior as a toddler crawling out Jimmy’s outstretched legs as they rested on the ottoman. Junior didn’t need any of those psychology classes his sister used to take at the Center in order to draw his own conclusions. He recognized himself as an extension of Jimmy, something he could crawl from the heart of but never actually stand on his own and run from. He saw that all of his strivings were dependent on Jimmy’s support. Junior could venture out, but would always be guided by Jimmy.

Where were those legs now? Were they taken out from under him? Was he in the midst of falling? “And how far below was the floor?” Junior wondered aloud. But nobody was listening.

Junior could never really know if what took place in the Community over the next several days had started before he entered or if it had all been triggered by his arrival, like a symphony waiting for the conductor’s baton to rise. And whether or not Junior’s realization that a pause was, by definition, temporary, set something else, something much bigger in motion, or whether that something else was a force of its own, something so powerful that it set itself in motion, the only thing Junior could know for certain was that when he finally was carried into the Community, it was like a Venn diagram, where Heaven touched down close to earth, and those on earth reached up to their highest, and the two, ever so briefly, met as one.

Since there still exists a sizable faction that would argue that it was all because of Smiley Keyes, the mute boy who had grown up and done well for himself with bit parts as a film and television actor (mostly commercials), the story of Smiley Keyes should probably be recounted.Smiley did cry as an infant, as infants are wont to do. But Mrs. Keyes remembers Smiley’s sobs being different from the crying of her other six children. Smiley’s was a long, drawn-out wailing, more of a lament than a sudden outburst of discomfort, like a tremendous sadness from being in this world was rising up from deep within and seeping out of his mouth.

So Mrs. Keyes was almost relieved when it finally and abruptly ceased at the age of 19 months, until it became apparent that nothing more, no sounds whatsoever, would come from that little mouth. Oh, how Mrs. Keyes would yearn for something, anything, even the long, slow wail of woefulness she had almost grown accustomed to in those first 19 months.

She can remember clearly the day it stopped. She had gone over it, minute-by-minute, a million and one times, searching for what Dr. Jenkins referred to as the “critical transitional episode.” But try as she might, nothing. Truth be told, that day was just as ordinary as all the rest in the Community, except of course for the fact of it being the last day anybody heard so much as a peep from the lips of little Smiley Keyes.

But for as much as he was teased by the other schoolchildren during his Mainstreaming and developmentally stunted by the misguided methodology of the then fashionable Mackenzie System, which was embraced by the Center (and everywhere else) for a few academic years during the heyday of Exclusionism, Smiley possessed an inordinate amount of resiliency. Anyone who looked at Smiley for even an instant would see this. You couldn’t help but be captivated by Smiley’s eyes, the literal windows to his soul. Because soon after his “critical transitional episode” at 19 months, whatever that was, Smiley began to speak through his eyes.

Smiley’s instructor at the Deaf Jam Summer Drama Workshops, Earlene Mundle, is credited with being the first to recognize Smiley’s unique gift, the power he held in his gaze. Later, when he was sent to the Clinic for a battery of tests, his optic nerve was measured at twice that of normal size. But Science couldn’t fully explain the phenomenon. Smiley’s eyes not only spoke, but spoke with inflection. His eyes gave meaning to that for which we do not yet have definitions. And eventually Smiley cashed in on this, garnering as large a role as commercials would cast for a non-speaking part.

As people lined up that day to pay their respects, Smiley could not bear to look up. He wasn’t sure what would happen if he opened his eyes as himself anymore, rather than through another character he had taken on, so different and separate from himself. He wasn’t sure what might come out. And that is why he cast those eyes downward, away from all others. He was afraid of what he might see when he looked with his own eyes into the eyes of not another character but another person, especially Junior, whose eyes awaited his at the head of the line.

Smiley didn’t really know Junior and hadn’t really known Jimmy either. Smiley and Junior were some years apart, their paths rarely crossed, and Smiley didn’t speak anyway. Smiley was, however, acutely aware of the fact that everyone in the line of which he now found himself a part had just the right things to say to Junior. He could even feel the breath of Admiral Samples on the back of his neck, reciting the words he had written on a note card and would speak when his turn came.
As the line inched ahead, Smiley overheard the non-words of Mrs. Shepherd, “I don’t even know what to say in a time like this, Junior. There are no words.”

17 more words than I have, Smiley counted to himself, staring at a small run near the ankle of Mrs. Shepherd’s stocking and willing it to somehow stay that small forever, even though he knew that with each movement it would inevitably grow.

As Mrs. Shepherd moved on, Smiley stepped up and extended his hand to Junior. Smiley felt Junior’s hand clasp his own. Junior’s shoes were shined. In them, Smiley could almost recognize himself amidst all of the reflected light from above. And then he felt Junior pulling him closer. Except he wasn’t actually moving. He remembered his late grandmother, always nagging him about his slouched posture, telling him to imagine helium balloons tied to each ear, pulling him up straight, all the while with her index finger delving sharply into his lumbar to help prod his imagination. And this is exactly what he felt at that very moment, both the balloons tied to his ears and the finger in his lower back. And he did what he didn’t think he could do, what he swore he wouldn’t do. He slowly lifted his head, following the buttons of Junior’s shirt, until he found himself looking right into Junior’s eyes. Again he felt himself being pulled even closer. But still he remained in the same spot.

And so he stood and faced Junior. And as he looked into the eyes of Junior, he saw both the look in Junior’s eyes and the look of his own eyes. He saw the deep lament of the last sounds from his mouth. But he also saw this lament transformed. And he knew as he looked into Junior’s eyes that he was both giving something to Junior and taking something for himself.
Then Smiley opened his mouth. He didn’t think about it. He didn’t decide to open his mouth at that moment. And he didn’t know what was going to happen next.

He heard a faint whisper. “I know.”

Smiley knew as well. He didn’t know exactly what they both knew, but he just knew they knew. And that was good enough.

And because there are others that will tell you it was simply the song by the Barbershop Quartet, it would be unfair not to expand on that story as well.

The Barbershop Quartet had fallen on hard times, most wouldn’t know there even existed a Barbershop Quartet in the Community. Three of the members had long since passed their prime, the fourth had died several years ago. They had made a name for themselves in their younger days, crisscrossing the land with their four-part harmonies and unusual arrangements of traditional favorites. But as the banality of wives, houses, children, and careers came to replace the idylls of youth as they almost always do, the Quartet’s diminishing dedication to rehearsals became evident in their final product. The Quartet was stung by the chillier receptions they were now apt to receive as a result, and the ensuing disgruntlement among the members led to the expected in-fighting, which led to disharmony and rumors of a breakup. One member thought the Quartet to be nothing more than an idyll of youth. One disappeared into deep bouts with depression and alcoholism. One wanted to move in a different direction artistically, composing songs for the church choir. One was lost at sea when his Piper Cub mysteriously malfunctioned.

The three surviving members of the Quartet did stay in contact, and talks of reunions surfaced every few years. However, they faced some challenges with the four-part harmonies with which they had made a name for themselves (“The Barbershop Quartet”). So most of the reunions consisted of the three surviving members meeting in someone’s rec room or basement, reminiscing about the old days over glasses of sparkling cider or grape, swapping stories about Fantasy Spring Training Camp in Arizona or the new Candy Striper down at the Clinic, and voting on names for the Quartet in its new form (“The Three Surviving Members”, “3/4”).

So this is where things stood with the Quartet at the time of Jimmy’s passing. They sat in one of the surviving member’s converted basement that was now a rec room and talked about what the Quartet would do in response to Jimmy’s passing, what it meant to be the Quartet in a time such as this, and if a new name was needed. Unbeknownst to the three surviving members, similar conversations about the need to respond to Jimmy’s passing, albeit tailored to their own individual hobbies and talents, were taking place in rec rooms and converted basements throughout the Community. But what could the Quartet do in a time like this, especially without a bass?

Very early on the morning following Jimmy’s passing, before the first light of day, it suddenly came to the tenor as he rhythmically paced on the treadmill in his converted basement to the pulsing light of the muted television. At the same time, in his rec room on the other side of the Community, it came to the baritone as he kneeled in early morning prayer at a window in the first light of day. The lead, just a few houses down from the baritone, was stirred from his slumber and rose from the sofa pull-out bed in the rec room to go to the bathroom. As he stood urinating over the toilet, leaning wearily against the wall to his right in the flickering light of the bulb above, it came to him. As if the years of uniting in perfect harmony had eventually come to overtake even their own moments of inspiration, it came to the three remaining members simultaneously and in perfect accord- they just needed to sing.

As if carried there, they each individually dusted off their red and white-striped vests, donned their straw boater’s hats, and headed to the Barbershop. The wondrous, if not somewhat creepy, feeling that arose when they encountered each other entering the Barbershop simultaneously and identically dressed was quickly replaced with the safer aplomb of a raised eyebrow, a chuckle, and some Oh my’s. After each had his mustache trimmed, they stepped out onto the street. The streets were filled with the early morning rush hour crowds of people, but a subdued din due to the circumstances replaced the usual hubbub of the hour. The Quartet warmed up with some exercises they had picked up at the Improv Symposium and Buffet several years before, quickly tuned themselves to pitch, and as if they were 18 again, broke right into the rumbling first verse of “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”

The three surviving members, each crooning heavenward with eyes closed, became so lost in the harmony they didn’t even realize that for the first time since that tragic Arbor Day when the Piper Cub went down, their sound was complete. They had drowned in four-part harmony. Just behind them, in the doorway of the Barbershop, gripping a broom firmly in one hand and, like the others, with head raised to the sky above and eyes closed, Jacques the Barber, in a slightly wavering at first but beautifully rich bass, joined the three surviving members in encouraging that chariot to swing low. And the sweet chariot, in turn, dipped even lower.

No official invitation was extended to Jacques the Barber. It wasn’t as if contract papers were drawn up on the walk outside the Barbershop. Actually, not a word was spoken. When the three surviving members made their way through the small crowd that had gathered by the song’s conclusion, Jacques naturally followed.

In front of the firehouse, the new Quartet was joined by baritone Fire Chief Mandlebrow in a rousing “Wait ‘Till the Sun Shines, Nellie.” By the time the group reached the steps of the Courthouse, they had become a chorus of twelve, with another 50 or so following just to listen. Judge Milichamp recessed for “Bill Grogan’s Goat.”

We can’t be certain how aware the three surviving members were of the additional members they had accumulated. They continued to appear absorbed by the harmony, as if their four other senses had each lent all of their capacity to the auditory sense. They hadn’t sung like this in years, not since the Piper Cub went down, really not since several years before that, if ever. And they had never sung “Bill Grogan’s Goat.” They didn’t know where that came from. But on that day, as the morning grew towards noon and the sun rose higher in the sky, and as song filled all of that space, they only knew one thing- they were to keep singing.

And so the three surviving members led their growing group of now 20 singers, along with a good part of the Community in tow, through the streets that morning. Dr. Feldspar, in her Report several months later, was unable to find a coherent pattern to the route that morning after running several of the programs her then unheralded Assistant, Bob Dodd, had written. And so perhaps it will never be known exactly how the Quartet, by that time actually a choir of 32, ended up in the yard in front of the house in which Jimmy had lived.

Junior, in the magical realm somewhere between deep sleep and waking, heard distant voices, beautiful angelic voices, and was that…? Could it be? Yes, it was the words of the old favorite, “I Wouldn’t Trade the Silver in my Mother’s Hair,” that he heard. As the voices grew louder, Junior woke from his dreaming, sat up in his childhood bed, his feet hanging over the end by several inches, and looked around.

The voices were increasing in volume, like they were growing nearer, and as they reached the first chorus of “In Your Own Backyard,” Junior was drawn to them. He approached the window and pulled back the curtain. The light was blinding at first, instantly replacing the darkness the room had been shrouded in. After several moments, as Junior was again able to start to open his eyes, squinting at first, he could begin to make out a crowd in the front yard. As he opened his eyes completely and stood there in the light, what he saw gathered in the front yard was unlike anything he had ever seen. People filled the whole yard, 32 of them singing in the most perfect harmony he had ever heard, and at least, he would estimate, another hundred just standing and listening, with looks on their faces much the same as the look he imagined must have been on his own face, one of pure rapture. And in the front of all of this stood three men in red and white-striped vests, straw boater’s hats, and neatly trimmed mustaches, each with his head raised heavenward and eyes closed. Junior wasn’t even sure if they were aware of the hundred plus people behind them.

With the last note of “In Your Own Backyard” still ringing across the front yard, the three surviving members, but at first only the three surviving members, suddenly burst into the first verse of a new song. Up to this point, almost magically, as if all 32 of them had been rehearsing together for months, each song had begun without introduction, without someone yelling out, “Bill Grogan’s Goat,” or, “I Wouldn’t Trade the Silver in my Mother’s Hair,” without anyone counting off a beat, but with all the singers somehow starting in perfect unison. But now the three surviving members began to sing a number not immediately recognizable to Junior. At first, he thought it might be “Breathe on Me, Breath of God,” or perhaps a slightly untraditional arrangement of “Marian the Librarian.” Scholars have argued that the song by the Quartet on this morning on the front lawn of the house in which Jimmy had lived had strains of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” in the melody and hints of “Betelehemu” in its structure, but there has never been a consensus regarding the origin of this song. And yet somehow, the other voices soon joined in. And from his window, it sounded to Junior as if the hundred who had gathered heretofore just as listeners now sang along as well.

As the notes of this strange yet somehow familiar new song rose up to the window at which he stood, Junior felt them enter. He knew he was singing but could not be sure if any sounds were coming out of him. And it was just like that that he remained, transfixed at the window. The song from outside, from the Community, was the Community. And now it was also part of him. Some of the emptiness temporarily began to fill.

As the song ended, the last note seemed to ring on, and Junior wondered where exactly it would go when it disappeared. As he thought about it and really listened, he thought he could still hear the last note, albeit evermore faint, in the silence. And as the Quartet and their hangers-on dispersed, Junior thought he might still be able to hear that last note somewhere in the silence. And he wasn’t sure anymore when the music ended and when the silence began. Or even if there was a difference.

But it wasn’t just Smiley Keyes or the song by the Barbershop Quartet. It wasn’t just the sunsets or the tiny hairs on Peng’s forearms. It was all of these and it was everything. It was each raindrop, by themselves inconsequential, landing together to form the puddle in Jimmy’s Spot, into which Junior peered to see in return a fluid form of himself. The puddle would eventually dry up and become part of the earth. It was the cacophonous individual sounds of the crickets blending as one to create the droning hum that whispered, “It’s okay to rest now,” to Junior as he lied in his childhood bed. It was Jimmy’s colleague, Tyco McBrewster, whom Junior had never before met but whom Junior knew to have counted Jimmy as much a friend as a colleague, and whom Junior would eventually turn to for professional advice that was simultaneously knowledgeable, empowering, reassuring, and endearing. It was in Tyco’s voice that Junior heard the voice he had heard in his imaginings of the future with Jimmy, only it was being spoken through a different instrument. It was the fulfillment of a void. But it was a void that didn’t so much happen to Junior as Junior let happen to himself. And what filled the void was always there, ready to fill the space when the time came, like a bud so small it is all but invisible. What Junior felt happening in the Community was always happening. It had just been diluted over time. But now the intent behind all of the things that took place day after day as long as the days kept going- the muted sound of the pine forest covered in fresh snow, Mrs. Danticoat waving to the children from the end of her lane, the red bark of the trees in the fading sun, the twists in a conversation with Mr. Sauers, was reflected in a moment. And the same force that made the Community a community day-in and day-out now thrust itself on Junior in a highly concentrated dose and with a power and glory unlike anything he had heretofore experienced. Junior was enveloped in an embroidered quilt.

And now as Junior stood on the bank with the sun setting behind him and watched the ashes float through the air and drift gently down the stream, he no longer wondered where Jimmy was. He was scattered everywhere. He isn’t the bird, but the space under the bird’s wings as it soars across the sky. Not necessarily sun or flower, but the photosynthesis. He isn’t the note, so much as the chord. Just like he isn’t the person, so much as the community. Jimmy hadn’t gone anywhere. He had gone everywhere.


  1. Benjamin Matvey on December 5th, 2009 12:21 pm

    I am so glad Sunday Salon picked this up. Tim Kreider is simply one of my favorite writers out there. His story on mythical Jazz legend Shyne Talbot should be required reading for aspiring writers. It combines creativity, vision, and ambition, with a folkloric and rambunctious flare. Keep an eye out for his work.