“I spent the battle drunk, myself. You see, that morning my orderly Vanya and I were playing chess beneath a tree. He sat just as you do now. It had been a heated game, but he had carried off a most risky gambit. I was going to have the devil to pay to find my way out of it. I can still see his gray eyes, laughing with triumph at his surprising tactic. His mouth smiled with a remark he was forming in his mind. This moment is, for me, forever frozen, trapped in the ice of what came next.”
The old man is always kind, though sometimes Tsou-Tahi does not understand him.
His lessons are stories, complicated stories that draw no distinction between the world of the spirits and the world of the living.
The animals speak, as do the trees, the river, the mountains, the sky.
Yatoyenh walks ahead.
For such a very old man, he is remarkably agile and quick.
Tsou-Tahi can hear him singing, picks up his sack and trots after. When he rounds a bend in the river, there sits the old man, high up on an enormous log fallen across both banks.
“You can’t keep leaving her there all day.”
“She seems happy enough.”
“How would you know?”
“Look. She has friends there.”
“There’s Mrs. Friedl, Mrs. Abernathy…”
“Both of them as old as herself. And they’re not in the mall all day, either.”
“If you have a better idea, let’s hear it.”
“You know my idea. Medicare pays for most of it.”
“That’s because they know that as soon as you put your mother in one of those places it’s only a matter of months before she’s no longer a problem.”
“Better than dropping her at the mall.”
The realtor smiled, lipstick on her teeth. “Now for the best part,” she cooed, unlocking the back door. Her heels sounded like a cart-horse, he thought.
In the back yard stood a stone house, ancient and menacing. “Isn’t it wonderful? A historian said it predates the house by at least a century!”
“Can that be my playhouse, Daddy?” Dot asked, pulling his hand.
“Where’d this stone come from?” he asked the realtor.
“I’ll need to check,” she said, thumbing the listing. “Nothing in here.”
“It’s charming” said Margie.
He jabbed the mortar with his pocketknife, wondering about an outdoor fireplace.
If she’d spent the extra money for a private deck on the stateroom, I could have done it any time. As it was, I had to get her onto the Lido deck when nobody was watching.
She always had this thing about being mistaken for my mother, and made a point to kiss or caress me in public so there’d be no mistake. It got stares, let me tell you.
The timing was bad, since so many people had seen us together. I’m getting cabin fever, but it isn’t smart to be seen without her.
Somebody might start asking questions.