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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Saying Goodbye

by Jared Carter

The time came when Words had to leave,
to go on to the next place. Words decided
to go visit Books, in order to say goodbye.
Everyone else – Images, Colors, Sounds –
had already gone ahead. Words inquired
at the desk, and was told that most days
Books would be sitting in a wheel-chair,
on a glassed-in porch, looking at the trees.
The room was down a narrow hallway.
Words had brought a half-pint of bourbon.
He found two plastic cups, poured a shot
for each of them, and sat down on a bench
not far from where Books was gazing out.
Books turned and saw that he was there.
He said nothing but took the offered cup.
For a moment they held their cups high,
then tossed down the shots. “Thanks,”
Books said, with a smile. “I needed that.”
He waved toward the trees. “Squirrels.
I like the way they chase about. Graceful.”
Words nodded. They watched for a while.
Near the crown of an oak, two fox squirrels
careered along the narrow limbs, shaking
the leaves. Books laughed. “I like trees, too.
Always have. I imagine they’ll do better now,
once I’m finally gone.” “Don’t talk that way,”
Words said. “You’ll always be here. Besides,
you’re about to enter your greatest period.
Unparalleled. Timeless. Museum quality.
That’s what they’ll say about your best work.”
Books turned back to the squirrels again.
After a minute or two he spoke up. “They say
you’ve got a new place.” “Yes.” “Well,
that’s good. I’m glad to hear it. Listen,
any time now they’re going to come in here
and make me take some awful medicine.
Give me another shot of whisky, OK?”
He held out the cup, and Words poured
another shot. Books nodded and took a sip.
“Thanks. Now you’d better be on your way.”
Words got up. He clasped Books’s free hand.
“Go on,” Books said. “Get out of here.
It’s time. You take care of yourself, OK?”
Words nodded, and left the room. Outside,
the squirrels had disappeared. High up,
where they had been scampering about,
a myriad of leaves still moved in the wind.

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