A Glibertarians Exclusive: Mystical Child Part XIII
From the diary of Robert “Cairo Bob” Allen, 1841-1928
May 5, 1924 –Clear Creek Valley, Nevada
Haven’t written anything in this here diary since the day I got home in December of 1886, as I read it here, but today I reckoned it time to do so. Isis passed away yesterday. A year and a day short of our fortieth anniversary. She was eighty-one, and with me eighty-four this year, don’t reckon I’ll be long after her. Our son Robert is here – no “Bob” for him, him having gone to West Point and all, even going to France with Blackjack Pershing in the Great War. Yankee army these days wears brown, not blue, so that’s something. Robert lives up in Elko now, reading law, with his wife Betty and their five kids. All of them here today, come down from Elko in Robert’s new motorcar. Isis sure did get a kick out of the grandkids. Wish she could have seen all of them growed up. Wish I could, too, but don’t reckon that I’ll last that long. I ain’t sad about that. It will be good, to be with Isis again, to see her smile, one more time.
May 5, 1924
“You doing all right, Dad?” Robert Edward Allen asked his father. Not Pa, like I would have said, Bob mused. Dad. Times change.
Bob shifted in his chair. He could see out the window of the screen porch he had built twenty-some years before, to where a line of willows marked the progress of Clear Creek. “I’m all right,” he said. “As good as can be, with your Ma gone.” In the house’s tiny parlor, which had once been the main room when the house was just a cabin, stood a coffin, with the mortal remains of Bob’s wife inside. The funeral was to be the next day.
“Your Ma asked to be buried under the big willow out back, you know,” Bob said to his son.
“I know, Dad. It’s all arranged.”
“Time comes, you’ll put me right there with her, won’t you?”
“I will, Dad. That’s a promise. You and Mom were together long enough in life, figure you’d want to spend eternity together as well.”
“I reckon so,” Bob whispered.
Robert sat down in the chair opposite his father. “I still remember when this house wasn’t much more than a cabin. I remember being about ten years old, and you had me fetching wood, nails and shingles to help build the bedrooms on to the south and this screen porch here, just a couple of years later.”
“Was just a cabin, when I first come to be here,” Bob said. “Just a cabin. Cabin, couple of horses, some pigs and chickens, and a truck garden. Not much, but enough. Those were some fine days.”
“You’ve been here a long time,” Robert said.
“Long time,” Bob agreed. “Of course, I wasn’t here the whole time.”
“Huh?” Robert’s eyes widened. “What do you mean, you weren’t here the whole time?”
“Reckon you never heard tell,” Bob said, and described the trip up into Canada – leaving out the fact that he had been prompted by Isis kicking him out. Bob figured the boy didn’t need to know that about his mother, not now, not with her freshly dead and the shock still new in their hearts, blossoming like a black flower.
“Before all that,” Bob explained, “I wasn’t a young man, but, well, I wasn’t a serious man. Figured four years of war and ten years of Egypt would have burned that young man’s foolishness right out of me, wouldn’t you? But maybe I just needed that last little shove. Anyway, I come south out of Canada with no treasure except what I’d learned about myself by almost freezing to death. I was a better man after that, son, and that’s a fact.”
Robert nodded. He’d seen his own share of death and horror in the trenches, Over There. The boy carried a scar on his shoulder from a shell fragment. He knew about mud and blood and lice and rats, about artillery and machine guns and gas. He hadn’t told his father about those things. He didn’t have to. He knew his father understood.
Then Robert’s wife came in from the kitchen. Betty Allen was a petite, vivacious girl with a head full of blonde curls. Bob approved of her, and Isis had, too. After her poured in the grandchildren, three boys and two girls, aged fifteen to four. Bob managed a smile for the little ones. He had the strength for that.
The funeral was the next day. Bob stood there in a black suit smelling of mothballs, not listening to the droning of the Carson City preacher Robert had fetched out. I’ll see you soon enough, Isis, he thought. What the hell, maybe I’ll see that bastard Sam Evans up there, too. Not sure if I’ll shake his hand or bust his nose. Don’t suppose God cottons to fighting on the streets of Glory, so…
He looked at the closed coffin. Isis had long since insisted that there would be no viewings. “I want my family to remember me,” she said, “not some waxworks figure in a pine box.” She was right.
Isis, he thought. There was something magical about you. About us. Hell with Canada – if I’d have gone back to Cairo, sooner or later, I’d have crawled on my hands and knees through busted glass to get back to you.
Reckon you know that, don’t you?
You drove me a little bit crazy at times. Suppose I did the same to you. But that’s life, and we had a hell of a good one, after all. Lord, I remember the day we wed. That cold rain, that young preacher just out of seminary – he just said the words for you here, just now. He’s an old man now, just like I’m an old man now, but if I had the chance, I’d give everything I own in the world just to see you now, like you were on that day, in that blue dress, smiling me even with that cold rain coming down.
I’ll see you soon, Isis, he thought. He stepped forward, laid a hand on the pine box. I’ll see you soon.
Isis oh Isis you’re a mystical child.
What drives me to you is what drives me insane.
I still can remember the way that you smiled.
On the fifth day of May in the drizzling rain.