Thursday, September 13, 2012

Riding the Comet

*Some authors are so memorable and cherished, their stories will never die, nor do their own personal stories end when they close the book on their final chapter...*

April 21, 1910
I walked through the parlor, the drawing room, up the staircase and through the bedrooms—but there was nothing left. Not a trace of dust, not a single loose leaf of paper or drop of ink from my writing desk, not a thread from any of the confiscated curtains, linens or clothes remained. Not that the material things mattered much to me, but I did feel a weight of sorrow that the few personal items of my family—my wife Livy’s gloves, my daughters Jean and Susy’s dresses, even little Langdon’s blanket—were gone as well. Perhaps it would have been best to have parted with those things when they departed from this world, but my memory hasn’t been what it used to be lately. Those trifles always helped me hold on.
When I walked back into the parlor, there was an object at the bottom that I had somehow overlooked. It was a shiny ferry token, and as I stooped down to pick it up, I smiled at the familiar coolness of the coin. All those years of piloting ferry boats up and down the Mississippi…I could recall the smell of the air, the clanging of bells, the rushing of the water through the ferry wheel.  I knew why that coin was there, and who might’ve left it.
I opened my front door wide. There, where my lawn should have been, was a dazzling bright ferry, strewn with twinkling stars. A grand golden wheel pivoted on the side, turning the clouds that poured around the boat like an ivory river.
“Come now,” I huffed. “It ain’t got to be as fancy as all that.”
Immediately, the ferry boat became a raft. As I predicted, Huck was on it, smiling as he chewed on a blade of glass, tipping his straw hat towards me. I began to wonder how the boy might’ve looked grown up, if I had ever let him grow. He’d look like me, I suppose.
“You sure you wanna leave this way?” Huck asked. “All yer stuff was on the ferry. Can’t fit all that on this thing.”
“Ain’t got much use for all that, where I’m going.” I tossed the ferry token to him. “Don’t mind some company, though.”
Huck bit the token, and shoved it in a pocket of his overalls. “You ever ride a comet before, Mr. Twain? I ‘magine it’s terrifyin’.”

I kicked off my shoes and stepped onto the raft. I picked up the steering pole. “I came into this world with this very comet. I’m ready to go out with it now. The Almighty said, no doubt: ‘Here are these two unaccountable freaks. They came in together, they must go out together.’ And Huck…call me Sam.”

As Huck and I started to make our way down that river to wherever and who knows, I knew the me I left behind—that old man lying in the bed—must’ve passed on with a smile, as Hailey’s comet soared overhead.

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