The Days That Must Happen to You
The Days That Must Happen to You
When he died, their father had two requests. First, that his ashes be taken to the palacio on the river the third week in September, on what would have been his 90th birthday. And second, that the whole family be there to take part in the scattering. Or, as he put it in the codicil, quoting his favorite poet, Walt Whitman, and underlining the words twice, "These are the days that must happen to you.”
That second was the sticking point, of course—though he'd cunningly left generous funds with Daniel Kim, his dexterous executor and sandcastling buddy, to cover travel from their various boltholes across the world, and made it clear that only if they carried out that dire last commandment would there be another cent. But even so, could they forget their rancor, their cherished pet peeves, and tolerate each other's company for three interminable days?
Ginevra slipped some favorite glass beads over her soft raglan sweater, and drew two deep breaths to steady herself. The others would arrive today. Was she really ready? She took another breath, drinking in pine, bay laurel, early morning fog.
She and her mother, Eileen, Jonah Kessler's second wife, had come to the Carmel Valley two days ago—the valorous advance guard, set on honoring Jonah's wishes. Ginevra had flown from Mallorca into San Francisco, and picked up her mother mid-Peninsula at the senior-living community where she and Jonah had been living since his health declined. They hadn't been in contact for over a year—Ginevra off in the Balearic Islands researching another food memoir, and Eileen bad at email and professedly allergic to the telephone. So they had spent the long drive catching up, and bolstering each other's confidence.
"We need to just get through this," the older woman exhorted in that hearty tone she'd adopted back when, designed to show utter indifference to the family's continuous attacks. Eileen was mother to Jonah's two youngest children, Ginevra and Mungo, and detested by the older three—who relished making her life a misery. (Not that they treated their own mother much better.) She'd coped by drinking gin from Wedgwood teacups and chain-smoking Sobranies sent from London by a cousin once removed, about whom Jonah would declare, "Yes, I removed him once."
"Don't you think Dad intended more than simply 'getting through'?" Ginevra suggested as she spotted the ocean, south of Half Moon Bay, and felt buoying her heart also those other seas she'd made her own. She couldn't shake a foolish hope she had of seeing something actually rewarding emerge from the gathering—something somehow miraculously greater than its parts.
Yes, she had fled as fast and far as possible, forever sapped by everybody's noisy certainties, and their self-absorbed disregard. Away from their orbit she'd finally found her sense of what she was, how she was meant to be. She'd been struck with wonder at the amplitude of life away from her family.
But then, troubled by doubts one day, she wondered if the perfect life she'd made herself was after all misguided. Sitting a month ago in a medieval walled town among strangers, with just her notebook and a vagrant caramel-colored cat for company, it had occurred to her that everything she loved to do—taking contemplative nature and culture walks, gazing at the river or the historic gates of the old Moorish town, reading, writing, exploring foreign languages and histories, adding spices to recipes—was done alone. All her pursuits were lonely ones, keeping her carefully apart.
And so she came back from Mallorca, food memoir, restored finca shared with a couple who spoke only Arabic but loved to cook tamarind fish and freekeh salad with fennel and chilis for her in the fieldstone kitchen, doubly determined to make the reunion everything her father had in mind. She had a shrewd idea why he'd summoned them.
She and her mother drove along the bay, from Santa Cruz to Seaside, on to Monterey, then inland, out again, to Carmel-by-the-Sea.
"Back in time we go," Ginevra mused.
"So many memories," Eileen agreed, more than a little warily. Her expectations weren't hopeful. When they had stopped to stretch their legs near Marina, she'd conjured out her walnut pocket flask, well worn, and fortified herself her way. Ginevra's innards clenched, but she could only be compassionate.
The palacio, the Kessler summer home, was in the Carmel Valley, twelve miles inland from the sea. Among canyons, woodland, and meadows, chaparral and oaks, the sacred country of the vanished Ohlone and Esselen. The road and river were thin lines on maps that wound and faltered, headed into forest, mountains, wilderness.
As light faded, they reached the little rise, the bend in the river, the line of abandoned Adirondack chairs still on the bank, waiting reproachfully, and turned up the long, rutted driveway to the house. Both sat without comment, letting the whole of it settle out of the sighing rise of memories and dust. The lofty log cabin all of windows and pine, where the five siblings had spent every summer in childhood, and for a while beyond, until Jonah could no longer command them back.
God knew, he'd tried. By laying down the law, alternately coaxing and threatening, using both cunning and psychology, to make his bevy of offspring and wives love each other, or—"confound it!"—get along. Keep them halfway civil. Keep them, against all odds, together, if just once a year. Pretending that Whitman's adage erased all pandemonium— "We were together. I forget the rest."
Ginevra had adored it there, and had her secret, sacred haunts and rituals which she tended, as Druids might. She wished so often that she hadn't had to flee halfway across the world to save herself. "We were together"—that had been the flaw in everything.
Over the next two days they'd done their best to finalize their plans for Sunday's ceremony, and to make the long-neglected house habitable again.
"It's been at least three years since we've come down," Eileen assessed. "Your father's joy in it had rather gone since none of you ever came back."
Ginevra was grateful to have that extra time to mourn, and get acclimated again. Eileen was feeling wobbly, but buoyed by her daughter's affectionate new attitude.
The second afternoon, they put fresh sheets and small bouquets of wildflowers in the bedrooms, upstairs and down, and then, over a quiche warmed for an early supper, chose a final poem for the service. Ginevra found herself looking forward to the gathering, curious to see how her siblings had changed—or not—over the years, and hoping her own inner metamorphosis might help make their reunion positive for all.
She slept soundly that night out in the studio behind the house, where she had spent a lot of time during her adolescent summers hiding out from everyone. There, in that room lit by a large skylight, able to actually hear herself think and daydream, she'd started scribbling down impressions at the white pine writing desk, its single drawer stowing a cache of felt tip pens and Butterfinger chocolate bars.
"Bring them on, then," Eileen (who hadn't slept) muttered on Thursday morning, kissing her daughter's cheek as Ginevra came into the big house, cloaked in the fragrance of sweet almond oil from Sóller, Mallorca. In the peace and wisdom she had gradually learned.
Or had she? With the invasion imminent, Ginevra found herself afraid again, unsure of her own worth. She felt her precarious gains crumble away, just like the turrets of the sandcastles she'd tried to shape while Dad judged and rejected, and Mungo or Delia jostled her arm, grabbing her sand shovel, kicking her purple plastic bucket half the way to Whaler's Cove. To Kingdom Come, as Henri, dramatizing as ever, declared.
Delia was the first to arrive, not long after breakfast. She'd always been known for thinking the worst, griping exhaustively about whatever displeased her. A sour aura seemed to still be mantling her. She was already in full cry as she was helped out of the rental car (too small for her poundage) by the artist who'd recently moved in with her in Sedona—a much younger woman with a messy shaggy bob and bangs that half covered her sloe-eyed tawny face.
"Sasparilla Charteris," the artist introduced herself, since Delia was busy complaining about her luggage which had gone missing somehow between Phoenix and Monterey.
"Which would of course only happen to me."
"Poor Dee," the younger woman soothed, with mocking undertones. "It's so unfair, I know."
After the two had settled in the master bedroom up under the stars, which Delia had "reserved" ahead of time by imperious text, they walked down to the river with cold cans of oat milk matcha they'd brought with them in a huge soft-sided travel cooler—hefted by Sasparilla, who'd unloaded the car with scarce-concealed hostility.
"Who do you suppose is taking advantage of whom in that relationship? Is Miss Sassy with Delia just for the sake of her art?" Eileen wondered. They'd looked her up on Google—an up-and-coming folk-art painter specializing in stylized big bad wolves with batting eyelashes and rows of alligator teeth. The upscale art gallery where Delia handled retail sales had recently—surprisingly, given its other artists—started featuring the younger woman's work.
"Good question," Ginevra smiled. "I'm sure we'll hear more about it than we would ever want to know."
Laughing together, they felt almost invincible.
Soon after came Henri and Belgian wife and granddaughter, in an airport shuttle. Né plain old Henry, he'd had the spelling of his name changed by court order when he'd married Rosamonde, from Ghent, who spoke no English—or pretended not to. Henri by either name forever acted out and played the fool, a mercurial drama queen, now living in Westwood Village, L.A.
"Are you still working casino cruises?" Eileen wondered.
"Oh dear me, no—I got bored with that donkey's years ago. I'm indulging my inner child these days—decorating cakes and cupcakes for a Westwood caterer." Henri and Rosamonde had two daughters and several grandchildren. It was Coco, a blithe, precocious eight-year-old, Jonah's favorite, here with them now.
"She's always loved this place," Eileen remarked. "And idolized your father, as you did."
Ginevra felt a pang. She was the odd one out already—single, with neither attachments nor kids. What might have been mistaken for a motherly instinct, her love of cooking, was in fact the opposite—something that started as an instinctive defense against interaction with her siblings over the years. She'd liked having a good excuse for staying in the kitchen and not being made to join in skirmishes out in the family room. She had contrived endless batches of guacamole and smoked salmon dip, to keep well out of the communal space.
Now cooking because she loved it, instead, she'd thrown together some enormous salads for today—soba noodles with leftover roast chicken, bright bitter radicchio, and shaved carrots; a spicy taco salad with black beans and fire-roasted corn. Everyone sat on the long front deck facing the river for a noisy lunch, the food and autumn sunshine mellowing all but Delia, who informed them that she had an allergy to buckwheat, and "itched something awful" if she mistakenly ate corn. Sasparilla was sent inside, fuming, to find her "something edible."
Ginevra followed her in, showing her where the rest of the chicken was stashed, and making a quick vinaigrette for plain lettuce.
"She's hopeless!" Sasparilla exclaimed. "I was dreading the rest of you, afraid you'd all be just the same. I wasn't going to come—only that didn't seem to be an option."
"That was my first reaction too," Ginevra smiled. "I think you'll find, though, that we're none of us the least alike. The only thing we've had in common, ever, is this house." She'd thought about that lots since getting Daniel Kim's email. She added, chuckling, "And a peculiar tendency to quote Walt Whitman."
"'I celebrate myself . . .'" Sasparilla started,
"'. . . and sing myself,'" Ginevra finished.
"Lawsy me," the artist said, feigning batting-eyelash charm. "I can't tell you how many times I've heard Delia declare that, when somebody gives her grief."
"Sounds about right."
Unexpectedly, the young woman rushed to defend her partner.
"But believe it or not, she has a heart of gold under that gruff exterior. Only she has so little self-esteem, and hasn't figured out how else to cope with it. I'm terribly sorry for her."
Ginevra felt ashamed, never having guessed.
Sometime mid-afternoon, Mungo arrived in a muddy Jeep Wrangler, having driven all the way from Galveston, where he managed a freight-forwarding operation. "Most dear" by name, he'd always been hell-bent on being anything but. He had three children, somewhere in Australia, where he'd lived for seven years—all by different mothers, estranged from him. And bounding down out of the Jeep (sending Sasparilla fleeing into the house, despite the big bad wolves she chose to paint) came his current traveling companion, Fen, a big Czechoslovakian Wolfdog.
"Named for Fenrir, the great wolf of Norse mythology."
Finally at dusk, by Uber, Matt arrived. The Latvian woman he'd married late in life was rumored to be a mail-order bride. She, Agnese, seemed to be pregnant, though neither of them said a word. Matt was notoriously taciturn, communicating almost never, though Delia had wormed out of him that he enjoyed his work as a journeyman lineman for Snohomish County PUD.
"Where the heck . . . ?"
"No hair apparent," Henri quipped. Their eldest brother was perceptibly balding.
Having taken measure of each other, and cautiously relaxing, they got through cocktails and dinner without incident. Dishes were washed and dried, and various card games had been proposed. Ginevra had just settled into one of the big armchairs in the family room, giving a thankful inward sigh, when she heard noise outside. Fen hurled himself at the front door, barking ferociously.
"What fresh hell is this?" Delia inquired tersely of Sasparilla, who was giving her a foot massage with tea tree oil in the big leather lounger.
Henri, closest to the window, peered out into the night, and yelped with genuine astonishment.
"Good gracious me—I do believe it's Mother!"
"Deesse ex machina," Mungo observed witheringly, watching beside his brother as Jonah's first wife descended from a stretch limo, and three frantic chihuahuas followed after her in a furious swarm.
No one had expected Stefani, but here she was—larger than life, delighted at her showy entrance. Mungo hauled Fen off for a walk, out the back door, muttering something about keeping him from gobbling up the tasty (nasty?) little hors d'oeuvres that had just been delivered.
"Darlings. I'm on my way back from Big Sur—from Esalen—a workshop on relational gestalt." She must have noticed Eileen's look of horror and added grandly, "I'm staying in a lovely vineyard hideaway just down the road with spa and swimming pool, instead of slumming here—no need to worry."
Why Jonah ever married Stefani, or vice versa, defied explanation. Jonah had taught geography in middle school. Two weeks a year, in late July, he'd been a camp counsellor extraordinaire, and with Daniel Kim taught the kids to build amazing sandcastles. He'd been a learned man, a not-so-amateur psychologist, who loved Walt Whitman and the stars; his children, each and every one, no matter what. They gave him fits—and he'd forgive them anything. Stefani was entirely unsuited to all that, including the children.
Friday, Ginevra snuck into the house before the others were stirring, and claimed the upstairs bathroom. She was the only one who'd ever used the claw-foot bathtub. She'd brought her bubblebath—almond scented, again. One of the small protective sorceries she'd learned along the way.
Later that morning she'd hear Delia screaming from the master suite shower when someone, probably Henri, started running water elsewhere in the house and she was first scalded then left freezing. Other complaints followed; Eileen was blamed. No cell phone reception or wifi, no croissants, no vegan butter. But they were together . . .
After breakfast Delia and Sasparilla spent the morning playing ping-pong, while Matt searched through old records and cassettes in the game room. He started needling Coco.
"Tonight we have to have some karaoke, don't we, babe?"
"You know she hates that," Rosamonde said sternly in French, and Coco, who was reading an Enola Holmes mystery, sprawled on the overstuffed sofa, turned her back on her "dumbo" grandfather, witheringly shaking her head.
"Why don't you find some music for the service?" Ginevra suggested, and he was soon immersed in that, his choices ranging from Janis Joplin to The Beach Boys to "Straight Otta Compton" to Sweeney Todd, with one of Bach's ungentle Cello Suites thrown in for good measure. Jonah had scorned all of Henri's favorite music, his scorn returned in spades.
"But cher Papa's not here, is he?"
Ginevra asked Coco if she'd like to walk down to the river with her and Eileen. They walked companionably in the autumn sun, ignoring random snatches of music that followed on the breeze. Later back in the house they made Jonah's famous bologna sandwiches for lunch—bologna fried in butter on rye bread with alderwood smoked cheddar, caramelized onion, and a dollop of chipotle mayo—the girl applying the latter with lip-pursed care, and everyone (except Stefani, who was "dieting, darling") ate at least one, despite a lot of flak. Delia, who had "this onion thing, don't you remember?" made a horrified face.
"Did Dad know that?"
"He probably didn't pay attention; nobody does."
"Get over yourself, babe," Sassafras said matter-of-factly.
The family was appalled, breath caught, but Delia just mumbled "Sorry," completely unperturbed. And in the end she wolfed down two bologna sandwiches that Ginevra specially customized for her, with Coco rushing in to "do the mayo."
That afternoon Delia and Sasparilla went out winetasting with Stefani and Henri, and Matt and Agnese slipped silently off for a hike—Agnese carrying a serious Nikon with telephoto lens. Eileen was napping, Mungo making an "emergency" run into the village to find various obscure liquors, as well as fennel seed sausages and fresh abalone to grill for dinner.
Ginevra took the opportunity to sit on the quiet back deck and watch fog drift though the canyon. Coco came out with her book and a glass of chocolate milk, which she insisted on sharing. They sat together, looking out. Ginevra pointed out a horse in a pasture across the long canyon. Purple, from a blanket, as unexpectedly but perfectly purple as Gauguin or Bonnard would have painted it.
"I love horses."
"I did too, at your age. I still love them in the landscape."
Distance made palatable, even idyllic. The artistic pasture there below belonged to the family of an old girlfriend of Mungo's, she thought, who'd caused hard feelings of some kind. . . she couldn't quite remember what, but there had been a fuss.
Rosamonde came out to sit in the warm spill of sunlight coming through the trees, glistering on the rivulet of fog. She'd always acted scornful and standoffish, but finding the two together she ruffled her daughter's hair fondly, then surprised Ginevra by saying (in perfectly good English) how much she liked the book of travel narratives Ginevra wrote when working as cook for some rich Brits in Mallorca, near where poet Robert Graves had lived.
"By chance, my dissertation was on Fra Junípero Serra and his spiritual journey from the old world to the new—Palma de Mallorca to the California Coast. I spent a lot of time in Palma, doing reasearch."
As they talked about the island and its charms, Ginevra's eyes were caught by the hand-lettered sign over the door. Jonah had had it made for just that spot, another quote from Whitman—
“Happiness, not in another place but this place . . . not for another hour, but this hour.” It struck her forcibly. Happiness did seem possible in shared moments like these—and even the affection she’d always ached for.
Down in the walled garden, which he had piled with tide-washed coastal stones and planted with red Japanese Maple, there was a second sign—"Read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life." He'd wanted poetry in the very fabric, like Robinson Jeffers in his Tor House back in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
She missed her father terribly; she felt untethered by his loss. She gave Coco a wistful, loving hug, as the girl sat reading her Enola Holmes. Engrossed completely, as Ginevra couldn’t ever be when others were around.
Then suddenly they were around, Fen snuffling for crumbs around the chairs and up on the table, and pandemonium again ensued. Mungo and Matt emerged onto the deck arguing sharply, Mungo having mentioned that he'd run into Louellen Corrigan in town—the old girlfriend, Ginevra now remembered—and invited her to Sunday's ceremony. Matt reminded him that none of them could stand Louellen; that Jonah refused to have her in the house after the time she'd gotten drunk at dinner and called him "Kemosabe" because he was mentoring two Esselen boys and she was a barefaced redneck, just like the rest of her family.
"She's probably MAGA by now," Matt added coldly. "And I won't have her here."
Mungo turned on Matt, livid, and shoved him in the chest, saying
"I'm not taking orders from you."
Agnese rushed forward to defend her husband, and the mighty Fen, Mungo's eruptive wolfhound, hurled himself into the fray and knocked the slight woman off-balance. She fell against a chair back and then down, unnaturally angled, winded.
Shocked, everybody froze. Then Fen was collared, in disgrace, with curt apologies from his owner as he ushered the dog inside, and others rushed to help Agnese to her feet, slowly, and ultimately into bed.
"Really not good for the baby," Eileen worried, white-faced, watching them go.
When Mungo hadn't reappeared an hour later, Matt wordlessly started the charcoal grill. Ginevra assembled a huge Greek salad, while the others drank Caipirinhas made with cachaça and muddled limes; Tuscan sangria exotically flavored with limoncello, Tuaca, and Punt e Mes. After sampling them both, Eileen summoned her bravery, and took a tray of sausages outside to Matt.
"You know, Louellen has become really a decent woman since you knew her last. She's heavily involved with the Youth Center and with equine healing in this area—especially for kids at risk. Your father even got her involved in his summer camp. They actually got on well."
She told Ginevra later, "At least he didn't snap my head off."
After she'd put the salad and a dozen baked potatoes on the table that served for both dining and ping-pong, Ginevra took Agnese's dinner to her room, and made sure she was comfortable.
"You're sure you don't need a doctor?"
"I am okay." But she was shivering, even under a soft old quilt with dusty pink roses made by Ginevra's grandmother Lucy.
"When you're done eating, let me pour a bath for you. The faucets are a little tricky."
Agnese nodded, gratefully, and later, when she was ready, Ginevra found her thick towels and added to the warm water a dollop of her soothing bubblebath.
Henri declared at breakfast Saturday that everyone must go to the ocean. There was talk of building sandcastles, inviting Daniel Kim, wizard builder.
After finishing the dishes, Ginevra found Coco curled up on the sofa, in a sad little ball.
"What's the matter, kiddo?"
"They knew I wanted to go horseback riding. You can have rides on Pebble Beach, my friend Kelcie told me—she got to go last year. And Grampy promised. But now he's forgotten. We go to the ocean all the time, in Malibu; it's not like that's any big deal."
"I'm pretty sure you have to be older to ride at Pebble Beach. I heard your grandma say she'd checked. But I think there's a stable with trail rides not far away—I'll call, okay?"
Coco was crushed again, to hear that the stable was fully booked all day.
"Saturdays are always the busiest, they say."
The girl's very bones seemed to droop.
"Let me try one more thing—I know how badly you want to ride."
She went out to find Mungo, who was throwing a ball for Fen.
"Do you suppose Louellen might be willing to take Coco on a trail ride, at such short notice? I know she's still got horses, and gives lessons."
Mungo remembered that his sister hadn't been among Louellen's detractors the night before, and agreed to call her. While he was talking, Ginevra was deputized to throw the tennis ball.
"She says sure. Bring her by around noon if you want."
"Thanks so much, Mungo. I'm really grateful—and Coco will be over the moon."
She was, especially when Ginevra guessed that she might get to ride the purple horse they'd both admired from the deck the afternoon before. Henri was disgruntled at the fragmentation of the beach party, still more when Matt said he wasn't going along either. Seeing a way to partially repay Ginevra's kindness to Agnese, he offered an unexpected kindness of his own—to drive Coco to the stables, and wait for her while she had her trail ride.
"I discover myself on the verge of a usual mistake," Matt quoted Whitman ironically to her. He added, "But Agnese's feeling better, and would like to take some pictures there."
Matt, too, Ginevra suddenly realized, went on solitary walks to escape the tension others caused—drawn by the same need for quiet she'd always felt. Thus also his retreats into silence. Eileen's retreats into gin. Delia's into her preemptive sniping, Rosamonde's into her native French. Maybe every one of them was trying to protect what was essential, however they could.
They spent a thankfully uneventful evening of uneasy reconciliation, though Henri was miffed that his sandcastle had been deemed "too Baroque" for the general preference. Matt and Mungo together installed a new water heater they had found in town,
"So we don't have to listen to Delia caterwauling in the shower one more day."
On Sunday morning Ginevra prepared a feast for the 90th birthday and obsequies, and Henri, whistling Lennon and McCartney's "Birthday" off-key, made a cake.
She'd planned several antipasti—prosciutto and kale bruscette, salmon rillettes, North African spiced shrimp, and chargrilled artichokes. And to follow, BBQ beef brisket, multigrain rolls, and grilled plum salad with aged Gouda and pecans. Dessert would be a Sicilian limoncello cake with many layers and a froth of lemon zest and white chocolate shavings on top. Henri's prowess was inspiring.
Surprisingly, the ceremony brought them all together. (Strangest of all was seeing Louellen bonding with Stefani—one of the pictures Agnese took showing her cuddling a chihuahua in each brawny tattooed arm). Each mourned their father in their own, idiosyncratic way, but all without rancour finally. They all contributed an anecdote or two, and then Delia played a Native American flute piece, genial if wobbly. Henri's song selection had come down to "Me and Bobby McGee," and Paul Robeson's "Old Man River." Both, somehow she couldn't name, came close to breaking Ginevra's heart. Rosamonde had found a song with lyrics by Walt Whitman—"On the Beach at Night Alone"—which she and Coco sang sweetly together.
Afterwards, Coco begged to go see the horses again, but Ginevra persuaded her to come walking instead, to visit the old secret haunts which were calling to her. She thought the two of them together might reverse the spell which had bound her so long to solitary ways.
"How would you like to help me tend the river temple?"
She found it easily, brushing through grasses in her shin-length cotton skirt: a hidden spot along the riverbank where long ago she'd tucked a little quartz goddess into a mound of pine cones, eucalyptus leaves, juniper berries, aromatic lavender. From her suede tote she pulled a cloth of silver, gold, and palest green, like leaves, she'd found in Spain, as soft as gauze, as sunlight through the late afternoon trees, as brook dapple, and placed it in Coco's wondering hands. Naiad's mantle, veil of riverine joy.
"Keep it, for when you're here. It was just me, before . . . and that's been really hard. I can't come back often; I live so far away."
"Maybe you won't always," the girl said wistfully.
After bathing the quartz figure in pellucid river water, and laying her back under the cones and rustly leaves, where Coco would find her again, Ginevra read a poem saved on her phone, words meant for her alone shared with the bright, listening girl. Then they sat on the riverbank in two of the old Adirondack chairs, the silvered cloth from Spain kept safe for Coco for the moment in Ginevra’s homely tote. And before long, arriving in nonchalant pairs, the others came to join them. Embarrassed, pretending it was only chance that brought them there.
Daniel, master of sandcastles, arrived in his electric MINI Cooper (Chili Red), and came out with his executor's folder to find them.
The palacio was theirs, jointly, as long as they came back to it from time to time—Coco's if they would not. Only after the last Kessler was gone could they let it out of the family.
Not needing to confer, they all agreed.
And finally, Jonah asked—sure his scheming had worked—to have Walt Whitman's words inscribed on a small plaque where they had scattered him, among the trees, where they'd unfailingly return.
That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.
CHRISTIE COCHRELL's work has been published by The Plentitudes, Catamaran, Cumberland River Review, Tin House, and a variety of others, receiving several awards and Pushcart nominations. Chosen as New Mexico Young Poet of the Year while growing up in Santa Fe, she's more recently published a volume of collected poems, Contagious Magic. She lives by the ocean in Santa Cruz, California—too often lured away from her writing by otters, pelicans, and seaside walks.