Tidbits from Gary

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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Ára Bátur

“Ára Bátur”
a short story
Gary Baker, June 2013

Torn hearts echoed under clouded skies, faint breaths of wind caressed cheeks with the loyalty of a weary retriever, lapping at faces encouragingly while keeping quiet enough to respect the moment. Charlie blinked as the chill air drew his eyes down tight. Saline bridged the gaps on either side and rivulets of salt were borne over pale, freckled cheek bones.

Black oblivion held him in place, a color so void of everything else possible that it had become incomprehensible to think that he might dare interrupt such graceful threads in the combined fates of a solitary human life. Not one person could claim this man was alone, yet no one seemed to know him either.

They wept for him, sure, but what was there to show his life other than a casket and a few white and pink orchids lain over his heart, others across the polished black lumber. Charlie watched them all, watching women with veils slowly coming to terms with the end, some with mascara dripping like veins of oil down the sides of their faces, and men who acted stoic as statues with impassive expressions and eyes stricken unto the horizon lest the moisture be let loose by movement.

He recognized a few here and there, not that it mattered; it helped to sit at the back at times like this.

Here the sixth grade teacher whom had cherished Charlie’s wonder for the world, there a coach for the academic decathlon where Charlie had won several awards. He tilted his neck to see a row of
his own family not quite front and center, another small group instead taking up the foremost plastic white chairs. It was their cries which had the most resonance in the open greenery with some speckled slabs of marble here and there, these select few held nothing back. For them this man had been the world.

That was why Charlie chose the back in the first place, it was his fiance and soon-to-be in-laws up there in those seats, and he would be the last one to break them up just to give himself a seat beside her of all people here.

Just then a pianist fingered out a low tune: something Icelandic as it sounded, not quite a dirge, but not quite meant to do anything but move beyond comparison. The chords drew out like mist beneath a cascade of cool water at the base of a long dive, echoes driving across the lawn and landscape with rough abandon. Joining in came a man with an impeccable voice, dressed much like everyone else in as formal of a suit and tie combo as he could get. The blacks of his blazer, slacks and similar shine of his satin loafers only embellished his angelic verses, sung not in English, like the common language of the gathering, but of Icelandic -- or so far as Charlie could tell.

At the break of the first verse, Charlie watched even stoic eyes begin to moisten and condense; the music, it seemed, was just beautiful enough to break the floodgates of those not yet spilling over. Seemingly on cue with everyone else, droplets began to fall over the entirety of the scene with an end result of many umbrellas acting as one. Those without protection then stood quietly and began to shuffle out and away.

Charlie watched as more faces he knew all too well shifted by, floating on obsidian collars and turtleneck dresses. Why everyone he knew had come to same funeral at once, was anyone’s guess, yet all the downtrodden grimaces and clenched eyes told one lone fact to all the world: this man, now gone forever, would be more than missed. This was even greater proof than all the world could muster otherwise, that this lone man had been loved and had moved all of those he knew.

While the song climbed higher into a classical emotional climax, still the rain fell in greater and greater swaths as the morning passed by. The wind picked up a step, using the energy emanating from a lone piano and vocalist, and began playing with the laced trim of veils and blazers alike.

“Þú flýtur á sjónum,” came the sorrowful waves of lyrical awe, “Sefur á yfirborði, Ljós í þokunni.” Without second thought, Charlie caught the homage paid in such a verse, loosely translating to: floating in the sea, asleep on the waves, a light in the mist. and finally another surge of tears were brought to his own eyes.

With his face set with determination to keep himself free of sadness at such an event, Charlie stood and snapped his blazer as though to dust it off. No rain melted away from his coat, no moisture trickled across his scalp under a mess of neatly trimmed hair that should have been wet. But he understood why, now.

One last look at his dear fiance, that was all he gave himself to forever remember her beautiful hazel eyes, her perfect smile, her loving touch and warm heart, then turned away and made a trackless journey into the thick misty rain.

Just outside the limits of visibility of those still seated at the funeral, Charlie paused to look down upon a stone grave marker. It had been trimmed with etchings of Roman design, the name carved with a glorious, flowy cursive font. And once again he fought tears while picking up his pace to move as deep into the desolate rain as possible; knowing full well whose name had been etched there.

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