At six o'clock in the morning on an early day in October, 2012, I strapped on a rented Cruze and began a 560-mile journey to spend some time with Holly, th' Luvly Laura's friend since childhood. I would say, in fact, that they defined the term "BFF." Holly could not, for various unavoidable reasons, attend either Laura's Memorial Service, or the military service during which her cremains were placed in my niche in a National Cemetery (no, Laura isn't a veteran, but I am... and so was Laura's Dad). In any case, when Holly announced they were going to place her parents' cremains at Arlington National Cemetery (her father was a WWII pilot ferrying unarmed planes into combat zones, I decided to be there representing both of us.
The idea was a good one, and Holly and her family welcomed me to their family as a sort of adjunct member. The "How It's Done," part, however, could have used some work on my part. First, the Cruze is not designed for long trips on roads undergoing random intermittent repairs. She's a short-coupled little beast, and bounces and rocks unmercifully over any series of unevenness. She's also a snappy little car and fun to drive, but that means her suspension is stiff and every hole and bump is immediately and intimately transmitted to your back.
Second, I had just spent nine hours in a car alone, headed for a reunion with the best friend of my wife who's been dead less than a year. About halfway into the trip, I began to ponder all these things. It turns out it's possible that such a combination of realities may not be a good idea after all... despite all it has going for it at first glance. The "good" news is that from all that pain comes the what follows.
For two long years I fought the bitch,
Th’ Luvly Laura’s own family Banshee.
The day she came, November First, Two
Thousand and oh-nine, I walked into
A darkened house just after six at night.
The silence and the darkness raised the hackles
On my neck. I called her name, and yet again, but
From the Luvly Laura came not the smallest sound.
My heart flat quit, then stammered once… then
Hammered hard in my unbreathing chest.
I was a-sprint before I knew, and in the nose of memory
I smell the gagging burning sulfur scent.
Short corners tried their vicious best
To dump me on the floor, my wind and heart
Knocked flat, no more to drive me on.
But I fetched up at the foot of the stairs
The Luvly Laura at my feet. Above her, standing
On the air, in a Gilly Suit of ragged black for
Midnight work, with snakeskin gloves black as
The rags, made of Mamba skin… was The Banshee.
Beneath the cowl a tic of white… bleached bone…
A flash of skull, told me that here stood death above
My Luvly Laura. And in that black beneath the cowl
A deeper black -- its open maw, from which come forth
A scream that shook my deepest soul to vengeance rage.
“Not her!” I bent and kissed my bride, my love of
Forty years and four. “Not her. Not today.”
“Chuck?” She smiled, “I fell, I think. I’m sorry…
I’ve made such a mess. It’s been since eight o’clock.”
My heart broke like a child's. It hasn't healed since.
I dared not touch or move her, so I just made the call.
When they heard she’d been there ten hours or more
I swear they were at the door before I hung up the phone.
I looked up for The Banshee, but she was gone.
It was but a fantasy my mind had played to ease the fear.
The Banshee is an evil bitch, and comes and goes
At her own will. For two long years I fought that
Awful witch, a fantasy that gave to me a way to see
An enemy to face in epic battle, in a war I knew I’d lose.
But a few fights I'd win, and keep her with me for a bit.
The Luvly Laura knew nothing of the pistol and
Imaginary sword I used to fight a Gilly Suit of black
Upon the battlefields in my mind's eye. An enemy
I could see in a place that I could be, and the courage
That I garnered there, with my beloved I could share.
Together we rode daily ever deeper into The
Banshee’s lair. I drew strength from my few wins
And she drew hers from me. But only I, of the two
Of us, saw what lay in The Banshee’s home…
The end of hope... the end of her, the end of half of me.
And when it came, she was already gone.
I'd done all I could do... to fight, and let her hope
Until the end. And as her mind diminished
In her disease, I was at peace. She never knew
I'd holstered the gun and scabbarded the sword.
It was time for silent, peaceful death to vanquish...
The Crawfords' bitch Banshee.
And when it had and all was done, my beloved
Gone and gone, I went to do my daily work
And there I found... my company punished ME