August 18, 2013—The church bells were ringing as I entered my blog this Sunday morning. I came upon Moriarty in the back kitchen sweeping up the spam.
“You let this stuff accumulate,” said the Phantom of My Blog. “It piles up like mountains of greasy crumbs.”
“We’ll have ants,” I said.
“There are some,” said he, “who would create elaborate measures to spare the life of an ant, yet would crush a human, without compunction, without compassion, without giving thought to understanding, too closed-minded to recognize that the other gives thoughtfulness and tolerance.”
The bells stopped.
“A bell can’t ring when it’s intolerant,” he went on. “There’s no leverage for movement, no tangible embodiment of openness to accommodate sound, to bear the clapper strike, thereby to be heard by the sincere.” He bent down, and with a whiskbroom began sweeping the piles of spam into a dustpan.
“I love the sound of bells,” I said. “La Campanile.”
He dumped the spam into a big, black plastic bag. “Let’s build a campanile beside the folly in an iris garden I’m going to build across the field from the blog,” said Moriarty.”
“You’re building a folly? Whatever for?”
“A place to go, to do nothing, to open our minds, to chill,” he said. “A place that means nothing, a place to be taken at face value.” He swept the last crumbs of spam into the dustpan and emptied them into the bag. “There are those who spam you with their minds; they overlay their own emotional baggage on you.” He tied the bag, struggled to lift it and carried it out the back door and to the trash. I held the door open for him.
I followed him. I don’t know why I was following the Phantom of My Blog, but I did, despite his unprepossessing manner – or because of it.
“And besides,” he said, as we turned to go back inside, “from the windows in the top we can get a good view of the blue deer.”
I went up to the cupola. He followed. We wanted to look for the blue deer. He kept talking. He must have consumed a garrulous biscuit for breakfast, I mused.
“Indeed, as it were, the folly is a place to which to take flight,” he said from behind me as we climbed the winding wooden staircase.
I smiled. The “indeed” and “as it were” he incorporated into his speech often. It was a giveaway to his proclivity. He read history much, had majored in it in college; it is peculiar to historians to utilize “indeed” and “as it were” often.
“What’s this?” I asked. Something new had been added to the furnishings in the cupola.
“It’s a record player,” he said. “I found it in Missouri and brought it back with me.”
“Missouri? I thought you said you were going to Arkansas, that your family lived in the Arkansas Ozarks.”
“I did. Arkansas. I meant Arkansas. I drove through Missouri, a corner of it. It stayed in the corner of my mind. Somebody set this by the side of the road there – in the corner of Missouri, actually; so I did mean Missouri.”
He had leaned a few LPs against the suitcase-style player. He pulled one out of its jacket and placed it on the turntable.
“Somewhere in Time,” I said. “I love that soundtrack, and the movie. That brings back memories.”
“History. We must not forget our history,” he said. “If we don’t remember where we’ve been, how can we recognize how to go forward? That’s a mandala, I think. How can you be complete if you keep doing the same stuff over and over? Your circle winds tighter and tighter and in time you disregard the world around you. In fact, you are likely to become too tightly wound and snap.”
He sat down in the chaise, the one with the plastic webbing like a beach chair, between the windows, in the corner.
I stood gazing out over the meadow. It was a gray day. They were calling for rain. I thought of an episode I had just watched of the long-running British TV series, “Foyle’s War,” called “The Hide,” featuring the extraordinary actor Andrew Scott along with the venerable Michael Kitchen portraying the protagonist of the series. Why was Andrew Scott’s character so protective of his secret, even when erroneously convicted and imprisoned, that he was willing to be hanged for it. What was the tragedy he had witnessed as a child and why would he not come forth with the truth? Well, you’ll have to watch the story to learn. I’ll not give it away for you. But, the premise intrigues me; it can be applied to so many instances in life. It may not even be a secret, but we end up carrying it around with us in the quiet recesses of our minds, so much old baggage.
I think I’ve pretty much gotten things out over the years. But, my parents’ divorce when I was 14 left a scar, that and their giving to the SPCA my dog and companion of nine years without even forewarning me. I came home from school one day and he was gone. That was it. That’s crushing a human – and an animal – without compunction. I hope I don’t do that, I really don’t; I have no intention of doing so; if I have, it’s been unwittingly.
“What—?” said the Phantom.
“Did I say something? I didn’t say anything. Did I?”
“You were thinking loudly,” he said.
“Oh. Just old stuff,” I said. “Spam on the roadside of my mind.”
“Somewhere in Time” had ended. “I have to leave now,” he said. He put the record back in its jacket. “I have an appointment. R is going to cut my hair.”
“Well, don’t be late,” I said.
“R says some people’s minds play like a broken record,” he called to me over his shoulder.
He left. I stayed in the cupola. There was a heavy haze in the air, almost like a mist. I listened for the patter of raindrops on the cupola roof, on the leaves of nearby trees. Mourning doves called and responded. They seem to come around here this time of year, late August. Crickets chirped.
A distant church bell tolled, for a late service I supposed. Then … rain began falling.
I was on my way to ending this session and heading down the staircase when I spotted a small dark thing in the corner of the chaise. It was a brown leather-bound book, about five by seven inches and a good inch thick. It was well used. Moriarty must have dropped this. I was intrigued. I opened it. The script appeared to be a woman’s hand, dip pen and ink, faded, old; the pages were yellowed, some curled and tarnished on the edges.
I sat down in the chaise and began reading. It began, “Sept. 15.” No year was added. “Sebastian came by this afternoon. It is a fine weather day. We walked out to the little bench in the garden and sat among the roses and talked for two hours….” I kept reading. I couldn’t stop. It was a diary and the story unfolding on the pages held me spellbound. Outside, evening fell, mingled with the rain. I pulled the light chain on the bridge lamp. I read long into the night.