10. This Sunday
He pursed his lips and the word came forth.
“Pops”, whispered Cassidy.
He gave a strangled, euphoric yelp and then he laughed out, long and loud, clapping his hands at the recognition.
‘Red Pops’. That was it, the name of his blue tailed kite.
Christ, the banality; his very own ‘Rosebud’ moment.
He loved Citizen Kane; and Orson Wells; what a man; all of that early promise; and, and jeez… Red Pops…
Both Daniel and Archie were looking up at him quizzically, and he in turn squinted up into the blue and breathed in deeply; he loved the parks of North London in early springtime.
Up there with the jousting kites, a confusion of gulls stalked the skies, noisily claiming territory. Cassidy craned his neck and watched as one bird caught another by the wing. After an initial fitful fluttering, their bodies stiffened and froze, perhaps out of fear, or perhaps in dazed deference to the gravity of the unfamiliar moment, a moment that lasted fully twenty seconds, as they looped and twirled in silent dance, a feathery boomerang skimming the sky, before better nature caused them to release and break their arcing descent. The two gulls, seemingly chastened, flew briefly in stunned formation before resuming their raucous rivalry.
“Jeeezus, did you see that boys?”
“Mom says that you shouldn’t take the Lord’s name in vain.”
“She’s quite right Daniel. I am sorry, but… did you see that?”
“And she says that God loves me and Archie more than almost anyone” Cassidy let that one slide. His boys were due some special attention. In four days time they’d be in Massachusetts, scattering their Grandpa’s ashes into the bay. He wanted them to believe that there was purpose to that particular parade. He’d spoken to his mother the night before. She was rock solid.
“I’m staying put. Why wouldn’t I? The beach house is my home. Your dad always jokes about it being built on sand but… don’t fret about me Pickle.”
She hadn’t called him that in years.
“I’ve always taken care of myself while you boys were off doing your things. Besides tending to your dad’s shrubs there won’t be too much to adjust to. Still be talking to myself, there’ll just be more potatoes left over is all…”
Cassidy saw then what he’d known all along: he wanted to go home. Back to the Cape, back to the beach house, back to what he was before he wanted to be something else. What prevented his return was that which he loved the most. His sons needed their mother and she was bound to London. And although Amelia might be beyond capers, clowns and Cassidy, she sure as hell needed his benefits: school fees were waived for all faculty kids. That would keep him here for the next ten years at least. He felt sick, dizzy with resentment; he’d be in his mid fifties before he would be free to return home to live, to abide. By that time Annie might have followed Harry and the beach house could have fallen into the sea…
Cassidy rubbed his brow and stumbled, there was a rushing cacophony, a crescendo as blood seemed to flood his brain, what sounded like the snapping of a twig and then just a staggering, bright silence. Cassidy worked his jaw, shook his head, tried to make his ears pop, but the silence remained. He looked to the sky again, beyond the squabbling birds, beyond the carnival of kites, out beyond the blue and, with a jolt, Cassidy saw. He saw that there was much to be held and nothing to be kept. He felt unburdened; an abrupt sense of liberation and release; suddenly everything seemed clear. Cassidy shook his head in wonder; this was his morning for epiphanies.
The noises of the park gradually returned to him and he tested the air.
“The obsession’s in the chasing and not the apprehending”, he quietly sang.
He loved Tom Waits.
His eyes stung and his throat ached. Cassidy paused, a hand on each son’s shoulder. He softly squeezed, and then gently pushed the boys into the breeze, towards the football pitch. A group of kids were clapping and noisily cheering Johnny, their maverick coach, who balanced a ball on his head like a performing seal.
You should throw that man a fish.
The young brothers turned back towards their father, both gave a puzzled shrug, rolled their eyes and sighed in unison “a fish?”
Cassidy swallowed hard.
“See you guys in a couple of hours. Love you both”
And don’t take any shit from that Johnny, he thought.
“Dad”, howled Archie, “you did it again.”
Life, thought Cassidy, placing a cautionary hand over his mouth, is fucking killing me.
He returned the boys to Amelia bang on time. He even got a wave and a smile from the doorway seven steps up. From Bayswater he stepped with a spring, up through Hyde Park to Marble Arch and then along Oxford Street. At Oxford Circus he turned north up Regents Street and entered Regents Park at its southern end. Without thinking he broke into a steady jog. He passed the boating lake and the bandstand and at the northern edge he turned east on the outer circle until he reached the zoo. He then turned north towards the southern slopes of Primrose Hill, following the now familiar path to the brow of the hill. As he surged up the slope Cassidy was giddy with hope; though still steeped in sadness, for the first time in an age he felt that he was running towards something. An elderly man feeding fish and chips to a scruffy mongrel occupied the bench. As Cassidy approached he recognized the slippers on the man’s feet.
“Monty, what are you doing here? Fancy the chances…”
‘Ah Pete, how are you doing old boy. Not such a coincidence really; you’ve rattled on about this bench so many times that I thought I’d come and see what all the fuss was about. It’s quite a setting.” Monty nodded southward “What a city?”
Cassidy stretched and eyed the view. “How’s the healing Monty?”
“Oh, fine, fine, though gently does it; weeping wounds… As you can see I’ve become more discerning about the company I keep.” He patted the dog. “My new best friend. I’ve decided to call him Claude.”
“To protect you from his namesake?”
“No, that particular son of a bitch is long gone. I decided that I needed some reliable company; I took at trip down to the dog’s home in Battersea. I never could resist a pathetic stray. Our eyes met and I think that we both recognized a kindred spirit. He’s a good egg. We’re well suited; we’ll stop each other from wandering.
“Speaking of which,” said Cassidy jogging on the spot “I’ve got to keep moving or I’ll seize up. See you back at the ranch Monty.”
“Indeed. Cheerio old boy.”
Cassidy patted Claude, helped himself to a chip from the greasy paper bag and then turned back down the slope, exiting the park at Elsworthy Terrace. Picking up the pace he crossed the Finchley Road at Swiss Cottage and was soon at the front door of his apartment block in West Hampstead.
He entered the communal doorway and slid his key into the door of his flat. Before he had the chance to turn the key the door swung open on fractured hinges.
Turmoil; upended furniture, broken glass, scattered papers, an aroma of stale sweat, the rustle of material, a shadowy movement, a punch to the ribs. He didn’t feel much; a stinging pain as the knife entered his side, then just a dull ache that he knew to be deliverance. He dropped to his knees and gently lowered himself onto the carpet face down. His eyes watered and he blinked away the tears. From his supine position his vision was limited and darkening with every shortening breath. That run had taken it out of him. He needed to breathe deeply to control his gasping. He tried humming, that would calm him. He blinked again and focused on ‘The Cassidys’, he and his brothers standing with Harry after that final gig. The photograph lay skew on the floor with the glass and frame shattered. Next to the picture were broken pieces of terra cotta pot and damp earth. His cactus lay flaccid, like a fish out of water. Or a limp dick thought Cassidy. Was that irony or symbolism, metaphor or simile? That was one for Archie’s next breakfast question time.
He could hear movement but couldn’t raise his head.
What a weird and wonderful week, he thought.
“Say what? What’s that? Say something?”
Cassidy recognized the lisp.
“Want some more, bitch?”
Claude knelt beside him and rifled his pockets roughly.
Cassidy stared at a Rolex with a crocodile strap; Monty’s watch on Claude’s wrist. He fixed on the frozen second hand as it twitched and pulsed with every second, ineffectively pushing against an unseen resistance, and he found himself breathing in time with that retarded tick. He needed to do something but couldn’t think what that might be. He’d just lie there a little longer until he felt… less tired.
As his breath shortened Cassidy was overwhelmed by a tremendous sense of calm. And he was filled with love; he loved his parents, his brothers, Daniel and Archie, Monty, Christ, he even loved Claude. The whole wide world was in his arms and it was no burden because Cassidy cared. He started humming again, and only then did he recognize the tune.
He loved Joni Mitchell.
His fingertips caressed the carpet and he felt himself sink deeper.
“Amelia, it was just a false alarm”
The carpet rose to meet him.
“Amelia, it was just a false alarm”
The carpet absorbed him.
“Amelia, it was just a false alarm”
He stared in wonder as the detailed patterns merged into a glorious golden brown.
Cassidy closed his eyes and she turned towards him.
He saw sun splashed pigtails and the grain of her hair, all burnt copper and straw.
She simply said “Hello handsome” and that was that.
“What’s that son?”
Harry leant closer this time.
Cassidy could smell Old Spice and modeling glue.
“Nothing Pops, just… thinking out loud.”
His mother’s voice sang out from within the beach house, “Suppers nearly ready you two. Up to the table in five minutes.”
Cassidy squinted and fixed on his cactus, searching for a word.
Harry reached down and gently slid the turquoise pot out of their creeping shadow and into the softening light.
“Some things can’t be fixed Pete, some things are beyond repair, but it’s good that you care son; there can be a blessing to burden.” He rubbed his forehead and then rocked back into his chair, crossing his heavy hands against his chest as if nursing an injured bird.
Cassidy did the self same thing.
There was much that he needed to let go of, but not this.
He needed to hold this close, and wondered if he would.
The sun was sinking over the salt marshes and a bourbon sky gently backlit his father, ancient and immortal.
He looked into that steady eye, then down at his own shaking, outsized hands, and Cassidy realized, with some relief, that his fate was sealed.
*** Fin ***
We are all connected
By our unravellings
But don’t always feel the tug
The line might tighten
Leave a mark
Draw blood even
Then relax and
All will seem normal again
It’s sorrow’s way
A gentle rise and fall
We mark the journey
And then leave without a destination
The rest is hazard
With joyful detours and interludes
Still, the path remains sorrow’s way