The War Chamber
Other: You were wise to foresee the dangers in store for this boy and everyone he encounters.
"But as I said, I have merely scratched the surface of the boy's capacity to recognize what he can become - is destined to become - because of my presence."
Other: He needs more awareness of what and who you are, which takes desire -
"I know that he has it."
Other: And courage -
"He demonstrates that, too."
Other: Then, is he ready to delve into more complex questions and deal with answers that may shock and surprise him?
"At such a young age? I know, I know, his soul is ageless, his curiosity boundless."
Other: And the fairy tale daydreams have served their purpose. His mother's heart is now wide open to embrace and guide his path to discovery...
"... to help him dig more deeply..."
Other: And to protect him from the destructive forces that would corrupt him and everyone he knows, just to possess selfishly what should be held close, selflessly.
"Then, what is to come will be an even bigger test of his bravery than what he has already experienced."
Other: And a test of your own evolution as well.
"Then I must not fail him, or myself.
Port Avalon, September
“I’ve been home almost three months, and the miracles I brought back with me have faded to mere delusions. At first, I lived in a state of euphoria, enjoying every sound, every word, every noise I hadn’t heard for years. But now, I’m as deaf as I was before.
“I wish I could tell someone about what happened to me. But I can’t. Not yet. Sally is the only one who knows anything, but even she doesn’t know the full extent of my experiences with Ishtar and Saliana. How could I tell her there really is a place where she could walk and dance again, but that I can’t take her there? It would be too cruel.
“What if I can never sail the Moon Singer again, or even conjure her up? Where did she come from anyway? Why did she come to me of all people? Even if I could bring her back again, how do I know I could find my way back to the Island?
“Jaycina’s final words keep echoing through my thoughts: ‘One day you will understand. Perhaps one day you will also find it in your heart to forgive.’ But with each passing day, I understand less and less. And although I’m sure I’ve forgiven Dad, why does anger and resentment still squeeze at my heart, especially today?”
David finishes his entry in the journal, a ritual he performs daily since returning home. He closes the book and studies the cover inscription: Captain’s Log, Great Ship Moon Singer. In it, he has recounted every astonishing moment of his adventure aboard the mysterious clipper ship. He slips the journal under a stack of sweaters in his dresser drawer and closes it.
A familiar hand lightly touches David’s shoulder. He turns toward it.
“Hi, Dad. I’m almost ready. Couldn’t decide whether or not to wear a sweater.” David closes the drawer, hoping his father doesn’t pick up the slightly self-conscious tone in his voice. His father doesn’t know about the journal. No one does.
“I don’t think you’ll need it today,” Isaac says, casually. “You’d think it was the first day of summer instead of the first day of autumn.”
Isaac Nickerson is not good at signing and prefers David read his lips. Thus, Isaac’s face is a constant study for David. Today, he is struck by the seemingly serene expression on his father’s face and thinks, Dad’s really got it all together. And this has to be his hardest day since the funeral.
Isaac observes his son for an instant, crinkling his brow curiously. “I’m surprised you’re not wearing the blue shirt. It was always your favorite.”
“Uh - yeah. It is, Dad. I just thought maybe I’d wear something new today, being it’s a special occasion and all.” David once said he’d wear the blue shirt until every thread frayed, until the monogrammed initials fell off, until the mother-of-pearl buttons turned yellow and cracked. He’d always wear it, for her. But not today.
“Well, let’s get a move on, Son.” Isaac and David walk side by side down the stairs, both of them with expressions of deep thought, their heads slightly bowed.
“And you say women take forever to get ready,” Sally razzes the two men in her life as they enter the living room. “I’ve been ready for hours,” she signs nimbly.
“Bet me,” David challenges her good-naturedly.
David’s articulation is strong and clear, the result of much practice, and coaching from his mother. He constantly anguishes as to why none of his previous surgeries has helped when other deaf people have known improvement from the same procedures. Now, he wears a new hearing aid that allows him to hear his own vocal vibrations, but not discernible words. Still, it keeps him from feeling isolated in a nearly soundless world.
“Bet me,” Sally teases back with her infectious teenage giggle.
David helps Sally up onto her crutches. His heart tears at the sight of his little sister maneuvering herself onto the arm rests, even though she is strong and expert with the “sticks,” as she calls them. In David’s eyes, he is responsible for her relapse to braces and crutches, a reminder of his inept experiment with the sacred Star-of-David gridwork pattern.
Sally smiles and gives David her “at least I’m out of my wheel chair” look. In Sally’s eyes, David is responsible for the miracle that let her stand and walk unaided, if only for a few weeks. Sally adores her brother and is unwavering in her faith in him. She wants him to try his experiments again, but she fears he has put the crystals away for good.
Moments later, the family station wagon rolls up to the cemetery and comes to rest under a sprawling Lone Cypress that adorns the entryway. Isaac removes several lush bouquets of flowers, a small pot of violets, and a trowel from the back of the car. David and Sally follow him to their mother’s grave.
The white marble angel still steadfastly guards over her. The epitaph stands out sharp and clean, as though the headstone was cut only yesterday:
Blanche “Billie” Nickerson
Beloved Wife and Mother
We Miss You
Sally lowers herself awkwardly to the ground and sits at the head of her mother’s grave. With the trowel, she digs a small hole for the violets. David and Isaac spread the floral bouquets around until the plot is blanketed with the vivid colors of life.
Blanche “Billie” Nickerson. No matter how many times Isaac tried to convince her that Blanche was a wonderful name, she cringed whenever anyone called her that.
“When I was a little girl, I was constantly teased about my name,” she would protest. “Blanche. It’s something you do to a pot of vegetables until their skins fall off.”
“But Blanche also means white and shining -- like a pure light of inspiration,” Isaac would sermonize.
“I’m not an angel yet.” Her broad smile revealed perfect teeth. “Billie is more like me. Good old down to earth Billie Nickerson.”
They buried her in the family cemetery, on a sea cliff jutting out proudly into the ocean. All the Nickerson clan, a century of generations, was buried there. But a large expanse of ground lay yet untouched, waiting patiently for the remaining Nickersons to come.
Looking over the white picket fence that neatly edges the cemetery, David studies the ocean surf below as it swirls and splashes against the sea wall. It occurs to him that his brain feels like that, a whirlpool of conflicts and emotions.
Unaware that he is doing it, David kicks lightly, rhythmically at the fence post while the same burning questions tear at him: Why did she die? Why didn’t she hang on a little longer? She almost made it. Why couldn’t she just will herself to live? How could she leave us? How could she leave me?
Sally’s quavering voice breaks the painful silence. "Happy anniversary, Daddy. Happy Anniversary, Mama.”
Isaac drops to his knees and embraces his daughter fiercely. “Thank you, sweet princess. You’re right. Mama would have wanted us to celebrate and not be sad today. Because I still have you and David, and years of happy memories.”
“Where would you have taken Mama for your anniversary? Twenty years is a big one, isn’t it?”
Isaac clears his throat deliberately and breathes away all visible traces of sorrow.
“Well, let’s see. It’s a pretty big one, as anniversaries go. So, I’d take your mother on a moonlight ferry ride and to dinner on Lighthouse Point. We’d have the biggest lobster on the menu and listen to romantic music by candlelight.” A playful gleam now flickers in his eyes. “You know, there’s a real mermaid there that plays the harp while you eat dinner, and floats atop the pond on a golden raft.”
Sally rolls her eyes back. “Oh, Dad. There’s no such things as mermaids.”
“Bet me,” Isaac heckles her with her favorite expression.
“Bet me!” she squeals.
“Okay, I’ll take you there and we’ll just see. If I’m right, you pay for dinner. If I’m wrong, it’s my treat.”
“You’re on. Just be sure to bring a big wallet. Because I’m starving.” Sally waves David over to them. “Guess what, David. We’re going to celebrate Mama’s anniversary for her. Daddy’s taking us to Lighthouse Point.”
“To hear the mermaid play the harp?” David guesses, knowing this is his father’s favorite little deception.
“Yeah! How did you guess?”
“Oh, Dad told me the same thing when I was a little kid.”
“Who’s a little kid? I’m not.”
“Bet me,” David needles her.
“Oh, the two of you are hopeless!” Once again the sound of Sally’s laughter lifts Isaac’s heart.
David and Isaac lift Sally up and the three of them walk arm-in-arm from the cemetery, each drawing strength from the other.
As they drive away, an unexpected whirlwind spirals around Billie Nickerson’s grave. Its force plucks leaves and blossom petals from the bouquets Isaac and David placed there. They spin in the air, circling like dervishes dancing with joyous abandon. Finally, they settle in a halo around the little clump of violets, silent and still as the graveyard’s spirits.