Eulogy As a young man, my father fell in love with the mic. The airwaves carried his voice from the radio station’s musty cell in Illinois all the way to Missouri, which, he assured me, was no small feat. His voice was deep and strong, but tinged with warmth. It was a voice that commanded respect, if not total attention. When I was a child, the radio days were long gone, but the voice was still beloved. Every Christmas, my father would narrate a Christmas pageant, reading scripture with godlike presence and authority. In my dreams, he talks to me in the slow, patient tone he rarely deviated from in life. He tells me goodbye in various ways, keeping his hands together, body tight and compact. The skin is ruddy again, having sloughed off the pallid sheath of bloodless repose. I can tell it is a farewell speech, although the words themselves are incomprehensible – a jumble of foreign language and muffled pronouncements. I nod dutifully after every sentence, as though I actually understand. I push my ignorance aside to keep him talking. During waking hours, that nod has become a familiar tic. Head down, feigning comprehension, it’s the gesture I turn to when nothing seems to fit. With grief hollowing out my heart, there isn’t much left to offer anyway. A shrug, a nod, a sigh, and my repertoire is exhausted. When tragedy calls your name, it’s like having fresh cement poured over you. At first, you feel the shock of the ugly baptism, but it’s still possible to move with slow, cautious steps. As the shell hardens, it begins to immobilize you more thoroughly. There’s more to struggle against, fewer reasons to fight. Eventually, given enough time and exposure, the casing turns brittle and starts to flake away. But the outer prison’s disintegration does not denote freedom. The shell lingers on the exterior until it burrows deeper and encloses your ribs in brutal constriction. The telltale signs of sorrow begin to dissipate, but the prison has just gone underground and established its fortress elsewhere. The heart doesn’t open as willingly or readily. Interaction is reduced to mute charades. And I am left nodding in numb disbelief.
Courtney McAllister travels, gawks, and scribbles. She lives in Fredericksburg, Virginia, with her fiance and cat. 9
Fall 2013 Volume 1, Issue 1
A compilation of the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, Volumes 1 and 2 (2013-2014)