HOLLYWOOD—Something was wrong. Young rowdies who'd been pushing each other into the pool froze in gestures of people trapped in Pompei's volcanic vapors. The cowboy-hatted fathers and pear-shaped women at the party, stood suddenly still; their heads turned, instantly molded by the moonlit silence. They gazed, dazed and troubled as Juventino attempted to revive Kit: he pumped below her ribcage and breathed into her unbreathing lungs. Then Juventino turned away from her, he shook his head and his whole body seemed to shrug and say, “I have done all I can do.” Jason's face clenched, he kneeled down and took her up in his arms. He muttered to frozen, unmoving Kit, pressing his cheek to her cold cheek, “So sweet of you to believe I made $10,000 a week.” Jason choked and blinked back tears. “Kit, come back to me. Come back. Don't go. We'll have swimming lessons this summer.”
Children come with no warranty; their arrival holds a bond deep and strong as the sun. When children perish it is a black hole, vacuuming suns and galaxies, condemning parents to be pariah wanderers amid cold stars and among new people. In a strange town they will whisper, 'They lost a child. That must be unbearable. One never gets over something like that.”
In a flash, Jason divined all this. A snatch of Shakespeare came back from Hamlet. “Your father lost a father. That father lost, lost his.” And then a father to lose a child into that ravenous night. To to be scorned by nature and swallowed up by a night so dark it banished any thought about Mr. Perlmutter's lawsuit or last week's audition. If thine eye be evil they whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great that darkness! Powerless against this universal night was Jason's cheery little ditty, “Keep a song in your pocket, puts a light in the socket.”
This was night, the darkest school of night Jason transited. The crowd, silent and drunken, stood mute, staring and Kit's motionless body. There stood Gudelia, statuesque in a sequined gown, a rosary around her joined palms.
Jason grabbed Kit, looked at her and beheld this bleak future: hers would be a little patch in the cemetery bedecked by baby pictures and sun-faded helium balloons and a Barbie doll. Monument to a life unfinished. He had seen a child grave like that one Memorial Day in Ohio. And all the children, attracted by the brightly colored toys, came to play as the elders paid tribute to their dear dead.
But there was no cloth so coarse, in the warp and woof of mortal life, that it didn't have a velvet lining. And her memory would be gilded, the patches of irritability erased. And he would forget all the times, after the lights were turned off in his cramped studio apartment, when he'd listen for the unbroken silence that signaled Kit was sound asleep on the couch, and at her slightest stirring he retreated from the kind of manual love that lonely men seek. And he would now and again get a catch now in his throat contemplating her broken pink umbrella that he had once hurled in anger. Although he had no use for broken things, Jason would now guard it as a holy relic. The umbrella was a broken-winged bird, and he had spent night's after rehearsal and night school clumsily trying to put it back together with model airplane glue. That umbrella and what he'd done to it were a memento of the unhealable wound of raising a child, when our words and deeds, so at odds with the cliched reverence for children, haunt us. Relentlessly, ruthlessly.
At the edge of the pool appeared the emergency workers, looking more like firemen than medics. Principal Cloud directed them towards Jason and Kit.
“Get over there now,” Principal Cloud was emphatic.
“We were told to go upstairs,” protested one.
Jason looked down at Kit and the tears, Jason's drops of sadness squeezed from that deep night's endless reservoir of sorrow and trickled down on her face.
And then Kit's nose wrinkled up and her eyelids flickered open. She gasped for air and spat out the salty tears. She gazed at Jason full with her mother's eyes—sea-green flecked by turquoise blue--"Oh, Daddy,” she said.
Jason melted. Now he sobbed all he had held in. Their hands squeezed together and there flowed tears of release and rejoicing and horror at the ghastly sadness that had grazed them, just seconds ago. A few moments passed before Kit spoke:
“Daddy, I always knew you were lying when you said you made $10,000 dollars a week.”
(to be continued)
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