I believe in love.
I know duty. I know not if it be any part of love.
I know it is not love of a father that keeps me here in this slowly falling house, tending to a dissolving old man.
I can read plain words as well as anyone. No shit-load of good intentions can set a benign crown upon the black skullduggery that induced a father to write, “I specifically make no provisions for—.” Such soft words are but a euphemism. As much as to say some one passed-on to avoid saying the poor ass is dead.
Those plain words but feebly clad the nakedness of “I disown.”
From the moment I saw those words written in his unschooled hand, I had no father and he no son.
There is an old man in this house whom I have known for all the life in which I have known anything.
This old man: he taught me to shoot, and hunt, and to gut what creatures had my good luck and their misfortune of dying in my sights, and above all else to not shoot without certainty of a clean kill.
From this old man I learned to hone our family talent of building, repairing, maintaining, and making do.
Together, we explored through the western lands of half a continent. We discovered old things lost beyond the counting. He and I made new trails where we perhaps should not have set a foot. We lunched beside the tumbled stones of desert cabins that had been built in hope and once held the love of other dreams.
A few precious times we were both quite certain that we stood where no other peoples ever had before us.
This old man ushered me past many foolish choices. Not a few times he pulled me from the mud and bogs into which my green passions lured me. He showed me how to suffer a smile when these young stumbles grew into those laughing stories that pass among friends when they gather.
Perhaps duty is a greater sense of love than love that wants some answer. More likely, it’s just the thin gruel that keeps body glued to soul and both afloat together.
I am here tending the needs of an old man, and the memories of two lives.
When it ends as it will end, I will clean, and bathe, and dress, and lay him out as a favor and duty to an old man I knew.
Then I will leave here knowing I have done my duty to an old man who once did his by me. I will carry off a disowned child’s share and make do as he taught me to make do.
Then I will drink myself into a drunkenness beyond redemption, and awake in the night to see from the filth of my guttered soul a pristine sky of star-shot light—forever quiet, forever clean.
This be all of love I know.
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