It seems like our town has closed down these days leading up to the funeral. Old people still sit on their porches and talk, but their conversations aren't sprinkled with laughter anymore. Since the new, little kids haven't played outside, as if their moms are afraid someone might snatch them out of their yards and send them off to war.
The Mozart sonata Dad picked out begins to play. When we hear the first note, we open the sacks and the ladybugs escape through the opening, taking flight. It's as if someone has dumped rubies from heaven. Soon they will land on the plants in search of bollworm eggs. But right now they are magic-red ribbons flying over our heads, weaving against the pink sky, dancing up there with Mozart.
They stood in the courtyard of Swangard Palace, too cold to be comfortable despite the sun, and they looked fully on one another, knowing that they were friends, and would always be.A lot of water under this bridge too, Mark thought, with something like awe. He was growing older. Old enough to feel the current of what had been flowing under him, leading to his future. Old enough to look back over his shoulder, and see his past behind him, and grieve for what was gone, and honour its memory.He felt, suddenly, how much it would hurt him if Val died; felt an echo of that pain, knowing that the Valerian he had known, fluffy and peering and hapless and altogether wonderful: this Valerian was already dying. Not physically, of course, but the man he remembered from that first night in Swangard Palace would be gone the next time they met, though his ghost would linger on in Val forever, and in their memories.Three cheers for ghosts, Mark thought. Three cheers for the dead.Of course Val would be much the same: better, even. As full of wonder and delight, with big pockets full of puzzles and fascinating stories about the lives of ants and ingenious designs for windmills that would do your washing. And they would still be friends, excellent friends. It could even be better next time.But it would never be the same.
I imagined the lies the valedictorian was telling them right now. About the exciting future that lies ahead. I wish she'd tell them the truth: Half of you have gone as far in life as you're ever going to. Look around. It's all downhill from here. The rest of us will go a bit further, a steady job, a trip to Hawaii, or a move to Phoenix, Arizona, but out of fifteen hundred how many will do anything truly worthwhile, write a play, paint a painting that will hang in a gallery, find a cure for herpes? Two of us, maybe three? And how many will find true love? About the same. And enlightenment? Maybe one. The rest of us will make compromises, find excuses, someone or something to blame, and hold that over our hearts like a pendant on a chain.