Sunday, May 06, 2007

Vicar of Another Man's Life: II

Vincent sat on the front steps of the house and watched the sun slide down the sky as a perfect round circle the color of a tangerine. The sky around it was a color that defied description. He loved this hour in the evening when the neighborhood and seemingly the world slowed and became quieter. There were fewer cars on the street, the children were all indoors squirming at dinner tables, even pets were having their dinner behind the houses. There was some noise, but only enough to remind Vincent that he hadn't gone deaf. Vincent was grateful for even that noise because having one “bad” ear he feared not hearing out of it completely.

Vincent couldn't stare directly at the earths brightest star as it went down, the light was still far too intense, but he knew that as it fell further behind the row of houses the next block over that he would be able to see most of its final descent and he would be able to enjoy the change of colors as the sky moved through several shades of blue before it turned the velvety shade of midnight.

Vincent had visited a jewelry store once when he was young and in love, he thought once that he would pop the question. He went to the store looking for the perfect diamond in order to create a masterpiece of an engagement ring. When he told the handsome well dressed man behind the counter what he was looking for he was led into a well lit room where he and the salesman were locked in and he watched as the jeweler laid out a piece of velvet the exact shade of a clear night sky. The color of the evening sky, the color of earth being turned away from the sun. In that very moment it became his favorite shade of blue.

Vincent watched his little village neighborhood welcome this shade of blue. As it spread across the sky the children were told that they were excused from their dinner tables after they washed the residue of dinner from their hands and faces. Nearly every evening that Vincent took in the evening sky show he noticed that the two boys across the street would bolt through their front doors and off of their porches like they were race horses leaving the gates at the sound of the bell.

Vance lived at 719 Pine Street and Denny lived at 721. Their mothers had shared a room at the county hospital the day the boys were born. Some in the village thought that the boys were twins though it was easy to tell by looking that they weren't.

Each evening when the boys flew from their front porches they were equipped with the tools they would need for their evening adventure, empty mayonnaise and pickle jars to hold their catch of fireflies. Holes in the lids had been punched in with a hammer and a nail that had been lifted from Vance's father's garage without his permission, and with great stealth returned to its place in the garage.. After all, the luminous catch must have air in order to survive. Vance's jar always had a handful of grass in the bottom.

The boys took a severe scolding from their mothers at the beginning of firefly season when they both turned up in their respective kitchens with blue Ball canning jars. Each was looking for a lid and a ring. Neither of the boys knew that a conventional one piece jar lid was better for holding their prey. Neither of them had figured out that the two part lid would prove troublesome when caging their catches. Neither of the boys had a clue that to their mothers the jars were valuable.

Vincent watched the boys, he thought of how summer nights were made for this very thing. The canopy of evening was surely made for two things for children and one for adults. For the young it was made for running about chasing bugs with tail lights, or for that last few turns around the block on your bike if you were too old for bug chasing. After you passed that age then it was time to sit on the porch and remember those days.

The evening before, both of the boys ran out of the house earlier than usual. They came before the bug chasing hour. The two boys sat on Denny's front porch, scruffy from a day of play they looked like they had worked at an excavation site all day. Each one sat like his bud next to him chin on palm of hand. They watched the sky change, their backs to the sun and when the sky became just the right shade of blue they ran into the yard, fingers crossed and said in loud voices, “Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight, I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight.” While it was too far for Vincent to really see for sure, he was confident that each boy had his eyes closed, wasn't that how you wished?

Vincent closed his eyes and thought back to the days when he was a boy that age. Vincent's best friend's name was Dane and while they were the same age they didn't share the same birthday. They lived in this very village though there were far fewer houses in those days and there really was no such thing as a, “subdivision” as there would be later in their lives. They both lived on the same side of the road, but there was a good walking distance between their houses. They knew each other well, they were the only boys on the street within close enough proximity to be allowed to travel the distance to play with one another. Vincent and Dane looked very similar, both the children of first generation Dutch to come to America they sported the white blond hair and blue eyes that matched their parents', though they didn't have the thick Dutch accents that their parents had.

Dane and Vincent's houses were separated by a a large field and at times there was a crop of kale planted in rows that were perfectly straight. They knew that there was just enough room between each plant that they could step between the plants crossing the rows, but they also knew, after severe punishment that there was not enough room to run between the plants, running would have to be down the rows where the paths were wide enough for the workers to squat back to back and harvest the bottom leaves. Each evening in summer when the sky changed to a certain shade of blue they were allowed to meet in the field to catch what they called lightening bugs. Each had made a box to hold their catch covered with a piece of cheese cloth so that they could see the flashing insects inside the box. Vincent and Dane would spend hours out in the field chasing the bugs and one evening they stopped in their tracks and Vincent said to Dane, “We have to stop now.”

“Why, we're just getting enough to really light up our boxes?”

“That's true, but I cannot tell any longer where the bugs stop and the stars start.”

“Oh come on fool, you can too, let's keep at it, Momma will be calling for me soon and I'm not ready to go in, especially when my box is so close to being so bright.”

Vincent agreed that they should continue and they ran up and down the paths between the rows of the dreaded green vegetable. When Dane's mother called for him he went directly to the house, knowing better than to put her off or to beg for more time in the darkness.

Vincent sat down in the field as Dane went home, carefully stepping between the plants as he crossed the field going home. Vincent looked with great wonder at the stars overhead, if he squinted when he looked at them they appeared to dance in the dark blue sky. How very beautiful he thought. It was then that his mother called for him and he stepped between the plants going the opposite direction that Dane had gone.

When Vincent went in and began to clean up at the basin he told his mother how beautiful the night sky had been with all the wondrous stars and how they seemed to dance in the sky. “I wish that I could stay out there until the sun comes up. I wish I knew where the lightening bugs stopped and the stars began, I wish that I could reach up and catch a star instead of a bug and put in my jar so that you could see it Momma. I wish you had been there so you could have seen the starry starry night”

Vincent's mother listened to his wishes and taught him the simple rhyme that she learned as a child. “Vincent, tomorrow night when you go out, go a little early and get Dane to come out early too, watch the sky and when you see the first star say, 'star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight.'” Tell no one of your wish and believe that it will come true.

The next night after dinner Dane and Vincent met in the field where they usually did, boxes in hand and ready for a night of hunting. Vincent told Dane that they would sit in the field until they saw the first star and that they would wish upon it and recite the verse that his mother had taught him. Dane thought it was silly, but Vincent never asked him to do anything so he thought maybe it would be a kind thing to do to join Vincent in the foolish game. As the first star popped into view they did the thing that Vincent's mother said to do and they made their wishes.

Each night afterward they did the same thing, Dane began to be the one who was first in the field and he would make his wish quickly, anxious to get it in before there might be a second star. Vincent took a little longer, but his list of wishes was longer. Even when they grew older and there was no longer a field between them but two houses instead, they met on the sidewalk and made their wishes on the evening star, into their teens they stopped to make their wishes early in the summer evenings.

Then one day Dane come rushing to the place on the side walk, nearly 17 he told Vincent, “Guess what?”

“I have no idea Dane, what's so exciting?”

“My wish on the evening star came true, I'm going to be married. I've wished the same wish on the evening star ever since you talked me into it when we were little boys and now I going to be married to the girl that I wished for when we were boys.”

Vincent tried to share the same excitement with Dane, he tried to maintain that same excitement as he stood next to Dane in the church as his best man, he labored to share that same excitement when Dane and Katrina moved into their own home and started their family. Vincent was disappointed that his wish had never come true, why he thought, “what did I ask for that was something that the evening star can't give me?” Vincent became very depressed after several months of laboring with the question.

One morning when Vincent's mother couldn't get him to come to the breakfast table she climbed the stairs to his room and found him curled up with the sheets pulled up over his head and hugging his pillow. Theo, his older brother had the room across the hall said, “Leave him alone the big baby, he cried all night and I didn't sleep a wink.” Theo generally had no sympathy for Vincent.

Vincent didn't even turn his head to look at his brother and his mother as they stood in the door of his room where the shades were still drawn and it was dark.

“Theo, go eat your breakfast and get out of the house, I talk to Vincent.” Theo stomped down the stairs huffing at his whining brother.

“Vincent, tell Momma what's matter.” Vincent laid silent as his mother repeated the question several times.

Vincent finally turned toward his mother and with tear filled eyes struggled to say, “I wished on the evening star for 11 years and I didn't get my wish, Dane wished beside me every night and he got his, what did I do wrong Momma? I don't understand.”

Momma pulled her son, no longer a boy into her arms and asked him what he had wished for.

“I wished for love for everyone, peace for each person and nation, I wished to be happy and for all of us to always be happy. Wasn't that a good wish Momma, what's wrong with that wish Momma, what did I do wrong?”

“You wished well Vincent, you wished well, but if you did anything wrong in making your wish it would be that you wished for the impossible. You will never see your wish come true this side of the evening star, but you will get your wish someday. Keep wishing on those evening stars boy, keep wishing. And keep going into that starry starry night”

As Vincent sat on his own front porch on Pine Street he watched Vance and Denny make their wishes evening after evening. How he longed to rush and tell them, “Keep wishing on those evening stars boys, keep wishing and keep going into that starry starry night.”.

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