Memories

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Wolf worked with a number two pencil, using its eraser as much as its point. David stood with his right hand on Wolf's shoulder, and gave detail after detail, correction after correction. The image on the page was becoming clear.

It was a fiftyish face, with close-cropped hair and angular lines; there were wrinkles around the eyes and the corners of the mouth pointed downward a bit. The nose was long and narrow.

"The hair's red and the skin's pale." David was saying. "The shadow on the left cheek is a bit too high up and a little too dark."

Wolf lightened the shadow with a few dabs of the eraser. The guy actually did look a lot like Rose - if she were a fifty year old man instead of a twenty-two year old woman. He sneaked a glance sideways at her.

She sat, quietly winding all her watches and setting them. Each one, she unwrapped, setting its cloth aside folded before winding it and putting it down face-up on the cloth when it was wound. Some of the older ones wound with a tiny key. It was odd to hear fifty or sixty watches, all quietly ticking together. When she was done, she sat looking at them, watching all the little faces in kind of a trance.

"Where'd you learn to draw, anyway?" asked David.

"Family thing," Wolf said. "Every Halloween. You draw as many of your family who've passed on as you know what they looked like."

"What do you do with the drawings?"

"Evening of the next day," Wolf said, "After you remember them doing the things they liked the most, the drawings go into the fire."

"What's that supposed to do?" David asked.

Wolf shrugged. "Nothing; it's just paying some respect to your dead, that's all."

"Fair enough," said David. "No weirder than sitting shiva, I guess."

"How's that work?" Wolf wanted to know.

David shrugged. "When somebody passes, you spend a week to remember them. The family and ten others from the community get together in their house and sit around on these little bitty stools in a circle, and pray and talk. About who they were, what they were like, about the family and the community and the role they played in it and how it changes now that they're gone. It's a time for the family to mourn, and the rest take care of the housework and them until it's over."

Wolf nodded. "Makes a lot of sense," he said. "Way better than grieving alone."

"What we do," said Mitch, walking up behind them, "is we have a big solemn funeral, then we throw a big noisy, messy wake. All the buddies and the exes and the family get together. We laugh and cry and drink to their memory and drink to ease the pain and then drink some more. We get lyrical and we get maudlin and we toast 'em and roast 'em and dance to music we play way too loud. And when the dawn comes, the ones who can still walk go home and the ones who can't, sleep it off and go for another day and another night." He rubbed his neck and smiled sadly. "It's an Irish thing, I guess. But I don't think we know about more than half the people this bastard has killed. Who's going to remember all of them?"

"Let me see that," said Rose, finally looking up from her watches.

Wolf glanced back and forth from David to Rose. "You didn't know what it looked like," he said. Then he showed it to her. "You ever seen this guy?"

Rose shook her head no, then, abruptly, she stopped. "Uh ... Maybe." She paused, looking uncomfortable, then continued. "There's this dream I've been having ever since I was a little kid, where a bad fairy is coming to take me away from my mom and make me into ... into another thing like it. And it looks ... like that."

"Is the age the main difference?" Mitch asked. "Is this how your bad fairy might look if he was a bit more than twenty years older?"

She nodded. "The fairy in my nightmare has longer hair and big sharp teeth, but otherwise ... yeah."

David frowned. "You think she might be remembering this guy from when she was just a baby?"

Mitch shook his head slowly. "Nope."

Rose nodded. "I never met my father," she said. "My mom was .... She .... He was gone before I was born. My mom had this dream with me, the whole time I was growing up. I was ten before we figured out we were having it together. I thought it was just my nightmare and it was my fault she had it too, but ... I guess I was wrong about that." Tears ran silently down her face.

Sonia put a hand on her shoulder. "I'm sorry, Rose," she said.

"Rose," Wolf said, "What happened .... It's not your fault. Never was."

Rose shook her head. "I just .... Uh, I need some time to myself right now, okay?"


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