Friday, 16th. Today Rafe stayed at coffee a bit longer than he had planned. I read him my Bodman entry of yesterday and asked him what he thought of it.
"Obviously a fanatic," he said.
I mulled that over my coffee cup a while. "What's your idea of a fanatic?"
Rafe made a short, laughing sound. "Okay, Charles, what's up?" He turned to Cara who was sitting at the table holding her coffee cup to her lips with both hands, elbows on the table. "Is he trying to trap me or what?"
Cara shrugged and slowly shook her head. "Who knows what Charles is ever up to?" She grinned at me. Rafe cleared his throat.
"Just answer the question," I said. "What's a 'fanatic'? And how can you sit there with all that light in your eyes?" It was a bright day, and the side of the table where Rafe was sitting was drowned in sunlight.
"I like it." He stretched like a cat and shoved the hair out of his eyes. "A fanatic is one who is obsessed with a single idea or point of view."
"What happens if his point of view happens to be the correct point of view?"
Rafe sat up. "According to whom?"
"According to him, naturally."
"Wouldn't that," Cara said, "just prove he's a fanatic?"
"Okay," I didn't mind that tack, "then according to anybody you care to name." I could see a wary look coming into Rafe's baby blue mooneyes.
"Including people who agree with him, you mean?"
"Then he wouldn't be a fanatic," Cara said. "To them, I mean."
"To whom is he one, then?" They were both beginning to squirm a bit.
"Okay, Charles." Rafe sighed. "He's a fanatic to those who disagree with him."
"Just disagree with him?"
"No, he'd be called a crank by most people — those who didn't particularly give a damn." Rafe touched his cup. "Or just quirky. I see where you're leading, Charles. You want me to say, 'to those who disagree with him violently.'"
"Right. Would they be fanatics too?"
"Are you a man in the middle?" Cara asked.
Rafe really laughed. "Don't you get down on me too, Cara," he said. "No, I'm not. I disagree with him violently — Bodman, that is."
"You do choose unfortunate combinations of words sometimes. Forgive him, Cara." I grinned broadly at them both. "And I rest my case," I said.
"Cut it out, Charles." Rafe flushed. "And Bodman's wrong!" He rapped the table.
"In what way?" I was still grinning, I'm afraid.
"Shit, Charles, what are these 'delusions' he's talking about?"
"He spoke with God, and with angels, but they were all really the devil and his minions masquerading as holy, invisible being."
"The man was obviously a mental case."
I inserted the dagger neatly. "Didn't you once tell me you became a minister because you felt you had established contact with 'something at the center of thins,' or words to that effect? Well, that's not much different than talking directly to Central Control, is it?"
Rafe practically gagged on his tongue, and Cara had to muffle her amusement.
"The man's a maniac!"
"Don't let the natives hear you say that. But according to what system of values is he a screwball?"
"Modern psychology tells you — "
"In his day they didn't have 'modern psychology.' They had angels and devils. That was their system.
Rafe was getting eager. His cashmere was in danger of sopping up his coffee. "He was a deluded man. He hallucinated."
Cara pointed out something I'd planned on — "Bodman admits that himself, doesn't he?" She glanced over at me.
"Sure," Rafe said, "but he thinks his fantasies were caused by the Devil, which is a delusion on its own."
"That's the cause in his system. What is it in yours?" I asked.
"Who knows? — trauma, fear of death, guilt...."
"Aren't those the same as angels and devils?"
Rafe snorted. "Of course not. They are natural causes."
"Well, but in Bodman's day, so were angels and devils 'natural' in a sense."
"You're not being scientific," Rafe pointed out, rather aggressively, I felt.
"I hope so. Bodman's delusions were those of a religious fanatic."
I had him. "I thought you told me once that you decided to become a minister when you realized that psychology was merely modern religion?"
He sat back, astonished. Cara laughed, full of delight.
"You rat," he said.
"Two religious fanatics, operating by different systems — by the way, which quote scientific unquote discipline do you follow, the Freudian or the Jungian? — two screwballs following different paths, but both dealing with the same problems and coming up with the same answers, but using different terms — sort of like Baptists and Presbyterians. Were Bodman's delusions less real to him than those of an acid head?
Rafe shook his head.
"What's real is what we experience or believe," I said. "Do you believe in God?"
"Yes," Rafe said, slowly, carefully, "I do."
"So did Bodman, and a man named Ferguson. Not to mention Pythagoras."
Cara looked up. "Who's Ferguson?"
"Oh," — I fiddled with my cup — "he was an astronomer who pointed out the logic and rationality of the physical universe, backed it with scientific data and mathematical calculations, and said that God had done it all, and everything is heading toward ultimate perfection."
Rafe and Cara and I just sat there for a while longer, and then Rafe went to school.
Saturday, 17th. As I was trying to finish reading Bodman's book today, I recalled an entry in my scrapbook, which I got out and read:
A DYING MAN'S TESTIMONY
As told to me by my father.
A member of our Church, S——- C————, lay dying of cancer at the Meriden Hospital. My father was at his bedside along with the dying man's brother, sister-in-law and another member of the clergy, Rev. B—— T——-. Suddenly the dying man's face lit up in a way that could only be described as angelic. Then he said to his brother, "A———, we have a nice choir at the church, but his is the real choir." He referred to the heavenly choir. He told my Father that Jesus was sitting at the foot of his bed. Then be began to sing an Italian funeral hymn.
My father then approached him and said, "S——-, it is true, then, what the Apostle Paul said, 'To live is a loss!'" Rev. T——- then approached and asked if S——- wished them to pray for him. "You may if you wish," he answered, "but I am able to pray for myself."
S——- did not die than but lingered on for an additional three weeks constantly calling for his mother and in a terrible mental depression. No one knows why.
Thursday, 22nd. I am not sure I can yet put in order what has happened during these past few days since I wrote my last entry. I must be slow and precise, as though I took no part in what has occurred, so that I can look at the page, when I have done, and perhaps divine meaning from events made into words, for evens have no meanings of their own.
Very early Sunday morning, October 18th — around 3 or 4 a.m. — Cara and I were awakened by someone pounding and calling at the doors downstairs. Cara was the first to wake, and she came into my room, huddled in a housecoat, to rouse me. She shook me till I came to; she was hissing, "Charles, Charles! There's someone downstairs. Charles!" I recall jumping out of bed and standing there. Though my eyes were wide open, I was really still more asleep than awake, but alarm had me reaching for a bathrobe before awareness hit me. I hurried downstairs with Cara right behind me.
The pounding had stopped — they had evidently seen the lights go on. Cara and I hurried through the ell and opened the kitchen door. A large Maine state trooper was standing there. Behind him in the dooryard a patrol car was parked, lights on and engine running. The car's exhaust in the chill fall night glowed with swirling red reflections of the tail lights.
"Charles Ally?" It was more a statement than a question. I nodded. He stepped in. I held the door for him and closed it behind him. He saw Cara and took off his hat, firing a sharp glance at her, then at me.
"We've had the devil's own time finding you, Mr. Ally." He hesitated. "The New York State Police finally tracked you down and notified us you were in Frankfort. We've had to wake half the town to find someone who knows you. I'm afraid I have bad news."
He hesitated again, let his eyes slide away from us. I saw them widen slightly as he took in Cara's plant life. Just then another car drove into the yard and parked — the headlamp beams broke across the kitchen windows and went out. A door slammed. Cara moved to the door and had it open as Rafe reached the doorstep.
Rafe entered and said, "Hello, Charles, Cara." He nodded at the officer, who returned the greeting with a dip of his head.
"He's the neighbor who knew you," the trooper said. "Where's your car?" For a moment I didn't realize he was speaking to me.
"They're both in the barn."
"We looked for New York plates first off. When we couldn't find them — sorry to bother you, Rev. Hawkins."
Rafe made a deprecatory gesture with his hand.
"What's the trouble?" Cara had come up to us again, and we stood in a semicircle before the officer.
He sighed. "No use beating about the bush. Mr. Ally, yesterday, Saturday, your wife and daughter were involved in an auto accident."
Cara clutched my arm.
"They're both dead," he said. Silence. "I'm sorry, Mr. Ally."
No one said anything. We just stood there. I saw nothing but the trooper's face — it took over the whole room, blooming like a mallow in the yellow light. I felt something touch my leg. Wesley Catch meowed softly once.
My knees buckled and I reached for a chair. There was a knot of ice at the core of me. I sat down.
"You're to get in touch with the local police in New York — what's the name of the college town? — as soon as possible. Immediately." He turned and went to the door, put his hand on the knob. "I'm sorry," he said, rather hoarsely. And he went out. The patrol car backed out and drove away.
Rafe came over to stand before me. Cara stood behind, hands on my shoulders.
"Charles," he said, "this isn't the time to tell you how I feel. It can't begin to touch you now. We'd better simply get moving. We'll take my c ar, and I'll drive. I'll go home, phone the police to tell them we're coming, and pack a few things. Cara," he looked past me, "you throw some things into a couple of suitcases. You get yourself and Charles dressed. I'll be back in twenty minutes." He went to the door, stopped, and turned around. "I'll have to notify the college, too, that I'll be gone a few days." This was murmured, addressed mainly to himself.
Within a half hour we were in the car, moving through the darkness in the wake of the headlamps as they cut through rural mists and back roads over to Route One — the bridge into Bath, and then highways through Brunswick, past Portland, down through the neck of New Hampshire.
I remember lights — neon, reflectors, very few cars — nearly nothing but the broken white lines coming at us down the road, slipping past on the left side. It was beginning to grow light by the time we got into Massachusetts, and it was morning when we got to Manoah Bodman's home area: hills, the Berkshires. We passed into New York State and went right, heading upstate at Albany. The sun was up and my eyes hurt. I've afraid I dozed sometimes, or at least sank into a stupor — shock, I suppose. It was nearing noon when we got into town and checked with the police.
As Norine had been an only child, both parents deceased, I was nearest of kin except for some aunts, uncles, and cousins on the west coast, so a lawyer had been handling things. The police gave us his name and address, told us which funeral parlor we were to go to. We went to the undertaker's first. He had had his instructions from the lawyer, and the funeral was to be held the next day — Tuesday. What arrangements did I want to make for interment?
Cara and Rafe looked at me. I don't know what made me say it — I hadn't thought about anything. "Not here," I said. "Frankfort. There are family plots in the cemetery up the road just off our property."
The funeral director looked annoyed, began to say something about the lawyer — arrangements had been undertaken — how did we plan to move the deceased....
Rafe cut him off. "We'll do as Mr. Ally wishes. He's living in Maine now and would like his family near him. My car is a large station wagon. We should be able to manage it."
The undertaker was astonished.
"We won't need much room," I said. "The bodies are to be cremated."
"I will officiate at the services here," Rafe said. "I'm a minister."
The undertaker nodded thinly on his thin neck and washed his hands of the whole affair. "Which church will you use?" he asked.
"No church," I said. "Here. In this place."
The undertaker widened his eyes. "Would you like to view the departed?" he asked.
"Yes, can you arrange that?" He didn't understand, but Cara and Rafe did. I was sorry immediately. There was distaste in their expressions.
"Certainly." We followed him into a large parlor, and he left us with the coffins, dropping an official word of comfort of some sort.
I looked down at Norine. She appeared to be composed of plaster — a statue of a statue. Her hair looked like a wig made of coarse brown thread. I think perhaps it was just that — I'm not even sure it was Norine. Her eyes were closed, but I knew she was looking at me, not necessarily from where she lay. "Now do it, Charles," I heard her voice say in my head. "This is the way you always wanted me, isn't it? I'd like you to do it now."
I stepped back. "No?" she said. "Well, then, we'll just have to wait."
I began to walk away, but Rafe grabbed me by the arm. "Melany," he said. I began to tear away, but I realized I had to look.
"Daddy," the little doll in the box said. "Daddy, I hurt myself. I'm sorry."
I must have begun to weep, because I heard my own voice say very hoarsely — as though I were strangling. — "No wake. No visiting hours. Only the service. And I want those lids closed.
Cara buried her head in my shirtfront and cried silently, holding me tightly around the arms.
I can't think about it any more today. I'll write tomorrow, when this old house has begun to fold us in again.