The Good Fortune Harvest
The fragrance of sweet grass is soothing after the long car trip. I stand transfixed by the soft murmur of insects and the sight of the newly mown field. Here I am, back where it all began. In hindsight, I can string together events and a life unfolds, events which have brought me full circle, but only in hindsight can I see this. Today I conclude one journey, that is all I know. Tomorrow’s have always eluded me.
Laura is on her way over. I spoke with her from the hotel yesterday, letting her know what time I would get in. She said once more how excited she is to have me back in town. What went before was left unspoken, but not unfelt throughout our phone call.
I look forward to seeing her. Laura has done well for herself over the years. She opened her own cottage shop down by the antique stores, and there she sells her creations, as she refers to them. Children’s clothes. Not ordinary in the least; she smocks girl’s dresses with hand-dyed thread-colors of indigo, turquoise, and gold. Her name has begun to spread beyond the state, all the way up to New York. Eager buyers visit her from Macy’s, Saks, and Neiman Marcus.
Laura is self-effacing about her success. Even she knows this too cannot assuage the sorrow in her eyes, in her heart. Her misfortune ran sidelong with the sum of ours. Bam, bam, bam, one after another, the events kept coming. Hersâ€¦a misdiagnosis, a radical hysterectomy needed. There was no time to deal with it. We were all somewhere else. No one had the mind to go to her, be with her. It was just another door closing.
Grassy smells. I know of no memory trigger more powerful than freshly cut grass. My mother must have hired Mr. A.J. to mow the field this morning. She did this because she knows my obsession with rodents. While growing up in this house, it was I who kept constant vigilance on the adjacent field and its inhabitants. Naively imposing order on what was naturally chaotic. I have heard tell this is a duty that commonly falls to the youngest child – to wrest out order for the family.
I spent many years trying to grasp order in the universe, the complex arrangement of my family and my place in it, but it is a slippery thing. And looking for it proved too formidable a task for me. I eventually had to narrow my concerns to just me. So I left home in the same wake of confusion and separation that began with our dear Father’s death. (Dear? A word. Harmless. A vestige of a former mindsetâ€¦interjected here by way of nostalgia.)
There were many in the community who envied us, my family – our closeness, our exclusivity. This house. To the outside world, we seemed to operate as a machine in harmony with its equal parts. A strong gale force. The meaning of our life was defined by this outward perception, we could not disassociate ourselves from its stranglehold.
The first one to try to pull away, suffered immeasurably and irreversibly. This was my oldest brother. He started his own business at 26 years of age. He hung out his sign as a consultant after working for different enterprises. Jack, we all agreed, had a head for business. A natural for success.
Even so, my Father could still bring him to his knees. Father would arrive unannounced at Jack’s office and declare to his employees, “I’m the Father.” Then he would turn to Jack and say, “I remember when you used to shit your own pants.” Jack took it in the heart. Took it so many times it didn’t matter anymore. Inch by inch the scar tissue built up a man and kept him from feeling further pain.
Jack’s consulting business was coming to fruition during a strange and lucrative time in America. It was a time when fools could make money and a fool could become President. The soil seemed to sprout money trees, each ripe for the picking. Yet Jack’s moderate success did not satisfy him. He began to seek out ways to make a stronger proclamation to the world, to our Father, to himself.
Ordinary means would not serve him. He crossed the line and began preying on people who were not as mindful as he, a sucker is born every minute, P.T. Barnum said, and Jack found sufficient in this world to build himself an empire on. He took out advertisements in newspapers all over the country promising a 1-2-3 course that would teach you to be your own consultant. Be like me, he proclaimed. Join the A-team and become an instant success.
He fed and clothed his wife and five daughters with other people’s hopes, dreams, and life savings. He gave nothing back but black 3-ring binders full of plagiarized mediocre text about how to succeed in business. And when our Father saw the five-carat diamond ring on my sister-in-law’s finger, the black Mercedes in the home driveway, the office building with the name Jack Behar etched in marble at the top, he didn’t flinch, he turned to Jack, and looking around to see that he had an audience said, “You are cursed because you cannot have a son.”