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  • Alan Allinger

The Titan Sleeps


After making the journey to my father’s bedside the two of us were sadly unable to have a very brief conversation. Instead, twenty minutes prior to my arrival he had simply closed his eyes. He never opened them again. A priest came and gave him last rites. By the time we all stood beside his body in the hospice he wasn’t there, anymore.

Three days later we all stood graveside and contemplated the big vault into which they would soon lower the coffin. Because of the plague, we decided to minimize the number of relatives that could attend the ceremony. We created a Zoom call for anyone in the family that wished to be present during the interment; everyone was invited to write down an anecdote about Dad and we took turns reading them graveside. It brought more comfort to some than the priest’s blessing of the grave, but each person must have their own form of solace.

We left, so that the cemetery workers could complete their tasks, and get home to their families. Ours gathered at the house of my father’s wife of many years, and we spent some time talking and taking strength from one another’s company. After a few hours we separated and I headed back to the cemetery.

Living for so many years on the western coast in order to maintain contact with the ocean and its powers meant I had not spent dusk in the rural Southeast in some time. As I turned off the paved street and got out of the car the air here felt very different; thicker and heavier somehow. And I had forgotten the fireflies.

I walked back up the rutted gravel track, small stones crunching underfoot until I reached the now filled-in spot where our father’s body was interred. The flying insects began their nightly ritual, silently calling out to one another with bright flashes of golden light. There were hundreds of them, and it helped to think that they were gathering in a show of respect for the man whose body now lay six feet below my feet.

As I stood at the end of the slight depression I realized that my foot was resting against the side of my mother’s headstone. It didn’t bother me. This seemed appropriate.

“You know,” my mother said quietly from somewhere beside me, “that the world is different without him in it. Gravity has changed with his lack. Can you feel the difference in the weight of your steps?” I nodded, keeping my mind busy by watching the constant, brilliant flashes of light all around us.

As the lightning bugs put on a spectacular moving display I had not seen in years and years, Mother produced an open bottle from somewhere, and poured us each a glass of Dad’s favorite St. Emilion. I could hear him explain between the flashes of gold in the air that the high percentage of cabernet franc in the blend gave the wine’s aroma a strong component of iron bound in leather.

“And there will be an element of lavender as well,” said my mother, completing the thought. We stood there in companionable silence for a long while, sipping the wine, and thinking about him. The fireflies abruptly ceased to wink. In the sudden darkness a single bright planet shone brightly in the dark patch of sky above the trees.

“Not Venus,” I said with a slight frown. I was going to need to look at a star app.

“No,” my mother agreed. “Jupiter ascends.” She smiled sadly as she looked at the majestic planet, making some complicated subtle gesture of respect and recognition with her free hand. She looked down then, and poured a measure of wine onto the freshly turned earth at my feet. She took a moment while it soaked into the ground, and deliberately refilled our glasses before continuing. “It’s only fitting, I think, that someone of that stature should look on now- when a Titan has gone to rest.”

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© 2023 by Alan Allinger