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A View From the Fence
Silently, I make my way from Piergeron Stadium and effortlessly complete my walk, bringing me to the Fourth Corner which is also the First.
The sun trembles on the edge of the horizon.
And with a deep breath, I finally leave the perimeter Fence and strike my way boldly inwards to the Center.
To where I've been going all along.
To Kim's Tree.
* * *
I stand once again before the monolithic While Maple that has seen so much of my life come and go. It's fully flocked in leaves now, and the difference between the Tree now and the Tree on that Homecoming Night so many, yet so few, years ago, is quite refreshing. One cannot even see all the way to the top, for all the greenery. Vision ceases at about two meters, in fact.
Which means there's hope. Even though I can't see a damn thing.
Sometimes, I tell myself, you just _have_ to have faith that things are going to work out regardless. Because there are some things that you just can't control.
I close my eyes. I hold my breath. A faint smile plays upon my lips. I incline my head and extend my arms outwards until I am standing in a posture of ecstasy.
Sometimes you just gotta _believe..._
"Kim." I say.
"What took you so long?"
My heart hums, keeping time with thousands of old songs that have leapt spontaneously into my head upon hearing that voice. Warmth floods my being. We've come full circle now. And the healing can begin.
"I was taking a walk." I say, simply.
"I know." Says the as-yet-unseen voice. "I've been watching you. Doing the perimeter thing?"
"Yep." I say, casually, though careful observers might note that my jaw trembles slightly.
"You find anything?" She asks.
"More than you could ever possibly imagine."
"I can imagine quite a bit, Mister Jordan Barnes. I walked it myself before you showed up." A pause. "You got a light?"
My joy sours a smidgen. I finger the heavy silver casing in my pocket. "Didn't know you smoked, Kim."
"Didn't need to when I knew you. Being a SCAB takes a lot out of you."
"I imagine." I say.
"You didn't answer my question, Jay."
"No." I say, still fingering my father's lighter. "No, I don't."
"Shit." She says. A moment's pause. "Well, I'm trying to quit anyway." With a few rustles and a bump, a new package of cigarettes falls from the upper branches. "Jordan, be a dear and smush those for me."
I do so. "Smushed." I say.
"Good." She says.
"So." I say. "What brings you back here?"
"You kidding, Jay? I live near here."
"Thought you moved away."
"My parents did. Soon as I got of age I moved back to the City. I'm taking classes at MacLeod. Pre-law."
"Quelle Coincidence," I say, remembering two words of French that I seem to recall as having gone together well.
"You're goin' into Law too, huh? Go fig." She says. "Politics, maybe, for me. I _like_ the sound of 'Councilor DeJong.'"
"You go, girl." I say, blandly, but pleasantly..
"Anyway, I had to come back. This was the battleground. These were the front lines. This is where the world was changing for us."
"My father's dead, Kim. Things've changed already."
"I know." She says, quickening her speech a bit. "I know, Jordan. That's why I was hoping you'd come here. You're in a prime position to strike a blow for social justice, here. I mean, can you imagine what it would do to those Humans First bastards if Barnes's own _son_ got up there and slammed him during his elegy? They'd be _annihilated._"
"They're going to be anyway. Regardless of what I say up there tomorrow."
"Jordan, the man was a _monster._ We're just scratching the surface of his life, and man, things are coming up fast."
"Kim..." I say, quietly.
"He _killed_ people, Jordan. He was a _murderer._ They say he carried a switchblade around just so he could up and off anybody that made him angry..."
"Kim..." I say, a bit more loudly.
"I mean, we're even uncovering evidence that his first wife was done in by foul play. They're even suggesting that maybe she came down with SCABS or something and that's why he wiped her out. We've got circumstantial evidence only, Jay, but hell..."
"Kim..." I say, with ever-increasing loudness.
"That was your _mother_, Jordan. The man might possibly have killed your _mother._ All you'd have to do up there is tell like ten percent of the stuff that we've got _proved_ and the Humans First cause would be routed for good--"
"KIM!" I scream.
"For God's sake, Kim. He wasn't a cause. He wasn't a movement. He wasn't a symbol. He was my father. And for the sake of my stepmother and my siblings, I will _not_ turn his funeral into a political action. No matter _what_ he did with his life."
"You're gonna get lynched up there." She says, simply. "We've got a whole hell of a lot of people that are gonna be on the other sides of those police barricades, screaming at you, throwing stuff, the whole ball of wax."
"I'm prepared for that."
A slight pause. "I'm gonna be among them, Jay."
"I know." I say. "Chief of the Angry-Sign-Waving Committee, right?"
"Hey." She says, lightly. "We all have our talents."
"A bunch of us are going to get together afterwards, have a few drinks and stuff. Some bar somewhere on the south side. I suppose it would be silly of me to ask if you wanted to join us."
"Considering that I'd be dead, yeah."
"I don't suppose you'd care to come along to the grieving reception, or anything. Bunch of my family getting together to eat and come together and network and stuff."
"And they'd welcome having me around because...?"
"I don't know, Kim. Moral integrity?"
She chuckles. I still can't see her.
"Moral integrity. Right. I like that."
"Right." I say. "Y'know, Kim, hanging around with a lot of unhappy surviving relatives doesn't really sound like my idea of a good time. Can I assume that your sitting around in a bar with a bunch of whoevers getting sloshed off your ass celebrating somebody's death would be similarly unpleasant for you?"
"You may." She says.
"Great." I say. "Then let's both play hooky."
"Hm?" She says.
"Meet back here tomorrow, after the fact. Han's Chinese is still open. I saw it on the way here. We could get some carry-out and bring it back here and have supper together."
"I dunno, Jay. Doc's say I should stick to fruits and stuff. There _are_ disadvantages to being a lemur."
"Candied Bananas..." I say, in a singsong-y fashion.
"Mm..." She murmurs, pleasedly. "Jay, you really know how to make things difficult, don't you."
"Hey." I say, equally lightly. "We all have our talents."
"Okay. You got me. Is it a date?"
My heart swells into my throat. "Yep. A date."
"Looking forward to it." She says.
"So. What do we do now?"
"I dunno." I say.
"How 'bout another Chat?"
I've got a topic.
Jordan Barnes: Good or Evil?
Neither. Or both. The question is moot and should be thrown out. Frame a new resolution. Reconvene in an hour. We'll start again from scratch...
"Kim, let's not debate anything tonight. Let's not take sides. Can we, just for tonight, sit back and observe? Just for once?"
"All right." She says, sweetly.
There is the rustle of leaves and the shudder of successively-descending branches. And then, Kim DeJong-- black and white stripey tail and all -- is there before me, perched gracefully on the lowest branch, peering at me through the thick leaves.
"C'mon." She says, extending one black paw to me. "You can see _everything_ from up here."
I place my hand in hers without a moment of thought.
And, with the capable help of my friend Kim DeJong, I finally manage to climb to the very highest point I can possibly reach on the Tree that has been the center of my life for as long as I can remember.
And as the sun finally sets in the West, I look out over the broad expanse of the campus, and further out over the lawns and homes and shops, and even further out to the vaguest suggestion of the lights of the City far in the distance to the East, and onwards to the horizon, and infinity itself, beyond.
"You know," I say to Kim, "You're absolutely right."
* * *