It’s a night in January, and winter has come to East St. Louis.  His father has been dead for three days.  And really it was two funerals.  Two funerals David had to go to.  His older brother, the third son—William—had also died.  The day after his father.  He was forty-seven years old…  But this we must put into shape and symbol, in all the proportions called for.  You must name the forces, forces felt by sentient beings.  You must familiarize them, and yet I feel nothing happens.  I have read and re-read this with tedious intent, trying not to forget anything—all that’s led up to this—David’s youth and time in war, the foreshadowing of his wife, Bethany’s past, and now I’ve come to the children, to his father’s death and what led to his children’s death, the grandson he raised as a son, and I’m not sure.  I’m not sure if I’ve made a miscalculation.  I try to bring it all together, the non-linear phases of this chronicle inextricably tied to linear laws and what I have yet to say and nothing—nothing happens.  Just the words, the symbols, the shapes of characters put in shadows, inscrutable yet serene against a turgid background, a horrible and bloody mischance of human affairs…  And William, the third son—who was he?  Was he content?  Content with his fate?  To die the same year as his father?  The day after?  And how does this simple violence, the simple violence of his death, all these simple passions I’ve written about, impervious to time and inexplicable, how in faded writing does this coincide with what happened when Benjy died?  Something is missing.  Perhaps in the shadowy attenuation of time it connects to what he lost, what David lost when that shotgun fired puncturing his eardrum.  The settling of that affair with Maddie, his and Benjy’s mistress.  The distrust and contempt which comes to any man with success.  Success brought about by the ubiquity of strength and not of luck.  It finally closed the coffin if but eleven years later to the last words David couldn’t hear in his father’s death, in the death of William, his brother, in the violent death of his son, Benjy—the seed to some divinity—in we the people, the people in this chronicle in whose living blood and seed we ourselves lay dormant and waiting.  What people today now find in that third album of his, the album he recorded in 1955 while living with his widowed mother…  William was forty-seven when he died.  He died to the violence of cancer, his insides his intestines rotted, and somehow I must tell his story to tell the story of David and his children, to tell the story of their same father.  For William always lived with his mother.  And he didn’t have a secret.  Some lurking suspicion he inauspiciously hoped another would uncover.  He didn’t have to ask that question.  Not the question of whether he was loved, but the question of whether he knew how to love.

            He was retarded.  Born in 1908, in summer—premature.  From the time he learned how to walk metal braces attached to his legs, malformed, his right foot pointed in, causing an angled gait to any progress he made standing up.  But he refused a wheel chair, and from the age of nine, the same summer of the riots and David’s birth, he left the environs of school at the behest of the superintendent who had neither the funding or resources to deal with William’s special needs and Cleota cared for him at home.  Dewey, the next youngest the seventh son, was four, and David was a newborn—Cleota’s attention spread between the constant care David needed as an infant and William, an invalid, who though David can’t remember from those early years spent much of the time watching David while Cleota went about cooking and household work.  Even as an adult he had the face of a child.  And time had no meaning to him—it was outside—his world ordered elsewhere.  He was never waiting on something.  I have this from Cleota’s journal.  There is no entry on her husband’s death, but the day after, the day William died, is clearly remarked:

            January 7th, 1955—They used to play a game.  While David took his bath.  William would blow bubbles.  He would carefully gather them up from the soap suds of David’s bathwater and from the palm of his hand blow them softly with his breath above David’s head as he laughed and splashed in the water.  It was William that taught him to count.  They would count the bubbles as they popped.  David laughing with pleasure at each one, each bubble as it disappeared, a suspension of film residue, like a hope answered in contrivances—life-like—floating in the air.  But they never counted past four and then they would start again.  William knew the numbers beyond this, but he always stopped at four, and so David did.  And now I wonder if there was magic to it, some meaning.  It was almost like they were keeping a beat, a time signature, common time, accenting every other bubble, and sometimes they departed from this, enlisting a sort of syncopation.  Sometimes there was even a prelude to their counting, a pickup note that David though a toddler followed in their play.  And so it was William, it was William that initiated David into the timing of music…

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