I have a story in my head: Latin 5 must save a classmate who has been taken. Latin 5 does more than march through sanitized Catullus at this institution.
Latin 5 does magic. Latin 5 moves cars, and flowers, and the dead. Imprecisely, they do that last thing. The valedictorian who reads out the incantation — usually a she, a different senior every year — is sometimes hopeful, sometimes powerful, more often chilly and stammering and sixteen years old. It doesn't always go well.
A particular error is made each time as well, by the Claire, or Jennifer or Brittany, or Olive, or unbroken chain of Emmae (back in the aughts). An ablative of some kind, a morituri or an angeli that becomes a Murray or a Maryangela, and that becomes: the grandparents. All over the cemetery where Latin 5 has come to ask for an army, these Grandpas and Nanas fill their burial clothes out again, sneeze, and (thanks to the part of the summons where the Latin never buckles) return. Soil parts, locks swing, they sit up and climb down and come out.
"When are we?"
Latin 5's teacher, Mrs. Something-Hyphen, their misbuttoned scarecrow pilot, knows about the error. She has always known about it. She may have installed it, or she may simply permit it; I haven't worked that part out. But the name of the men the mistake brings forth also belongs to her own grandfather, and every time Latin 5 is called, so is Something Sr. Every time Latin 5 asks the dead for help, Something Sr. is among those who answer. He died long before the teacher was born; she only recognized him from pictures, and from her wedding — the man with vintage eyeglasses who belonged to no one, gazing at the cake with longing, which was how Mrs. Something-Hyphen knew that he was one of hers.
In the story, victory is Latin 5's — this is why we have fiction — and as everyone waits for the bus, Something Sr. approaches his granddaughter to tell her, you know, one day, one of your students will catch the error. You should prepare yourself. Mrs. Something-Hyphen lifts a brow. Poppy, you're not the only Murray anyone misses, you know. They know it's incorrect; they've known for 20 years. They say it this way anyway. Why not? The Emmae know how to put the dead back, after all, how to close the soil. Why get everything exactly right?
All stories, in the end, are about this, I suppose. Conjuring the dead for one last, or first, embrace: songs and poetry, paintings of teenage empresses, Malick and Roddenberry and hip-hop, accidentally and on purpose. Let us part the past and step through. Once; more.
Another story is in my head about a covering-fire volley of baked potatoes, launched by a trebuchet into a gangster compound and set to Van Morrison's "Glad Tidings." My dead aren't always somber, but they are always near, the men I barely knew, and this is how I meet them.
Happy birthday, Don.
Tags: September 11th