Every Man Must Find His Own Way Home
The following is an untold account of an incident pertaining to my father and his friend Tommy Burns. It was in the summer of 1970 and it was an unusually dreadful year for my father as his health was progressively deteriorating and he was hastily realizing that death would soon come knocking at his door in the near future. In view of the fact that I was married and had a family of my own, I lived at a distance from my parents and by no means could spend as much time with them as I would have desired.
It was a quiet evening when Tommy came knocking at our door and declared that he had just arrived in town and sought to visit with us. This did not present a dilemma in view of the fact that I had known Tommy for numerous years. My father had always been an admirable and honest man, and the affectionate familiarity which he expressed in Mr. Burns was to me satisfactory verification that Tommy was in every way creditable and of high regard. It was at breakfast the following morning when Tommy related to us a strange and unusual pact that was formed. He stated that it had been soberly established among my father and him that the one who died first would attempt to communicate with the other from beyond the confines of the grave, a concurrence that was comparable to that arrangement between the great magician Houdini and his wife upon his death.
A few weeks after our dialogue in which Mr. Burns spoke of this alleged agreement, I met him walking gradually down High Street in Millville, apparently preoccupied in deep contemplation, as he greeted me impersonally providing a skimpy nod of his head and continued on his way while I in absolute puzzlement was left standing on the sidewalk, staggered and as you may well expect somewhat irritated. The following day I encountered Tommy again, this time in the City hall office as I was paying my yearly taxes, and seeing him about to duplicate yesterday’s unpleasant performance I intercepted him in the entrance hallway with a gracious acknowledgment, and directly requested an explanation of his behavior. He hesitated for an instant then looking me forthright in the eye and said.
“I do not foresee that I may relate to you as a friend any further in view of the fact that your father has dissolved our friendship even though I know not why he has elected to do so.” I quickly protested, “I have not heard from my father recently so I can not respond to your comments concerning his behavior.”
“You have not heard from your father”. he repeated, with evident astonishment. “Why, he is here in Millville. I encountered him yesterday only a mere ten minutes prior to meeting you. I met him for a second time not even a quarter of an hour ago, and I might add his manner was precisely the same as previously, he merely nodded and passes on.”
At this point I would like to enlighten you, my reader that for all practical purposes I shall explain at once that my father was now dead. He had died in the Millville hospital four days prior to this conversation. Calling on Mr. Burns, I informed him of my father’s demise, presenting him the commentary as it appeared in the Millville Daily Newspaper announcing the calamity. “It seems incredible”, he said, following a period of reflection. “I suppose I must have erroneously approached someone else mistaking them for your father, and that accounts for the icy welcome I received. It was purely a stranger’s response to someone they didn’t know. I now remember, yes indeed, he lacked your fathers’ usual mustache.”
“Doubtless it was another man,” I assented and the subject was never subsequently mentioned between us. But I had in my pocket a photograph of my father which had been provided from his remains attended to by my mother. It had been taken a week before his death, and was in fact without a mustache.
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