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tearing the rag off the bush again
from Nolan's semi-published work, Made In The Shade.
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picture by Maureen Hurley

Hunce died.  We all expected it just not so soon.  He was attended by those who loved him.  Even if we didn't realize it before we did now.  We all walked around dazed and tried to assure each other that yes, the end had come, but still we gaped in disbelief at the man we had once known as skinny, even emaciated, now a bloated ball of gray skin, cold to the touch.  With the life gone from him, he seemed so impersonal, so distant.  He was never that way alive, always so engaging, so receptive.  We clambered up and down the narrow stairways that he had fashioned to resemble catwalks on a suspension bridge as if they weren't there.  We did what we had to do.  And the ambulance left and the volunteer firemen returned and the deputy took his report.  Still we had to wait for the mortuary van to come for the body.  Hunce didn't appear to be in any hurry.  We had the look of a party at which the guests were waiting for the host to leave.  We toasted him with his champagne.  He was a beautiful man with a beautiful heart.  Hear, hear.  He had a big heart.  Yes, his body finally caught up with his heart.  Hey, that's cold.  But then, so is he.  When the van arrived we had to load him onto the elevator, the one he had constructed when he no longer had the strength or the breath to climb up and down the stairs.  It was a 2-foot by 2-foot contraption that was powered by a winch bolted to the crossbeam of his three-story gingerbread A frame house.  We had to lift him from the bed.  He was at the very least two hundred and fifty pounds, closer to three hundred of, pardon the expression, dead weight.  We wanted to let him down easy, with some respect.  Try moving that bulk onto a four foot square platform, the elevator.  And considering how narrow the passages were anyway (remember the catwalks on the suspension bridge), it was with bare respect that we tousled the naked body around those labyrinthine corners.  After a couple of attempts and maintaining as much dignity as possible, we finally fit him on his winch driven chariot and played out the cable down to the bottom floor.  There the guys from the mortuary loaded him onto the gurney and shrouded him, first with a white sheet and then a red velveteen wrap.  They wheeled him out the door, down the steps, and across the mock suspension bridge.  That was quite symbolic, that last.  He went from one shore to another even if the river he crossed was merely a cement-lined trench he called a moat.  After he was gone, we said our good-byes to each other, too, and went on our various ways to reflect on what we could no longer deny.
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