Prologue: Kaleidoscope

“The day which we fear as our last is but the birthday of eternity.” Lucius Annaeus Seneca


Between daylight and mist – the dark not far.

Darkness is not my friend.

Time grows short…

Soon, not ready, but soon.

Darkness will be your friend.

Who said that?

Blinking… In and out, light, off and on.

Remembering… Day? Month? Year?

The stroke – when?



Oh, yes, cute dark horse from Texas – cross between Abe and Bobby.

The Fascist in exile – oh, happy day!

“Happy Birthday, sweetie!” Sing-songy, irritating voice inflicted on children and old people.


Youngster in Kaleidoscope smock.

I may be old, but I’m not stupid.

Why do young people disrespect the old so much? Treat us like mindless ninnies?

“What year?”



Baby voice: “You’re 97 today. Isn’t that nice?”

Ninety-seven? Nothing nice about that, stuck in bed, you ninny!


“How adorable,” Kaleidoscope says, turns to invisible one. “Still wants to keep up.”

“President, please.”

Kaleidoscope sighs. “Colleen O’Reilly.”

Colleen O’Reilly? Why she’s just a child.

Kaleidoscope turns away. “She’ll just forget and ask all over again.”

“I worked on her Daddy’s campaign.” Voice: weak, wavering, high-pitched.


“Oh, yes, a lovely young man.”

“He’s old now,” says Kaleidoscope, jabbing a needle in my arm.


“Sorry, sweetie.”

Don’t call me sweetie. My name is Samantha Anne Mallory, and I still have my mind. I’ve had a history, long before you were even born, long before you were your parents’ worst nightmare.

“I want my daughter.”

“Your daughter?”


“Honey, your daughter passed last year.”


But she’s just a child, my beautiful, brown-eyed girl, slim and gorgeous.


I’m skin and bones – finally, after all these years.

Arthritic hipbones jutting out, boobs two skinny tubes flat against my stomach.

Belly apron, deflated like a balloon.

Wrinkled sticks for legs.

Toothpick arms.

See what happens when fat melts away?


Flab, flap, flap.

Thin, the new burden, ravaged by old age – illness.

Careful what you wish for…

Fog lifts.

Nicole as old woman appears before me: leathery, gray, stringy, ill.

The face of cancer that took her.

Much, much too thin, no resources left.

Nothing to fight the enemy waging war within.

Like Candy, poor little Candy…

“Kaitlyn is coming by later.”

Kaitlyn? Baby Kaitlyn? Circle of Love baby?

“You remember Kait?”

I nod.

Of course, I do, you nincompoop.

Baby Kaitie, now in her fifties, still lively and perky, the best of Nicole and me.

Never fat, never skinny, just so…

No drama, just a circle of sweet and light – no sadness, no shrinks – always happy, happy.

Biker Roger’s progeny.

Sperm donor, nothing more.

The apple can fall far, far from the tree.

Her children, my great grands, a colorful blur of faces, mixed personalities, bland melting pot.

I rarely see them.

When they do visit, I can’t remember their faces and names.

The oldest ones have children, my great-great grands.

So far removed from my life.

Like Nana and Pappa’s parents and grandparents, faceless and nameless specters hovering in my backdrop.

Relatives, the fabric of family.

Like knots in a rug, all required for strength, but do I know each one?

I’m too sick to remember all their names.

I don’t care enough.

“I want to sleep,” I say to Kaleidoscope. “Turn off the light.”


I’m walking up a large hill near St. Boniface, my grade school.

This is where we have agreed to meet, it feels right to be in this place and time.

It’s a bright sunny day – October, my favorite month, blue sky, red and yellow leaves.

A wonderful season for a birthday.

Haven’t I been here before?

I’m walking uphill when I feel him behind me.

I turn around.

A young man, Pappa dashes up the hill and catches up to me.

“So, we meet again, Sammy Anne,” he says.

He looks like his army picture, a 17-year-old, fresh-faced boy who saw France but not war.

In living color, his eyes are aqua, his full head of hair a rich chocolate, his complexion rosy and supple.

I see why Nana chased him, snatched him away…

“This spiritual life gets better and better. Just so you know.”

He seems happy, so he must be in Heaven.

“No, honey, Heaven is a human construct.”

Then where are you?

“One level above human.”

What about Hell?

“No such thing as Heaven and Hell. Evil doesn’t exist.”

I’m confused. If there’s no Hell, where do criminals, serial killers, rapists, thieves, abusers, and despots go?

“They go back.”


“To earth, until they get it right.”

Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini – Trump?

“Tough ones to crack. These miscreants are often repeat offenders.”


“I was surprised, too,” he says sheepishly. “Your Nana was beside herself when she discovered we never belonged to the one true church.”


“No such thing as a true religion.”

Kind of ironic, isn’t it? It’s all a fraud.

“Yet all is right with the universe,” Pappa says. “Everything happens the way it’s supposed to.”

Like Death?

“Like Death.”

Is it my time?

“Let’s go for a walk.”

In silence, we walk the periphery of the church and school, a tall chain link fence surrounding it.

A Kaleidoscope of color: the sky Robin-egg bluest; the trees most brilliant in their scarlets, oranges, and yellows; the air perfectly cool and crisp; the sun huge and fiery, casting long, long shadows.

“It’s been a long time since we last talked.” Pappa points toward the horizon. “Let’s go over there, by that wall. We have some other things to discuss before –”

Before I die.

“Yes, before you die.”


He doesn’t answer. We sit on the wall; he puts his arm around my shoulder. “A lot of changes since your last visit.”


“Your Nana, Ruby, Candy, Lettie, Charles, Sal, Gwen, Nicole, Doug, Sheldon – all here now with me, Rosie, and Auntie –”

I nod.

“Others, too.”


Pappa winces and looks away.

Don’t forget Daddy Platts.

Pappa nods. “A good man.” Pauses. “You know, Sheldon and Doug aren’t bad guys, either.”

Pappa never knew Sheldon but hated Doug with a ferocious intensity.

“One sees things differently here. My earthly hatred of Doug says more about me than it does about him. Played into my worst fears.”

I’ve done my men wrong.

“I know everything.”

I hang my head in shame.

“Look at me.” He tucks his fingers under my chin and lifts my head toward his. He looks deep into my eyes.

“You are what you are. We all are. Human. No more, no less.”

I’m sorry.

“None of that matters anymore.”

Where will I go?

“You’ll see.” Pappa stands and takes my hand.

Behind him, on the other side of the chain link fence surrounding the St. Boniface school grounds, I see my people, grasping the fence, watching, some waving: Nana, Mother, Auntie, Ruby, Candy, Lettie, Gwen, Nicole, Sheldon, Doug, Danny, Charles, Veronica, plus others whose faces I either recognize but can’t name or faces I don’t recognize and can’t name.

But these are my people, and...

Oh, my God! There’s Paulie, the magnificent, beautiful Paulie, young and at his absolute peak.

Why is he here? I barely knew him.

“You’ll see soon enough.”

But I met him just once!


Through the fog, I reach back into memory. No, I’m sure it was just the one time, and we never...




But that was a dream!

“Sometimes, dreams are not just dreams.”

I feel the heat creeping into my face; this topic isn’t one a granddaughter should have with her grandfather.

“Never mind that.”

Paulie fades into the ether – or is it the future past?

No matter. I must find him, ask why his specter follows my life.

Like giving birth, I feel the urge to push forward, hurtle myself to the other side.

Pappa pulls me back. “Not yet.”

I’m ready.

“Not yet.”

But –

“You’re going on a journey.”

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