He sagged back
onto the pillow. The Kasidah advised him:
Cease, man, to
mourn, to weep, to wail;
Enjoy the shining hour of the sun;
We dance along Death's icy brink,
but is the dance less full of fun?
advised him to stop driving himself so hard in the Las Vegas heat, to stop
forgetting to take his potassium medication before rushing out of the house to
his boxers, and then they released him. A few months later, Mr. Futch parked
his car outside a supermarket. He was coming from a wedding, resplendent in
white suit, white shirt, white tie. He came out of the store, noticed another
car blocking his, and asked the man to move. The man sneered. Mr. Futch was 74,
Mike. Mr. Futch busted a finger, but drew blood with his left hook.
Do you see what
I'm driving at, Mike—or am I, too, weaving all over the road? Maybe there's a
simpler way to say this. Maybe it all has to do with that afternoon when you
led me to your closet and pulled out the white full-length fur coat, wrapped
yourself in it and giggled, looked in the mirror and all but hugged yourself at
what you saw. A teddy bear, big and round and soft.
That's what I'm
getting at, Mike. Wrappings. Why you need him. Funny, isn't it, how we all
bundle up and hide what scares us most in ourselves—how you wrapped your
sweetness with rage, how he wrapped his rage with sweetness? Or maybe we don't
do any wrapping at all, maybe it just happens to us.
Maybe you see it
now, Mike—he's you turned inside out, he's what you need, yes, outside of the
ring even more than inside of it—a trainer, a father, a friend. I know it,
Mike; you're scared. "Only Cus," you told me. "Only Cus could ever
make me do what I didn't want to do. No one else. But he's gone now. I don't
think I could ever respect anyone that much again."
It was dusk when
I left Mr. Futch. He was leafing once more through his collection of poems,
murmuring the words, soothing himself, remembering. He had forgotten he had
already quoted this one to me, and began it again: To have a beautiful old age,
you must live a beautiful youth....
Think about it,
Mike. You're running out of youth, Mike. He's running out of old age.